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Thread: Do I just have the worst luck ever or am I missing something?

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    Member AKPyron's Avatar
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    Default Do I just have the worst luck ever or am I missing something?

    So once again I got out this weekend looking for those beutiful white birds. Heck this week I was even willing to take a rabbit after getting skunked the three previous weeks.

    So here is the deal. Went out to Murphy dome, lots of people at the summit so went on down to a few other places off 15 mile Rd. One we saw a flock of about 5 flying but lost sight of them from the road and couldn't get a fix on where they landed. The rest of the day I decided not to torture my buddy so I volunteered to walk the scrub. Hiking in 1 to 2 miles at a few locations trying to stir em up out of the brush but nothing. Food sources where EVERYWHERE but as hard as I looked I saw no tracks. We saw one other bird for the day but it stayed just out of range in an arc around us.

    Now there were PILES of feathers up at some of the parking areas so birds have to be there right? I didn't even see any grouse. Only thing we saw in quanity were Gray-Jays. It was a gorgeous day and I got some great pics and exercise, but I'm really really wanting to taste some Ptarmigan. I keep hearing how good they are yet i can't find any to harvest so I can try them.

    What am I missing?

    BTW I am supposed to be having my wrist fused in Nov or Dec and I really don't want to go the next 8-12 in recovery without having at least had one hunt I harvest on. (I considder all hunts where everyone comes home safe and happy successful)!
    Last edited by AKPyron; 10-25-2010 at 20:20. Reason: Left out info

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    Akpyron,

    Don't feel bad. Ptarmigan can be tough. Why just today I hunted two of my best dogs for...I dunno, at least 4 hours and over a lot of mountainous terrain. A place where I've shot a ton of ptarmigan over the decades. We didn't so much as see a ptarmigan, and saw only a few old tracks way up high. Today was the first hunt I've been skunked on this season, and I hunt birds a lot, more than the average bear for sure. With ptarmigan you just never know, but I don't think all that many birds have migrated into the area so far this season. Little snow and mild temps have likely had the birds moving rather slow. No reason to come here just yet. But tomorrow could be a totally different affair and there could be birds everywhere. It will happen. Soon.

    But I did photograph a nice lynx today!

    Jim

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    Member AKPyron's Avatar
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    Thanks for the encouragement Jim! If nothing else Im persistant so I'll get them. Any general areas (not asking for secret spots) besides the dome you would recomend trying?

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    Member Hoyt's Avatar
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    You're seeing birds, so your not doing to much wrong. I'll tell you, I used to hunt Murphy Dome a ton a few years ago. It isn't like it used to be. Last time I hunted it; people were running and gunning all over the top with wheelers. I use to kill a ton of birds up there, but haven't been up there in awhile. The last time I was up there, the birds were very skittish, and didn't hold much at all. That area receives a ton of pressure being close to town and all. I remember going up there and not seeing another soul. That doesnít seem to be the case anymore. Try getting out and exploring more. Look at maps, and get off the beaten path. Iím not saying youíll never connect on the dome, but there are a lot better places out there! Good luck.

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    Member sameyer's Avatar
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    The thing about Alaska upland hunting that is so different from the agricultural regions in the lower 48 is while down south practically any section of CRP or the like will hold some birds, in Alaska there are food sources everywhere but there isn't birds in every 80 acre section. Sometimes, as Jim points out, you can climb and hunt for days without seeing a bird, even with sign everywhere. I have found the best way to consistently get on birds is to get away from other hunters. Taking off into unknown territory is a bit daunting at first but it is well worth the effort. As you probably already have figured, having a dog not only increases your odds of success, it also adds immeasurably to the experience. Oh, and by the way, ptarmigan are great eating and the harder you work for them the better they taste!

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    Right now there is food everywhere. The blueberries are still easily available and they are everywhere. Very little snow and it's not cold at all. The birds can easily be hanging just north of here, taking life easy.

    Here's another thing to consider. Ptarmigan don't hang around in one spot for a long time. They eat, then they go and loaf somewhere. If they aren't chivied about by one of the plethora of predators they might stay in one area for a while. If not, when they get up from their loafing, they fly off. I believe instincts tell them that leaving a bunch of scent around and staying in one area too long is not a good thing. If hunters were given a beat area, like British fly fishers on a stream, you could hunt the area and find nothing, reverse and hunt it again and limit out. I sometimes find no birds, or some birds in a particular area, and then watch flocks fly in behind me and land.

    Some days are diamonds, and some days are stones. Keep at it.

    Jim

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    Member SkinnyD's Avatar
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    My ptarmigan report would be pretty similar. I'm not familar enough with them to consistently find birds, but I have managed to stumble onto a couple almost each time I go out. Yesterday, however, I didn't see a single feather, which brings up a new question for me. How much or how far will ptarmigan move around from day to day? Once they migrate to their wintering grounds, do they stay within a 5-mile radius or a 1-mile radius or a 200-yard radius of their preferred blueberry bush? It just seems like a place that holds 100 birds one day should at least have a few hanging around the same area the next day. Granted, I was very surprised to kick up 3 big flocks in one day, but I was even more surprised to find them totally gone the next day.
    Passing up shots on mergansers since 1992.


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    Skinny

    One of my reference books might have some mention of what you ask, but for the most part no one knows the answer to your great question. You see, no one does any work on ptarmigan, or any other game birds to speak of. Sure, there is some work done in the spring on sharptail lek observation, and driving through ptarmigan breeding grounds and doing a few ruffed grouse drumming surveys, but that's about it. Next to nothing at all is done on ptarmigan. Big game and commercial fishing get what money is available to biologists.

    Some years the ptarmigan don't even come to the Tanana Valley, or hardly any of them, while other years they are all over town. One year the birds did the unexpected and migrated north to the Kotzebue area of all places. Ptarmigan fly a lot. Just take a look at their very dark breast meat. Lots of oxygen required in those muscles 'cause they fly a lot. A ruffed grouse, on the other wing, has white meat because it would rather walk then fly, and when it does fly, it only goes a short distance. A ruffed grouse will quickly tire from flushing, too quickly if a hunter relentlessly pursues the same bird, flushing it multiple times.

    Lots to learn yet about ptarmigan, and I've been chasing them for about 40 years!

    Jim

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    Member AKPyron's Avatar
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    Once again Jim chimes in with a wealth of knowledge!

    Skinny if you ever need a partner let me know, I live out near Fox.

    Sameyer, I wish I could get a dog but unfortunately I just started upland hunting and already have two Husky mixes and the wife already complains about their hair enough lol. Happy wife = Happy Life Besides she lets me go hunting as much as I want!

    Thanks everyone for all the help and encouragement

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    Premium Member Wyo2AK's Avatar
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    Back when I was a young lad hunting chukar for the first time in Nevada, my grandfather said to me, "The first time you hunt chukars is for fun. Every time after that is for revenge."

    Since moving up here, I've found that statement to be pretty applicable to ptarmigan.

    I've had plenty of days like you've described (in fact, many more than I've had banner days getting into lots of birds). The ptarmigan are where you find them, especially this time of year. And that can change every day. Which = lots of leg work and a foolish determination.
    Pursue happiness with diligence.

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    Been following upland Ptarmigan thread... I remain ever so passionate about these wild birds --- few things to glean and a couple I'll add.

    #1 Running the birds nearby easy access and around greater people populations equals pressure with potential of home-ranging consequence. Not hard for man, on machine, with repeating guns, over less demanding terrain and conditions to alter the golden years of better odds.

    Keep in mind those Camp Robber birds focus habits on much of what man leaves laying around... Like the carcass piles, food, and trash. Other predators sniff this out as well, so never assume your the only one hunting.

    #2 Once you've discovered good habitat like suitable food groups, digestive gravels, cleaning sands, water sources, escapes and cover:
    A.) This can change by seasons, environmental conditions, predation (by critters or man), and even successions or introductions.
    B.) Keep in mind that trends of good places are still likely desirable homemakers holding birds... maybe not there today, yet often case in point is that they'll be in proximity or return at some time.

    #4 Tactics
    A.) Familiarity with behavioral habits and how these birds key on teamwork site, sounds... including survival strategies like wind direction, elevation, and sentry positions play a key roles for hunting success.

    #3 Try going without the firearm as justification and focus for discovery or experience.
    A.) It may really open your eyes and the rest of you senses.
    B.) Observation and preservation are practices for a deeper understanding.
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    Member TMCKEE's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wyo2AK View Post
    Back when I was a young lad hunting chukar for the first time in Nevada, my grandfather said to me, "The first time you hunt chukars is for fun. Every time after that is for revenge."

    .
    Pure Poetry! I love it!

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    What kind of camera did you take that picture with Brian

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    Thumbs up

    Quote Originally Posted by catchfish View Post
    What kind of camera did you take that picture with Brian

    Believe it or not... a Cannon S2 IS Powershot w/ image stabilization.

    I was guiding a multi-day Snowmobile tour just south of the Alaska Range. This was crisp temps about 3rd week of February so the sun was returning with clean snow for perfect lighting.


    One of my preferred photo techniques for these close up stalks on Ptarmigan in their beds at 3-5 feet away is to identify the bird's positions, have party ride at a steady pace (keeping to a bit of a distance), get off my sled nearby (leaving it running), and have others in group continue on a little ways away for distraction. This bird was just about arm-lengths away.


    Often (like a lot of game viewing here in Alaska) knowing the land and conditions, plus mileage and timing lead to good photo opportunities. Snowmobile touring over 3-5 days is one ticket for success.


    I have 2 of the 2S & 1 3S I'd be willing to make someone a good deal on now that I'm using the 20 version in a very similar package with more capability and features.

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    Not sure where you are willing to travel, but a buddy went up towards Paxson last weekend and limited out quickly on ptarmigan while he was caribou hunting.

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    Brian,

    That is a very nice photo. Well done.

    Jim

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    Wyo2AK: Thats a great saying thanks. May even have to steal ito once in a while giving due credit of couse!

    Brian: Beautiful picture! Thanks a lot, I will be doing plenty of "research" trips after my surgery (won't be able to shoot). And I bet you are totally right that I will notice things differentyly. Actually now that I think about you are exactly right. When I go on my "hikes" to scout trapping areas I seem to notice every twig thats bent and out of place, every track and mouch more than I do while hunting. I guess just the act of thinking about not careening your gun through every brush is really WAY more distracting than we realize.

    AK Explorer: Paxson is not at all too far. Already have plans this weekend but PM if you wanna go sometime.

  18. #18

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    AKPyron - will do - I am booked up this weekend too, but if I get some time to head that way, I will let you know. For some reason PM is not an option when I click your name. Thanks for the invite.

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