Time to start training for the harshest bird hunting terrain in the region, since chukars may be one of the saving graces in a season of mixed news for upland bird hunters.
The highest chukar counts in several years were recorded in survey flights along the Salmon and Snake rivers south of Lewiston in late August.
Idaho Fish and Game biologists counted 1,491 chukars on the Salmon River route, an increase of 95 percent over the 766 birds tallied in 2008 and 69 percent higher than the long-term average of 882 from 1994 through 2008.
This total is the second highest count observed on this route, just below 1,722 birds counted in 2004. The surveyors tallied 125 birds per square mile, 15 groups per square mile, and nine birds per group.
Biologists counted a total of 1,276 chukars on the Snake River route, the most ever observed since the initiation of this survey in 1994. This total is an increase of 136 percent over the 2008 total of 541 and 76 percent higher than the long-term average of 725, from 1994 through 2008.
They counted 79 birds per square mile, seven groups per square mile and 12 birds per group.
The chukar survey farther south in the Brownlee Reservoir area estimated numbers similar to last year, though somewhat below the 10-year average.