2 for 3

Was going to get up about 4 am, head out at 5 am and be hiking up to a spot at Eaglecrest at 530, as the sun came up at 6 am.  I didn’t leave till 530, and on my  way up the trail – corked!  Another hunter had the same idea I did, only was on time, so the first one into happy valley.  I hiked up to the lead in to happy valley, then went up a side valley so he could hunt the area as the first guy there.  I didn’t hear any birds nearby- they were all booming in happy valley, of course.  I kept climbing and crossed a snow chute – then heard the nearest bird.  Back across the snow chute!  The bird was in a finger of spruce trees running up the mountain side, and in an outside lower branch of a small evergreen.  I was glad I was scanning the branches as was about to enter the trees from the snow chute or I might have flushed him.  I got that bird about 730 am.  I plucked and cleaned the bird, filled the body cavity with snow, and put it in a plastic shopping bag in the pack.  The next bird was back across the chute.  Maybe 2 chutes.  I forget.  Didn’t take all that long to see the bird.  I lined up and shot.  It didn’t go right down, but sort of glided to some scraggle trees below and nearby.   I looked and looked and only saw a few feathers that dropped right where the bird was sitting, but no trail of feathers.  I searched high and low and no bird on the ground.  I was about ready to move on when I saw what I swore was a grouse head on a spruce branch below me.  The head wasn’t moving, but it sure looked like a grouse head.  I looked like a bird sitting on a nest.  I shot at the head and sure enough – it was a grouse.   All I could see was the tail and the wings flapping heading downhill.  Downhill was all snow and then some alders.  I slip-slided down the snow chute and again, no feathers.  Nothing.  I worked my way down and down and no sign.  Bummer.  I was thinking about heading to the truck when I heard another hooter to my right, so I headed that way across the big alder patch and patchy snow.  As I neared the other grouse hooting- I couldn’t believe my eyes.  There was the grouse, shot through the neck, in a little snow depression.  It was an absolute miracle I was side hilling on exactly the right level where the grouse had died.  It was not in the direction I last saw it leave that branch.  I felt it to make sure it was warm and not some other lost grouse.  It was my grouse.  Now I was happy. The next bird I saw, I saw only what I thought was the tail.  I started hooting to get the bird to hoot and see the tail bob, and that bird hopped a couple branches around the tree and I could now see the head and neck.  He was looking at the hooting sound.  Never seen that before.   I had a clear shot.  Like the other bird, this one glided down to another set of trees.  I never found this bird or saw one feather fly.  I do not know what I’m going wrong.  Maybe the old ammo is not good for some reason.  I’m going to get some number 4s for the next hunt. After looking for that bird in a branch for about an hour, and plucking and cleaning bird number 2, I headed down because I didn’t hear anymore birds.  When I got down to the ski slope, I heard 2 birds up the hill. If I’d kept side hilling, I might have heard them.  I worked my way  below the trees to look up the hill to see if how high up the hill the birds were hooting.  It was way up – where I’d just come from or higher.  Too far.  I was done for the day. Saw a few fiddle heads poking up.  Heard other shots around the valley.  Saw some young dads with their young kids getting out to hooter hunt at the lower slope.  Vehicles parked at every pull out all the way down the hill.  Looks like lots of people out hooter hunting, and from the sounds of it, birds for everybody.