Ptarmigan hunting

BooneAK

Junior Member
Joined
Oct 21, 2020
Messages
10
Hello! I've seen ptarmigan while hiking above treeline in Denali and off the Steese Hwy, but I'm looking for hunting tips once the snow is on the ground and the temps have dropped, like now, e.g., 20" of snow and zero degrees. Are you snowmachining to above treeline and then just snowshoeing and sight hunting? Is anything using a dog in these conditions? If you're sight hunting without a dog, are the birds flushing or running? Any other tips would be appreciated.
 

chinook907

Member
Joined
Oct 1, 2014
Messages
58
I typically find them in the same places year after year. A snogo is best for initially finding them or sign, so you can cover a lot of ground. I usually see tracks or their overnight snow caves first, unless they flush. Usually they work a spot for awhile, so unless it's snowed recently you'll find old and fresh sign.

Look for clumps of brushy willows near little creeks or drainages.

If you use a snogo at some point you'll want to get off and use the snowshoes. Depending on what you're shooting you can sometimes get a few shots off before they flush.

Assuming you're in Alaska, by all accounts ptarmigan numbers are way down this year.

All the best.
 

Holmes

Junior Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2021
Messages
39
Location
Alaska
I've seen many people hunting ptarmigan with scoped .22 rifles that they rest on the snowmachine seats. Good for them, I don't like that style at all.

My group of friends all hunt on skis with shotguns and dogs, flushers and pointers. Skis are much MUCH faster than showshoes, and pretty necessary if you're going to keep up with the dogs. I personally know about 5 people who were snowshoe hunting, but only a few days per winter because it's so shitty. They bought skis and now we go all the time because it's fast and fun. We've tried snowmachining in deeper to the backcountry, but gave up, since it's such a hassle. My snowmachines have sat unused for the past 2 months. We usually cover 7-12 miles per hunt on skis and that's plenty to get away from any crowds without needing a sled, even right next to Los Anchorage.

Here are some pics from this past month in south-central AK. Snow sdepth range from inches to many meters. Temps from 0F up to 15F.
 

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Holmes

Junior Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2021
Messages
39
Location
Alaska
to maybe better answer your question re: sight hunting.
In order to sight-hunt ptarmigan *I think* the best method would be to go out on a relatively clear day after some snow fall. Use binocs to scan for covey tracks around thickets (you need fresh~ish snow for tracks to be left in, and bright enough sun to leave a shadow in the tracks in order to see them) Now you know birds have been in that spot within the last few hours....look and look and look until you spot one, then you'll probably find a bunch more with it, all hunkered in the snow. Fun Fact: besides "covey" another officially accepted word for a group of ptarmigan is an "invisibleness"😂.

When the sun light is crappy many snowmachiners just braaap around until they almost run over a covey, flush them up, then the group of sledders get off and chase the covey on foot. I'm not saying I wouldn't do it, I just don't think that style would keep me interested in that kind of hunting year after year.

here's a better look at some of the various ski systems we use.
 

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