Whoop whoop! Let the bloggin begin! Here is what's been going on this season in a nut shell. Trapped a new male RT about a month ago (31 days to be exact), and he weighed in at 1020. He has a pleasant temperment, and ended up being a pretty quick train. We flew free for the first time on day 11, and we put bunny number 1 in the bag on day 15. He was at 930 grams at that point, and was def still too heavy. We are now flying between 890 and 900 grams, and have yet to put a second rabbit in the bag (LAME i know! We have caught all sorts of misc nonsense, but just havn't managed to put number two in the bag...). All of it is my fault though, as far as the head count is concerned....I just havn't been giving the bird the easy slips an inexperienced bird needs. It has been quite a bit warmer this year, than it was last year, and the cover has stayed nice and thick. In fact, temps are freakin hot, bugs are biting, and the poison ivy is oozing....not the best conditions, for diving into head high brush (can you tell my motivation has been waning!?!?!?!)!!! I guess I was spoiled with last year's weather/conditions, b/c rabbits were not too hard to come by.....I'm havin a hell of a time getting decent slips this year!!! All the fields are PACKED with rabbits...I know this for a fact....I just can't seem to move them when the bird is in position.
SOOOOO, that's where we stood. I had gotten to work thirty minutes early yesterday, and was staring at the clock, as the hands clicked to four thirty. Out of my seat, and down to the parking garge like a freakin track star...the rush was on, and it was time to go hawkin! A session the day before had been out of the question , so I cropped him up nice the day before that. We were 36 hours in, sitting right where I wanted him (890 grams). He was keyed in when i stuck him in the GH that afternoon, and I was expecting near perfection out of him, as I merged onto the high way. I hate traffic...it's pretty much just a big long line, and there is nothing worse than a line. The highways were navigated with ease yesterday though....everyone knew to get out of my way....I had a score to settle with some local cottontails!
Pulled into the parking spot for the southern end of the field, and I remember thinking how perfect the day was....sun was shining, temps where cool (in comparison to what they have been), and the wind was barely blowing. Entering the field from this parking spot, involves walking along the mowed edge of the main road, and then crossing through a down spot of the fence. Once through the fence, you immediately start encountering briars, so I unhooded him as soon as I got there, and I waited a moment for him to center himself. Rouse and poop later, he is pumping into the the air.....and heading down the road at full speed???? I walk back onto the mowed area, scan the poles that run along the road (he has a thing for poles....), but don't see him. I start heading that way, and in the process of walking along the fence, kick TWO rabbits! That's more than I have been getting most entire sessions, and we hadn't even started yet! What a waste! After walking about ten yards or so, he comes flying in, and lands in the tree above me. Not sure what that was, but he seemed to be over it now, so I start kicking through the first group of briars. The bird takes a perch in one of the higher trees, and while he was making that adjustment, I kick the first "official" rabbit up...but he doesn't see it. Still...already a slip....not to bad. Continue on, and I discover all sorts of briar patchs that I didn't know about. I kick around through a portion of sumac filled briars, and get a slip about half way through it. The bird comes pumping out of the tree, and reachs the edge of the briars right as the rabbit is leaving cover. The rabbit sees the hawk coming in hot, and changes his mind. He starts heading right back toward me, and I get a front row view of a pretty sweet little 10 foot wing over. He crashs to the ground, but doesn't manage to get a foot on the rabbit. Call him to the fist for a tid bit, and then he takes a perch in a huge dead tree.
It was def the tallest thing around, and he had a good view of everything going on. I start kicking around again, and reach a patch of those spindly bushes with the little red berries.....not sure what they are, but they tend to hold rabbits. This time was no exception, and I kick a rabbit, that heads straight for a big patch of briars. The bird comes out hot, but pulls off about half way through, and lands in a short tree near me. I keep kicking around, and get about fifty yards from him, when he decides to perch up. He decided on his dead tree again, which put him about a 100 or so yards from me. He was way up there though, so I knew he was still in a good position. Tried to get a reflush, but there were a lot of holes for the rabbit to bail into, so I quickly moved on. Noticed a really long stretch of briars running parallel with the tree line, and I decide to push through those, and see if anyone was home. The dead tree that the bird was in sits right on the tree line also, so I was pretty much straight down from the bird a good ways, pushing away from him. All of a sudden, I hear the jingle of bells coming from behind me, and I look up, to see him pumping HARD straight past me along the briars I was kicking through. I hadn't seen the rabbit, but he was probably creeping little by little in front of me. Bird saw it though, and crashes into the brush about 20 yards on down, and SQUEEL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Heck ya! Run over there, and put squeeze on the bunny, and then I moved them out into the open. It has been a LONG time since we caught that first rabbit, so I let him crop up. He got the head and both front legs, before we had a PERFECT trade off to the lure, for another front leg. Hopped him to the fist for a hind leg after that, and he sat there calmly the whole time. He had a HUGE crop when he finished up, which had him sitting nice and happy, for our first freeze of the year last night.
Pretty psyched about todays session. We got multiple slips in a very short amount of time (about 20 minutes), and that's what we needed....and it was a long flight! If I could change anything, it would have been nice to have seen the rabbit, and given the game call. He is picking the call up quick enough as it is though, so it's just a matter or time before it's instant. The brush has been getting thinner and thinner over the last three or four days, and today was just perfect. I'm thinking this marks the beginning of better hawking condtions. The brush was how I remembered it being last season, so I'm thinking we are about to be on our way! Got back to the car, and he weighed 1008 grams....so he got about 120 grams.
No hawking today, but I'm hoping for a great session on Saturday. If we can score a rabbit then (making it two hunts in a row), I'm thinking we will be golden after that. Fingers crossed!