Went to one of my "oldie but goodie" fields on Wednesday. I call it the "Lowes" field, and it has a lot of Johnson grass in it. It doesn't REALLY start poppin until later on in the year (at least that's what I'm assuming...I hawked it for the first time last year on Thanksgiving day, so it's another one of my "new" fields that I don't have early season experience with....), and because of this, I hadn't flown it yet this year, and I was pretty psyched to see how the conditions were going to be. Construction had been done near the east side of the field, so I had high hopes that it had concentrated the bunnies into a smaller area. Parked at my normal spot, and the woods were still THICK! That is where we get the majority of our slips, but I wasn't ready to dive into something like that yet, so we headed over to the east side, where it's more open, to check and see how the johnson grass was looking. Still super high, but I kicked a rabbit within a minute or two of getting there, so I decided to keep at it. CJ crashed for it HARD....something he has been reluctant to do recently, so I hopped him up for a tid bit reward, and we continued on.....he was sitting at 910 grams like normal, and I was liking his intensity.
Now, directly south of the johnson grass section, there is a peninsula of land, that runs between the parking lot, and the highway......which dead ends into more parking lots (invision a flag and flag pole....the "field" would be the flag, and then the "peninsula" jutting out, would be the flag pole). This portion of the field is not tall. Not sure why, but the grass is short, and it is full of little head height trees scattered everywhere. For some reason, I have never kicked through this section....I guess I just wasn't confident enough last year to hawk in more "visible" (to the public) areas, or maybe it was just that I had a routine in this field that would consistantly give slips, and I never deviated....whatever it was....I hadn't ever kicked around in it. BUT, part of that peninsula was where the construction was, and the cover was short, so I decided to give it a shot. Running the length of the bottom of the "flag" is a string of T-poles that (lets say it was a wall), would seperate the field, from the peninsula. These are pretty much the only perchs for the "peninsula" until you get to the very tip of it, so this is where Cleveland Jr. headed up to. Long story short, but there were TONS of rabbits in there!!!!! What's cool, is that so far this year (with the heavy cover), I usually only see the rabbit for about two seconds before it disappears, and then I'm waiting for the squeel. Since this is so low....I could see the rabbits running for a LONG time, which made for some great flights.....especially since he had to come pumping from those poles everytime, which translated into a ton of 100+ yard flights. We got probably eight or nine of these long slips, and this is when the red flags started popping up. The first couple of flights back to the pole were fine. Pumped up there no problem, and he was ready to go. After that though, it seemed like he started struggling more and more everytime to get back up there, and he started checking off of rabbits the more tired he got. Makes sense....I brought him pretty low to get him started, and I guess I just stripped more muscle off of him, than I had realized. Suffice to say, by the time we finished hawkin, he was breathing hard, and had gotten a really good work out. He has been eating a lot of rabbit lately (about 70 grams will put him at weight the next day), but since he caught that pig the other day, I had also brought some of that along. I decided that after that work out, he needed to get some richness in him, so I fed him about 85 grams of pigeon, and we called it a day.
Yesterday found him sitting at 920 grams (which means he got a REALLY good work out, for him to burn that much pigeon between sessions), and he seemed ready to go! I don't like hitting the same field back to back....esp now that i have so many, but we kicked up SOOOO many rabbits on Wed, I just couldn't resist. Knew the woods were thick this time, so i parked over by the johnson grass portion of the field, and we started in where we got the first slip the day before. He looked like a completely different bird.....pumping hard and fast to every perch he was heading to, and the slightest movement had him teed up, and doing balks, like he was about to go for anything. Went in search for our little friend, and we found him pretty quickly. He bailed under a clump of trees, and CJ took a perch up on top of them. I went inside, but just couldn't seem to get a reflush, so I abandoned that bunny, and started heading toward the peninsula. I got about 10 yard from the tree or so, and I guess the rabbit bailed. CJ took off in the other direction, and crashed to the ground HARD! I didn't hear a squeel, so I started back in that direcion, but couldn't find him anywhere. Looked around for about five minutes, and then headed toward the car for the receiver. I'm thinking he was on the ground eating a rat or something, and was in a hurry so that MAYBE I could find him, before he ate the whole thing. I'm making a lot of noise as I'm heading toward the car, and I guess I just didn't hear his bells as he flew back off the ground. Got to the car, and glanced up at the T-pole. There he was, just chillen up top, staring into the peninsula. Good times, so I locked back up the car, and headed into the peninsula. The pole he was chillen on was right on the edge of the field, so as soon as I started kicking around, I was pretty much directly under him. I probably hit brush for about 3 or 4 minutes, when directly next to me I hear a thud that had to have cracked the surface of the earth. Didn't hear bells or anything.....just a crash about a foot behind me. I LITERALLY, out loud, said "oh $hit" and jumped in the air....it startled me that much. I turn around to see the bird mantling on the ground, and I see a rabbit leg sticking out from under him.....no squeel or anything. So I walk to the front side of the bird to help him with his bunny, but I was not needed in the least bit. The rabbit was completely dead....blood coming out of it's nose and eyes, and it's mouth was COMPLETELY stuffed full of dirt. He had hit the head with both feet, and just drilled it into the ground. Dead on impact!!!!! Now THAT is what I'm talkin about! Finally...we are getting some aggression out of this little guy. Trade off was perfect like always, but then the nonsense began.
His first rabbit, was caught at 930 grams, and he didn't want to have anything to do with finishing up his meal on the fist. What I do, is I let him get a little off the rabbit, trade him to his lure, and then hop him to the fist for the remainder of his meal. That first bunny, he acted like a turd, and all he wanted to do was grab the leg, try and fly, and then hang upside down. Since his weight was adjusted, we have had pretty good manners on the fist....not the best (which is my fault completely...his first rabbit was caught in the middle of some over head height briars, and I had to carry them out into the open....took me a while to get out of that tangled mess, and as a result I made a REALLY bad first impression with this bird...it is what it is, and I have learned a valuable lesson because of it......). Anyways, manners have been pretty decent all things considered since then, but not today. 920 grams had him doing that same nonsense again, which was pretty darn irritating. My new target is going to be 915 grams....hopefully, we will get the good flying like we had yesterday, but get those fist manners back.....we shall see. Either way though, I won't know for a little bit. Can't fly today (Friday), so I fed him up really good, and we won't be hawkin again till Saturday morning. I will have him at 915/920 grams for our session, but with the duration of time between feeds, I could probably have him up to 960, and he would still have good manners....will have to have him at that weight for two or three days, before we will know anything for sure. Sooooo, still dialing in his weight apparently. I should be past this point by now, but I'm not.....would have been if temperatures never changed, but of course they do, and I'm having to re-figure stuff out. Over all though, I liked yesterday's session. He had a new intensity, he finally came off the bench and performed well from the start, and he was hitting HARD. Hopefully, we can keep it up. Saturday gives more time for hawking, so the day will be kicked off with duck slips!!!!! Fingers crossed everybody!