There is no doubt that a 12 gauge is a terrific shotgun to shoot chukar with. But, by the end of the day, it can feel like you're lugging a Howitzer up the mountain. To avoid that end, I've used a 20 gauge Browning BPS Upland Special almost exclusively for the past decade.
The BPS ejects from the bottom and utilizes a thumb safety which makes it ideally suited for left-handed shooters (like me) or our right-handed comrades. The Browning Upland Special, in 20 gauge, is reasonable light, relatively inexpensive, rugged and reliable. It fires in wind, rain, sleet, snow and covered in dust, dirt or mud. A chukar gun requirement.
My son also hunts chukar with a 20 gauge. When he was young, I bought him a youth model Remington 1100 in 20 gauge. The gun, as purchased, had a shortened butt stock, which decreased the length of pull, and a 22 inch barrel thus making it a good fit for my young son. When I purchased it, I planned to replace the butt stock with a longer one after my son grew into a man. What I didn't know, was that the stock wouldn't last that long. Jason fell and splintered the forepiece while trying to close the gap on a running covey.
Industrial strength duct tape held it together for the remainder of the trip. After the trip, I ordered a composite stock set. A local gunsmith installed the forepiece, and later, the butt piece. In the meantime, Jason hunted with a wood-composite two-tone gun until he finished growing up.
Aesthetically and traditionally, I prefer shotguns with wood stocks. However, you can't beat the performance of composite stocks. They are tough, durable and can endure abuse that wood cannot. Jason has, what could be, the perfect chukar gun. Light in weight, short-barreled and quick, robust and reliable. Plus, being a 20 gauge gas-operated semi-automatic with a recoil pad, it shoots as soft as any shotgun I've ever fired. This asset makes it easier to connect with fleeing chukar on second and third shots.
The 20 ga. is not the only viable scattergun gauge option. You can go with one of the lightweight 12 gauges currently on the market. Some of the sweetest and lightest 12 gauges I have shouldered have been O/Us (the Beretta leaps to mind). However, these beautiful guns tend to be pricey. If you have enough scrilla in your wallet and don't mind beating one to bits, go for it. Most folks will want to consider a more economical option, like the pump action Remington 870 Wingmaster Light Contour. This gun is a lighter version of the tried and true 870 and will perform in the most adverse conditions. The 870 is a gun whose reputation has been built in the field, by my brother and many others, not by marketing hoopla.
One reader wrote me to pimp the 7.8 pound, 3 ½ inch magnum Benelli Nova in the 24" barrel upland version. While I don't care to pack this much fire power up and down the talus slopes, heavyweight shotguns do have some advantages. Weight is only bad when you're carrying it, not when you're shooting it. Increased weight reduces recoil and adds inertia to the gun which steadies your swing. The masters of clay win tournaments with shotguns you don't want to carry down your driveway, much less up a mountain.
To this point, I shoot my lowland anchor, a.k.a. Citori, better than any gun I've ever owned or shot. There isn't even a close second. My brother hunted everything with his Remington 870 for over 20 years. A few years ago, he bought a heavy 12 gauge Browning semi-auto duck gun. Initially, he used it waterfowling and the 870 upland. Now he uses that Browning for everything, even chukar, because he shoots it very, very well. If you don't mind burdening yourself with a shotgun designed for a duck blind, I won't attempt to dissuade you.
My uncle, whose beaming mug can be found elsewhere on this site, uses an Ithaca 16 gauge. Lighter than a 12, more punch than a 20, the sweet-16 could be considered the ideal chukar gauge. Its popularity is resurging after a long hiatus. Remington is again making the 870 in 16 gauge for the first time since 1980. My only knock against the 16 is the selection and availability of ammunition. If you buy one, plan ahead. You're not likely to find boxes of 16 gauge ammo at the local gas station or general store in chukar country. If you run out, you may be SOL.
I cannot recommend strongly enough to use only 20 gauge and larger shotguns. Chukars evolved and live in a harsh, unforgiving environment. This lineage has resulted in a tough, hardy bird that is difficult to kill. Even with a good retriever, a wounded chukar is hard to bag. In my mind, it is irresponsible to use too small of gun for "sporting" reasons or pride.
If you have a physical limitation or aren't big enough yet to shoulder a 20, I'll give you an out. If it is for "the challenge", I don't have any respect for that. Yes, I KNOW smaller shotguns can kill chukar, my son took the chukar on the right with a 410, but shotshells for 28 gauges and 410's do not contain enough pellets of sufficient size to guarantee a clean kill even if the bird is centered in pattern. It is a matter of physics, not your shooting ability.
I think a single shot is a good gun for a youth to start out with. Having only one chance encourages the youngster not to rush his shot, thus helping to develop good shooting habits. I don't recommend single shots for adults though. A chukar hunt represents a large investment in time and energy. You don't want to miss opportunities on coveys flushing in shifts or watch a winged bird sprint away as you fumble helplessly trying to chamber another shell.
I think repeaters make a very good choice. Pumps are typically the most reliable but working the action makes subsequent shots a little slower and a little more difficult. Gas operated semiautomatics have lower recoil than their counterparts. The soft action reduces flinching tendencies and also helps on ensuing shots.
I love over and unders; there are some terrific ones on the market. Upland O/Us are light in weight, swing smooth and true and are as reliable, if not more so, than pump actions shotguns. With screw in chokes, you also have some nifty combinations available. They kick a little more than semi-autos, but where they really hurt you is in the wallet. You might also kick yourself in the arse when you want that third shell that a repeater provides you!
I like a barrel to have a vent rib. Some chukar hunters disagree with me on this point. They argue that the vent rib increases the weight of the gun without improving its performance. It's a valid point. However, I find that I shoot better with the nice sighting plane that is provided by the rib. I'm willing to pay the price in weight to bag more chukar.
Another feature I look for is screw-in chokes. Screw-in chokes provide you the versatility to adapt to the hunting conditions as they change. I don't counsel changing chokes every time you round the bend, I don't change mine very often at all. But I often carry spare chokes while on a hunt and change them if and when I need to.
I have, on occasion, been known to use tighter chokes, improved modified and very rarely, full choke. When the birds are jumping early on me, the tighter choke can give you the extra 5 or 10 yards of range you need.
Paul, a diehard chukar hunter from Reno, NV, has a simple recipe for choke selection. He uses improved cylinder for the first part of the season, a modified choke in December and improved modified in January. Its hard to argue with the success he has enjoyed.
When chukar hunting with a double barrel, I prefer the improved cylinder / modified choke combination but I also use light modified / improved modified a fair amount of time. In theory, these combinations should give you a larger pattern when the bird first flushes and a similar pattern size further out on your second shot.
Most modern double barrels allow you to select which barrel fires first. You should set up your gun to fire the lower barrel first with the more open choke. The lower barrel produces less muzzle jump when fired (because it is closer to the long axis of the shotgun) thus making it easier to get the gun back on a missed bird or swing onto a new target.
I should quantify what I mean by "heavy load". It depends on the shotgun gauge you are using. The de facto standard heavy field load shotshells contain 1 1/4 ounces of lead in 12 gauge, 1 1/8 ounces in 16 gauge and 1 ounce in 20 gauge. For my 20 gauge, I often use 2 3/4" baby magnums which pack 1 1/8 ounces. I advise against 3" magnums in any gauge for chukar hunting. You just don't need that kind of wallop while standing on precarious chukar terrain.
The only disadvantage of the plated rounds is the cost. They will run you close to $15 a box. You can save yourself some money buying unplated shot, but it won't pattern as well and will lose more energy due to pellet deformation . I want the best load I can buy when I drive hundreds of miles and hike long miles to get to the birds. Adequate is not good enough for me.
Every shotgunning article I've read stresses patterning your shotgun with the chokes and loads you plan to use. I have not done that in any formal way, I use the "shoot a piece of cardboard -- that looks pretty good" technique, but I know for a fact that with the guns I own and the chokes I use, a big dose of copper plated 6s will anchor chukars. Period.
My final bit of gun advice: Bring a spare shotgun. You or your partner may need it.
- How To Hunt Wild Chukar Partridge
- Academy of Alectoris Chukar
- Guns to Hunt Wild Chukar Partridge
- Gear to Hunt Wild Chukar Partridge
- Dogs for the Desert
- Where To Find Wild Chukar Partridge
- Hunt Strategies and Tactics for Wild Chukar Partridge
- Chukar Partridge FAQs
- Chukar Tales and Red-Legged Liars
- Weather Conditions and Forecasts for Chukar Country
- Chukar Partridge References