Upland Bird Hunting

Produced by Jim McCann

Upland bird hunting is great fun and good exercise. Jim McCann lives in Fairbanks, Alaska and has been a regular contributor to Hunt Alaska magazine since its inception. He’s rabid about Alaska upland bird hunting, and an upland-bird-dog man at heart. He grew up in the Lower 48 in the Northeast, where he began his love affair with ruffed grouse. After serving in the military, he moved to Alaska where he began upland bird hunting for the species we have here. He’s got a lifetime of experience to share.

Ruffed grouse, spruce grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, rock ptarmigan, willow ptarmigan and white-tailed ptarmigan are all species you can encounter in Alaska. In this video, Jim briefly describes the kinds of habitat these birds prefer, and provides numerous insights that will help your upland bird hunting wherever you are, but especially in Alaska.

Jim prefers pointing dogs for upland hunting. He elaborates on the value of pointing dogs for hunting in Alaska; pointing dogs might be a few hundred yards in front of the hunter in open country, but they’ll hold the birds and wait for the hunter rather than flushing them out of range. That said, in-shape hunters and well-trained flushing dogs can have success, too.

Jim also talks about guns for bird hunting, too. At the top of the list of criteria is gun fit. Style of shotgun is not important; a pump gun will kill upland birds just as dead as an expensive over-under or side-by-side. You don’t need 3” magnum loads for upland birds either. Jim uses low velocity, 1-ounce loads of 7 ½ shot. 

Regarding choke, Jim often uses skeet 1 and skeet 2 chokes in his double guns. Open chokes are best for this type of bird hunting in Alaska, especially if using pointing dogs. 

Jim’s overview of upland bird hunting will certainly up your knowledge of how to go about it in Alaska.