Between the years of 1963 to 1979 Himalayan Snowcock imported from Pakistan and Afghanistan were released in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada. Today it’s the only place in the Western Hemisphere these birds can be found. One can only guess why exactly the Nevada Department of Wildlife went to such lengths to establish a non-native to the northeast peaks of state. I like to think it was the master plan of an evil genius who believed upland hunters had become complacent and lazy.
I’ve been on this quest once before, climbing mountains that thrust at bases around 6,500′ and rise to 11,387′ atop the Ruby Dome. The Snowcock prefer the seemingly barren ground that begins around 10k where cliffs offer easy escape from anything game enough to test them. Unlike other mountainous creatures that head downhill when winter gets tough, the Snowcock have no aversion to hard weather. They seek out the frigid solitude of windblown faces to flaunt their master of mountains status.
The highest point a vehicle can reach in this range is 8,500′ leaving 2,000′ of thin-air ascent to strike prime Snowcock habitat. Pursuit of these birds is considered one of the hardest hunts in the country with just a historical three-percent of permitted hunters taking birds.
In contrast it seems for many bird hunters shooting daily bag limits has become some skewed meter of accomplishment. In the Ruby Mountains limits are only a topic of one’s preparedness and willingness to incur peril.
On the flatlands and game farms the ease and nonchalance in which upland birds often come to hand appears to promote apathy. Why should someone care about something so simple? So little thought goes into the challenges of upland birds to reach maturity, the value they represent by being an integral part of healthy, balanced landscapes.
If you are willing to trek to the farthest reaches of the Ruby Mountains carrying a shotgun, your love of upland birds is beyond reproach. You also might hate your body because the abuse it is about to sustain is substantial.
There are no blockers here. No food plots cut into predictable strips, no orange army walking shoulder-to-shoulder in assault formation.
It’s just a mountain and an impossible bird to test your desire and exploit every weakness.
I’m drawn to the honesty and effort of it all.