and I must say, this was a season I will never forget!!!! I had a blast with my first long wing, and though I have been more of a pet keeper over the last couple of months than a real falconer, I have still managed to see some pretty darn nice flights. Not that it matters in the scheme of things, but we managed to put 26 ducks in the bag this season, and I still feel like I'm JUST now starting to get the hang of this whole duck hawking deal. I still have a lot to learn of course, but just like after the first season I hawked rabbits, I have a game plan now for next year, and I hope to be able to give my birds the slips they deserve from the start, as opposed to part way through the season (like I did this year....). I have learned so much about flying this season, and my biggest improvement I would say, would have to be in the telemetry department. My little girl took me on some epic chases, and I feel pretty confident in my abilities to track down lost birds now. If my little sweet heart doesn't turn into a fire breathing dragon as her weight goes up, I plan of keeping her through the moult (first bird ever...), and I'm excited to see how she does next season. I'm also planning on trapping another bird come spring time, and chances are, it will be another prairie. That being said, once I start seeing all the passage red shoulders flying around this spring, I may not be able to contain myself :-). We shall see how it goes though, and I'm excited to see what next season holds for me!!!!
Alright, enough with all that :-).....time for the last hawking story of the season! Though it was 61 degrees, and the bird was a good ounce or so heavy, it was the last day of duck season, so we had to give it a shot! I gave my good buddy Mark a ring, and as luck would have it, he was down for a hawking session! Good times of course, were on the agenda for the day, and I thought it was pretty fitting that we would be ending the season together, since Mark is who helped us catch our first duck. I was itching for her to put on a good show, but having a week or so down time (at least) between flights recently, hasn't been too good on her pitch. I was hoping we could squeeze at least 700 out of her that afternoon, but it wasn't in the cards for us that day.....
I rolled up to Marks around 5:15 or so, and it wasn't long, before we were driving around checking ponds. Since I had gotten out of work around four that day, I had already driven around for an hour before hand (and had located a couple slips), but since the wind was calming down with every passing minute, neither of us had any real sense of urgency, so we went to see if we could find a "better" slip in the mean time. As luck would have it, we found a nice group of ducks floating around a pretty small sized pond, and we decided that would be the slip to close out the season. I drove a little ways cross wind of the pond and let her go, while Mark drove the Subi down to the base of the pond. The game plan was for me to slowly walk that direction while she climbed, and when she hit that money zone, I would yell to Mark, and he would run over the dam wall for the flush. She took her wide circle like she normally does (going a little bit down wind), and then started her climb, heading back toward the pond into the wind. She was looking really nice up there, and seemed to be pretty darn focused considering her weight. She passed over the pond still pumping strong, and continued her climb, with her nose pointed directly into the wind. I started to get pretty darn excited, because we had the makings of a REALLY nice flight, and I was thinking that my originally desired 700 foot pitch was going to just get blown out of the water. I was soaking it all in of course, because I knew I wasn't going to see this beautiful site again for a cool minutes, and had one of those cheesy grins on my face, as I watched my little girl climbing. I got so wrapped up in watching her, that I didn't even notice that I was getting close to the pond, and the ducks could now see me :-). All of a sudden, I hear an explosion of wings, and I'm thinking "CRAP," since she was only five hundred or so at that point. I flip my eyes back to the prairie, and was a little confused to see that she wasn't stooping yet, and was still pumping strong........what that should have told me though, was that she had learned something over the last couple months :-). I switched my gaze back to the ducks, and after they cleared the edge of the pond, I switched my gaze back to the bird.....THAT is when she started her stoop! Like I said, she wasn't too high, so it didn't take long at all ,before she made it to the ducks, and thumped a drake ring neck to the ground with ease! Hero shots were taken, a good sized crop was eatin, and back to the car we went.
In the scheme of things, I could have been pretty disappointed with that flight.......she was not that high, and I really wanted to see some magic on that last flight......BUT....her behaviors were spot on, she waited out those ducks before starting her stoop, and I was in the company of a good buddy, so all and all, i'm pretty pleased with how we wrapped up the season. The first couple of pictures are from this flight, and the last one is one that I took earlier this season. I think it turned out pretty stinking well (for a cell phone picture), and is my favorite one I took or her this season! In case I don't get around to making any posts during the summer, I hope everyone's birds moult quickly, good times are spent with the families, and I look forward to talkin at you all again come fall time. Be well my friends!