Hungarian Partridge


This native of Hungary, whose roots in this country can be traced all the way back to the late 1800s, is found along the northern portions of the US and extending into Canada. Officially called gray partridge (due to the color of its breast), most know it as the hun or Hungarian partridge.

This bird is a close relative of the chukar and Barbary partridge and it subsists mainly on wheat, oats, barley, and other small grains. Growing up to a foot in length and weighing roughly 12 to 16 ounces, huns also have remarkable insulating features.



As a result, they are able to roost in the snow in winter instead of under heavy vegetation. And since they are able to survive this with relative ease, winter cover is never very far away, forcing them to move very little to obtain it.

To maximize the chances of their survival, the hun, similar to the actions of the bobwhite quail, forms a roosting ring in winter to generate and preserve heat. Despite their spectacular resistance to the cold, though, extreme winters with lots of snow will cause huns to die. (All the snow, while keeping them warm, also keeps them from getting at the food that lies underneath it and they slowly starve to death.)

Mating season, which occurs in the spring, usually from April to May, is identifiable by the mating call of the male. His call sounds like the opening of a rusty gate and, just like the ring-neck pheasant’s, establishes breeding territory and beckons females.

If a female responds, the male will walk around the female, stretching his neck high and swelling his chest (notable for the U-shaped strip of brown that is unique to the males), then switching and lowering his head until it is just above the ground. And unlike the ring-necks, huns are monogamous creatures.

The cold weather the hun lives in is a major hardship for their newborns, as over 70 percent of them die the first year. That said, though, a typical covey of these birds in the fall consists of only 20-25% adults – the rest are made of youngsters.

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The hun’s moving pattern is similar to that of the ring-neck pheasant: feed for an hour or two in the early morning, then loaf in a nearby field that provides a bit more cover, then eat again in the late afternoon. (Huns return to the roost earlier than the ring-neck, often just before sunset.)

When eating, the hun tends to feed on the edges of fields, not in the middle, and they don’t move far from the roost during the course of the day, often straying no further than 60 feet. They also require very little cover to feel safe and thus are very difficult to hunt – they could be anywhere.

h2.jpgThey prefer wide-open spaces with shorter grass, preferably less than two feet tall, and dislike wooded areas, hardly ever living in them — grassy areas with good windbreaks are their favorites. Farmsteads, for example, are the best place to look for huns – the protection from the elements and the ability to find food, often-leftover grains from horses and cattle make this a top location.

When hunting the Hungarian partridge, remember they often flush as a group in an attempt to bewilder and distract potential predators, not one by one, so take aim at one of the birds rather than shooting at the group and hoping for the best.

Once flushed they don’t fly far, usually only a couple hundred yards, so it is possible to flush them again if you stay on their trail. Hun coveys will hold together for a while, too, but will eventually fracture into smaller factions — follow the smaller group to get an easier shot.

For a hunting companion, remember that dogs that work at close range, such as the Brittany, the Gordon setter and the German short-haired pointer are the best choices because they don’t stray too far away. Those dogs that are better at working large, open spaces, such as the English setter and pointer, often work too far ahead and flush the birds out of range.

Since you will probably get long shots when hunting huns, most hunters prefer semi-automatic or 12-gauge pump shotguns (using improved-cylinder or modified chokes is a good idea, too) with 6 or 7 ½ shot.


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