Thursday, November 11, 2010

Upland Bird Hunting: Huns Are Where You Find Them

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I can't say if Montana is best Hungarian partridge hunting in the country but one thing sure there's a helluva lot of it. Huns live just about everywhere, north to south, east to west, and, except for the very highest peaks all elevations. If I had to guess the biggest continuous chunk of Hun country is in that vast grass and wheat country roughly north of Great Falls, east to Havre and north to the Canadian line. Ideal Hun habitat consists of rolling grasslands, bordered by extensive grain fields, handy to water...and since those pretty much define this part of Montana...well I rest my case.

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Huns arrived in the U.S. sometime around 1900, most biologists agree the birds simply drifted down from Alberta and Saskatchewan, found things to their liking and spread out from there. For reasons known only to MTFWP, as well as other state agencies, other than resetting the same bag limits year after year Huns are not managed, rather mostly left alone to fend for themselves. Obviously this works sort of like if it ain't broke why fix it. Though I suspect the real reason is Huns really are tough, resilient, get along quite well just about anywhere so long as overhead cover is on the low side and more or less treeless and barring really bad weather extremes numbers remain just about the same year after year. Unlike other upland birds with Hun coveys so long as there are no drastic changes to the habitat use the same spots year after year. And of all the upland birds none are more structure oriented...a certain fence corner, abandoned homestead, ranch junkyard, one covey we've hunted for years hangs out on one side of a narrow rocky ridge, never the other. 
Another constant seems to water, not necessarily right beside it but at least within reasonable flying distance. And while grain is obviously welcome there are many coveys out there whose members live and die having never tasted it.

I suppose you could hunt Huns without a dog, and certainly there are flushing dogs get the job done but...I'll take a pointing dog anyday and the bigger the dog runs the better. Hun country (see the above photo) is big country and the way I see it the more ground the dog covers the less wear and tear on my old, rickety knees so...Of course it is imperative the big running dog is seasoned and steady since points often come way, way out there. Huns usually flush as a covey and stay together. Some days they hold like Mearn's quail others as wild as the late season sharptail grouse often share living space. It is often possible to follow up and flush a covey multiple times--my record is 4 but I've read of more. Be aware most coveys do not stay in the landing zone long and some run quite a ways. If Huns land on a side hill you can almost bet the farm they will run over the top before stopping. It seems me with each flush the birds hold tighter but I can't prove it so...

Hun guns and loads are a matter of personal taste but I've found a 20 ga. loaded with an ounce of 7 1/2s shoved through Improved Cylinder choke tubes to work pretty good. Montana Hun season runs September 1 thru January 1. The daily bag limit is 8 per and has been for as long as I can recall.

One of the best things about hunting Huns is, unlike Montana's national bird, you Will Never find a crowd...guarandamnteed. Also you will almost Never be denied access to private, that is so long as its not leased to outfitters And do put considerable distance between you and our bigger towns and cities

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