If you're 15 years of age or younger -- and hunting birds sounds like fun to you -- this fall might be the perfect time to give it a try.
This fall, the Division of Wildlife Resources is offering not one chance, but two, to hunt various upland game birds in Utah before anyone else does:
● On Sept. 22, you can hunt chukar and Hungarian partridge.
● On Oct. 13, you can hunt pheasant and quail.
Jason Robinson, upland game coordinator for the DWR, says holding special youth days -- before the birds have been hunted and when adults aren't allowed to hunt -- is a great way to get young people interested in hunting.
"Hunting upland game is the perfect way to introduce young people to hunting," Robinson says. "Many people who hunt today started out hunting upland game when they were younger."
And since adults can't hunt the same species the youth are hunting, it gives adults plenty of time to help young hunters learn about the habitats partridge prefer and how to handle their firearm safely.
To participate in the youth hunt, a hunter must be 15 years of age or younger on Sept. 22 and a graduate of Utah's Hunter Education course.
He or she also needs a hunting license.
Additional youth hunts
In addition to hunting on Sept. 22 and Oct. 13, the DWR and conservation groups have joined forces to provide some special youth hunting opportunities -- including free guided hunts -- to young hunters in Utah this fall.
You can learn more about the hunts at www.wildlife.utah.gov/uplandyouth
What if I haven't hunted before?
If you're the parent of a child who wants to go hunting -- but your hunting experience is limited, or you don't have any experience -- Robinson suggests finding someone in your neighborhood who would be willing to take you and your child hunting. Then, plan on attending a Hunter Education class with your child next year.
"Your child must take the class before he or she can hunt," Robinson says. "Taking the class again next year will be a good refresher for them. And taking the class with your child will give you a chance to learn more about hunting."
Where to find the birds
In addition to looking at the distribution maps on pages 31 and 33 of the 2012 Utah Upland Game & Turkey Guidebook (the free guidebook is available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks
), Robinson provides the following information to help you find the birds:
Luckily, chukar partridge (most hunters refer to them as chukars) are found almost entirely on public land. The land chukars are found on is scattered across much of the state.
You'll find chukars on steep hillsides, rocky talus (shale rock) slopes and rocky outcroppings. If you can find a water source near one of these rocky areas -- for example, a small stream that flows through a valley -- you may have found a chukar hunting hotspot.
If you live in the northern part of the state, a great way to find chukar habitat is to find the shoreline of ancient Lake Bonneville. Then, hunt the rocky, talus slopes just above the shoreline.
Because they live in some rough areas, chukar hunting can be a tough hunt. But if you're prepared, it can also be very rewarding.
To increase the chance your young hunter takes a bird, the DWR will release hundreds of chukars the day before the hunt. To see where the DWR will release the chukars, visit www.wildlife.utah.gov/youthchukar
The DWR will release chukars in all five regions in Utah.
Unlike chukars, Hungarian partridge are found almost entirely on private land. In Utah, you'll find them in two counties -- Box Elder County and, to a lesser extent, Cache County.
You'll find Hungarian partridge (many hunters refer to them as Huns) mostly in low elevation areas that have rolling hills with wheat stubble and lots of property enrolled in the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
(CRP land has lots of grassy vegetation on it.)
If you find grassy vegetation near wheat stubble and sagebrush, there's a good chance you've found a Hun hunting hotspot.
Tips to find a place to hunt
To find a place to hunt, Robinson suggests the following:
● Hunt one of the properties enrolled in the state's Walk-In Access program.
You can learn more about the properties in the Walk-In Access program, and see which ones have Hungarian partridge, by visiting www.wildlife.utah.gov/walkinaccess/property_index.php
Make sure to click on the properties under the Northern Region heading to see which ones have Hungarian partridge.
Also, click on the map that's provided with each property to find the best Hun habitat on the property.
You can hunt on the WIA properties for free, but if you're 14 years old, you must obtain a free Walk-in Access authorization number first. More information is available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/walkinaccess/authorization.php
● You can also learn who owns land in the counties by visiting the Box Elder County Recorder's Office in Brigham City (http://www.boxeldercounty.org/recorder.htm
) or the Cache County Recorder's Office in Logan (http://www.cachecounty.org/recorder.php
At the offices, you can look up areas by township to see who owns the land you'd like to hunt. Then, it's a matter of doing some homework and contacting the owner to see if he or she will give you access to the property.
If a landowner doesn't give you access to his or her property, Robinson encourages you to be polite and understanding. "But if he or she does give you access to the property," he says, "you'll end up with a good place to hunt and a new friend."