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Thread: Hatcher's Pass

  1. #1
    Member TMCKEE's Avatar
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    Default Hatcher's Pass

    Does anyone have more than a few years experience hunting ptarmigan in Hatcher's Pass.

    I didn't start hunting there until the end of January last year and regularly found birds and there were typically tracks everywhere. So far this year I've seen no birds and very little sign. I'm getting the impression that I'm seeing signs of resident birds that are in the pass year round and the larger groups of birds coming from elsewhere in the state just haven't shown up yet.

    Can anyone with a little more experience hunting Hatcher's Pass corroborate this theory...or have I just been unlucky so far this year?

    Oddly enough however, I did see three ruffed grouse this weekend up where I was finding willow ptarmigan last year. I took one and didn't recognize the seeds in it's crop but I'm assuming that's why they were up that high.

    Thanks,
    Tyler


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    Wow, that's quite interesting to me that you found ruffs way up there. What sort of habitat and terrain are we talking about here, Tyler?

    I don't hunt Hatcher's but ptarmigan are always here today and gone tomorrow. Keep at it.

    Jim

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    Jim,
    The three were roosted in the last leafless deciduous tree at the top of an alder filled draw not many other trees below either. From that point there were only alders and willow scrub. It was on a mountainside with about a 25 degree slope. Snow depth was around a foot or less. Temps were around 20, barometric pressure high enough to clear the clouds out of the sky and a wind that was well below 10 mph. I've seen some exposed high-bush cranberries near there (and plenty of blueberries beneath the snow) but like I said earlier that wasn't what they had in their crops. The seeds were smaller than sunflowers, with a split outer shell or thin covering (sort of pistachio-like), their shapes weren't smooth like a sunflower seed, but more irregular than that (however consistent in their shape).

    They did have pretty quick access to more "traditional" ruffy habitat with about a six or seven hundred feet of elevation drop.

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    Tyler,

    I don't know what those seeds are? But that's what took them away from their usual and typical habitat and the cranberries. Ruffs love alder runs for security and use them like highways between food sources. I'd sure like to know what kind of seeds they are. Was it late in the day and perhaps the birds were eating from the same tree(s) you saw them in? Were the trees cottonwoods or aspen?

    I love a mystery.

    Jim

  5. #5

    Default hatcher's pass

    I had great luck up there , but not until after December either and the snow was alot deeper . I don't think the birds drop down until the snow is deep and they can get near the trails to get to food . Just my two cents .

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    Where they seeds or buds in their crop?

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    Member TMCKEE's Avatar
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    They were there at first light, all roosted in the same tree. I wish I could tell you what kind of tree it was, but I'm not really sure. It was definitely not an aspen though.

    They were definitely seeds, not buds.

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    Member Burke's Avatar
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    It seems to me in general that ptarmigan numbers are lower this year in areas around the Valley and Anchorage...Curious though that you found the Ruffs up higher.

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    I generally find Ruff Grouse at the vary edge of the tree line where the aspens change to tundra or alders. As for the Ptarmigan as someone alts said they stay up high till the snow is deep enough to cover there food even after a hard wind. you might want to try climbing up into the rocks at a vary high elevation. When I was in high school I would find them on the top of the mountain behind summit lake in October. Then once the snow fell and the road was closed I would not try hunting till mid December after that the birds would be down in the valleys on government peak or gold mint trail. Back then there was not near the people up there that there is now. Last year I took a drive up there and man how the place has changed. I would not know where to hunt now.

  10. #10
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    little dave - thanks, that's pretty consistent with what I've seen. The higher I've been on Government Peak the more tracks I've seen, just not in large numbers and the dog and I hadn't put any birds up yet. Weekends are pretty rough up there with the snowboarders and skiers, but I'm usually pretty far from where they're riding. And I'm yet to see another hunter in there. I quit hunting off of the Gold Mint Trail just because of the crowds over there.

    I found the grouse further up from the aspens that are down in the bottom, but closer to the top of the alder runs in a lone tree I didn't take the time to identify, with a crop full of seeds I couldn't identify either much to the annoyance of myself and others...I really should start carrying a camera.

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    I don't hunt Hatchers personally, but as a general rule the hunting will improve drastically as the snow depth builds and covers the higher feed. When the snow is relatively shallow the birds are spread all over the place, when it gets deeper, the birds get condensed. Hatchers has good habitat I'm sure the birds are there, they're just high and spread out.

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    I hunted hatchers in late october last year with no snow on the ground and I think i consider myself lucky because I got into a group of about 15-20 of them near archangel road. I got 4 of them and didnt hunt it again until a week before the season ended, when again i found a group of about 10 birds. Those birds were fairly high (near the snowmachine parking lot near the lodge). Im going to try and hunt it this weekend, I will try to report back my findings.

    Happy hunting.

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