Went hooter hunting yesterday, and it’s been a long time since I last went out. Hooters are large blue grouse that live in the spruce forest here in Southeast Alaska. They get their name from the hooting mating calls the males make at this time of the year. It sounds like blowing into a bottle.

I could hear them up on the mountainside as I anchored the boat. The tide was flooding, so I attached the anchor and chain to the bow line of the boat, and walked the chain up the beach as far as it would stretch, then stomped the points into the sand. I then pulled a line tied to the anchor up above tide line a tied it off to a snag. This way, I could pull in the anchor and my boat when I returned.

I headed up the mountain. It’s the same area where we hunt deer. The deer had eated almost every skunk cabbage, as they all were nubbed down. This was in contrast to Horse Island, where the skunk cabbage were in full bloom with few nubbed down.

As I got up through the brush to the base of the mountain, I heard a hooter and headed to the sound. I moved a doe and a yearling ahead of me as I got to the base of the mountain. I found the tree the hooter was in with little trouble. Hoot, hoot, hoot. The bird didn’t care I was down there. Round and round the tree I went. The trouble was, I couldn’t find the hooter. I spent an hour or more circling the tree, craning my neck skyward. I finally gave up.

I heard a few more birds well up the ridge, and didn’t have the gumption to go up and get them. I headed parallel to the tree I had heard the first bird, and never heard another one on my level or lower. Seems like there aren’t as many birds as there were last time. We used to get them down near the beach. So the winters have probably been hard on the birds like they have on the deer.

When I finally headed back down the hill, I saw another yearling or 2 year old about half way down through a muskeg. It took a few steps, then stopped and looked back at me. I stopped and watched it until it wandered off. I continued on, and caught the deer looking at me from the edge of the muskeg. I stopped again, and we stared at each other for awhile, until it finally drifted into the woods.

I got to the boat exhausted, and was happy to see a can of warm diet coke. I got the boat anchor in, and idled off the beach, enjoying the soda. I got back to the cabin, where there was still snow in the yard.

I got up early today and tried king salmon fishing. I fished for 4 hours or so without a bite. The north wind was blowing a little, making it lumpy the whole time. May is the best month in Juneau. Sunny almost every day, and rain is actually somewhat of a relief.

Mark Stopha
Alaska Wild Salmon Company
4455 N. Douglas Hwy
Juneau, AK 99801

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