I grew up hunting ptarmigan on Mount Roberts and in Granite Creek Basin, but have given up trying to find any birds to hunt near town in the past few years, thanks to folks like Jody White who have ruined the hunting for everyone else by seeking upland game birds with dogs.
Ptarmigan are not pheasants. We have never had a tradition of upland bird hunting with dogs in Southeast Alaska. Ptarmigan, like most members of the grouse family, are generally docile and quite stupid, even in the presence of visible hunters, until they are disturbed by predators. Once they have been sensitized to the presence of dogs, they become skittish, nervous and difficult to approach closely enough to ensure good shots and clean kills.
From my observations and conversations with other folks who grew up hunting near downtown Juneau, ptarmigan numbers are severely reduced from those of 20 to 30 years ago. Some of that decline may be due to increased predator success because of parental disturbance by the constant helicopter traffic and noise during the breeding and brooding season or to other causes, but it seems to have accelerated in areas where I have seen evidence of hunters using dogs.
Mr. White should respect local tradition and leave his dog(s) at home when he goes ptarmigan hunting, so that there will some birds for the rest of us to hunt. If he wants to hunt birds with dogs, he should go hunt pheasants in Idaho.
Dennis P. Harris
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