RENO — Thousands of Nevada hunters are getting excited as the hunting season looms for the state’s most popular game bird: the chukar.
Nevada Department of Wildlife officials said the 2009-10 chukar season should be good for most of the state partly because of a wet spring that led to higher chick production.
About 12,000 hunters are expected to take part in the hunt for the bird from Oct. 10 through Feb. 7.
“It’s a huge deal. When I go out in public, I’m constantly getting queried, ‘How’s chukar going to be?” said Chris Healy, spokesman for the wildlife department.
“And it’s big for rural Nevada. Go to Winnemucca during a good chukar year, and hotels and restaurants are full because of chukar hunters,” he added.
Battle Mountain, about 220 miles northeast of Reno, holds an annual “Chukar Tournament and Feed” every November.
The first hunt for the bird in Nevada took place in 1947, 12 years after it was introduced in the state. Chukars were first introduced in nine counties and became established in all 17 counties by 1979.
The bird in the pheasant family originated in the rugged uplands of the Middle East.
Not only does chukar taste good, Healy said, but it helps fill a void for hunters unable to draw big-game tags.
“It’s easy for everyone to get one,” he said.
Coveys composed mostly of young birds allow hunters to approach within shotgun range for at least the first half of the season.
State wildlife officials said this season should be better than the previous two seasons with ample birds available.
This year’s wildfires have not adversely affected chukar habitat in Nevada, but many chukar hunting areas are still suffering the effects of nearly a decade of major wildfires.