Hereâ€™s one thing to love about winter in Alberta: we can hunt upland game birds like gray partridge right into mid- January. Sure, the winter months are tougher when it comes to finding the birds (theyâ€™ve smartened up), but taking a walk with a dog and a gun is one of the best ways to spend a winter day.
Gray or Hungarian partridge, or fondly â€œHuns,â€ are a good reason to get out in the snow. Here are a few tips to take to the field:
Itâ€™s probably the most critical component to your success for late-season bird huntingâ€” a good bird dog. If you donâ€™t have a bird dog, try to make plans to go with someone who does. Or just set your expectation for a nice winter walkabout with the hope the birds will reveal themselves.
Pointing breeds make the best dogs for Huns and the vast stretches of cover they occupy. With a good dog, youâ€™ll know pretty quickly if the birds are around.
With the onset of winter, Huns typically abandon the windswept highlands and go lower. Look for them in winding prairie creek bottoms and gullies, sheltered as best as they can manage. If you find thickets or brushy hiding spots away from the wind, check there first. Any still-open water source is a good bet. Huns love to eat green and will stay in these kinds of places.
This late in the season, Huns are much flightier than usual. Be aware of the noise you makeâ€”your voice or slamming vehicle doors can be enough to make them disappear. Park far and walk in.
Dogs working hard and fast can make Huns take off early. Hunt your dogs in nearby habitat for an hour or so to strip away that initial edginess. Once youâ€™re at your preferred site, keep a wide field of vision over where youâ€™re hunting. That way, if birds flush wild, you can see where they land and have a solid opportunity later.