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Ptarmigan hunting

– excitement and companionship on nature’s terms

A challenge, a journey and an adventure. With friends and some new acquaintances, plus dogs, gear and organised packing. Lappland invites you to enjoy hunting days that you will long remember. Just like other hunting in Europe, cunning and careful movement are important aspects when it comes to stalking game at close quarters.  

The mountains offer a magically dusky pink view on this early morning. A light mist is sitting over the lake and there are some rain clouds gathering in the distance. We are staying in the middle of the wilderness in a log cabin, together with our dogs and gear. We are far from any road and we are here to hunt ptarmigan. The trek up the evening before was demanding, but now we are fully focussed on our mission. Our hunting guide tells us about the day’s hunt:

“We will be hunting with three talented setters today. It is a good bird year but the weather is going to affect us a lot. The trees have just shed their leaves and this makes it a little more difficult for the dogs.”

We pack our backpacks with food and equipment and then we are ready to leave. The sun is rising and warming the frozen ground. The dogs search a large area right on the border between the mountain birches and where the brushwood ends. After a little while one of the dogs stops and points and we creep forward with two shooters, get ready, load our guns, and wait for the signal from our guide. The dogs go in and the birds fly up but unfortunately we don’t get a good shot. The birds stay low and fly directly away from us at great speed. As a shooter, you have to know exactly where the dogs are and our chance of getting these ptarmigan is lost. A number of birds scurry away and then take off into the low-lying mist and cloud. Despite not being successful, we are happy to have seen some game. As always, the weather in the mountains changes fast, and the wind starts to pick up. The dark clouds move closer in and it starts hailing. Visibility is low but we continue to follow the dogs down towards a wet area then up towards open expanses and a plateau. We have to consider where the wind is coming from, to increase our chances. Suddenly, one of the dogs starts pointing again. We get ready for action. Two shots are fired and one bird falls from the sky. As it hangs from a loop attached to his backpack, the hunter tells us:

"Wow, my pulse really picked up! All those days spent on the firing range really paid off. It is such fun following the dogs through the terrain. And it’s great having a guide to show us how to stalk and take position, and now success! The mountains are amazing!”

 We walk many more kilometres before we are back in our cabin that evening. Not all of us had a shot at a bird that day but bird hunting is so much more than just hunting. It is also trekking, mountains and companionship. Watching the dogs work and taking in the views – you just can’t get enough of it. Meeting new people here, by a small lake, in the middle of nowhere with fairy tale mountain tops as a backdrop. 

“Ptarmigan hunting gave me a dual experience. Trekking in this amazing environment has given me time for reflection but at the same time I have enjoyed the intense excitement of closing in on the game," says one member of the group.

The rain passes quickly and the evening is clear. We enjoy good food cooked over an open fire, a wood-fired sauna and a swim in the lake. This is a quiet and solitude environment that offers time for reflection. Stories of earlier hunts entertain us by the fireside in the evening, but in the end tiredness takes over. I breathe in the fresh mountain air and close the cabin door. I blow out the candles and fall asleep to the comforting sound of the crackling fire in the hearth.