There’s a strip of lightly seasoned grouse in Jeff Lund’s version of a hooter popper. (Jeff Lund | For the Juneau Empire)

There’s a strip of lightly seasoned grouse in Jeff Lund’s version of a hooter popper. (Jeff Lund | For the Juneau Empire)

Sometimes, it’s not about numbers

If you start to over analyze everything you’re in danger of missing the point.

Pingpong is fun as long as you’re not the ball.

I stopped the truck, leaned my head out the window and heard the sound of a sooty grouse. Step 1 complete. Step 2 was to determine the direction. I backed into a pull out, parked, then stood on the road in front of my truck facing perpendicular to the road. Grouse on the right. Grouse on the left. I waited to make sure. Grouse on the left. Grouse on the right. I decided to go right but 100 yards up the road, I heard grouse on the left. Nothing on the right. Was I wrong? I waited. Left. Left. No right. I walked down the gravel road past my truck. Right. No left. What? I walked back up to the right. Nothing.

I was a pingpong ball being smacked up and down the gravel road by a pair of grouse who didn’t know I existed.

I decided that I was not hearing the sound because the road cut through a low point between two hills so the closer I got, the more texture of the rising hills got in the way of the sound. There was one on the left. I knew it. I just needed to commit, get into the woods and make it happen.

[Fishing in the time of COVID-19]

Hearing only the right bird as I climbed toward the left one, I started thinking about all the other things that can go wrong. Birds stop. Sometimes the nastiness of the upper branches never provides a shot. Sometimes you just don’t find them. Well, at least these things happen to me while hunting hooters this time of year.

I reached the soft, wooded crest and picked up the sound. The going was easier since I gained elevation and was soon close enough I felt the sound. Anyone who has hunted hooters knows this feeling. There’s that extra tone that seems to vibrate the inner ear. He’s close.

I found him most of the way up a spruce tree and tried to figure out a way to point my rifle at that angle. I backed up a little bit, braced against a tree, but that put a branch in the way. I sat down. Nope. Branch. The best shot was when I was at a half squat but that wasn’t going to happen. I morphed from a pingpong ball bouncing back and forth to a dog circling, circling, circling before finally laying down.

I laid prone, using the slope to assist me in getting the right angle. I propped the barrel against the top of my pack, and rolled my head back until the back of my head was resting on my spine. I fired a warning shot — one of my least favorite, but often used euphemisms. The grouse didn’t fly off, instead it just worked its way closer to the trunk of the tree. I readjusted and made the shot.

When it comes to eating a sooty grouse, the calorie math gets a little sketchy. The amount you burn compared to the amount you harvest, can be a little off in my case. I combat this by making it deliciously sketchy. Downing a hooter means I have permission to go to the store and get bacon, jalapeno peppers and cream cheese for grouse poppers. But not everything is about numbers — steps, elevation, calories, shots, and if you start to over analyze everything you’re in danger of missing the point.

• Jeff Lund is a writer and teacher based in Ketchikan. “I Went To The Woods,” a reference to Henry David Thoreau, appears in Outdoors twice a month.

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