Confessions of a First Time Chukar Hunter

When our guide compared chukar hunting to the Winter Olympics, I was at first confused. However, after an afternoon in the hills of eastern Oregon, I now understand what he meant. And I couldn’t describe it better myself.

Of all the sports in the Winter Olympics, my favorite to watch is the biathlon. In this event, athletes must demonstrate extreme physical conditioning in cross-country skiing, combined with the calm and focus of precision rifle shooting. The history of the biathlon stems from survival roots, as people hunted on skis in the snowy Scandinavian mountains.

So, then, what does an Olympic sport based in survival skills have to do with chukar hunting? Everything. Chukar are one of the most difficult birds to hunt. They are native to the mountainous regions of the Middle East and Asia, but now thrive in parts of the United States. In Oregon specifically, the chukar population is growing. They can be found at the tops of the rolling hills, in the rocky crevasses of the valley, or hidden in the low mountain grasses. The terrain is what makes these birds challenging, yet addicting, to shoot.

On my first chukar hunt, just a few months ago at Highland Hills Ranch near The Dalles, our guide drove us to the top of a steep hill. It was difficult to open the truck doors as the wind was blowing with force. He released two English pointers, their muscular legs driving them up and down the hills and valleys with ease. As soon as they went on point, one after the other, out of respect, the English cockers descended like tireless bounding jackrabbits upon the bird. Then, the chukar would fly. Some high, some low, some in the valleys, some off the side of the cliff. Regardless of the direction, we were ready and waiting in the shooting line. Bam, bam, I pulled the triggers of my side by side 28-gauge. Down went the bird. Another! Bam, my father shot as a second bird flew straight in the air, then hit the ground with a thud. Nothing is quite as satisfying as watching these round bearded birds fall from the sky.

As the afternoon sun lingered, the birds got tougher. Already hunting at a very high altitude, the dogs went on point. The cockers flushed. Nothing. As soon as the pointers were called off, they bounded down the side of a steep valley, out of sight. Naturally, they went on point at the base of the hill. We followed suit, quickly, though with care, so as not to lose our footing or our shotguns. Finally, we arrived at the bottom. Where was the chukar? The tireless cockers had come back empty handed. Rather than flying through the valley, the bird had ascended to the top of the next hill. With very labored breathing, we climbed, following the path of the pointers until they stopped. They were on point. The cockers went in. Up flew a chukar! We were out of breath, our legs shaking. Then, somehow, with extreme precision and accuracy, my father raised his Beretta and fired a single, perfect shot. The bird dropped. Our guide shouted in disbelief! Apparently, this was atypical of first time chukar hunters. For us, it was an Olympic-like moment.

On the way back to the truck, the guide once again reminded us of how chukar hunting was like the Winter Olympics. Apparently the average success rate for hunters is one out of every six. Somehow, we managed to take over 25 that day, with just a few that got away. 

Blixt & Co.


The jagged, snow-covered peaks of the Tetons made for a stunning backdrop the week that I spent at Blixt and Company in Teton Valley, Idaho. Every detail was so carefully considered, from the fresh-cut wildflowers on the table to the exquisite selection of wine and cocktails. The first night, we dined outside, enjoying a feast of swordfish and the largest prime cut of tomahawk steak that I have ever seen. The company surpassed the food, as I shared a seat across from Willie Cole, former director the prestigious West London Shooting School, Lars Magnussen, fellow shooting instructor and owner of Blixt and Company, his beautiful wife Jen, the mastermind of the week, Mike Stewart of Wildrose Kennels, known for his well-trained gentleman sporting dogs, and another couple affiliated with the magazine Garden and Gun. The conversation ranged from memories of favorite shooting stories, time spent as a butler in the United Kingdom, and other special experiences. After hours of talking past the sunset, we retired as we had several events planned for “Girls, Guns, and the Grand.”

base camp

While base camp is the only term that comes to mind, it does not fully describe the beauty and refined taste of the site in the field. Upon arrival to the driven shooting area, we were met with a cup of warm coffee and a variety of pastries, housed in a canvas tent that looked like an advertisement for a Ralph Lauren catalog. After our quick breakfast, we were transported to the shooting site, and introduced to the full line of Krieghoff shotguns available for us to test. This was followed by a three-hour, semi-private shooting lesson with Willie. The targets simulated upland birds that one would find on a driven shoot. Some flew high over trees, a difficult crossing shot, while others were incoming or going away. With every passing target, and Willie’s direct instruction, more and more clays began to break. By the time that I had my private lesson in the afternoon, my percentage had increased significantly. I also had never shot a Kreighoff before, and that in itself was a delight. It was a near perfect fit, and the weight of it felt perfect in my hands as I guided it through the clay. That night, after a full day of shooting, we enjoyed a lovely lamb dinner overlooking the purple Tetons at sunset, toasting to the “sporting life” and what it represents. 

shooting and more

The following day, we resumed our shooting. By the time I had a private lesson with Lars, there was very little to improve in my shooting form, and clays consistently broke in every direction. I am thrilled to return to Arizona to practice these shots and further developing my skills, as well as get bak to competitive shooting. In the afternoon, I also enjoyed the opportunity to work with Mike and some of his British Labradors on their retrieves. We also practiced the tenkara style of fly-fishing, and I’m hoping that with the purchase of this new rod I will no longer get tangled in the trees when I cast downstream. That night was especially memorable, as Jen had planned for us to learn to cook in the field. While in the past I would have considered roasting hot dogs a fine meal for the outdoors, I learned that outdoor cooking can indeed be gourmet. We made a roasted poblano, arugula, and watermelon salad, pheasant sausage-stuffed pork chops, grilled onions, the most delicious macaroni and cheese, and plum cobbler, all over a wood-fired Cowboy Cauldron. Again, the company surpassed the food, as more women had joined the group and we had much in common.

the "wildrose way"

During my last day at Blixt and Company, Mike of Wildrose Kennels led me and two other participants in a clinic going over the “Wildrose Way.” While his book is currently sitting on my coffee table at home, he was quick to inform me that it was meant for the field as a manual, and should be worn down and written in. Before we were able to work with the dogs, we received several lectures on the Wildrose Way and its techniques, research, and effectiveness. In the field and in the home, I was so impressed by the dogs. They are a true sporting gentleman’s dog, demonstrating both high performance in the field and understanding of place in the home.

the finest hospitality

In all, it was the most incredible experience. Lars and Jen demonstrated the epitome of the sporting lifestyle, from their hospitality and staff to the quality of shooting instruction and dog demonstration. I so look forward to returning to Blixt and Company, especially for a driven shoot, but also in the off-season during their Sporting Week and women’s events. For me, the time that was spent there was invaluable, and my head continues to spin as I process the events of the week. As a result of attending this event, I now have a fuller picture of what it means to embody the sporting lifestyle, gained significant confidence in my shooting abilities, and developed what is the start of a long-lasting relationship with others in the field.