Some hunters like the challenge of going after the “slam” of a species or type of game. Turkey hunters speak of having the “royal slam” of taking all five subspecies of North American wild turkeys—Eastern, Rio Grande, Merriam’s, Osceola, and Gould’s.
Wild sheep hunters, like members of the Grand Slam Club/Ovis,have a similar “North American slam” of desert bighorn, Rocky Mountain bighorn, Dall, and stone sheep. Some sheep hunters also go abroad to include argali, Marco Polo, Urial, and Aoudad sheep in their trophy collection, making a “world slam.”
Then you have a handful of archers like Chuck Adams and Dennis Dunn, who have taken all big game species of North American big game.
What about a “grand slam” of upland game birds?
An upland game bird slam would have to include ruffed grouse, sharp-tail grouse, blue grouse, prairie chicken, chukar, Hungarian partridge, ptarmigan, sage grouse, ring-neck pheasants, bobwhite quail, valley quail, scaled quail, Mean’s quail, band-tailed pigeon, mourning dove, and woodcock. You may know of some more. That’s my list to date.
There are at least two more birds on the list that I bet you’ve never heard of: the Chachalaca and the Himalayan Snowcock. Anyone who can honestly say they have taken both of them is indeed a rare bird.
Texas has a subtropical gamebird called the Chachalaca. This is a grayish relative of the pheasant, with a russet throat that comes up from Mexico into brushy thickets in the Rio Grande Valley.
Market hunters once pursued Chachalaca, driving its numbers down dramatically. Today in Central America, subsistence hunting, deforestation, and human encroachment have destroyed and fragmented habitats for these birds. In Texas, however, efforts to re-establish viable populations in suitable habitat within historic ranges have proven very successful. The current range of the Chachalaca is limited to Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, and Willacy counties in the Rio Grande Valley.
Chachalaca hunting season in Texas begins in early November and extends through mid-February. The daily bag limit is five. This bird behaves like pheasants that have been heavily hunted. About the same size as a hen pheasant, the Chachalaca prefers to run or climb through trees and brush rather than fly, making it elusive. It will eat grain, but loves fruit and insects. It is a gray ghost in the bushes, but it does have one weakness—it’s noisy. It gets its name from for the raucous, ear-splitting chorus that a flock makes, especially in the morning.
Typically, Chachalaca feed in small flocks of four to six birds. They prefer fruit and tend to select the ripest fruits available. They don’t scratch on the ground for food, however they will feed on insects and invertebrates. They are supposed to be pretty good eating.
The Himalayan Snowcock
In the Ruby Mountains of Nevada, there is an exotic introduced game bird, the Himalayan Snowcock.
The Himalayan Snowcock, or “snow partridge,” is a large member of the pheasant family, gray in color with a white neck and face. The birds can reach over 28 inches long and males can run three to 10 pounds. Males and females are similar in color.
The Himalayan Snowcock was originally found in the mountain ranges of southern Eurasia from the Caucasus to the Himalayas and western China. It was introduced here from Pakistan in 1963 and stocking continued through the late 1970s. Over there, the populations are hanging on, but are not abundant. In Nevada, the birds are thriving.
Snowcock roost up high (10,000 feet or higher) at night and then, like Chukar Partridges, they fly down in the mornings to feed on seeds, plants, and insects. During the day they gradually work their way back up to the evening roosting sites.
Snowcock may be hunted in several Elko County Management Units of White Pine County. As you might expect, you should be in good shape. People hunt Snowcock like Chukars or sharp-tails. It’s hard work, especially at 10,000 feet.
The Snowcock season runs from early September through the end of November with a limit of two birds per day. Open to non-residents, you must have an upland game stamp and a Snowcock hunting free-use permit, which is available online, or from the Department of Wildlife Eastern Region Office, at 60 Youth Center Road, Elko, Nevada 89801, phone (775) 777-2300. Permits can also be e-mailed to hunters from the Elko office. I’ve never tried one, but rumor is that the birds are delicious.
So, if you thought that you had bagged the “grand slam” of North American game birds, did you get a Chachalaca and a Himalayan Snowcock? If you did, that’s a feather in your blaze orange hat.
Chachalaca image copyright iStockPhoto/Warren_Price