Editor's Note: A hunter education course will by offered by the state Department of Fish and Game Oct. 26, 28 and 29. For more information on the course, which offers gun safety and wildlife education and is for ages 10 and up, contact Neil Barten at Fish and Game, 465-4265.
For Hal Geiger, taking his son Will out hooter hunting is not necessarily about getting the grouse.
Will's now in seventh grade and the two hunt deer together. But Hal Geiger started taking him out when he was about 5, not with the intent of Will actually bagging a bird.
"With a whiny 5-year-old, there's not much chance that an animal won't hear you," Hal said.
It's the experience of being together in the woods that's valuable, said Hal, and Will agreed.
"It's fun to go walk around in the woods," Will said, who enjoys camping out on hunts.
He hasn't shot a deer yet, but has helped his dad field-dress animals and went moose hunting with friends who were successful.
Ron Josephson first took his son hooter hunting when Tom, now 15, was 2. The toddler didn't hunt but was along for the ride in a backpack and seemed intrigued by the bird that fell out of the tree after it was shot.
"It really just stems from a desire to do something with my boys," said Ron of the family outings. Tom and his brother Matt, 14, started with hooters, then deer, and now the brothers are really taken with duck hunting.
Tom and Matt build their own decoys and have a brotherly competition over who gets more ducks or the bigger deer.
At an age when some of their friends might not relish spending a lot of time with their parents, Tom said one of the things he enjoys about hunting is being outdoors with Dad.
"He's there to give you tips and advice. ... It's even a little bit more special when you share that with your family."
Ron said the boys like opening day of duck season almost more than he does. Matt and Tom will camp out on the wetlands and get up at 2 a.m. to set up a blind. This year he let them go by themselves.
Two years ago Ron took Matt out deer hunting on Admiralty Island on opening day. While two others in their party got their deer, Matt, disappointed that he hadn't gotten one, hiked to the far side of ridge and got a buck. He later mounted the antlers for a school project.
"I feel more comfortable around them than anybody else and I get to come back and share the stories with them," Matt said of being out with his father and brother.
Sixteen-year-old Nick Orsi also enjoys hunting with his dad, Joe, but is starting to hunt more with friends. Like the Josephsons, Nick is an enthusiastic duck hunter and is working on a remote-controlled decoy, complete with propeller and mechanical wings.
"If I didn't hunt, I don't know what I'd do," said Nick. He also likes to cook his catch, and is experimenting with new recipes, although his current favorite is duck a l'orange.
Like the Geigers, Joe Orsi took Nick hunting with him for several years before his son started carrying a gun.
Nick got his first deer at 12 or 13, Joe said, and he started on hooters with a single-shot shotgun when was 8 or 9. He recently started using his English springer spaniel to retrieve ducks.
Both Orsis laughed as they recalled a duck hunt on the Mendenhall wetlands when Nick got a duck after his dad missed the shot and enthusiastically raced across a puddle to retrieve it, only to find that the puddle was 5 feet deep. He was thoroughly soaked, but the duck was retrieved.
Joe said he's taken his daughters out duck and deer hunting, but Nick is the one who really took to it.
Jim Calvin said his daughter Katie has gone grouse hunting, but son Jake, now 10, is more interested. Father and son went north in September for a moose hunt with friends.
Jake had a moose tag, but, as Jim put it, they didn't have to worry about packing out any meat. Jake said he was kind of disappointed he didn't get a moose, but enjoyed the fall colors and warm weather.
"It's really a treat to be out with him on his first hunts," said Calvin, who grew up hunting in and around Juneau.
"Ninety-eight percent of the fun is just being out in the woods camping. ... We don't feel like we have to shoot something to be successful."