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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Ptarmigan and Spruce Grouse

While out trapping I carry the .22 pistol Ron let me borrow to put down animals and shoot ptarmigan and spruce grouse. Both birds are just like ruffed grouse we have back home, but a bit smaller. Spruce grouse spend a lot of time up in the trees and seem to be more solitary, while ptarmigan are always on the ground and in small groups. Ptarmigan are neat because they are almost entirely white during the winter and soon they will begin changing back to brown for summer.

I shot my first spruce grouse while snow-shoeing with Molly. There are always bird tracks all over the place and we were following fresh ones hoping to find them to shoot. I had given up on the tracks and said we should probably be going, but it was at that same moment that Molly said, "Brian, there is a bird right next to me in that tree." Sure enough, there was a spruce grouse about 15 feet from her in a tree just sitting there. Being the expert marksman I am, I shot six times, reloading and continued shooting until it finally fell out of the tree. I thought I was just a very bad shot, but it turns out that I actually hit it most of those times! I don't know how it stayed up there, but it was one tough bugger! I wanted to eat it, but being shot so many times made it only good for trapping bait. . .Which I needed badly.

The ptarmigan I shot was even more exciting! Checking traps with Ron I saw a few fly up as I drove by a patch of spruce trees. I stopped and drew my pistol at the sight of several ptarmigan walking around on the snow. With the first shot I hit it, but like the spruce grouse it somehow managed to keep going and proceeded to run away from me. I continued shooting as I chased it through the trees and across a crick before I caught up with it. I made a diving leap, grabbed it, and fell through about two feet of hollow ice on the creek! The important thing is that I got my first ptarmigan! I really need to get a shotgun up here!

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