Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Years (Tonight!!!!)


Not much of an update. The day after the last one, she really got after eating. She is still super high though, so I only gave her 20 or so grams. She has then gone, and only lost ten grams since then (two days!)......LAME huh! She is not motivated enough to hop, so she has just been weathering a lot. Ryan re-taught me the fine art of hooding, and we are now having zero issues. In fact, if she keeps doing well like she has been, she may end up being the best hooding bird I've had yet! That's pretty much a 180 from where we were, considering I was to the point of wondering if hooding was even worth it with this bird. On another note, we also got her backpacked last night. Obviously, it would have been best to get it on her right off the trap, but I hadn't gotten my backpack refill by that point, so we will just have to see how this works out. She hasn't messed with the backpack at all, but she has been messing with the transmitter some. Right when I put her out this morning to weather, she promptly removed it, and I found it laying on the ground. This is the problem.....I use a micro merlin transmitter, which is sized for the small back pack. Being that I used one of the "normal" sized ones, it may not be in there as tight as one usually is. This, of course, is going to be an issue, and one that I will have to make a decision about pretty much today. I can't let her form the habbit of taking the transmitter off, because then she will mess with it all the time.. It sucks though, because that's one of the main things I like about this setup....I normally just leave the transmitter on (because it has the magnet on/off), and only have to mess with it when I'm changing batteries. I am super forgetful, and if I had to take it off between sessions, I would end up forgetting it most of the time.....It is what it is though, and we will see how it works out. We are getting a cold front tonight, so hopefully it will speed up the rest of this process
Happy New Years Everyone!!!!
-D-

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Update

Well, we are finally making a little bit of progress, though it's not much to write about. She finally bent down and ate yesterday evening at 1080 grams, but she was def hesitant to do so. It took a few tidbits from the fingers to start her off, but once she got going, she made some tears at the piece, before she lost her motivation. When it was all said and done, she got about 30 grams total, and she went up for the night at 1110 grams. Today, she was at 1075, and she ate pretty quickly. She was def more committed with the food today, and she ate about 65 grams, before she remembered I was there, and started balking. Put her up for the night when that started, and she was at a fat 1135 grams, when I shut the lights off on her. Soooooo, we are finally moving...................GOOD TIMES!!!!!!

PS The picture is old....she doesn't still sit with her mouth open. Old picture, is better than no picture though :)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Fatty Mc Fat Fat Fat

She decided that loosing weight is just not on the agenda! We are averaging only about 10 grams per day, so our progress has been minimal. As of this moring, I am just now starting to feel a keel, and she is still really heavy. She has eatin a few tid bits, but still is not motivated to bend down and eat. Though we havn't made much progression, she is calming down nicely, and we usually don't have any bates during our sessions. I have had her unhooded on the block for the last couple of days, and just like the fist, the first time she hopped off, she hopped right back to the perch. Hooding on the other hand, has been a real challenge. It is a pretty known fact, that my hooding skills are lacking, but this one just sorta takes the cake. I must have REALLY created a bad associaion during those first few hooding times, because I have NEVER had this much trouble. We will push through it though, and it may just come down to me having to actually "train" her to it. With her sweet demenoir and all, I'm thinking that once we get past this eating off the fist stage, training is going to go lightening quick (both for the hood, and the process of getting to the field). We shall see though.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Update! (Part 2)

As you all could tell from my last post, my weekend hawking was pretty stinking sweet. Well......you all don't even know the half of it yet!!! Before we met up with Rob, and the gos hawk session got under way on Sunday, Mitch and I had our own little adventure. I had awoken that day, with a full day of hawking on the books, but little did I know, that the course of the rest of my hawking season, was about to turn a 180!
I met up with Mitch when he got out of church, and a duck flight was on the agenda. His hybrid was ready to roll, and we were in route to check all of the duck ponds. We were in the process of pulling into a field, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of white. My interest was peaked, and after a second glance, I noticed a SUPER white tail, just chilling up in a tree. The tree the bird was in, was in a patch of trees, that extended out into the completely open field we were driving into at the time. On the other side of these trees, was an open lot, that had been mowed down sort of like a foot ball field.....it was completely lacking in cover too. I mentioned the bird to Mitch, and commented that it looked a little bit like a Krider's. He stopped the truck, and we proceeded to glass the bird, and she was just plain stunning!!!!!! From our angle, her head looked completely white, and at one point when flying around, it looked as if her tail was almost completely white as well. I'm not sure if I have written about this before, but I have a thing for Krider's hawks....I think they are the best looking tails out there, and I really wanted to fly one this season....I looked around everywhere when trapping, but didn't see a single one that peaked my interest (makes sense....I was trapping early in the season, and they hadn't migrated down yet....). I nonchalantly mentioned how I would release my bird in a heart beat for one like that, and Mitch smiled, because he just happened to have a pigeon/pigeon harness in his car :).
Next came the game plan. The grass in the open field was a little too high, for a pigeon harness to be effective, and the the bird was too deep in the patch of woods, to try and get a toss from the road. We kept mulling over ideas, and the whole time, the bird made numerous long flights out over the field, circled around a few times, and then would always headed back to the trees. At that point, neither of us had very high hopes of getting a toss at the bird, but Mitch came up with our plan "A", so we started putting it in motion. I stayed at the truck glassing the bird, while he walked back to the road, headed to where the clump of trees started, and then began pushing through them, toward the bird. He called me when he thought he was in position, and I confirmed that the bird was still there. He tossed up the pigeon, but it became apparent pretty quickly, that the bird hadn't seen it. We waited a little while, and after it made a few more flights out over the field (and then back to the trees), we decided to give up on that idea. The bird just wasn't really in a trappable situation, and so we decided to call it for the time being, and go look for more ducks. This is when Mitch ended up showing me the field LOADED with RT's, and it got us all excited about crazy colored birds. After doing that, we decided we had to swing back my the field, and just see if she was still there.

It was prime soaring time when we got back to the field, and she couldn't be seen in any of the trees. I thought she had headed on out, and was shocked, when I picked up her form sitting on a fence post, deep in the field. After a moment, she got back up, and soared slowly back to her group of trees. She landed far to the backside of them this time though, and the idea popped into our heads, of trying to toss a pigeon in the mowed area on the other side. We drove on over there, and as we were about to toss for her, she busted for the field, and started circling up into a soar. We did the back and forth thing for a little bit, and whichever part of the field we went, she headed to the other side. This got an idea going in my head, and I asked if tieing the pigeon to a weight, and just sticking it in the middle of the mowed lot, could possibly bring her in. Mitch hadn't ever tried doing that before, but we decided it was really the only option we could think of, so we set it all up. The pigeon was on a pretty long line, and when it did decide to move around, it could get quite a bit of movement going on. We hopped back into the truck, and headed back into the open portion of the field, hoping that we could push her back toward the pigeon.
When we pulled back into the field, we didn't see her at first. We were looking around everywhere, but all the birds we could see, were normal looking. All of a sudden though, we saw her soaring high up in the sky, and she was meandering back and forth, over the open portion of the field. We both got out, and started glassing her, and kept commenting on how she looked like a bald eagle (with a white chest). Unlike the other times though, she didn't really bee line back toward the trees. It had warmed up quite a bit, and I was thinking we had just missed the trapping window. She just kept cruising around in the sky, and didn't seem like she was in hunting mode anymore. Slowly, almost unnoticabley at first, she started drifting back toward the trees though. Her altitude started lessening as well, and she slowly dropped to about 200 feet or so. We were watching her intently, and I said "man, wouldn't it be sweet if she just tucked into a stoop, and just disappeared over those tree!" About that time, she sort of did a little hovering motion, and then just tucked! We both held our breath, and we watched her disappear on the other side of the trees!!! We both just sort of explode with laughter/excitement, jump in the car, and start hauling back in that direction. As we are bouncing along the two track toward the road, Mitch yells out, that there was another RT screaming in from the side, and it looked like it was heading toward the pigeon. We pull onto the main road and slow down, as we are about to pass the mowed lot. As we passed the tree line, and eagerly scanned the spot we left the pigeon, we see both birds, facing off on the ground. We flip the truck around, and park on the edge of the trees, and slowly start creeping toward the birds.
The amount of time between when the bird started it's stoop, and when we got to the birds, was not long at all. I have never caught a bird on a pigeon harness (I have had many pigeons get snagged, but no birds ended up getting caught on the nooses.....), but Mitch was saying that you need to give them some time on there, to make sure they are caught, before rushing in on them. He said he usually gives them at least 20 minutes or so, but we were in a drastically different situation than "normal." With two birds down on the pigeon, we just didn't know what to expect, so we decided to push the issue, and started creeping along the tree line. We were staying as ninja like as possible, and were able to sneak darn near half way up the lot, to the birds. There was a portion of the woods that jutted out a little bit, and there was a nice thick cedar, right on the corner of this jutted out section. We reached this point, and Mitch cautiosly peered around the edge of the cedar. It was only probably a 5 second pause, but it felt like an eternity to me!!!!! Suddenly, he yells out "We got them!" and I start running like we are in the middle of a freakin Jack flight!!!! Mitch is yelling out "Get the white one!!!," and I didn't even think twice, as I dove in on them. I only had eyes for the light bird, and as I got a solid hold on a leg, the other bird shoot her foot out, and latched down on my wrist. LUCKILY, she had poor aim (or good aim, if you're talking to me.....), and sunk down on the bottom portion of my glove (BIG SIGH OF RELIEF!!!!). Mitch arrived right after, and quickly detached the other bird from my glove. At that point, we both just pretty much died laughing, hollerin, and doing all the things two crazy excited falconers do! That's when we had the chance to flip the bird over, and wouldn't you just stinking know it......it was a passage!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I slapped a hood on the light bird, and once I got a secure hold on both of them, Mitch ran back for the truck. He ended up pulling right into the lot, and we then began the task, of untangling the birds. The "normal" bird just absolutely dwarfed the white one, so we were thinking I had gotten a male, but once we got her back and all geared up (hood, anklets, jesses), she weighed in at 1243 grams! Sure, that's not a big female or anything, but the fact that the other bird made her look tiny, sort of tells you just how much of a MONSTER it was (should have gotten a weight on her, but we didn't care at the time.....)!
Soooooooo, CJ is headin on back to the wild. I began feeding him up that evening, and he has since eatin three or four rats, and a WHOLE rabbit!!! He is absolutly stuffed, and it surprised me just how quickly, he started converting all that food to meat! There is barely any trace of a keel left on him, and after a little more food, he will be sent on his way. So over all, my season with CJ isn't anything to write home about, but we did alright, and we had some fun in the process. We caught 17 rabbits, 1 jack, and a Pigeon......he taught me a lot though, and I believe I have improved as a falconer because of him. I am pretty sure, he is going back into the wild a MUCH better hunter than when I trapped him, and I have high hopes that he will do well. I'm going to release him in one of my fields that is just LOADED with game, and who knows....maybe he will stick around for a little bit, and I can go kick through the field for him. I have heard of falconers doing this, and having released birds hunt with them, and I think that would be pretty neat.
The new bird is doing really well....I pulled the hood off for the first time last night, and she only bated a little bit (and regained the fist ever time). She calmed down to the point of ALMOST tucking her wings in completely (just a slight droop), and after sitting nicely for about 10 minutes, I hooded her back up, so we could end on a good note. Total, she had it off for about 15 minutes, and since we had passed the "standing on the fist" stage yesterday, I offered her a little bit of grub tonight on the fist. She is a stinkin butter ball though, and she didn't have any motivation to eat. That's alright....she will have another 10 or 15 minutes tomorow, and if she doesn't take it, we will try again the day after that. I think she will eat sooner, than later, and if her "early trapped" behavior is any indication, I may have ended up with a sweet heart!!!!!! After short bus, that would be a nice change! I'm going to go for a quick train, and I have set the bar SUPER high for this bird. Fingers crossed, we can accomplish our goals!
Take it easy everybody.
-D-

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Update!

Life has been just a tad bit crazy lately. I have been trying to get out hawking as much as I can, but I had one of those busy weeks at work that we all love, and I had a lot of family obligations as well. Since my last update, we have flown squirrels twice. He took one to the ground both sessions, but ended up letting them both go. He got some pretty good bites both time, and being that he was flying pretty high (960 grams), he just didn't have enough motivation, to hold on till I got there. Had a good session at the Sonic field the other day though. Got TONS of slips (like.....20 or so!!!), and ended up putting another rabbit in the bag. I hadn't flown this field yet, simply because it's pretty wide open, and the rabbits hadn't ventured into those types of areas yet. I'm not sure if it's a combination of them not being pressure yet this year, or if there are just TON of rabbits in there, but it was pretty good times, to say the least.
This weekend though, was all about the hawkin! It's my sister-in-laws birthday week, so the whole family headed down to Edmund, to crash with my brother, and his wife. I had been planning a hawking weekend for a long time, so I had called a lot of the friends, and we had good times on the agenda. Met up with Mitch, Rob, and Adam early on Saturday morning, and the Gyr/Barbary was up to bat first. Found a big group of ducks on a creek, and we had a nice stoop on some quackers. He made contact with one, but didn't manage to seal the deal. It was great to watch though, and the day was kicked off to a nice start.
Headed out to a field we hawked three or so years ago, and we pulled Adam's tail out for a session. I remember the first time I ever saw this field, I couldn't believe there would be rabbits in it. Up until that point, the only rabbit hawkin I had seen was in thick cover, high briars, and it was a race to the cover. This field is completely wide open, no perchs, and the rabbits just run and run. It blew my mind, that you could hawk rabbits without "working," and I was jealous to say the least :). Anyways, the rabbits were poppin like crazy, and we got some really nice flights out of his bird. His little male has some moves, and does wing overs on most slips. It was great fun to watch, and though we didn't put one in the bag, got to see some goodness. Next up was Mitch and he Gos, and she was ready to go! One slip, one catch, one happy falconer! It was pretty sweet to say the least. She shot off the fist like a feakin bat out of hell, and closed the gap on the rabbit in seconds. Missed on the first attempt, got back up and chased it again. He either snagged it from there, or else he crashed, got back up, and then connect...can't remember which it was. Either way though, it was sweet!
Rob and his Gos were up next, and we were treated to some pretty neat flights. It's pretty rediculous, just how fast those birds are, and if you blinked twice, you can miss the whole flight. Other times though, they extend out for long time, and those are the sweet ones. The rabbit he caught, was sort of in between....it was a pretty decent distance, and it went through a thinner portion of the field, so the whole flight could be seen. Those feet moved so quickly, and wrapped that rabbit up in a heart beat. Pulled CJ out afterwards, but he just wanted to fly over to the telephone poles (which were on the edge of the field.....). We got one slip for him pretty quickly, and he came screaming in from a pretty good distance, but ended up getting evaded by the bunny. We decided to head to a field with some more trees, but didn't manage to get any slips.
Headed back to my brother's house for a bit, and we dined on some BBQ, and did some chillen. Met up with Peter after that, and it was time to fly his Harris hawk. Little is his name, and he knows the rabbit hawkin game. Chased a few bunnies around pretty quickly, and then we dried up on slips for a bit. Decided to head back toward the cars to swap birds, and we got a slip right near the edge of the field. He chased it down, and caught it on the edge of a steep decline. When we got there, there was a Harris hawk tail sticking straight in the air, and Little was on his back, with his head down hill from his body. The rabbit was grasped tightly, and he was holding it up above him. As we approched, the rabbit gave one last kick, and they went rolling down the hill. Little landed on top this time, and held it there, until Peter could arrive for the assist. Pulled CJ out next, and he was flying at 970 grams. His focus wasn't all there, but he stayed around enough, and we got some good slips through some briars. Just as the sun was heading down, we ended up connecting, got to put one in the bag. Interestingly enough, his trade off was pretty bad! All things considered, it was still alright...he grabbed the lure, but then let it go for the rabbit. I presented it again, and he jumped off for the lure...only took about 20 seconds, but he is usually INSTANT, so it was just odd. I could have rushed him a little bit, which would explain the behavior, but I just don't really remember.
Met up with Mitch around 11 today, and we headed out looking for ducks. During the route, we went to a field that was JAM PACKED with red tails! I'm serious....you could look in the sky, and see 20 or 30 birds flying around. Then you could scan the few trees, and you would notice there was a bird in each one of them. Then, as you start looking around at the hills, you would realize that there were birds dotted everywhere, just sitting on the ground. We saw at least 10 harlans, and want to know what else was crazy? The majority of all the birds there, were passage. We are tossing around the idea of setting up a blind, and just pulling in tails all day long. I bet you could trap every color phase of tail there is, just in that one spot (in one day!). Met up with Rob after that, and we headed out to fly the Gos hawks. The wind had picked up today, and though we had some really good flights at bunnies, just didn't manage to put any in the bag. Flew CJ later, but only managed a single slip, and it happened when he was perching up, in the opposite direction. It was cool though, and we headed to a quail field, to give Rob's Gos another shot. Got to see some really neat tail chases, and it was the first time I got to watch a Gos chasing birds, from a really good vantage point. It got me all hot and bothered ;), and my desire to fly a coops, has been kicked up a notch! So that's what I have been up to, in a nut shell. Hope you all have been getting in some good hawkin too, and I will get back with you all later!

-D-

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lovin' the Cold

Between family, work, and hawking its been hard to find a few minutes to update the blog.  I guess it's time for a little catch up.....


A week or so ago, as Daniel posted about earlier, we took a weekend hunting trip out west to do some trapping, shooting, and hawking.  And amazingly we accomplished all three things.  Our first priority was to get some shooting done over Jay and I's bird dogs.  It didn't take long before we had both Lulu, my pointer, and Mack, Jay's setter, locking up on Scaled Quail and Pheasants.  Jay managed to hit a quail and a pheasant and I, being the poor shot that I am, got a piece of a pheasant that Jay finished knocking down.  Somewhere in there Jay got also got a Jackrabbit that made its move at precisely the wrong time.

Lulu, me, Jay, and Mack

We also were around so see birds trapped that we just don't regularly have on our side of the state.  There was a nice Praire Falcon or two, a huge female Ferruginous Hawk, and a beautiful jack Richardson's Merlin that a Tulsa falconer is now having a ball with.

Daniel holding the passage Merlin

To top the trip off we hoped to get a chance at Daniel putting a Jackrabbit in the bag.  Finding the Jacks was not a problem (click on the pick below to enlarge)

Bunny Party

After a handful of serious slips over two days Daniel's bird managed to connect and hang on.  Click here for Daniel's account.

Daniel and his first Jackrabbit

Jay and I did fly our falcons out there on ducks, but the result was less than desirable.  It appeared that the trip had taken a lot out of Jay's hybrid and my bird pretty much just flew off.  He still was not back to weight and from being fed up over the Thanksgiving holiday and I decided to push my luck anyway.  It could have easily been a disaster when he decided that he really had no interest in the ducks, the lure, or me.  Tulsa chased around a large blackbird flock for close to 10 minutes before landing.  I had to flash a pigeon to get him to eventually come down and very carefully put his equipment on while he was on the ground eating from a quail carcass that I had thrown down there.  But all's well that ends well I guess.

Since returning from the trip my falcons are back in form.  Tulsa, whose neck I've wanted to wring more than once this season, has really turned on since the weather has gotten cold.  He has caught a duck in each of his last four flights and each of those was better than the last.  Throughout much of the early season he was testing my patience by only climbing 200-300 feet then setting his wings and coasting around.  We went back to the kite multiple times to get him up there and now that we have more optimal weather he's really starting to put out and take a far more respectable pitch.  Mongo, the Gyrkin, is also flying well but has a vice in that he cannot leave geese alone.  Even if they are flying on the horizon he buggers off after them.  He has taken several to the ground but luckily gives up before giving to much of a fight.  I do not want him grabbing geese as that is an easy path to a broken wing or possibly death.  Aside from the geese grabbing he has been flying well, taking good pitches and staying over me as I approach the ponds.  A few days ago we had one of those rare times when everything comes together and both birds came home sporting full crops.

Today, Tulsa took a good pitch over dozen or so mixed ducks that were working hard to keep open the last 6 foot hole in the ice on the pond.  When the falcon was climbing and starting to work away from the pond, I flushed.  The falcon folded up into a mummy tuck and hammered a hen Gadwall over the ice.  She fell and hit so hard she broke through the frozen sheet and didn't come up.  I had this happen once last year as well.  After a few seconds she popped up in the open water hole about 50 feet from were she smashed through.  The rest of the ducks had bailed back onto the ice and the tiercel remounted to a solid 700'.  I again flushed and a clear look at the whole situation.  Things just clicked in one of those surreal ways.  I looked up and the falcon was right there pumping away, he was very visible against the overcast sky.  He waited for a few seconds this time as the ducks oddly flew directly toward me while leaving the pond.  I could hear the beating of their wings as they passed over me about 30 feet up.  Looking through the flock I see the falcon close his wings and begin his stoop.  He poured on the speed as he came down at the intended target.  The impact made the duck bounce off the frozen ground like a stuffed animal tumbling down the highway from being casually thrown out a car window by a child.  The this happened so uneventfully for falcon that I assumed he had hit one of the small divers I saw in the flock.  As I made my way over I was shocked to find Tulsa munching the vertebrae of a drake Mallard! It is amazing how easy it seems for this falcon to tackle and subdue prey that nearly twice its size.  

The cold weather really brings out the best from these falcons.  Kind of a catch 22 when your main quarry is ducks and the ponds begin to freeze.  Looks like it will be warming up a bit this week though.  Here's hoping......or not........

-RVZ



Friday, December 10, 2010

The wife HAS to be getting irritated.....

I really did plan on putting up decorations yesterday.....Christmas is approaching fast, and i'm going to miss the whole darn holiday, if I don't get my rear in gear.  I left my favorite hawking stick at "The Dumpsite" on Tuesday though, so i HAD to get it back.  Short-bus had the biggest casting I had ever seen come out of a bird (including owls), and he somehow made it back to 950 grams on the dot.  I thought "what the heck," so we loaded up, and headed on out there.  Being that I wasn't planning on flying (and hadn't adjusted my schedule to accomodate it), we only had time for a super short session.  About 30 minutes or so was all we had, and as luck would have it.......the rabbits were not poppin. :(
We made our way back to where we had caught the rabbit on Tuesday, and my glorious brush stick was waiting where I had left it.  Once that was back in my possesion, we continued along the train tracks, but didn't manage a single slip.  Worked along the frence row, but again, no one wanted to come out and play.  We kicked through the "open section," that has patchs of sumac/bushes scattered around in clumps, and again....no one was home!  Pretty lame, so we headed toward the woods, that run along the east side of the field (as opposed to the woods where he has caught a couple rabbits this year already....).  Slips can ALWAYS be found deep in the woods, but the cover is nice and thick, and up until recently, it just wasn't possible to get back in there.....well....I couldn't get back in there, and I didn't really have the desire to hack my way in there, to find a bird hiding with a rabbit, so we have stayed clear most of the season.   The last few sessions out there though, the cover had lessened enough to make it possible, and we have chased quite a few rabbits around in there.  He hasn't connected with any of them yet, but the sun was on it's way down, and I just needed a slip PERIOD. 


So I started forcing my way in through the sumac, and Short-Bus took a perch right above my head.  He sleeked down, and started looking pretty intently right in front of me, so I knew right then, that there was a rabbit moving infront of me.  I kept pushing through the cover, when I heard the jingle of bells, and CJ shot over my head, moving pretty quickly toward an area just to the right of me.  He tucked into a mini stoop, and disappeared in the brush beside me.  SQUEEL!!!!!!  The fact that I didn't really get to see the flight was sort of lame, but I was more worried about listening for bells, than anything else at that point.  I could hear the rabbit, and I could hear CJ, but I had no idea where they were.  Luckily though, the area i was in was pretty much all Sumac, and the vines that wove it all together, were around the tops of the bushes.  I got down on my hands and knees, and started army crawling (I looked just like Parker!!!!!) in the direction of all the comotion.  Eventually, I spied them up ahead, and as I crawled up on them, I discovered he had done the "rabbit wrap" (or whatever you want to call it....).  Dee Dee used to do this all the time....one foot on the head, and the other foot holding both of the back legs AND the head......keeps the rabbit in a nice little ball, and eliminates pretty much all movement, from the rabbit.  Not really THAT cool, but he just hadn't ever done it before, so it was neat to me.  Anyways, gave Peter the stretch, and after i weaved my way out of that tangled mess, it was back to the car we went (With brush stick in hand this time!).  Sorry for the fuzzy picture....the light was fading fast, and this ended up being the best one I got (if that tells you anything about the rest of the shots!!!!).
Take it easy friends

-D-

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lazy Hawkin'

I wasn't really planning on hawking yesterday.  I had Christmas decorations that I STILL hadn't put up, all the gear was still laying in the garage, I had been feeling like crap all day, and Short-bus was at 950 grams.....Sometimes though, I just can't seem to help myself.  We flew high the day before, and he did really well, and being that this was only the second day of being "high," I knew that he wasn't ACTUALLY that heavy. Sooooo, we loaded up the car, and headed over to Rosa east.  This is only my second time to fly this part of the field (this year), and I think I'm going to keep avoiding it.  This will be my "lazy" field from now on, and I will probably refrain from hawking it, unless I need a super quick, very "easy" session.  Sometimes, you just need a field like that....one where you can guarantee a LOT of slips, in a tiny amount of time.  There arn't any briars here, and the hawking tends to be more of a strole, than any type of work.  Sometimes, it's just nice to get out and watch the bird fly, and not have to beat brush like a mad man!
So we popped the hood off, and Short-Bus headed straight up to the top of a power pole.  There is a long stretch of mowed grass that you have to walk through, before you get to where the "field" starts, and as I made my way through it, CJ sleeked down, and started doing his little head bob thing.  If you all remember correctly, there is a long stretch of Johnson grass, that runs parallel with the road, and is only about 10 yards wide (It runs for about a quarter mile, but it's just pretty narrow....).  As I enter the Johnson grass, a rabbit bails out the back side, and starts hauling through the woods.  Like I said, there isn't much cover in this area, and I saw the whole flight as CJ burned it down, and crashed right behind it.  He missed, but that's not what made the flight cool......what made it SWEET, was that out of no where, this Harlans comes roaring in from behind, and continued the chase!  He crashed, got back up, and crashed again like FOUR TIMES after that rabbit!!!!!!!  It was pretty freakin sweet.  This is only the second time I have had this happen with one of my birds.  Interestingly enough, the first time it happened was last weekend.......that first Jack that CJ bound to (but got kicked off) went down the same way.......another bird came in, and continued that chase as well.  Anyways, I waited for Cleveland to fly back up to his power pole, and we continued on.

I went another 10 steps or so, and he folded into a bullet, and smashed the ground right in front of me.......DARN VOLES!  Now, Short-Bus catchs a mouse/vole/rat/misc something almost every session we go out.....it's never a big deal, and I just let him eat it, and then we continue on (unless it's a HUGE rat, then I trade him off and keep going.....).  Well, being that he was already at 950 grams, I second guessed myself, on what I should do.  I knew he would fly well while it was still in his crop, but it was just a matter of if i wanted to hawk the next day or not.  950 grams, plus a big vole,  (and assuming we catch a bunny) plus his trade off lure piece, plus his rabbit leg, equates to no flying the next day.......since I still had Christmas duties to perform, I decided that was cool, and let him eat it all, before we continued on.  When he finished, I hopped him to the fist, and he then flew over, and landed in a short tree.  I started walking through the Johnson again, and a rabbit takes off, running the edge of the grass.  Cleveland sprints from his tree, and BARELY misses snagging it on his first crash.  He got right back up immediately, and snagged it's rump, as it was going through the fork of a small bush.  Of course, that bush stopped Short-bus right in his tracks, and he was left with just a patch of fur in his talons.  Took his sweet time about getting back up after that one, and when he did, he took a perch in a tree across the street.  I reached a part of the johnson grass section that was a lot shorter than the rest, and as I made my way out of the head high stuff, a rabbit got up at my feet.  I could see the rabbit running as plain as day, and I'm yelling HO, but Short-bus just watched it go.  Once it disappeared from sight (into the woods), CJ slowly meandered back to my side of the road, and took a perch on the power pole right above me.

I continued kicking through the short grass, and instead of "perching up" like he normally does, he let me get about two poles down from him.  Normally, he is right on my head, or else one pole behind me (so that when I walk past the hiding rabbits and they shoot out from behind, he is right there to snatch them up), so I'm thinking that he may have started putting his crop over.  Well, I JUST made my way past the second pole, when a rabbit gets up right by my feet, but instead of bailing toward the woods, it headed toward the road, and started cutting back in the direction I had just come from.  BIG mistake!!!!!!  Cleveland was already on his way, when he left the cover of the grass, and started running through the mowed grass, running along the road.  He went about 10 yards, before he noticed the hawk screaming toward him, and cut back into the Johnson grass.  CJ whiped to the side though, and snaged him just a few feet into the cover.  That's about the time I hear the cars honking :).  I look up, and some dude had COMPLETELY stopped his car (in the MIDDLE of the road), had his door open, and yelled out "That was the coolest damn thing I have ever seen, in my whole *ucking life!"  Apparently the people behind him didn't feel the same way though, because the chorus of honking just got louder and louder.  He finally came to his senses, pulled off to the side of the road, and made his way over to where we were at.  I did a little Q&A session with him, while Short-bus ate on his rabbit, and then I let him snap off a couple pictures.  We finally made our way back to the car, and he was a FAT 1074 grams, when I stuck him on the scale at home.  Christmas decorations will be on the agenda for this evening, and hopefully, I will be able to get a good session in on Friday.

-D-


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Unbelievable!

I'm not sure if you all have any of "those" fields, but I sure don't.  You know the ones I'm talking about......you hear stories about them all the time.  Everywhere you look, there is game in abundance, you can't walk anywhere without getting a slip, and the presentations just happen to be PERFECT!  Well, not only do I not have any spots like that, but I had never even seen one.......that is, until this weekend!!!!
The skunk monkey had been hitting pretty darn hard over the past week or so.  It was my fault to an extent, because I didn't even give CJ (A.K.A. Short-Bus) the chance to fly three of the days, but the rest of the hunts, were just so so.  We were getting slips, but we just were not putting anything in the bag.  So when I got the text from my wife around noon on Friday, I pretty much started doing the happy dance.  It went a little like "hey, if you only spend money on food and gas, you can head down to the panhandle with Ryan and Jay this weekend!!!!!!!!!" (maybe the exclamation marks weren't there, but that's how I read it :)!!!!!!).  So I grabbed whatever was in arms reach, jumped in the car, and started hauling down the highway.  Sure, I forgot half of my hawking gear, unimportant things like clean cloths, deoderant, and my tooth brush, and SUPER important things like my game sheers and telemetry, but it didn't matter.......the needle never dropped below a hundred, and I was on my way to what would become one of the best hawkin weekends I've had thus far.
The goal was a Jack rabbit flight....plain and simple.  I had never seen a live one before, and the first one that got up at our feet, had me saying "holy $hit, did you see that?!?!?!?!"  We were gun hunting pheasants at the time, and even though it wasn't being pressed by a hawk or anything, it headed straight for the horizon.  That was my first clue, that these guys act a little bit different than the cotton tails we are used to chasing, and I just didn't know how it would go.  Up until this point in time, Short-bus had gotten his pants juked off of him, every single time he has flown a rabbit in the wide open.  With that in mind, I didn't really think he had a chance at a Jack.  I LITERALLY, just wanted a flight, but in the back of my mind, I pretty much expected him to refuse them all.  So after a great day of shooting pheasants and quail (well.....I watched the dogs run, and Ryan and Jay shot stuff.....), we arrived at "the honey hole" Jack spot, with expectations that were not very high.


Short-bus had been hooded up most of the afternoon, so when he flew up to the gate post where we parked, you could tell he was trying to "center" himself.  If birds thought this way, there was something probably going through his mind along the lines of "WTF?!?!?!  Where are all the trees?  How am I supposed to chase game, with nothing to sit on?  Wait.....you can't really mean for me to fly to those "H" poles.....there are only like two or three that are useful, and there are places to hawk as far as the eye can see......You expect me to cover all of that, from a couple different perchs?  You have lost your damn mind my friend....."  About that time though, we had made our way about 20 yards from him, and the first jack got up infront of us.  My head flipped back like a rocket, and Short-bus just watched it run.  What surprised me though, was after the jack got about a hundred yards away or so, CJ lazily started flying in that direction.  It was almost like he was wanting to "check it out," and see if he had really just seen, what he thought he saw.  Yep....that was a big @$$ rabbit!!!!  He pulled up to a short post, and we only made it a few more yards, before another Jack got up at our feet.  He only hesitated for a moment, and then took off in a half committed chase toward the rabbit.  Of course, he got burned, but that cheesed out grin was starting to spread across my face.  "No way......is he really gonna chase them?!?!?!"  He sat there for a moment, as we made our way toward the line of "H" poles, and after a little coaxing (actually.....a LOT of coaxing!), he flew our way.  He was finally up on a high perch, and I was pretty interested to see what would happen next.
The area we were hawking, was sort of broken up into two sections.  The "main" portion, had cover scattered EVERYWHERE, and the ground had been grazed completely bare.  When you walked around at first,  you thought you were walking on top of a lot of gravel.  It was only when you bent down to inspect it, that one realized that it was ALL jack rabbit crap!  There were literally HUNDREDS of jacks hanging out in this little section, and every row you looked down, would contain at least five to ten rabbits......just looking at you!  Surrounding this section, were endless fields of CRP, and the jacks were split into sort of two different "groups" if you will.  One group, prefered to stay around the cover....they would run from one end to the other, and then back again.  The other "group", bailed for the open fields, and prefered to use their speed to get away.....they would head for the hills, and just keep running, until they were out of sight.  These were the jacks Short-bus ended up prefering, and as we started into this "heavy cover section", the first jack bolted for the CRP!
Unlike the first couple of slips, this one was instant, and Short-bus came pumping off of the "H" pole, like he was going to die without catching that jack.  The flight took them pretty far out into the field, and I held my breath, as he closed in on the ground, and did the wing flash they do, when they are coursing a rabbit in the open.  Then.....he connected!  I couldn't really believe it, and started running for all I was worth (which apparently, isn't much! LOL).  I only made it a short distance, before I saw the jack shoot out the side, and start heading for the hills.  I'm yellling and jumpin, because as far as right then is concerned, I accomplished my goal for the weekend.  My bird chased a jack, and it just happened to be a good flight.  After that rodeo, and from what I had heard from other people, I was expecting CJ to refuse them from then on out, but in the scheme of things, that was alright by me.  Well, Short-bus got up off the ground, and we continued on, and wouldn't ya know it, he kept chasing!  Not only that, but he kept chasing harder and harder on each slip!  All in all, we probably got 10 or so more flights on jacks (and one pheasant flight!)....two of which he pulled fur on, before he started running out of gas. As we made our way back to the car, we got one last slip which he ALMOST got.....he ended up hammering the ground, and the jack jumped over his head!  Soooooo close!  We had a drag jack set up from the get go, and after that last slip, Ryan took off dragging it.  Short-bus grabbed onto it, and Ryan took him for a ride!  I ran in there just like I would on a real one, and all in all, I think we simulated a jack score FARELY well.  Fed him up quite a bit (because he worked so hard), and though I tried not to get too excited, scoring a jack the next day, was becoming more and more of a possibility!
So Sunday found us back at the same spot, and from the get go, Short-bus was there to score!  I had had him down to 908 for the first session, but now that he knew what was going on, I had pushed him back up to 920 grams.  He seemed to have more "pep in his step," and he chased the first Jack that got up, with the intensity we didn't reach, until mid session the day before.  This got me too excited, and I started BELIEVING that we were going to score!  That was bad, because when my expectations start getting high (and if he doesn't behave perfectly), the bird begins to piss me off!  We had a nice shot on one from the "H" pole, but after that, he started screwing around, and taking REALLY low perchs.  Of course, he got burned everytime, and I was well on my way to the cursing stage.  Another stratagey was taken, and I got CJ up on a T-perch, and started walking the edge of the CRP.  Ryan and Jay continued moving through the junk piles, and the goal was to get one to flush out into the open, with Short-bus and I waiting there for it.  Ryan made the comment "Man, what we really need is for one to get up RIGHT at your feet (when the bird is on the T-perch), and that would help solidify the purpose of riding the T (I hadn't ever really flown with one, before this weekend). So we continue on, and CJ suddenly bails from the T-perch, and takes a stance in a lone tree about 50 yards infront of me.  RIGHT as he leaves the perch, and heads that way, a jack gets up from under my feet (which is what we were trying to get to happen)!!!!!!  I'm pissed!  I start cursing the bird, start cursin my luck, and I go from "irritated," to mad!  I'm muttering under my breath, as I begin to approach the bird, and when i get about 80 yards or so from him, a jack breaks about 15 yards from the tree.  Short-bus just BURNS out of that tree, and closes the gap in no time.  I see him slam the ground, and then the ride was on!!!!!  


Now friends, I don't run......I was sore as hell from the day before, but I took off like a freakin track star, when I saw the cloud of dust errupt from the ground.  I was screaming "hold on to it!!!!  You better freakin hold onto it!!!!!!" and had to have been moving at least a million miles per hour :)!  Of course, I'm putting everything I had into that run, so I lost sight of them, while I was on my way.  I suddenly freeze, and I hear the squeel of a jack!!!!  I discover JC sitting on the ground....one foot on the head, and the other between the shoulders!  The jack was kicking like mad, but he had him completely under control!!!!!!  When it's confirmed that the jack is dead, I just started freakin out.  I'm yellin like an idiot, jumpin around, fist pumping......the whole freakin nine yards.  I never thought you could replicate the look on an apprentices face, when they are holding their freshly trapped, first falconry bird.......but I did it!  I had that rediculously HUGE grin on my face for HOURS afterwards.  I was dumb struck, that my little guy actually did it.  It's funny, I had just started calling him "Short-bus" that week, because I was really getting irritated with him.  I guess he took it personally though, because he sure did prove me wrong!!!!!

Fed him up nicely on that jack, and he was nice and fat for the drive home.  No session on Monday, because he was still overweight, but yesterday found us "close" to weight.  He weighed in at 930 grams, and we went flying at the dumpsite.  He took perchs higher than he ever has, and crashed after bunnies with an intensity I have yet to see from him.  He absolutly CRUSHED rabbit number 13, and I'm thinking we are about to see this little bird turn it on.  He is riding on a confidence high that he has never known before, and who knows, this may just turn into a decent falconry season after all!
Take it easy guys


-D-

Monday, November 29, 2010

Don't Read While Eating


Came across this sight while checking ponds last week.  Not the prettiest of views and nearly every falconry blog has a post similar to this, but it is important to show the dangers of powerlines.  Every year a number of falconry birds meet their end by touching uninsulated electrical wires.  And being that there is a very small number of falconry raptors in the United States, one could only guess how many wild hawks meet their end this way across this country and around the world.  


I've seen several raptors get killed in this way.  Sometimes it's a quick zap and they fall and other times the are locked to the wire as the current literally cooks them from the inside out.  Unfortunately for this guy it looks like he got the later.  On closer inspection you could see charred tissue on back side of his legs. Unfortunate reality for the hawks that use power poles to make their lives easier.


Here is a link to some more raptor electrocution info:

-RVZ

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving Everybody!!!!


Hope everyone got to spend a lot of quality time with their families, and stuffed themselves to the point of not feeling well! If ya didn't......you missed the whole point of the holiday :)!!!! Last year was my first Thanksgiving as a falconer, and we had a great session. We flew for the first time at the Lowe's field, and we caught a rabbit pretty quickly. I decided that this had to become a yearly tradition, so after stuffing my face this afternoon, I headed out for a quick hawkin session. I only got the kitchen pass for an hour (because after that, it was time for pumpkin pie!!!!!!), so I jumped over to Rosa East, and tried to slip in a quickie. Anyways, I havn't hawked this portion of the field before (and it's actually accross the road, so it's technically a new field....I have ran the dog through it, but that's all....), but since I can pretty much pull my car right into it (and time was of the essence), I decided to give it a go. Cleveland Jr was spot on at 915 grams, and he powered right up to a high pole, to kick start the hunt. The edge of this field is bordered by a ton of head high Johnson grass, but once you pass through that, there are a ton of briars, and a bunch of crap that people have dumped, to kick around in. Well, I made about fifteen or so steps through the Johnson grass, and CJ came hauling off of his perch STRAIGHT at me. He was coming in hot, and his angle was putting him on a direct course for my feet. About five yards infront of me, he suddenly checks off, and lands on the power line running directly above me. I take two steps, and then Cleveland drops off the pole in a perfect bullet shape, and slams the ground right in front of me. SQUEEL!!!!!!!!!!! Whoop, Whoop! Thanksgiving comes through again! New field, and a score quickly....just like last year!!! I think I'm going to like this tradition :). It got super cold last night, and it should be cold again tonight, so I fed him a little bit extra (fed to 1010 grams), so we will be at weight tom, for another afternoon session. This works out well, because Adam is in town for the holidays, and wanted to know if I could put some rabbits under his bird. I told him we would give it a shot, so we are going to have a session with his bird in the morning. Maybe the stars will align, and Shaung will be at weight after that, and we can get in a session with Jonathan as well. Fly CJ after that, and it will all add up to a full day of hawkin. Can't beat that with a stick, and I'm psyched for a good day.
Best Wishes everyone!
-D-

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

(Not a) Good Day for a Swim

I knew I shouldn't....The morning was crummy for flying.  High humidity, high temps, and few ducks.  But it was the last chance I had to get a flight before heading off to visit the families for Thanksgiving.  So I pushed my luck.  The only ducks I found were four Blue-wing Teal a farm pond.  I knew it was a bad idea... Teal are very hard to get off the water and my bird hasn't exactly been flying stellar lately.  But I did it anyway and the flight ended as expected.  Ducks dumped in the pond, falcon got splashed and the flight was over.  

So I called the bird down to the lure, put in his equipment, and went to take his transmitter off when I realized that it wasn't there.  I put the bird away in the truck and pull out my trusty receiver to find the missing tracking device.  

The first signal I get is across the pond and pretty close.  I trek over to the other side of the pond to triangulate, and much to my disappointment the signal was exactly back where I came from.  The transmitter was in the pond........

So off came the boots, socks, and pants, and I waded out into the muck bottom pond in nothing but my boxers.  Around waist deep water I found that the transmitter was somewhere below me using a trick I learned long ago of detaching the antenna from the receiver.  So here I am, water up to my hip, leaning to the right up to my shoulder with my hand fishing around in the muck to feel for the transmitter, left hand in the air trying to keep the receiver dry.  As I'm in this compromised position, a local sheriff comes putting along  and stops on the road several yards away.  Him and I have talked before and he knows what I'm usually doing out there, but looked a little perplexed when he stopped this time.  As I explained what I was doing, I brushed my hand across the antenna.  The officer had a laugh about my situation and went about his day.  

Satisfied that I wouldn't have to buy a new $250 transmitter, I spend the next 30 mins sitting on the dam wall drying off wondering how do I get myself into these situations......

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Well its Official

We are on a streak!  Ducked out of work at 4:00 yesterday, and Cleveland was sitting right at 915 grams.  We headed over to the Lowe's field, and the wind was blowing pretty good.  Started out kicking through the open section (the "flag pole" if you will....see earlier posts, if you don't know what i'm talking about.......), but it seems that the rabbits have bailed on that area.  Good to know for future reference.....I can stop wasting my time there!  That must be their summer hang out, but now that the cover is lower, they have vacated for more secure areas.  Anyways, after kicking through there some, I gave up, and started heading through the head high Johnson grass, that borders that portion of the field.  CJ took off after a rabbit that must have scooted out the side, but it made it to the third tree clump, and he was left empty footed on the ground.  Hopped him back up, and he took his perch up on the power pole again.  Continued on, and I pushed another one out, that promptly made it to the second clump of trees, just as Cleveland arrived.  These rabbits are going to have to figure out a new game plan, because it won't be long until the cover dies back more, and I will be able to get into those clumps for reflushes!!!  Yesterday though, they were smart moves, and CJ was getting a little bit amped.  He took off into the air, and soared up about 70 feet, and followed me around for a good 10 minutes or so.  He has started doing this more (when he has had a few misses...), and I would like to think that it's because he has learned that game appears when he does this.  It's still too early in the behavior to know if he has that solid connection or not, but I'm hoping the light bulb is at least flickering!  I tossed out a couple pigeons to him, and though he made some good attempts at them, wasn't able to snag either one. 

After a bit, he landed back on his power pole, and I took off toward the back portion of the field.  I was hugging the tree line, and made it about 50 yards from the pole, when CJ took off in a pretty level flight from the power pole.  This wasn't his normal 45 degree downward angle that I'm used to, but he was flying with intent, so I knew he wasn't just going to a new perch.  I stopped to watch, and he was gradually getting lower and lower.  He disappeared from view after a moment, and then guess what.....yep............................SQUEEL!!!!!!!!!  I started running over there, but quickly stopped doing that when I realized how far I was going (no jokes Ryan!!!!  That run, after the duck flight the other day, almost killed me!  I HAVE to start getting into shape!), and since I didn't really have a specific spot I was going to, didnt't want to accidentally step on them!  Wandered around for a minute or two, before I found him on the ground.  He had made it all the way to the the back corner of the front section (if that makes sense), and was crouched low in some cat tails.  I looked back at the power pole, and my best guess, is that the flight was a good 200 yards or so!  Pretty psyched, because if he is willing to take a slip that far out, it must means his confidence is going up.  Finally starting to like this bird (it's funny how that happens, once we start catching stuff!!!!!), and it seems like I have his weight down now.  He has been doing well at 915, so once this 70 degree weather goes away, I'm going to push him up to 920 for a few days, and see how that goes.  If he stays consistant, then we will go up another five grams.  So that's it for the update....number 11 in the bag, and it's on to number 12!

-D-

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Double Digits!!!!


I'm almost too tired to type! We got number ten today, and I'll tell you what.....we freakin earned it! Cleveland Jr must have caught a mouse when out weathering yesterday, because when I got home four hours after I left, he had gained 25 grams. This ruined our duck chances again, but it is what it is, and we ended up getting into the field around 11:00 AM. Hit the Wilson field first, but it's cover was still really high. That, combined with all the wind, had the rabbits sitting tight....we didn't manage a single slip, and this is my honey hole field! Bailed from there pretty quickly, and we headed over to Rosa South. Like I have said before, I don't like hitting the same field two days in a row, but I wanted number 10 BAD, so we went for it.
The rabbits weren't popping today like usual....probably because they remembered being terrorized yesterday! We managed the same number of slips as usual, but the only difference was, that instead of hawking for 35 to 40 minutes....we hawked for 4 hours!!!! I had given up by this point, and was making my way back to the car, when I kicked up a final bunny, and CJ gave a half hearted chase, and then perched up WAY infont of me. He normally flips back to where I am, so I knew that he had the rabbit marked. When I got there, he was looking down pretty intently, and I managed a reflush farely quickly. CJ came screaming off of his perch, and crashed the brush hard, and I heard that glorious squeel! Normally, it's a "YES!!!!!!" Today though, it was a "FINALLY!!" When I got to them, I found CJ pinned against a bush...one leg on the ground, and the other sticking out the other side of the bush, barely holding onto the screaming rabbit. To be honest, I'm not really sure how he held onto it, so I made my way to the otherside as quickly as I could, and breathed a HUGE sigh of relief, once I got a secure hold on the rabbit. I had to then, cut CJ out of the bush, which he wasn't to thrilled about. I kept snipping more and more briars, but he was STILL stuck in there....Finally, I found a vine going right under his wing (that had been hiding), and was able to get him out. Snapped some hero shots, traded off great, and it was back home I went. Ate a huge bowl of soup, and now it's time for some chillen! GOOD DAY!!!!!
-D-

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Jay's on the Board

Jay Tuttle (he's interning for me this winter at the center) and I met up this morning for a couple of flights.  The conditions were not great today, warmer weather and heavy wind up high, but we managed to get out and get the birds up.  

Jay's bird took a nice pitch on the first pond that held ducks and seemed to pull up short on a pair of Gadwalls that we had flushed clean off the water.  The falcon was called down for little reward with the intention of flying again after a rest.


First Green Head of the Year.

Several minutes later we found another small pond holding a pair of Mallards.  We put Tulsa in the air and he started off pulling the same bologna he's been doing off and on the past few weeks.  He started climbing strong then set his wings and coasted down to about 200 feet.  Since there was two of us, I had Jay stay just under the dam wall and I walked away from the pond.  It didn't take long for the falcon to follow me and he quickly regained pitch.  I yelled for Jay to flush when Tulsa was wide of the pond and climbing.  The drake was struck about 20 feet off the water into a small stand of shrub trees.  And my bird quickly secured his 1250g+ meal (nearly 2x his weight), duck #3 on the year


Jay's First Okie Duck of the Year

After getting my bird back in the truck and getting on the road, we found another pond that was loaded with Mallards only minutes away.  Time to give Jay's bird a second chance.  His falcon quickly gained a good pitch, quite a feat considering he just flew less than an hour before.  Jay and I came up over the dam and flushed probably 30 Mallards off of a postage stamp sized pond.  The falcon locked on to a hen Mallard that was trailing the group and, with the precision of a surgeon, cut through the duck's wing.  I saw the wing break right in front of me and it was obvious that Jay had got his first duck of the year.  Not the Gadwall that he's been hoping for but a nice start.  And if there is one duck we have in northeastern Oklahoma, its Gadwalls.




Now for a nap....

-RVZ

Back to Back


I was on daddy duty this morning, since the boss needed to catch up on some sleep, so I kicked it around the house with Parker most of the morning. I finally got around to glancing at my phone, and I had FIVE different hero shots sent to me! Apparently, today was the day for some falconry goodness! Most notable though, was Perry's, whose kestrel caught her first starling this morning! There is nothing like that first kill, and I'm super psyched for him! I was eagerly anticipating my chance to get out and about, and the bird finally hit weight, around 10:00AM.
Rosa South was looking extra nice this morning, and CJ was sitting right at 915 grams (though he hadn't cast yet....). Got some quick flushs right off the bat, and I could tell right from the beginning, that today was going to be good! We kicked around through the front portion of briars first, and got a few reflushes on the same rabbit. He ALMOST snagged it on a flight through the trees, and I saw him shoot his foot out, and just barely missed sealing the deal, about five minutes into the hunt. Had he scored, I probably would have had to go for a double, so it wasn't all that bad that he missed. Continued on, and we quicly approached one of his favorite dead tree perchs. He headed straight there, and we got a couple slips under him, which he chased with enthusiasm. The second flush, he remounted after his intial crash, and just barely missed it, as it made it to the first HUGE patch of briars. There are four of these that run along the tree line....they have grown up around patchs of sumac, so until recently, they had been too thick to get into (not too thick for the bird....too thick for me!). Brush has been getting thinner with every passing day though, and today was the first time I could make it inside for the reflush. I discovered a nice big hole right in the center of it, so I gave up pretty quickly, and began to move on. As I exited the back side of it though, CJ left his favorite perch, and landed in the tree growing right out of the center of the patch. It takes something moving to get him to leave that perch, so I decided to work the backside of it, to see if the rabbit was dumb enough to skip the hole. Well, about 30 seconds later, the rabbit busts from my feet.....and heads straight back into the woods!!!! This was a BIG mistake, because there is hardly any ground cover back there now, and he was completely exposed. He pretty much ran parallel with the tree line, and though there were a couple times it looked like he was going to head back toward the cover, he just kept going! I heard CJ's bells singing over my head, but kept my eyes glued on the fleeing rabbit. About a hundred yards from where the slips started, CJ closed the gap, and I got a PERFECT view, as he slammed into the back of the rabbit! I did my happy dance, and headed over there for the dispatch. Got a little excited, and popped the whole head off when I made in (which I hadn't done with CJ yet), and I was interested to see how he would do with that. One foot on the head, and the other on the body, and I was thinking that he may jump off the rabbit like normal, but bring the head along with him. This would not have been good, because I'm planning on flying in the morning tommorow, and I def didn't want him to over eat on this bunny. My fears were unnecessary though, because as soon as I presented his lure, he jumped right off of both, and latched onto the lure like normal. We had a nice big back leg on the lure, so I only hopped him up to a front leg, to put him at weight.....but this pissed him off! He started doing the irritated chirp noise they make, and after I had him all jessed back up, he actually tried to foot me when I was hooding him! As we all know though....I have ninja reflexes, and he didn't connect, but he was fired up! Hind sight....I didn't really let him calm down on the kill, and these behaviors were because of it. Always, always, ALWAYS let the bird calm down before the trade....this is what I have been taught, and I know this very well. You all know me and my brain though....it goes RIGHT out the window when I get excited, and that's just exactly what happened. It is what it is, and today was a good refresher of that lesson. Got home, and he was at 970 grams, so I fed him the goodies, and he is chillen outside on his block as we speak. Psyched about the session...it's the first time I havn't screwed up my weight management, and we put one in the bag two days in a row. I'm gunning to hit double digits tommorow (unless we catch a duck that is!!!!), and I'm thinking we just may do it!
-D-

Friday, November 19, 2010

#8 in the Bag

Wednesday, we flew at the Lowes field. It was SUPER windy, but that gave me the opportunity to enforce some soaring behavior. Nothing epic transpired, but he flew around a TON, and got a really good work out because of it. Had a few chases, but I just didn't get that many slips (bunnies hold TIGHT in the wind!!!!) Thursday was a fun filled day of hawking. Like Ryan said, we got out for some early longwinging, and I was rewarded with a nice duck flight to kick start the day. Flew a couple tails in the morning at the usual spot (I almost scored a wood cock all by myself....ninja style!!!!!), and after a quick lunch stop, Jonathan and I headed over to a new field. Ryan and I have driven by this one a number of times, and we always comment about how it looks pretty good, but had never taken the time to stop. Well, Ryan had some free time at some point last week, and went and checked out the parking situation. There is a housing developement that is going up in one corner of the property, but the rest of it has been left untouched, and there is a nice pull out in the back of the neighborhood (for parking). A huge water tower sprouts up in the middle of this field (which is blue....so I will probably be refering to this field as Ol' Blue or something), and there are TONS of briars. They are thick, thick, THICK, and sprawl out in HUGE patchs all over this field. I finally got the camera back from Lindz, and would have taken some pictures to show you all just how freakin huges these briars are, but the batteries died right after I got pics of the hybrid, so it just didn't work out. We were kicking up rabbits left and right, but ended up chasing the majority of them from one side of the briars, to the other....and then back again (we need a doxie gang or something!!!) We got a few flushes out in the open, but just couldn't manage to put any in the bag. Busted another wood cock, and a covey of about fifteen or so quail, but other than that, not much else exciting happened.

Today, found the bird at 908 grams. I fed him the usual to put him at 915 today, but it ended up getting a lot colder last night than they had predicted, so he burned too much. He was geeked out when we hit the field though, and he made some nice chases right off the bat. The number of slips at the dumpsite has been gradually decreasing each session (just like last year), so after only a couple of slips, I decided to head toward the back section, and see if the brush had cleared enough to hawk. It was still pretty stinkin thick, but that's where all the rabbits have headed to apparently. I kicked up 7 or 8 REALLY quickly as I walked through the woods, but the thick layer of honey suckle lining the ground provided a lot of escape routes for the bunnies. Continued on, and my goal was an open section tucked back in the back, that has some really short biars sprawled out through the center of it.

There is a big cedar posted up right in the middle of this section, and he went straight to it, as we were making our approach. He started looking HARD right down into the middle of it, and I started to get a little psyched. The cedar he was on, was where I caught my first squirrel last year, and I was thinking there may just be another one chillen inside. He stopped looking into it after awhile, so I started kicking the perimiter of the open section. I pretty much did circles the whole way around his cedar, getting tighter and tighter with each one I made. About half way in, a rabbit busted from my feet, and booked it straight for the tree line. He didn't even make it half way there, before CJ sucked him up. It was not a spectacular flight by any means, but it was in the wide open, so I got to see the whole thing! Trade off was perfect like always, and then the fun began. Hopped him off the lure like normal, but for some reason, he grabbed the fist on the lower portion of the glove. One foot landed fine, but the other one grabbed onto my wrist, and he sunk in DEEP! He latched down, and then proceeded to chow on his rabbit leg. Everytime he tore a piece from the leg, he squeezed harder, which SUCKED! Rotated the fist to try and get him to step up (which was good in theory), and he grabbed the leg in his mouth, and stepped back.....well....with one foot. The foot on my arm was "locked" (you all know what I'm talking about.....), and it took him four or five jerks, before it released. Well, that pretty much brought me to my knees, and I was bleeding pretty stinkin good, by the time he was hooded back up. Darn thing bled for like 30 freakin minutes!!!! Those jerks turned the punctures into long scrapes, and I now look like I attempted suicide or something. Pretty lame, but it is what it is.

SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, I had big plans to go slip ducks with Jonathan in the morning, but the bird won't be at weight till later in the day. I'm not sure if I will get the opportunity to fly in the afternoon (the boss (wife) has plans for us, but maybe we can do them in the morning instead....), but if not, then I will feed a little more tonight, and we will be spot on for Sunday (with 36 hours between feeds....). If that doesn't get him going balls out on ducks, then nothing will (other than a bag of course), so this weekends session(s) will tell a lot. Gary gave me the heads up on a perfect slip (that has been holding ducks regularly), so we will check that out this weekend as well. Fingers crossed for some goodness!

-D-
(PS I know!!! Sorry........the camera is on the charger as we speak, so the next post will have pictures, I promise!!!!!!!)

Little Better

So things went a little better yesterday.  I took the morning off as an apprentice falconer was coming up from Oklahoma City to buy some old telemetry equipment from me.  Daniel and Jonathan also took the day off to come and fly, so we were set to have quite the crew here.  

Daniel came up a little earlier than the rest to come along for a quick flight at ducks.  I've been back to the kite for a few days with my hybrid to try and get him on track as far as pitch is concerned.  Looks like the kiting was a good reminder for him.  We found a bunch of mixed ducks on what I've named the Bull pond (the rancher keeps about a dozen large bulls in this pasture when they are in between fulfilling their role in life).
I got Tulsa in the air and he instantly went over another pond the other way from our intended target.  Not such a bad thing as it turns out.  

He wasn't terribly high over the wrong water but as we made our way toward the Bull pond he realized that he was off track and came roaring back gaining pitch the whole way.  Just as we reached the pond edge he was coming up right behind us in perfect position.  We flushed dozens of Mallards, Gadwalls, and Ring-bills off the water and.......nothing.  

Several seconds past as I watch the fleeing ducks waiting for impact.  It was probably on 5 seconds or so but it felt like a minute or more.  Finally out of the corner of my eye I catch movement and see a hen Ring-bill cartwheeling down into the pasture.  The falcon throws a lazy wing over, a sure sign that the duck it down for the count, and lands gently on the duck.

Today he actually let the ducks get a little ways off the water before he really turned on the stoop.  Definitely an improvement over the past 3 or 4 flights.  Hopefully this will be our turning point.

I just looked over my notes and last year I caught my second duck on today's date.  So technically I'm one day ahead of where I was last year.  This is the start of year two of hunting with this bird and it's pretty obvious that he still has a lot to learn on his way to be great from just a barely mediocre game hawk.



Afterwards we met up with the others and did some bunny hawkin'.  Quite a few were flushed and a couple now have bald spots but in the end nothing was brought to bag.  I'm now all cut up by the thorns that made it above my brush pants and worn out.  Falconry season must be in full swing.