Story by Tom Pagliaroli

In a surprise move by the NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife, it was recently announced that for December 29, the final day on the pheasant stocking schedule, there will not be the 2,220 ringnecks liberated but instead chukar partridges...3000 of them spread throughout the Garden State’s 23 wildlife management areas (WMAs) and the expansive Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

Citing an extremely wet and cold spring and subsequent mortality  in the pens at the soon-to-close Rockport Game Farm in Warren County, the Division’s bureau of wildlife management embarked on an exhausting search through a number of states reaching to the Midwest looking to purchase pheasants for the last release of ‘18, but it was the same situation elsewhere as well: no ringnecks to spare.

However, chukars were available, and from this corner, it’s a good substitution. A staple at bird hunting preserves, these hot-looking, loquacious imports from the Middle East, Asia Minor and China are about half the size of a pheasant but more than twice the size of a bobwhite quail. They hold well for a dog, and are strong flyers.

Yes, even game farm chukars wing it when flushed and can prove tricky targets. Their “chuk chuk chuk-kar” vocalizations will oftentimes reveal where those that have fled successfully and are looking to re-unite with the one, two or more companions hanging with before being rousted skyward.

The best part is the end game: chukars are absolute tongue-slap-yer-brains-out delicious...and the daily limit is seven. You read that correctly: s-e-v-e-n! This opposed to a pair for pheasants and four for bobwhite quail.

In the 105.7 The Hawk listening area, the following WMAs will be dosed with chukars, the number of birds in parenthesis: Assunpink (280); Colliers Mills (180); Howardsville (50); Manahawkin (30); Manasquan (100); Medford (80); Stafford Forge (130); and Port Republic (30).

Final Week Ringnecks and Bobs: this Saturday and next Thursday, December 27, mark the end of the pheasant stocking. Quail will also be liberated these days and also Saturday, December 29.

The pheasant numbers for the tracts listed above look like this: Assunpink (220 and 260); Colliers Mills (140 and 160); Howardsville (30 and 40); Manahawkin (30 and 30); Manasquan (80 and 90); Medford (60 and 70); Stafford Forge (100 and 120); and Port Republic (30 and 30).

Both the Greenwood Forest and Peaslee WMAs will be dosed with  400 this Saturday, and 280 and 400 quail respectively Thursday and next Saturday.

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