Low Country Hooters

Went over to hunt hooters. Stayed over at our cabin on Thursday evening after work. When I looked at the tide book, I saw low tide was at 2 pm, so thought I’d better not go hunting early since I could be on the beach into the evening waiting for high tide to float the boat again.

So, I found chores to do. I pulled out the firewood logs from under the cabin, bucked, split and stacked it all. Now we had firewood for another full year.

I also fixed the rain gutter so we’d have water off the cabin roof to our water barrel again. All the time I was splitting and stacking wood and on the ladder the hooters were hooting. And hooting. Still more hooting. At 930 am I couldn’t take it anymore, grabbed my pack and grouse gun and headed to the beach.

I keep a small aluminum skiff on the beach just for this purpose. I dragged it into the water, then pulled in the big skiff and took off the 8 hp outboard and put in and its gas can in the little skiff. I pulled the easy-out to get the bigger skiff back out to deeper water, and headed over to Admiralty. Unlike the big skiff, I can drag the little skiff into the water if it goes dry.

It was about 10 am when I headed over to Admiralty. I beached the skiff, layed out the anchor line and tossed the anchor – an old truck wheel plate – up on the beach. It was already a nice day.

I headed up the hill on my usual course for deer hunting. It took awhile before I zeroed in on a hooter calling, and headed that way. I usually try to get a few birds in the flatter country on my way to the side of the ridge. It’s easier to get to the birds in the flat if they are there, but harder to see them since you can’t always get far enough away from the tree the bird is in before the neighboring tree’s branches block your view. The birds on the ridge are easy to see since you can climb up to the ridge past the tree the bird is in, and get to the same level as the bird.

I got to the first tree, and started circling. As usual, it took awhile to narrow down what tree the bird was in, and even then, you can have second thoughts. Round and round that tree I went for an hour, and I finally gave up. My eyes are another year older, and I forgot to bring any binoculars. Just could never see that bird hooting. It seems when I walked on to the next bird, the grouse increased its hooting – taunting me.

When I got up near the base of the ridge, I first noticed I would not be going up the ridge. The snow was still very deep, and the open country between the lower flat and ridge would be too far to post hole. The second thing I noticed was first one deer, then another. The first of several deer I’d see that day.

So, I started side hilling along the snow line towards the next bird. This time I did see the bird, but just plain lucky he was out on a branch I could see. I picked up movement first, and then waited. The next time he hooted the movement coincided with the sound, and I knew that what I was seeing was not the wind. I harvested the bird, wrung it’s neck, put it in my pack, and then on to the next bird.

This one was like the first. Probably spent an hour or longer looking and looking. I was ready to leave, but finally saw movement which I knew was the tail. I could see that I would not be able to get a better shot at the head, so I fired, and the bird flew away, perhaps missing a few tail feathers but it looked otherwise uninjured.

I tried to see where it went, as sometimes they don’t go far, but this one went a long ways. I headed in the direction of the bird, as that was where the next hooting was coming from. I closed in on what may have been the bird I missed, or another one, but as I got close I could see I should be able to get this one since the trees were smaller and scragglier, with lots of space to see. I thought I saw the grouse on a low branch as I came up to the grove I felt held the bird. Sure enough, I saw the head move. I waited for him to hoot again just to see it, then took my second bird. I took both birds into a snow patch, and cleaned them. I put the breast, wings and rear legs in a plastic shopping bag. Then filled two ziplocs with snow. I put one ziplock in the bottom of my pack, then the cleaned birds, then the other ziplock of snow on the top to cool them.

The birds were really hooting now, and I headed to the next tree. On my way there, I came into a meadow of sorts that I believe I’d seen from the air. It was a series of beaver ponds, and it was plain the houses were active with beaver cuttings here and there. After many, many years on this hillside this was the first time I’d come across this area, and put it to memory for next trapping season.

After passing through the meadow, I came to the woods again and found the copse of trees were the male grouse was hooting. This was another one I ended up leaving after an hour or so of doing a merry go round around the tree. Just could never see the bird, even though I thought I had pretty good sight pictures of the tree top where he was.

By this time, I’d been in the woods about 7 hours and my legs were starting to cramp. I’d drank all the water in my quart bottle, and was working on my second bottle from a refill in the creek. I was going to sleep well tonight.

I busted out of the brush along the beach trail up from the beach, and saw I had some backtracking to do to get back to the skiff. It wasn’t too far, but on my jelly legs it was far enough. I had some near-beers in the skiff, and that kept me going. I got down to the rocky beach when it was time, and clamored over to the skiff just in time before I might have had to wade out to get the boat. Which would not have been that bad of duty since it was near 60 degrees. When I got the skiff in, I realized the beer was in the other skiff, which made me laugh because it was just the thought of it being there that made the trek a little easier, and now that I was there, the beer had still served its purpose.

I pulled in the anchor, paddled out to deep enough water, dropped the motor, and headed back to our cabin. Hard to beat this day, and I plan to remember the binoculars next week.

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

Subscribe to Mark's blog via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.