Saturday, December 10, 2011
So here is a long over due update on the prairie. Kiting was our main goal up until this last weekend. I got her to the point where she was going a thousand plus feet to the kite, but realized pretty quickly, that she didn't really have any focus on me. We were pretty inconsistent on the kite there for a while.....she would go up a couple days in a row, then take off chasing black birds.....another perfect day to the kite, then back to chasing birds. There were a few days where she actually connected with the black birds too, and as a result, stayed out over night a few times....it definitely took a few years off of my life by the way :-). I had to bring that focus in on me, so I brought her pitch down quite a bit, and started tossing her bags. I failed pretty miserably at this to begin with, and it took tossing out a pigeon on a line to get her looking down, which I pulled back in quickly, and tossed her a homer. Once we got the "game call=birds flying" concept down, I slowly started working her pitch back up on the kite, and tossed her some baggie homers periodically, to keep her keyed in on me. I am the luckiest guy in the world also, in that I have quite a few buddies that are out there flying long wings as well, and I was fortunate enough to be able to mix some good bagged ducks in there too (which I think were pretty clutch....).
So that's sorta where we stood last week. Duck season had closed for a few weeks around here, so I used that time to get her pitch back up nice and high, and ended up pushing her weight up a tiny bit too in the process (we had been flying between 685 and 700 grams, but we were now flying between 700 and 710 grams......). The weather decided to stop being retarded, and I was able to send her up a thousand plus feet five days in a row (which was a record....I think the most I had been able to pull off by that point was one time, when I got three kite days in a row....). Her focus was perfect, her behavior was spot on, and she was flying super strong (AND staying in super tight!). I started to get really confident that we had had a "light bulb" moment, and I started relaxing and enjoying myself a lot more. I was thinking we may be over this black bird chasing deal, and all I had eyes for, was December 10th.......the day duck season re-opened back up!
So mid week rolled around, and I found myself back out in the kite field. She was down to 697 grams (which was slightly lower than we had been flying recently), and she was about ready to tear the car apart, to get out and fly! The kite was hanging up in the air nice and high, the wind was only blowing ten or so out of the north, and the bird took off climbing to the bait at record speed. She kept in super tight while circling up to the kite, and had made it to just barely below the bait. At that moment, a group of ten or so black birds decided it would be wise to fly DIRECTLY under the kite, and apparently, it was just too much for her. She tucked into her mummy stoop, and came down and smashed one out of the group, set her wings instantly (since she caught it pretty high off the ground), and glided over to a tree. A red tail came cruising in to try and rob her, and the next thing I know, I'm was watching her heading off for the hills. I jumped in the car, and started chasing her down, and I finally got to the point where I was getting a good signal, on near and narrow. There was a turn off going to a huge open field about 30 yards down from me, so I hopped back in the car with plans of going there to twist the lure, when guess what? Yep............car wouldn't start! ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME!!!!!! I call my buddy to come give me a jump, but by the time he got there, it was well past dark. She stayed out over night, and I ended up getting her back at sunrise the next day. Ryan was coming to town that afternoon, and since I wanted to fly her with him there (ya know, let him watch her fly, and maybe get some tips on what I should be working on....), I ended up only giving her a little bit of food when I called her down. She must have gotten cold during the night, because even though I had fed her to put her exactly at weight for our flight that evening, she ended up burning forty or so grams during the day, and was all the way down to 676 grams (the lowest she had ever been.....), when I went to pick her up that afternoon. I had no idea how she was going to act, but we put the kite in the air, and she took off chasing black birds :-). Luckily she didn't score that time, but as you can imaging, my new found confidence was all shot to heck.
We had poor flying conditions the next day, so I fed her on the lure at home, and re-opening day of duck season found us sitting with two pretty darn bad sessions in a row under our belts. I was nervous, had no idea what she was going to do, and to top it off, it was going to be the first day without the kite (and she was at 708 grams....usually, I like to have them a little bit hungrier for the first hunt....). Would she fly around daisy clipping? Would she just blast off the fist to go chase some black birds? I literally had no idea! Brand new batteries in the transmitter, new batteries in the receiver, a "good luck" from the wife, and out the door I went. I met up with a good buddy of mine, who had generously offered to take me around to some of his spots to look for that "perfect" slip, and to be honest, I wasn't my usual talkative self :-). I was about to pee my pants I was so nervous, and all I could think about was "please don't fly off!" To be honest, I'm not really even sure that I wanted to find a slip! By that point, I was thinking maybe we needed some more work on the kite, and maybe cutting her loose without anything in the sky to keep her focus was just a really stinkin bad idea. I casually had mentioned a few times "ah, no worries..........if we don't find a slip, we can always just stick the kite in the air," but Mark was on a mission :-). Next thing I know, we are glassing a kill me pond with a single drake hoodie on it, and he is looking at me saying "it doesn't get much more perfect than that!" What could I do? The slip was right there, the bird was in the car, Mark took the time to come help me out..........I had to take it!
So I grabbed the bird with shaky hands right, beeped her up, we hopped the fence, and I found myself in the middle of a field, striking the braces on her hood. Her head went up instantly looking for the kite, and you could tell she was a bit confused. Looked around, looked back up.....looked around again, then looked back up......She started raising her tail to mute, and I start thinking "$hit, $hit, $HIT!!!!!" Off she goes, and I am staring in disbelief, when she starts to turn, and come back over head :-). She just started climbing! Like a wave, the tension just melted off of me, and I darn near start doing the happy dance right there in the middle of the field. I was vibrating with excitement, and I kept looking over at Mark, and he just kept shaking his head, giving me the "hold your darn horses" look! When she hit about 200 hundred feet or so, her wing beat sped up, she sat back on her tail, and just started climbing. She seemed to be getting after it now, and that was when I looked at Mark................and I got the nod!!!!!
Now I'm not one to talk about myself, and surely anyone who knows me would say I'm probably not the most athletic of persons, but I kid you not when I say I ran over that dam wall at well over a thousand miles per hour.....I would have put the whole darn USA track team to shame, and I wasn't even in my sneakers :-)!!!!! Somehow though, Mark was able to keep up with my very impressive speed, and we both crested the top yelling "ho" at about the same time. "HO HO HO..................HO?" I'm looking around frantically, and I see nothing! That tension that I had said went away......yeah....it was back :-). Where the heck did that duck go?!?!?!?!?!? My hand was on it's way to the hawking bag about as fast as my legs brought me to that pond, when all of a sudden, from the bank DIRECTLY below my feet, the duck busts!!!! My head snaps back like a yo yo, and I see my little girl haulin @$$! I flip my eyes back to the duck, and i'm screamin "make it to land, make it to land!!!!" in my mind. As you can see, the fates were smiling on us that day, and the hoodie cleared the water by about 10 or 15 yards, before my little girl brought the hammer down! She did a nice wing over, and quickly secured the duck, before it had a chance to scramble back to the water. The only thing that I could mange to fumble out of my mouth was "I can't believe that just happened.". Sitting here thinking back on it......I still can't believe it happened :-)! First duck flight, first score! Whoop Whoop! That was fun as heck from a nothing pitch...........I can't wait to see how big my smile gets, when she comes hauling out of the heavens!!!! Good times my friends.....good times!