Bullet-Dodging Ptarmigans in Nunavut: Jamie Amarualik

Ptarmigan is a bird that doesn’t migrate, instead, they stay in the north all year round.

In winter they are all white with red eyebrows, sometimes it’s hard to spot them, but when we approach them with a snowmobile they fly away and we hope for them to land nearby and shoot them for food.

Late spring and summer they are hard to spot because they are camouflaged on the snow or on the tundra.

When cooked it almost taste like caribou, but the meat of the ptarmigan is meaty like red meat and we don’t eat the guts from any bird, we only eat the meaty part of ptarmigan and every bird we catch we always cook it, we Inuit don’t eat raw meat from birds.

Ptarmigans can dodge bullets if you aim it on their heads, in winter the ptarmigans flock together but in spring they don’t flock together instead they find their mates and spread evenly on the tundra and they make eggs, it’s rare to find ptarmigan eggs in spring because the eggs are completely camouflaged on the tundra.  Early winter through to early spring is the best time to hunt them because they flock together around that time.

I remember one time I caught a ptarmigan in spring on our way to go fishing and I was skinning the ptarmigan throwing out the guts, then my friend inspected the guts and found an egg inside and said, “The egg is yours because you caught the Ptarmigan”.  Then a few days later after fishing on a lake, I cooked the egg that was inside the guts of a ptarmigan and it was really good, better than any egg I ever ate.

I remember when my late father and I went caribou hunting in winter and caught three caribou’s, and on our way home we spotted a flock of ptarmigans and we started shooting them with a 22 magnum, and the ptarmigans dodged the bullets each and every time when we were aiming at their heads, and finally we ran out of bullets.  We did, however, came home with a successful caribou hunt, but no ptarmigans.