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Thread: Blue Grouse or Sharptail in Alaska..??

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    Supporting Member Old John's Avatar
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    Default Blue Grouse or Sharptail in Alaska..??

    This past week (9/17-9/25) out at our cabin that sets back off the Yentna quite a ways, my Grandson and I took the 6x over to the river bank to check on the boat.. Idling down the trail we were having fun seeing how far/fast various grouse would run ahead of us before they got smart and flew up into a spruce tree to watch us pass... (we saw an amazing number of grouse this day) They were all the typical spruce hen, with the tan band on their tail fan... except for the last one we saw that day... she had a distinct Sharp tail sticking back past her tail fan... when she finally flew, there were 2 or 3 (??) long sharp tail feathers sticking out, and ahead of that was her tail fan, and it had a very distinct blue coloring... So... did we see a Blue Grouse..?? or a Shaprtail..?? or ..???? and how common are they to this area...??? I've hunted grouse and ptarmigan in this area for 39 yrs now and I do not recall ever seeing a grouse of this description...

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    From what I understood about their distribution I would say that it is not very common to have either in that area. The only areas that I thought blue grouse hung out was down on the panhandle. Was it possibly a ruffed grouse, I would think it would be more likely to see one in that area.

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    Quote Originally Posted by catchfish View Post
    From what I understood about their distribution I would say that it is not very common to have either in that area. The only areas that I thought blue grouse hung out was down on the panhandle. Was it possibly a ruffed grouse, I would think it would be more likely to see one in that area.
    I don't know enough about either species to say... except the tail band was definitely a blue color as the bird flew up and straight away from us... "they" used to say the same about Sitka Black tails only being in SE... then in recent years a couple have been seen down by portage.. So perhaps a few blue grouse have migrated up this way too...?????? What ever it is I'm kinda glad we didn't have the grandson's 410 with us or it would have ended up with a few others for our supper... Maybe it will increase in numbers and others can "verify" the sighting...

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    I suspect that what you saw in the flash of a moment was indeed a ruffed grouse. There are no blue grouse in the area, but it is possible to have seen a sharp-tailed grouse. I would be very interested in knowing if you can confirm that on follow- up trips.

    Jim

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    Hi John,

    It is way more possible that there are sharptails out there then that there are blue grouse. We are WAY out of range for blue grouse.

    It is more possible you saw an escaped pheasant than a blue grouse, which require the conifer forests of sitka spruce and mountain hemlock trees that comprise the temperate rainforests of SE.

    Is your cabin located at the foot Sleeping Lady? Possibly near those huge swamps around Alexander Lake/8 Mile Lake??

    Sharpies like muskeg openings, large ones mostly, and they have the ability and are known to migrate abit, 50 miles sometimes maybe more, gaining some altitude if needs be, and they are found up in dwarf birch (turns a beautiful red each fall). I suspect that in a wild system, not necessarily like the Delta-Ag Project, sharptails are quite dependant on dwarf birch brush in winter. I think they prefer the spruce woodlands (not the birch/spruce forest found along the Yentna).

    Floating the Yentna a few years ago, I heard some ruffed grouse drumming near the mouth at the Su in mid-may. And there are ruffs to be found along the airport road in greater-downtown Skwentna.

    ADF&G has a cool resource called the "Notebook Series" and one may look up all the grouse/gamebirds you can look up on line.

    It'd be cool if there were sharpies out there and "they" didn't recognize it. I think sharptail grouse move further than we know.... It would be cool to bag one to have in hand for a positive ID.

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    Supporting Member Old John's Avatar
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    Jim
    I don't think it was a ruffed grouse, we had a good look at her as she ran down the trail ahead of us on the 6x quite a ways.. There was no top knot or ruff on top of her head... and when she flew she definitely had a sharp tail.. not fan shaped. I'm a little upset with myself because I did have a camera in my pocket, but didn't think to use it until afterwards and we got to talking about her and how she differed from the regular old spruce grouse... Early spring - moose season, We usually see quite a few grouse on this 3 miles of trail from our "landing" in a slough off the Yentna in to our cabin.. However, several new cabins have gone up in that area recently, so that will probably increase the hunting pressure on the bird population now.... I'll just have to get a little quicker with the camera next time...

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    Ak Woodsman
    We used to live on Diamond Ridge above Homer... someone used to raise ring neck pheasants and release them in that area.. The first time I saw an old Cock with 3 hens run across the road in front of me I thought I might have stayed too long at the Salty Dawg... (I grew up in North West Nebr and we had the best pheasant hunting in all of Sheridan Co., on our farm)

    Sharpies like muskeg openings, large ones mostly,

    Once you get away from the yentna river, there is a lot of open muskeg areas... My cabin sets back 1.30 miles from the Yentna River.. and about 8 miles east of Alexander lake... I have lots of alder chocked swampy area on one side of the cabin, and a large open muskeg area on the opposite side.. the cabin sets on a little knob with fairly heavy spruce/birch around it. Altho, it was in heavy Birch/spruce along the trail that we flushed this particular bird.. I tried to find that "notebook series" you mentioned at ADF&G's website but didn't find it (yet)... As I told Jim - I'll just have to be a little quicker with the camera... or maybe we'll luck out some fall when the grandson and I go for a walk along the trail with his 410...

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    Sharp-tailed grouse certainly do rely on dwarf birch to sustain them in winter. During other months they will dine on various berries and greens. I suspect down your way, out in those bogs they are eating a lot of blueberries. Others report seeing sharp tails in Anchorage.

    Jim

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    I believe there are confirmed sightings of Sooty grouse in the Yentna drainage. (formly called blue or gray grouse) But, it sure sounds like ruffed to me. Either way- it sure is good to see birds in places you haven't seen them before! Hopefully your grandson got the chance to shoot a few for dinner.

    Chris

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    Quote Originally Posted by akgun&ammo View Post
    I believe there are confirmed sightings of Sooty grouse in the Yentna drainage. (formly called blue or gray grouse) But, it sure sounds like ruffed to me. Either way- it sure is good to see birds in places you haven't seen them before! Hopefully your grandson got the chance to shoot a few for dinner.

    Chris
    Chris, no neither of us had a gun suitable to shoot grouse with... The kids single 410 was back at the cabin.. we've always seen grouse in this area.. but just never before noticed any grouse with a pointy tail instead of a fan, when they'd fly... We usually see good numbers of hens with 1st and 2nd broods late may, early june.. It's always interesting to watch the hen's do the broken wing drag down the trail, while the youngsters scatter into the undergrowth..

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    Still spending time with the grandson...
    They are our future.

    Chris

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