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Thread: Fairbanks Area Grouse Report 26-28 September

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    Member honeybadger's Avatar
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    Default Fairbanks Area Grouse Report 26-28 September

    Got out for three days with the dog. Decided I was going to check out some new locations I had driven past recently that looked promising south of town. Couldn't keep the spruce hens away. I found a couple decent coverts for ruffs and happened upon a good spot for sharptails. I left them alone for the most part and kicked them up for Toby. I ended up shooting one a day off of a good point for training purposes.

    26th was a decent day. I flushed about 15 birds shot a couple spruce hens for training value, found a couple ruffs down in low areas. Examining their crops it looks like they are starting to move to green leaves (mostly aspen) but no buds yet. Highbush cranberries and a few rose hips were also present. The spruce hens had a mixture of spruce needles, birch catkins and highbush cranberies which indicates the ruffs move to greens were not necessarily due to a scarecity of berries. I also observed plenty of highbush cranberries while in the woods. The sharptails were feeding almost exclusively on blueberries, which were plentiful where I found them.

    photo.jpg

    27th was a good day. I went three for three on a sort of grouse slam! A spruce, a ruff, and a sharptail all within a mile of each other. I believe the sharptails were moving through in this area on there way somewhere else. Saw several more spruce hens and heard a few that flushed in thick cover. I located the sharptails in a mature aspen stand. The ruffs were near water in thick lowland cover. Young birch/aspen stands with 4-6 ft tall spruce trees seemed to produce.

    28th Moved a bit further out. Found the best ruffed habitat I have ever seen. Produced only one bird, but I was fighting a young aspen stand and may have pushed more out without know it as I could not keep up with Toby. Shot 8 spruce hens that Toby pointed for training value. I literally shoo-ed another 30 spruce hens off the trails. Worked some sharptails on my way back, they were pretty spread out and I harvested one and watched some more fly.
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    photo3.jpg
    (pic from the 28th)

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    Member honeybadger's Avatar
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    Thinking about scoping out some ptarmigan here in short order, tired of fighting my way through the woods!

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    Indeed you found a good pocket of grouse in an otherwise poor year. And the sharptails do migrate to a wintering area so depending upon where you found them those birds were possibly on the move. It's certainly the time of year (photoperiod) when they move. If I had to eat that many spruce grouse I'd need a couple of gallons of whiskey to prepare me! :-)

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    Member honeybadger's Avatar
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    Yea, it's a pain. I treat them like ducks; it's a three day process to prepare them. Sit for 36 hours in a mixture of water vinegar salt and baking soda. Then I marinate them in pad Thai sauce or Korean barbeque for a day and a half. I then make kabobs or pad Thai out them. They turn out awesome but it's a pain the get them there. You could probably make boot leather taste great if you have the patience!

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    Member honeybadger's Avatar
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    Not to offend any of you hardcore waterfowlers out there! I just don't particularly enjoy the natural taste of duck.

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    I have to agree with Jim. Thats a good number of sightings and contacts in a pretty dang crappy bird year. This spring was tough on them from what I have found so far.
    "If I could shoot a game bird and still not hurt it, the way I can take a trout on a fly and release it, I doubt if I would kill another one." George Bird Evans

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    Member honeybadger's Avatar
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    Got out tonight for a couple hours. Came home with two ruffs and found my white whale!

    Toby did great holding strong points on all the birds. I had probably 10 cars pass the areas I hunted tonight. I've found the spruce are dumb enough to sit on the roads. The ruffs will sit off just to the side of the roads and scratch for grit. I watched one do this for about 5 minutes before it snuck back into the alders that lined the road. And I have seen this behavior a few times last month. When I have bumped them driving they seem to move off the road in a hurry. I believe a lot of hunters drive by these birds without knowing it.


    I tend to pick my areas by looking for decent habitat, driving the new areas until I find patterns limiting sightings to specific mile posts along a road. Once I have patterned an area I will drive to the mile posts and walk any small trails near or adjacent to them to get an idea of the habitat without breaking too much brush. Once I have identified the best patches of habitat in an area I will start breaking brush and seeing what I really have. Most of the time I will flush a few birds. I let them take me wherever they like. This is the best way to find coverts and not aimlessly break brush just to break brush on hopes of finding birds. In fact if I'm in a brand new area I will drive until I see a bird on the trail or at the edge. Ill then get out and chase it in to the woods and observe where it flies to. Ill go back to the truck and let the dog out. Ill sit back and let him work to where the bird flushed and give him the signal to turn into the woods. Ill let him work about 50 yards out max and loosely guide him to where I saw the bird fly last. I find this is the best way to find core areas of prime habitat. This method also allows me to get Toby on as many birds as possible in a day. Ill do this primarily in the morning and then go to another of my reliable areas and walk them until about 3-4:00. Ill then go to that new area and walk a radius both sides of the road where I flushed the bird, up to around half a mile out depending on how much light I have at that point and how birdy Toby is.


    Back to the story now! Tonight I took off for one of my hot spots that has been not so hot this year. Dug way back to my notes on where I had seen birds the beginning of last year. I drove the area and it looked dead going through. I found a four wheeler trail in the immediate vicinity and decided to give it a whirl just to get Toby some exercise. about 50 yards up the trail Toby went on point about 10 feet into the woods. I could tell by the point the bird was held up in a small spruce. I walk the opposite side of the spruce and about 5 feet out it busted out and flew directly overhead. I took a Hail Mary as it banked another spruce thicket and it paid off. Pushed back out the the trail and found some good cover on the downhill side. We walked it to the main road and about 30 yards down the road on my side of the road I spotted anoth bird at the very edge scratching at the ground. I probably wouldn't have if it wasn't making such an exaggerated motion. Toby must have spotted it too because he looked like he was about to take off after it. I have him the command to whoa and we watched it for a few minutes until it scurried off into the alder thicket. I released Toby and he followed it about 20 feet into the woods and locked on. The trees opened up into a more mature stand and so my shot was a bit easier this time. Told Toby easy, he inched forward and out came the bird, then down it went. We then pushed back up through a younger stand uphill towards the small trail. Once we got to the small trail we continued down a quarter mile or so until Toby got real birdy again. Sent him into the woods uphill this time and we immediately kicked one up to the right of us by chance. We worked our way in the direction of the sound and about 40 yards later Toby locked on a small spruce thicket, I followed closely in tow and before I knew it, out came the bird opposite me. Got a good view of tail feathers and that's about it. This went on for an hour and then some until the sun started to dip pretty good. In all I kicked this bird up eight times in all and could not get off a shot. I cleared the top of a hill and chased him a good ways down the back side! You can bet ill be back for round two soon. I don't care if I see another bird the rest of the year as long as I get a crack at this guy!

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    Member honeybadger's Avatar
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    On another note has anyone noticed the lack of hares this year? I haven't seen any this year where I saw at least a dozen last year while hunting by this time. I'm fine with this as I dont shoot them and its one less thing for Toby to chase after (I'm about sick of him getting distracted by robins and jays). Just curious if its just me or have they all but disappeared around here?

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    Sharptail numbers are up on the Tanana Flats. Out in moose camp last month, noticed Sharptail numbers returning. Heading out in the plane to hunt a few. Young dog this year to work with, so will be mostly for training and grilling purposes. Watched a Peregrine Falcon take a Sharpie out moose hunting this Fall.

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    Sunday Oct 6, flushed 8 Sharpies and took three. Working a young dog on the Tanana Flats. Flew out @ 25mi SSW...from Fairbanks...

    Large wolf pack had run the trail ahead of me, fresh scat and skittish birds...

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    Quote Originally Posted by honeybadger View Post
    Got out for three days with the dog. Decided I was going to check out some new locations I had driven past recently that looked promising south of town. Couldn't keep the spruce hens away. I found a couple decent coverts for ruffs and happened upon a good spot for sharptails. I left them alone for the most part and kicked them up for Toby. I ended up shooting one a day off of a good point for training purposes.

    26th was a decent day. I flushed about 15 birds shot a couple spruce hens for training value, found a couple ruffs down in low areas. Examining their crops it looks like they are starting to move to green leaves (mostly aspen) but no buds yet. Highbush cranberries and a few rose hips were also present. The spruce hens had a mixture of spruce needles, birch catkins and highbush cranberies which indicates the ruffs move to greens were not necessarily due to a scarecity of berries. I also observed plenty of highbush cranberries while in the woods. The sharptails were feeding almost exclusively on blueberries, which were plentiful where I found them.

    photo.jpg

    27th was a good day. I went three for three on a sort of grouse slam! A spruce, a ruff, and a sharptail all within a mile of each other. I believe the sharptails were moving through in this area on there way somewhere else. Saw several more spruce hens and heard a few that flushed in thick cover. I located the sharptails in a mature aspen stand. The ruffs were near water in thick lowland cover. Young birch/aspen stands with 4-6 ft tall spruce trees seemed to produce.

    28th Moved a bit further out. Found the best ruffed habitat I have ever seen. Produced only one bird, but I was fighting a young aspen stand and may have pushed more out without know it as I could not keep up with Toby. Shot 8 spruce hens that Toby pointed for training value. I literally shoo-ed another 30 spruce hens off the trails. Worked some sharptails on my way back, they were pretty spread out and I harvested one and watched some more fly.
    Sweet, Nice slam!
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    Thanks, shoot me a text, I'm headed out to a new area this weekend. It's been my goal this year to hit different spots from Anderson to Tok every time I go out and map out the best coverts for next year. So far I've hit about 80% of the spots I wanted to check out. There has been a big shift in habitat that is holding good numbers of birds from last year mostly due to fires. I have found that if you are less tied to your traditional spots and more so to habitat that you will find just as many or more birds than last year. Or maybe I picked up a few tricks since last year. Either way I have been getting into birds just about everywhere. Another great way to get into birds that I found out while moose hunting this year is traveling the river instead of the road system. Little to no pressure on birds and higher numbers, I'm going to dedicate some time to that next year. Im also planning on hunting through the winter to try and pattern them at a time of year I haven't before. I plan on doing that by watching carefully any movements or trends on where I locate them as the snow starts to fly and stay right on them weekly. I have already documented trends since earlier in the year.

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    Great stuff! I hope to be doing the same very soon

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    Quote Originally Posted by pipercub View Post
    Sunday Oct 6, flushed 8 Sharpies and took three. Working a young dog on the Tanana Flats. Flew out @ 25mi SSW...from Fairbanks...

    Large wolf pack had run the trail ahead of me, fresh scat and skittish birds...
    Very cool! Flying out to hunt untested areas with my setters is on my bucket list!
    "If I could shoot a game bird and still not hurt it, the way I can take a trout on a fly and release it, I doubt if I would kill another one." George Bird Evans

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    My Delta honey hole continues to produce... a buddy and me pulled two limits out today plus a ruffie. Sharpie numbers are way up- I've seen 100+ a day for a couple weeks now. The wind kept them on the ground- yesterday they were flushing 70-80 yards out...well outta range of the boy's 20ga.
    DSCN1046.jpg
    "I do not deal in hypotheticals. The world, as it is, is vexing enough..." Col. Stonehill, True Grit

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    Looks like a great day hodgeman, glad to hear there are plenty of sharptails around. I might have to make time to get back out south of town there. All my sharpies this year have been incidental while out looking for king birds. Very cool you've been seeing those numbers!

    I only got out Saturday for about 4 hours. Ended up with three spruce that wouldn't get off my trail (I mean they would fly a few yards and land back on it) and were driving my dogs nuts, and two ruffs out of what I pushed around up the hill. The ruffs were on the run for the most part in real thick cover. It was hard to tell whether I was pushing the same 8-10 birds around all morning or if I was bumping different groups. It was real hard to get a shot off but I managed two ruffs for about 15 shells. Found some great country. Had alot of fun, so did the dogs. Birds were real mature, and plentiful. Seen alot of road hunters drive by down below, with no luck. Best bet is to go where there is plenty of food and lots of sunlight. Best tip I have for the ruffs right now. There are alot of birds out there! Just have to know where to look. Good luck everyone. Thanks for all the great sharp tail reports.

    IMG_0782.jpg

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    Member hodgeman's Avatar
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    The late snow is paying big dividends. The birds are really flocking up and the hunting opportunity is great.

    Took the boy and a buddy out again. They both scored birds….I just had a good time seeing the boy get some action and making a few hulls.
    DSCN1050.jpg
    "I do not deal in hypotheticals. The world, as it is, is vexing enough..." Col. Stonehill, True Grit

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