Tongass Chicken

Out for the first day of hooter hunting this year.  When I got to th parking spot, I could hear a few birds hooting on hillside across the creek.  I shouldered my pack with .22 over .20 ga broken down and in the pack, along with some granola bars, a water bottle, cell phone, vhf radio, spot, lighter and space blanket.  I soon realized I forgot the walking sticks I’d garage saled a few months ago.   Across the muskeg, then across the creek and back up the opposite hill side.  I was hoping there might be a bird in low land but no luck.  I headed for the nearest bird up the hillside.  I probably took about an hour to  1.5 hours to reach the first bird.  It looked like an easy set up.  Trees on a steep slope where I would be able to climb above the trees and see the bird.  Two hours later and I didn’t even know what tree the bird was in.  About 8 trees were jammed together, and the biggest tree I couldn’t see the upper reaches.  I’m guessing that was where the bird was.  At the time, I could hear one bird above this one, and one a little down hill and across a big snow chute.  So I climbed up to the upper bird. When I got up there I realized it might have been the highest up I’d ever been on this hill side.  As I honed in on the group of trees, I entered the group of trees.  The trees weren’t tall and it was very steep and I was thinking I might almost be nose to nose with the bird before I saw him.  I looked to my right, and there was the bird.  About 20 feet away.  Maybe 5 feet above eye level.  I was able to put a tree between me and the bird, and I sat down, put the gun together, and put in a .20 ga low brass skeet load.  When I was ready, I laid back and moved to the side of the tree between us and didn’t see the bird for a few seconds.  Then there he was.   A little higher up than I was looking.  He hadn’t budged.  I took him, and he cartwheeled down into a patch of snow.  I put my gear back in the pack, then followed the feathers and blood down to find the bird piled up under a log.  I moved further down hill to a little patch of snow, dressed the bird, filled the cavity with  snow, then put the bird in a shopping bag, and filled another shopping bag with snow and put the bird in that snow.   I could hear the bird I left hooting and was back down to the trees in about five minutes.  I laid down in places and stared up through the trees.  Then the bird stopped hooting. I never heard the bird across the chute hoot again after I’d gone uphill.  I hooted a few times and got the bird to hoot back a few times.   Then it just shut up.  All the birds did, it seemed.  I knew he was still up there somewhere and probably looked for another hour and called it quits.   Ooo.  My knees are stiff on the down hill climbs.  I’d popped a couple ibuprofen before the trek down and that helped.  I thought I might hear some other birds I could go for but did not.  I did hear one distant shot gun blast so someone else was on to some hooting birds further up the valley. A good way to start hooter season.   

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