It was September 9th, eight days after the West Virginia season opener for mourning doves. At the Shenandoah Valley Sportsmen Club, opening-day hunters had maxed out their limit within hours – arriving home in plenty of time for lunch and chores.
Having hunted most of the species of upland birds in North America, I’ve come to appreciate the qualities of the chukar. Hunting chukar is an exciting adventure that always includes a surprise or two. Chukars are not only fun to hunt, they are also one of the most hearty birds to put down and typically don’t present a head shot on the rise as pheasant tend to do – making them challenging as well.
Since this is my first column for Shotgun Life, a bit of background is probably appropriate. I was raised in New England and have been involved in the outdoor sports since a young man. At one time I wrote a weekly column for a newspaper about hunting and fishing. In recent years I have been in the shooting sports industry as an industry professional managing a company that manufactured sporting goods and imported shotguns from Italy. I just recently decided to return to my first love of photojournalism.
Although my first shooting trip to South America took place in 1972 I didn't get to shoot in Uruguay until 1997. In retrospect I hate that I missed shooting in that country and enjoying those wonderful people for so many decades. This had been a winter trip, so the duck and partridge seasons were in full swing. Of course, it was summer back here in the USA.
I had never thought of Mexico as a bird-hunting destination, but spending a week there has really changed my perspective. Some of the most exciting and fun hunting I've experienced recently can be had out of Los Moiches, Mexico where a variety of bird hunting is available along with excellent fishing and train touring as well.
Reportedly, wild-west bad men Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid escaped to Bolivia, much to the consternation of authorities here in the USA.
I pushed through chest-high sorghum and tall Jose wheat grass, thumbing the external hammers of my stunning 12 bore Watson & Hancock as if plucking banjo strings. Even in the chilled air the fragrance of the grasses was intoxicating. Rock-hard washboard ground tested my calf-high leather boots and kept me off balance. Eyes darting from dirt to sky, I tried to reconcile walking agility with being ready to get a quick shot at a pheasant.
While Argentina gets the great bulk of wingshooting travel press, neighboring Uruguay offers gunning that's every bit as good. Since I've made nearly 50 trips to Colombia, Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay I guess I have to be considered a veteran at shooting there. But on every trip I've learned something, often times I've learned a great deal.
Many shotgun aficionados will argue that clays shooting is merely a warm-up act for winghooting.
After all, shotguns are designed to shoot upland birds and waterfowl. And clays originated as practice sports to keep your eyes and reflexes sharp for the real thing.