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Thread: Final Ptarmigan Hunt 2009/10

  1. #1
    Member Burke's Avatar
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    Default Final Ptarmigan Hunt 2009/10

    This was my best ptarmigan season since I moved here and started hunting ptarmigan 5 years ago. We (my dogs and I) had many awesome hours in the field and came home with a few birds and only minor injuries, mostly my sore ankles, bruised ego over missed shots and tired muscles. It wasn't so great for grouse though. Understandable because I didn't hunt them as hard. I love being in the country where Ptarmigan live!

    The season started with a bit of sadness though. One of my best hunting buddies for the past twelve years, Buck my Weimaraner had died last winter. However, the season was pleasantly interrupted with the adoption of Ember the Griffon. Ember and I have some work to do this summer, but I look forward and enjoy that as much as hunting...well honestly maybe not quite as much. Pretty close though.

    The final Hunt began with a phone call as I was leaving the house. My friend couldn't make it because he sprained his ankle. I think it was just the sleet and clouds that scared him away. Oh well. I got to the trail head and realized I had forgotten the shotgun! The phone call distracted me...never forgot anything before (yeah right). Did I want to go without it...Naw, last day gotta get the gun. There will be enough days in this summer without the gun. When I got back home so early, my wife met me at the door with the "Honey Do" list and a smile. "does this mean you are staying home today?" Nope, grabbed the gun and left before I got the dirty look )

    I was pooped from Saturday's hike and the fact that I hadn't been out for two weeks before that. So I took the tortoise route up, slow and steady. As soon as I topped the last pitch to crest treeline into ptarmigan country (dogs well ahead of me) I was ready for a drink and snack break. The dogs would have nothing of it. Pie was casting out in front and Ember was sneaking around to my left and I could hear ptarmigan out in front of both dogs. No rest for the wicked, I quickly put the snowshoes on, loaded the gun and located the birds. Thank goodness the snow conditions were way better than Saturday (completely different area). I was able to get into position before the birds ran off. We still lost a few to their quick legs but I managed to get some into the air.

    After a few hours of excitement I had to stop the dogs and grab a snack. I was soaked from inside (perspiration) and outside (wet snow), and I was now very pooped. It had been a great day so far, both dogs had multiple finds and we had a few birds in the bag. It was later than I had planned, due to leaving the gun at home, so I made that decision that no one wants to make, I called it a day. Both dogs were disappointed. What made it worse was we could hear ptarmigan laughing/taunting us from three sides. It was cool to know that it hadn't taken Ember long to figure out what makes that sound! I knew if we went for one more it could turn into a very long day. One more often turns into two more, which turns into...you get the picture. I don't mind long days, but I also have learned calling it quits is not the end of the world, besides those birds would be seed for next year.

    Unfortunately the weather was not great for pictures, we were in the clouds and snow. I did get a couple to share.
    Thanks for sharing your pictures this season and thanks for listening/reading my babble.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Member TMCKEE's Avatar
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    Great write up, and I know what you meen about wanting to be in ptarmigan country. I get a child like grin on my face that even the hard slog up hill can't wipe away. Pie and Ember look pretty worn out like they should after a long day. If they're anything like Gauge, they have a nice long contented sleep on the drive home. I'm looking forward to next season with much anticipation! I'll see you up there some time I'm sure (if not around town).

    Tyler

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    Burke, great story and pictures. Glad to see you guys had a good season.

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    Congratulations on a fine upland season! My dogs and I are still at it, but the weather is...well, wonderful! But the snow is melting quickly and much earlier than usual and the white birds won't put up with much of that and will move on toward breeding grounds. We will pursue them a bit longer before saying "See ya!" and closing the book on another glorious season.

    Take care!

    Jim

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    Default Thanks!

    Thanks for posting this.
    Fine looking dogs - and birds. Congratulations.

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    Default My favorite!

    Ptarmigan are my favorite game birds, based on beauty and also how hearty they are to survive and live in the extremes. You and your dogs did well and added one more memory to the bank. I appreciate the post. Now it's time to let them be giddy and sit on a nest of next years crop....

  7. #7

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    Great post! Thanks for sharing the story. You can't be a day like that hunting in Alaska.
    Alaska Outdoors Television ~ Outdoor Channel

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    i really appreciated this post burke. wanted to resurrect the memory and share a chase i had of some willow ptarmigan for my end of season hunt march 31 of this season. how i am wishing it were still march. but let the geese arrive.

    Ptarmigan hunting in the SC area of Alaska has been much different than the few years I spent at the university in the interior dome country. there i could often drive up and hunt downhill. here i am most always going up!. but the descent home makes things pleasant and there is nothing like a good climb into the alpine country. no hunting dog for me at this time so it is just my snowshoes a pack and some shot.

    the country i was hunting this day is a relatively high morraine that was kept at its elevation due to a fairly mild canyon between two mountain ridges. more than anything those birds seem to love the undulating terrrain. or at least to always keeping this terrain nearby. in this instance i happened upon a remarkable combination of gullies in an otherwise fairly gently undulating area. I had gained enough elevation that I was above these features. I like to try and focus on climbing for the first hour I am out. This time i was attempting to crest a 15 foot rise and three birds flew immediately off the top as i popped over. down they darted and i scanned the shrubs nearby. not sensing stragglers I followed the left hand rim of this new gully I was looking over downwards, towards where it cut through a noticeable large bench, dropping off steeply. A small knoll with a pair of windswept spruce and some white birch sat just to the left of this cleft and I quickly picked off a white bird that stood out the most. Up three flew, then at least 5 more from this small knoll. I took one on the wing with my second shot and the rest left, instigating another group of I would guess 8 to burst from the other side of the knoll and do a big downward swoop. Down I slid to pick up the birds, which weren't all that far apart, and examined the gully below the knoll. I could hear more birds down that way, but there was no way that I was heading down there. Breaking trail on snowshoes in these mountains in march is never easy, let alone coming back up steep gullies i've foolishly gone down.


    What followed was something of a 2 hour game in which this flock of birds proceeded to demonstrate how they could get to the other side of a gully faster than I. It was really impressive to see this terrain they had picked out. Where they could go in 10 seconds would take me 45 minutes. Which they proceeded to do a couple of times. I did a large 2 hr loop which produced nothing but beautiful views and a lot of falling through a false crust on the rapidly consolidating and wet snowpack. believe I came on some wolverine tracks in a few places, some a few days old but the stride of the tracks was noticeable, perhaps stalking ptarmigan. Indeed humans are not the only creatures that recognize the quality of the hunt for these birds.


    whew. been meaning to share my end of season hunt with you guys as i appreciated your posts on these fantastic birds. the article today in the ADN on white tails sparked my memory to share this., helps with the april cabin fever, let the rivers open up for spring and look forward to hunting this fall.

    good time now to go for a walk in ptarmigan country just to enjoy the fresh air. cheers.

  9. #9

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    enjoyed the read, thanks for sharing with us!

  10. #10
    Member byrd_hntr's Avatar
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    Default Cool

    As a new Griff owner (6 months old). I like to hear stories about Ember. Keep it up. I need to get out a bit more next year. My shorthair has been giving me the stink eye the last few weeks.
    I'm going to ctrl-alt-delete you so hard your mama's computer is going to reboot.

  11. #11
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    Default Thanks for sharing andweav

    I can visualize the hunt....you mentioned no dog at this time, is there one in the near future for you? They will enhance the hunt incredibly at least IMO...not because they produce more birds, but because of the companionship, the process of training and the simple beauty of what the do in the field. They truly could care less if they put a bird in the bag. We humans think the dog needs the bird for reward when actually it is ourselves. They love being out, drinking in the smells and running in the wind and your attention. It just so happens that we sometimes get to put something in the bag (on the table).

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burke View Post
    This was my best ptarmigan season since I moved here and started hunting ptarmigan 5 years ago. We (my dogs and I) had many awesome hours in the field and came home with a few birds and only minor injuries, mostly my sore ankles, bruised ego over missed shots and tired muscles. It wasn't so great for grouse though. Understandable because I didn't hunt them as hard. I love being in the country where Ptarmigan live!

    The season started with a bit of sadness though. One of my best hunting buddies for the past twelve years, Buck my Weimaraner had died last winter. However, the season was pleasantly interrupted with the adoption of Ember the Griffon. Ember and I have some work to do this summer, but I look forward and enjoy that as much as hunting...well honestly maybe not quite as much. Pretty close though.

    The final Hunt began with a phone call as I was leaving the house. My friend couldn't make it because he sprained his ankle. I think it was just the sleet and clouds that scared him away. Oh well. I got to the trail head and realized I had forgotten the shotgun! The phone call distracted me...never forgot anything before (yeah right). Did I want to go without it...Naw, last day gotta get the gun. There will be enough days in this summer without the gun. When I got back home so early, my wife met me at the door with the "Honey Do" list and a smile. "does this mean you are staying home today?" Nope, grabbed the gun and left before I got the dirty look )

    I was pooped from Saturday's hike and the fact that I hadn't been out for two weeks before that. So I took the tortoise route up, slow and steady. As soon as I topped the last pitch to crest treeline into ptarmigan country (dogs well ahead of me) I was ready for a drink and snack break. The dogs would have nothing of it. Pie was casting out in front and Ember was sneaking around to my left and I could hear ptarmigan out in front of both dogs. No rest for the wicked, I quickly put the snowshoes on, loaded the gun and located the birds. Thank goodness the snow conditions were way better than Saturday (completely different area). I was able to get into position before the birds ran off. We still lost a few to their quick legs but I managed to get some into the air.

    After a few hours of excitement I had to stop the dogs and grab a snack. I was soaked from inside (perspiration) and outside (wet snow), and I was now very pooped. It had been a great day so far, both dogs had multiple finds and we had a few birds in the bag. It was later than I had planned, due to leaving the gun at home, so I made that decision that no one wants to make, I called it a day. Both dogs were disappointed. What made it worse was we could hear ptarmigan laughing/taunting us from three sides. It was cool to know that it hadn't taken Ember long to figure out what makes that sound! I knew if we went for one more it could turn into a very long day. One more often turns into two more, which turns into...you get the picture. I don't mind long days, but I also have learned calling it quits is not the end of the world, besides those birds would be seed for next year.

    Unfortunately the weather was not great for pictures, we were in the clouds and snow. I did get a couple to share.
    Thanks for sharing your pictures this season and thanks for listening/reading my babble.
    While reading your story and the part about forgetting your shotgun, it reminded me of a couple times I forgot something.

    The worst one was forgetting I had left my shotgun on the hood of my truck as I left an area off the Denali Highway.
    Probably one of my most painful memories as I looked in my rearview mirror and seen my fairly new Browning Upland Special tumbling over the asphalt as I drove away. . .OUCH! Luckily, it survived with only deep scratching and such on barrel and stock.

    The other time was pretty embarrassing too.
    I'm a falconer and also own Tangle Lakes Lodge. As a lodge owner, it's hard to get away some times but when you've got a falcon trained-up and ready to go, you MAKE the time, but you're always in hurry.
    So, as I arrived at one of my favorite spots that almost always have birds, I spotted birds before I had even got the dogs out.
    The falcon I was flying was a bird I'd had for many years and he was a real pro, so I was taking my time getting ready to pick him up. I messed around getting the dogs ready, getting my gear on, etc.
    I went to the back of the truck, opened the door to reach in to get the hawk. . .and he wasn't there!
    I had left him at the lodge!

    Richard

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    Richard,

    How are you? If you recall, we "talked" birdhunting a bit over the net and such years back. Are you still guiding? The one time we actually almost met was when I was hunting a couple of my Brittanys up on a hillside off the Denali with my daughter along some years ago and our paths nearly crossed. She was maybe 10 years old at time and will turn 17 next week, so it's been quite a while. You had a couple of clients hunting so we didn't get to meet and talk.

    Hope all is well. I'll make it a plan to stop in this year and meet you and we can talk dogs and guns and birds and such. Still hunting English Setters?

    Take care,

    Jim

  14. #14
    Member Burke's Avatar
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    I too have done the gun on the hood trick before...had to get the stock pinned to keep it together.
    At least I never drove off without a dog...knock on wood!
    But I have driven down the road after a hunt and had to stop to check whether I loaded the dogs or not.

    I have always wanted to watch a "falcon" and a dog work together. It must be pretty awesome. I had met a falconer in Montana and we never went out together because he had a young dog and a young bird. Neither were trained enough to work together I guess.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim McCann View Post
    Richard,

    How are you? If you recall, we "talked" birdhunting a bit over the net and such years back. Are you still guiding? The one time we actually almost met was when I was hunting a couple of my Brittanys up on a hillside off the Denali with my daughter along some years ago and our paths nearly crossed. She was maybe 10 years old at time and will turn 17 next week, so it's been quite a while. You had a couple of clients hunting so we didn't get to meet and talk.

    Hope all is well. I'll make it a plan to stop in this year and meet you and we can talk dogs and guns and birds and such. Still hunting English Setters?

    Take care,

    Jim
    I recall your name Jim and have a foggy memory of sort of meeting. . .
    Please stop in when your in the area. I'm kind of slow-playing opening the lodge this year. I'm just finishing a 3 year contract with a construction firm, (Had to take a job for the past couple of years so I can afford to own a lodge, lol) which ends this month. I haven't opened the lodge for the past 4 seasons, so I'm going to sort of ease back into it.
    I'm looking for lodge help, so if you know any good hands, send them my way.

    I'm sort of starting fresh this year. I have a old GSP, who is mostly retired and no hawks at present. I'm looking around for a started dog and plan to trap a Goshawk some time in August.
    Hope to see you up there this year.

    Richard

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    Quote Originally Posted by Burke View Post
    I too have done the gun on the hood trick before...had to get the stock pinned to keep it together.
    At least I never drove off without a dog...knock on wood!
    But I have driven down the road after a hunt and had to stop to check whether I loaded the dogs or not.

    I have always wanted to watch a "falcon" and a dog work together. It must be pretty awesome. I had met a falconer in Montana and we never went out together because he had a young dog and a young bird. Neither were trained enough to work together I guess.
    Sorry to say Burke, but I'm glad to hear someone else has done something as foolish and I! Ha!
    After I had send that post off, I thought to myself, my God, why did I just tell the world of one of my must stupidest moments??

    If I manage to get a hawk up and hunting this fall, please stop by and we'll go hawking.

    Richard

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