| Jan. 10, 2009 photos of Hells Canyon in Wallowa County show abundant green grasses and open hillsides. Popular chukar hunting areas in eastern Oregon have not suffered from severe weather and the season remains open.
BAKER CITY, Ore.—While Idaho closed their season early, chukar and Hungarian partridge hunting remains open in Oregon through the originally scheduled closing date of Jan. 31, 2009. Wildlife entered winter in good body condition this year and weather is not too severe, so wildlife managers are comfortable keeping the seasons open.
“Birds and big game went into this winter in good condition due to abundant fall forage and a late start to winter,” said Nick Myatt, District Wildlife Biologist in Baker County, a popular chukar hunting area.
While a few areas are still snowed in, many others have little to no snow, so chukars are able to access cheatgrass seeds and other forage they rely on. “Things are looking really good along Brownlee Reservoir with lots of open ground and even some green cheatgrass at low elevations,” noted Myatt after completing a recent aerial survey of game birds.
Idaho made the decision to close their season due to two consecutive record low years of populations and recent adverse weather conditions, which concentrates birds and makes them more vulnerable to predators.
Oregon’s surveys of chukar conducted in fall 2008 showed much improved production over 2007, which was a poor year. Biologists observed two to four times more chicks per adult in 2008 than they did the previous year.
Chukar counts are still well below their record highs seen in 2005. But wildlife studies show weather conditions and predation are the principal causes of annual mortality, not hunting. Also, hunter numbers are lower when birds are scarcer. (Oregon does expect more out-of-state chukar hunters this year due to the Idaho closure.)
ODFW field staff in Baker and Malheur counties and other popular hunting areas will continue to monitor weather conditions and keep a close eye on chukar hunting through the remainder of the season. Oregon State Police have also stepped up enforcement at Oregon’s main chukar hunting areas.
Under Oregon’s structure for setting upland bird seasons, ODFW makes any early closure decision by January 15. If no early closure is called, ODFW’s policy is to continue the season through January 31. For more information on the emergency closure procedure, see page 27 of 2008-09 Oregon Game Bird Regulations.