“At the turn of the last century a group of Calgary Sportsman led by the infamous Judge Winters where concerned with the decline of Sharptail Grouse Habitat caused by land being cleared for farming.The Judge and his cronies decided that a “new” bird was needed to be introduced to their Southern Alberta stomping grounds.They first tried Bobwhite Quail but they where no match for the Alberta winter.
As the story goes lJudge Winters then brought in 5 pair of Hungarian or Gray Partridge (Perdix Perdix) from a game farm in Pennsylvania and released the birds south of Calgary near present day De Winton Alberta.
The rest is history as the off spring of that first introduction radiated out across the Northern Plains into Montana,Saskatchewan,S.W. Manitoba,Wyoming and The Dakotas.Since that initial planting Huns (as they are referred to by Hun Hunters ) they have provided great sport to numerous bird hunters across the West.
When comparing Hungarian Partridge to other Western Gamebirds they are minimalists requiring very little in habitat requirements and tend to flourish in Agricultural areas namely wheat fields with cover close by.
The cover components required is quite simple,they need nesting cover made up of native or “tame” grasses such as Alfalfa or Eurasian Crested Wheat Grass.Woody cover such as Caragana Hedges,willows or Sage Brush provide much needed shelter from cold winter winds.
Like most game birds newly hatched Gray Partridge feed on insects namely Grasshoppers, switching to plant seeds as the season progresses,I.M.H.O. that is the reason why Hun Populations seem to be very stable in areas that grow cereal crops.
Prior to harvest fields are for the most part a sea of Grass.From my observation Birds pair up in late March and nesting takes place in June.Females lay up to 20 eggs and if the hatch is successful they do not re nest,unless the first hatch is unsuccessful then the female will keep trying, laying fewer and fewer eggs until a new generation is created.
Gray Partridge Populations will fluctuate year to year if the winter is “hard” or poor nesting conditions are a concern.Overall they are hardy minimalists,scratching out a living in places where other game birds cannot.
When I lived in Calgary Alberta my dogs and I where one team of perhaps five that soley dedicated the bulk of our our hunting time to chasing Hun’s as most hunters in Calgary hunted Pheasants,Gray Partridge that they harvested where normally incidental.
That trend seems to be the norm,hardcore Hun Hunters are a different breed,settling for Points and Covey Rises vs. cackling Pheasants rising out of Cattails.Success is measured in miles walked vs who gets to be the “Blocker”.
A dedicated Hun Hunter runs pointing dogs and generally shoots an O/U or SxS gun, making use of a tighter choked barrel for those often long shots.Guns choked IC and Mod get it done and #6 shot is the best all around load.
The Hungarian Partridge is a natural for Pointing Dogs.A smart “Hun” Dog figures it out fast,casting out int the sea of wheat stubble then back into and running the edge of the cover.
They learn to point from a far,slamming on the brakes as soon as there is a whiff of scent …and if to close then lying down and “setting”.A good dog learns that Huns do not tolerate any sloppy dog work.
Over the years I have been fortunate to have some great Hun Dogs,they dialed Huns quickly and soon would earn an attachment or addition to their call name,Wheat Strip “Ted”, “Covey” the Road Hunter and Cautious “Clint” are examples.
What keeps myself and others going back is the sportiness of a bird that is twice the size for a quail yet flies at 45mph vs 25 mph.Sorry no “popcorn” covey rises just a bunch of birds blasting out and calling all at once.After a hunter gets hosed usually “Bobwhites on Steroids” is a comment made.
For those that want to go chase this wily game bird on The Great Plains Alberta,Montana,Saskatchewan and Wyoming seem to be the go-to destinations.Combining other Upland Prairie Birds or Waterfowl with a trip to Praiires can be easily done. Now that the Hungarian Partridge numbers are in the rise across their Northern Plains Range you won’t be disappointed.