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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Ava and I have been working with ADFG's small game biologist to expand their summer ptarmigan brood survey program over the past year. The program started in 2015-2016, and has usually involved ~5 finished pointing dogs and handlers who volunteer a few days in July to go on the Denali highway to locate ptarmigan (and in some places sharptail grouse) broods and count the number of chicks and adults encountered along 8 routes. The ideal scenario is to have the handler and the data collector stick to the transect while the dog searches. Once the dog goes on point, the handler and data collector mark where on the transect they are, work up to locate the birds without flushing them, get the count, and return to the transect and continue. This gives ADFG a bit of an idea on how the population is doing in that area prior to the season opening on August 10.

Well, that was all fine and good, but what about the rest of the state? My being quite active in the local NAVHDA chapter up here, I knew that we had a lot of dogs and handlers that were skilled and reliable enough to run these surveys that lived in the greater Anchorage area and the Kenai. Enter Johnnycake and his signature brand of jovial bullying and empire building. After months of planning, tons of potential routes identified by myself and other hunters then verified and selected by ADFG, we prepared for a major expansion. This summer we've got +25 routes in 6 regions of the state with +20 dogs and volunteers! The best part? We've got it figured out how to count all the volunteer time for Pittman-Robertson fund matching that will go directly to the ADFG small game department. Currently, that department consists of exactly 2 biologists. For the entire state. To say that I'm excited about the improved data and massive budget influx for small game in Alaska is an understatement.

Ava, my buddy (data collector, his pup will be ready next year) and I ran our transect Sunday--and it was GORGEOUS. Ava had fun, even if she was confused why we didn't have guns--and maybe was a bit upset why we weren't shooting or flushing her birds...but she figured out the game quickly enough. It was an excellent morning, and she performed beautifully on all birds located with nice +30-40 yard points so we didn't have to flush a single bird.

We picked up an extra route from another volunteer that got injured and will be doing that later this week if the weather cooperates, but for now, enjoy some pics to distract you from your squabbles over OTC elk permit schemes.





















 

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There are times when I dislike you and times when I hate you - this is one of those times that I hate you!! ;)

Congrats on spearheading such a wonderful effort and data collection undertaking!
 

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Way2go!!
 

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Freakin Rad Johnny! Great pics and nice write up! I like doing the same stuff for sage grouse. Dogs love it! One of these days I’m gonna make it north with my hounds. Makes me super jealous!

How many birds are you typically kicking up on a transect? do you get birds on every transect? Our sage grouse transects are typically a mile or more and usually square or rectangle shaped. Ya walk the line on the gps that the biologist loads and mark the coveys and write down how many and what are male/female/chicks. You can usually run a couple or three transects in a morning. Anyways thanks for posting
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Freakin Rad Johnny! Great pics and nice write up! I like doing the same stuff for sage grouse. Dogs love it! One of these days I’m gonna make it north with my hounds. Makes me super jealous!

How many birds are you typically kicking up on a transect? do you get birds on every transect? Our sage grouse transects are typically a mile or more and usually square or rectangle shaped. Ya walk the line on the gps that the biologist loads and mark the coveys and write down how many and what are male/female/chicks. You can usually run a couple or three transects in a morning. Anyways thanks for posting
Depends on the transect. This one was about 5km in a loop, but had about 2000' vertical climb then descent. The whole back half is sidehilling through scree and the nasties. Took about 4 hours, and then we needed a few days to recover (Ava skinned up one of her pads pretty good, but she'll be back in the game by Friday).

We ran a virgin transect so time will tell what is "normal" as far as numbers. But we found 3 broods of whitetails with 5-7 chicks each, and then a bachelor group of 4 adult rock ptarmigan. Some of the other transects have produced none, some have produced similar numbers, but none this year that I'm aware of has produced more. About ½ the routes have been done and reported on. Honestly, I was surprised we didn't turn up more birds. There was a lot of great looking habitat that didn't produce any points from Ava--and she's a very thorough dog. She might not stretch out to the horizon, but if she's gone through an area I have 100% confidence that she didn't miss any birds.
 

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Ava and I have been working with ADFG's small game biologist to expand their summer ptarmigan brood survey program over the past year. The program started in 2015-2016, and has usually involved ~5 finished pointing dogs and handlers who volunteer a few days in July to go on the Denali highway to locate ptarmigan (and in some places sharptail grouse) broods and count the number of chicks and adults encountered along 8 routes. The ideal scenario is to have the handler and the data collector stick to the transect while the dog searches. Once the dog goes on point, the handler and data collector mark where on the transect they are, work up to locate the birds without flushing them, get the count, and return to the transect and continue. This gives ADFG a bit of an idea on how the population is doing in that area prior to the season opening on August 10.

Well, that was all fine and good, but what about the rest of the state? My being quite active in the local NAVHDA chapter up here, I knew that we had a lot of dogs and handlers that were skilled and reliable enough to run these surveys that lived in the greater Anchorage area and the Kenai. Enter Johnnycake and his signature brand of jovial bullying and empire building. After months of planning, tons of potential routes identified by myself and other hunters then verified and selected by ADFG, we prepared for a major expansion. This summer we've got +25 routes in 6 regions of the state with +20 dogs and volunteers! The best part? We've got it figured out how to count all the volunteer time for Pittman-Robertson fund matching that will go directly to the ADFG small game department. Currently, that department consists of exactly 2 biologists. For the entire state. To say that I'm excited about the improved data and massive budget influx for small game in Alaska is an understatement.

Ava, my buddy (data collector, his pup will be ready next year) and I ran our transect Sunday--and it was GORGEOUS. Ava had fun, even if she was confused why we didn't have guns--and maybe was a bit upset why we weren't shooting or flushing her birds...but she figured out the game quickly enough. It was an excellent morning, and she performed beautifully on all birds located with nice +30-40 yard points so we didn't have to flush a single bird.

We picked up an extra route from another volunteer that got injured and will be doing that later this week if the weather cooperates, but for now, enjoy some pics to distract you from your squabbles over OTC elk permit schemes.





















Thanks for sharing some of your adventures! I always drool over your pics and can't wait to get back up there. Planning on taking my oldest boy up there next Summer.
 

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I'm not sure if Thanos exploring the north country is something we should celebrate. I'm watching Loki right now and I'm not convinced this variant is a good one yet.

Not to mention the post lacked any real awkward comment about pagan-like sacrifice or animal vicera which seems suspect.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I am breaking one of my cardinal rules in life doing these surveys: No breaking a sweat without trying to kill something.

But in this case, I've decided to make an exception. For science.
 

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My dream would be to hunt ptarmigan in the Uintas with my daughter about 15 years from now. Gives me motivation to do better right now for it to even be a possibility.

Or the Ruby's and the Himalayan snow****s.
 

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That is really cool. Did you see any Sharptails in the areas you hiked or was it all ptarmigan?
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
These areas are purely ptarmigan routes. There are sharptails about 2hrs from my house, but no transects out there (yet). The sharptail transects are mostly in Delta Junction +6hrs from me
 

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Great pictures and story, thanks for sharing.
 
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