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Thread: Merry Christmas, small game hunters!

  1. #1
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    Default Merry Christmas, small game hunters!

    Everyone out there have a safe and happy holiday season!

    Jim

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    Jim, Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you too.

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    Thank you, sir!

    Jim

  4. #4

    Default 'Fur' Sure Jim!

    Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Spring ptarmigan hunting is just around the corner!
    "When the time comes for a man to look his Maker in the eye, where better could the meeting be held than in the wilderness?"

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    Member SkinnyD's Avatar
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    I guess I'm late to the party, but Merry Christmas and a very happy new year to you also Mr. McCann. The dog and I flushed up the proverbial big flock earlier this week and I was thinking of you as I fumbled with my Canon to try for bird pictures. Finally very frustrated with photography, I began using my double instead of my camera and put a handful of birds in my pack.

    Those birds brought up question for me, though. One bird was noticably larger than the other four and I assumed this one to be a willow ptarmigan and the others to be rock ptarmigan. However, they all came from the same general area and I believe they were all in the same original flock. Do you think a willow ptarmigan would let itself drop so far down the social scale as to sup with rock ptarmigan or did I just happen to bag the fattest rock ptarmigan on the mountain?

    DSCN4701.jpg
    Passing up shots on mergansers since 1992.


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    Skinny,

    Indeed you will find the two near to each other this time of year. I take rocks and willows from several local areas. In other places one can also take whitetails that have dropped down lower in winter, although I've never taken all three in the same day.

    Your photo does depict a willow and a rock alright. I'm waiting for much warmer temperatures before the dog's and I get back out there. Happy New Year!

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    Skinny,

    Tailwind and I found out that these two play together this late October while we should have been chasing caribou. We were west of Paxson and most of the birds were Willows but we took a couple Rocks from the mix. I didn't get a chance to observe them. I'd be curious if they are intermingled or whether there is still some sort of segregation within the big flocks. And if there is a segregation, do the larger willows take the prime forage/cover locations or how does that interaction work? Worthy of attention if a person gets the chance to observe a mixed flock prior to "take."

    Happy Holidays, Gang!

    Ebenezer
    Go Big Red!

  8. #8

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    In the interior, I have noticed that they tend to be together once there is enough snow on the ground to make feeding difficult. My guess is that as winter flocks get broken up over the winter, especially in areas that get a lot of hunting pressure, you can find multiple species close together. I've seen a few mixed flocks, but more often you find a few willows here and a few rocks there. My best day so far this year resulted in willow and rock ptarmigan as well as sharp-tailed grouse above treeline, and a spruce and ruffed grouse, in terms of species, and they were all within about a 20 minute walk of one another.

    Skinny, was it pretty windy when you got those two? I think willows and rocks may tolerate each other in nasty weather more than they do when the wind lays down.

    Just my two cents...

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    Member SkinnyD's Avatar
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    I had taken the camera with the intent of photographing the supposed huge herd of caribou standing by the road - which by the way is a farce, as no caribou were seen or photographed. The dog went along because I figured we'd find some warmer air with the temperature inversions - we decided to go walking when we found -7, though we didn't walk very far, even in the balmy conditions. The snow was soft and we didn't make good time, but we picked the right snowmobile trail and the right patch of willows - sure enough, they were hunkered down on the leeward side of a ridge (and it was face-blisteringly windy up on top).

    I remember us discussing this last season, but even though these birds were out of the wind where you'd expect them to be, I've seen them often enough on a the most wind-blown spot on the ridge. I guess when they only have four hours of light to feed, they have to sit where the food is, wind or not.
    Passing up shots on mergansers since 1992.


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    I've absolutely never seen or heard of rocks and willows intermixing. Frankly, I'd be very surprised if this actually occurs. Finding them near each other is common in winter, at least in areas where both reside, but the rocks are out on mostly barren ground while the willows are in or near willow brush.

    Skinny,

    Where to find ptarmigan even on real windy days is still a crap shoot. When I first started hunting them in the early '70s I always hunted for them on the lee side 'cause I just knew that's where they must be on such days. In reality, that's where you would find me on such days, but I'm unlike a ptarmigan that has to make a living out there. I soon realized how ptarmigan are used to the wind and how, like you pointed out, they have to eat often throughout the day, and more importantly perhaps is how little contour is necessary to get a bird out of the wind. Over the decades I've taken note of all the places they will hunker down behind, often just a wind blown and frozen little ridge of snow right out in the open. Pays to search out some of these objectves, places like those snow ridges and often at the base of a lonely stunted spruce. Also pays to have dogs with great noses and lots of experience!

    Great discussion.

    Jim

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim McCann View Post
    I've absolutely never seen or heard of rocks and willows intermixing.
    In my limited experience I have also found Whitetails mixed with Rock. I suppose it's possible that these birds were in seperate groups very close together but at the time I had assumed they were all mixed in. It would certainly be interesting to see a study on how and when these birds will tolerate each other if at all.
    "When the time comes for a man to look his Maker in the eye, where better could the meeting be held than in the wilderness?"

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    Tailwind,

    Yep, there is so much we don't know about ptarmigan it would be a fantastic field of study for some biologist. I'm going to bet they don't mix, but I'd like to know for sure. I've got some great reference books on ptarmigan and when I get time I'm going to dive back into them again and see if I missed something about mixing.

    I once came upon three spruce grouse standing together with one sharptail. I figured when they flushed the sharptail would fly off in a different direction, but it went along with the spruce grouse. Been wondering about that match-up for decades.

    All this stuff just goes to prove how much more there is to this thing we call hunting.

    Jim

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    Tailwind,

    Actually, it makes more sense that whitetails would be closer to rocks than rocks to willows. The whitetails and rocks occupy high barren ground, and the willows would be at lower elevations; again near the willows. Easier to determine whitetails from rocks even in flight, but very hard to ever know if you saw rocks or willows until you have them in hand. Often times small willow ptarmigan are mistaken for rock ptarmigan. Sexing birds is even harder except for the mask on a male rock. Without a full necropsy only another ptarmigan can generally determine the sex of another ptarmigan. Fascinating stuff, and interesting to talk about, but more fun to do the "field research"!

    Written on the run on my Ipad. Looking forward to more discussion.

    Happy New Year!

    Jim

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    Happy Newyear guys,

    Remember that some of us are in a position that we won't be able to hunt at all (atleast game animals) from now until probably Nov. So if you are debating about whether or not to post a short story or a few pics please remember that this forum is about as close to hunting and Alaska that some have until then.
    I just hope that my buddy or my wife take my lab Nitro out a few times.

    Thanks and good luck in 2012

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    Happy New Year to you as well, sir! We'll do our best at keeping you informed and entertained. You stay safe over there and I hope you come home sooner.

    Thanks for your service!

    Jim

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    It's not like I fired two shots and got those two different-sized birds at the same time. I flushed a bunch of birds and then hunted along the ridge, jumping a few at a time. It's completely possible that the birds were not in the same original flock. As I was up high on the mountain, I was surprised to find the big willow. I guess it's just the places that I tend to frequent, but I see a lot more rocks than willows.
    Passing up shots on mergansers since 1992.


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    Skinny,

    We actually don't live in a prime willow ptarmigan area. The females and juveniles migrate down into our valley on occasion in winter. Mostly we have rocks. Of course, when the willows are on the move we can find them in unusual haunts. Interesting and mysterious birds, the epitome of a wilderness creature.

    Happy New Year, my friend! Let's go hunting this spring.

    Jim

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