Quail and Pheasant hunting never gets old. But, the opportunity to change up my hunting schedule is a chance I rarely pass up.
What upland bird flushes in a covey like quail, occupies the big grasslands of the West, rivals pheasant as table fare, and is open to hunting as early as September 1st in some states? The answer: Hungarian partridge.
Also known as a gray partridge, “Huns” are larger than a bobwhite quail, but smaller than a hen pheasant. The males have a beautiful chestnut colored horseshoe mark on their breast, but it’s difficult to identify gender on the wing. Although upland hunters encounter Huns from Illinois to Oregon, the highest Hun concentrations exist in Montana, North Dakota and across the border into Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
If you’ve been in search of Huns before, you know they occupy slightly different grassland habitat than pheasants or sharp-tailed grouse. In particular, Huns tend to be found around wheat fields and seem to relate to “structure.” By “structure,” I’m referring to that lone bush in an expanse of grass or that rock pile in the middle of a cut wheat field. For whatever reason, Huns connect with those odd places on the landscape. I also have had tremendous success targeting Huns near abandoned farmsteads.
My favorite aspect of hunting Huns is their propensity to hold well for a pointing bird dog. Additionally, after the first flush, one can often mark a landing covey to get a second chance. Don’t count on a third opportunity though. It’s been my experience that a covey of Huns’ second flush sends them into the neighboring area code.
The combination of challenge and fun makes hunting gray partridge an experience that every bird hunter should give a try, at least once.