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Thread: What if road access wasn't an issue for hare or grouse?

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    Member PG13's Avatar
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    Default What if road access wasn't an issue for hare or grouse?

    Hey Gang:

    New to the forum and Alaska (Wasilla), came up from North Dakota/Nebraska this fall. I am lucky enough to have made a pilot friend and he and I flew out somewhere south and west of Big Lake on President's Day. Walked some spruce for grouse and bunnies but had no luck.

    I'm wondering, if you didn't have to worry about road access, what areas or habitats you would hit up?

    We walked a ribbon of spruce surrounding a lake, I know it depends on the species but my suspicion is that contiguous blocks of habitat would be more productive than linear tracts. Or are the ribbons holding more critters? I've come to understand that wild animals don't read books or the internet and they end up wherever they think might keep them alive into the next day.

    As I don't own snowshoes yet, does anybody feel like giving me a recommendation via PM about somewhere a guy could land on a Champ with skis and be within boot-walking distance of ptarmigan habitat? I was a grassland grouse researcher in a former life and the open country of the ptarmigan holds more interest to me.

    Hoping to meet some of you folks and appreciate your comments.

    Prairie Guy 13

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    Member SkinnyD's Avatar
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    I don't know how far a plane can fly, but I'd go north if I were to want open country and ptarms... maybe out in the Talkeetnas or somewhere along the Denali Highway?
    Last edited by SkinnyD; 02-22-2011 at 09:30. Reason: fat fingers
    Passing up shots on mergansers since 1992.


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    Having once owned a "Champ" (Citabria 7GCBC) I can tell you that just about anywhere is reachable if you have the time, money, and the nerve to land and take off from there. I found things I was looking for by...well, by flying and looking for them. In your case, you guys might try talking with ADF&G to get a better idea of areas where you can find ptarmigan within your reach. When you get out to the general area you might try looking for lots of tracks around patches of willow. I can't imagine flying out and making off-airport landings just for spruce grouse, but it might appeal to you.

    I'd make sure your pilot pal is experienced in such off-airport landings and such. And I'd darned well make sure I had a pair of cross-country snowshoes strapped to the struts. I wouldn't even think of being out there without snowshoes.

    Ptarmigan are great birds. Welcome to Alaska! You're going to have a blast! Post often.

    Jim

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    When I first started hunting I thought I needed a snow machine and a four wheeler to find anything. Now that i have those things, and some experience, I find 90% of the time all I need is a pickup truck, shotgun, and good pair of boots. I would do like SD said and hit up the Talkeetna area, or Eureka would be good also. Park on the side of the road, and let the adventure begin. Good luck bud.

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    Member Hunt&FishAK's Avatar
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    i agree with tailwind.....having toys doesnt necessarily up your chances at small game......around wasilla there are many great places to get out and find birds and hares.....for hares, try out on the matanuska river willow flats....you should be able to bag at least a few during a days hunt....for ptarmigan, anywhere in hatcher pass can be a good place to start... grouse? that area just west of big lake should have decent numbers.....its all about gettin out there and looking for new spots....theres plenty of them.....they just need to be found by you....however with a plane? id focus more on gettin out to some good predator hunting while theres still some season left.....

    Also, its really a matter of finding food sources.....large patches of cranberry bushes with lots of clumps of willows and alders, with some spruce mixed in, is prime habitat for ruffed and spruce grouse, especially transition zones, like along the sides of low ridges, ravines, spruce forest giving way to birch, alder, and willow or vice versa, and especially area where there are deposits of pea gravel...ive found the best bird hunting to be near gravel roads, they need that gravel.....heavy willow thickets is where the bunnies like to roam....look for the signs, such as lots of recently stripped willow branches low to the ground, turds on top of fresh snow, freshly packed down trails and such for hares....



    Release Lake Trout

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    Supporting Member Old John's Avatar
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    I'd 2nd Tailwinds advice... If I had air trans... I'd go check out the Eureka area... Haven't been up that way yet this year, but last year my son, grandson and I had a great time with Ptarmigan and a snow shoe or two... There are a lot of snow machine trails you could walk on easily enough.... but retrieving a bird or hare a little off the trail could be something else without snow shoes...

    Welcome to the Greatland... I left the Sandhills of NorWest Nebraska in....... a long time ago..../John

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    Let me preface this by saying that I have driven out thousands of gallons of gas in search of ducks (and several hundred more on other small, meatless critters)... but do you really want to use up your plane trips on ptarmigan in February?

    That being said... if you're going to use a plane, you can surely find some birds that have never been sniffed by a dog. 75% of the chatter on here is figuring out how to get away from the road, and you've got it solved in your very first post. (The rest of the chatter is a testosterone- and cabin fever-fueled hang-off about rifle calibers).
    Passing up shots on mergansers since 1992.


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    you call your buddy Jason, bahahahahahah

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    Member SkinnyD's Avatar
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    I saw you drew a moose tag for the fall, Mr. McCann... I think the odds are in my favor for grouse that week if you're hunting moose and your dogs are at the house
    Passing up shots on mergansers since 1992.


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    No kidding, I drew a cow tag? Didn't know that. Thanks!

    Jim

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    Member SkinnyD's Avatar
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    I suppose I shouldn't have jumped to any conclusions as there are probably a lot of James McCanns in Fairbanks. I only know a few last names in the state so I was looking around to see if anyone had better luck than me in the draw. If that sounds like stalking, please don't call the Troopers. According to the list, though, at least someone by that name drew DM740.
    Passing up shots on mergansers since 1992.


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    Well, that's the one I put in for so I guess I'll have to do some 'vestigatin'. Thx

    Jim

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    Member SkinnyD's Avatar
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    I'd offer to tag along and help you pack out the moose, but you'll be able to back your truck up to a cow between Moose Creek and Salcha. Shouldn't even get your boots muddy on that one.
    Passing up shots on mergansers since 1992.


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    Skinny,

    Likely it will be an easy "hunt" on my pal's 153 acres where many moose call it home. I've taken many moose in wilderness settings over the decades and worked my butt off, but my last two have been pretty easy cow hunts. I don't own a ATV and have never used one for hunting, but this time I won't say "no" to using my pal's 6 wheeler to haul the meat out of the field. I'm not getting tougher the older I get. I'll be missing bird hunting all the while I work in getting that moose into the freezer.

    Jim

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    Nice draw Jim. I've been putting in for a couple of those Salcha cow tags the last couple years. No luck for me! They are in my yard all the time! After getting a moose last month, I should be good for this year though. I already have plans for Pax and I to hunt birds like crazy this year anyway! Get your moose down and butchered.......then load up the dogs! Good Luck

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    Bunny population cycles drastically regardless of hunting pressure so flying out somewhere doesn't necessarily mean that you will have an advantage in that regard. For birds I would chat with the bios about it. For ptarmigan I would hop on google earth and find some alpine lakes with a good creek draw draining them. Land on the lake then hunt the alder patches in the creek draws.

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    Hoyt,

    Landed a cow permit for the bow area years back and I kept seeing this lone cow in one of my finest ruffed grouse coverts. Knew I should hunt the moose when I had the chance 'cause she might just disappear, but I could hardly tear myself away from grouse hunting; wouldn't have been fair to the dogs! But the next time I saw her I vowed to go back the next day with bow in hand, and so I did. But I sat waiting to see that moose and thinking about the grouse further up the hill in the willow thickets. Anyhow, around 8:45am the cow arrived along the trail I figured she would and I spent the rest of the morning getting the meat out of the woods and into the cooler. Back to grouse hunting the next morning.

    I hope this year's moose hunt goes just as quickly. I do love to hunt birds!

    Jim

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    Quote Originally Posted by ripnlip View Post
    you call your buddy Jason, bahahahahahah
    He can't be trusted, nice to see you J.

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    LuJon et al:

    I've used Google for tons of big-game scouting, not sure why I hadn't considered it for the small stuff. Great point. It'll be fun to combine the scouting from all the different scales and see what we can entice out of the bushes. Also appreciate the information from SD, OJ, Tw, and H&FAK. Seems like the bulk of the small game community here, thanks for taking the time. Hope to catch everyone on the trail sometime.

    As long as the pilot is willing to fly, I'm willing to ride, so let the adventure begin. This is my first full year in Alaska and I'm trying to pace myself in order to preserve my marriage.

    PG13

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    Quote Originally Posted by PG13 View Post
    LuJon et al:

    I've used Google for tons of big-game scouting, not sure why I hadn't considered it for the small stuff. Great point. It'll be fun to combine the scouting from all the different scales and see what we can entice out of the bushes. Also appreciate the information from SD, OJ, Tw, and H&FAK. Seems like the bulk of the small game community here, thanks for taking the time. Hope to catch everyone on the trail sometime.

    As long as the pilot is willing to fly, I'm willing to ride, so let the adventure begin. This is my first full year in Alaska and I'm trying to pace myself in order to preserve my marriage.

    PG13
    You have a friend to fly you, have at it! I have a close friend that is a pilot. He calls me all the time to go flying with him, and I jump at every chance I get! 98% of the time we just fly, no hunting, no fishing, just flying. As I love to fly in small planes I never turn down the offer. If you have a friend willing to fly, and also willing to set you down in some country to hunt, don't pass it up. Although I do not see a huge advantage for all small game, I think that you could get yourself into some really nice ptarmigan country. Iíve actually talked to my buddy about flying me and the dog out this year for a weekend ptarmigan trip. Iíve been looking at a couple different areas. Weíll see how it pans out! Look at maps, talk to F&G, and maybe talk to other pilots. I'm sure there are birds out there that have never seen a man. Sounds like it could be fun!

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