Friday, November 16, 2012


 This past Wednesday my family and I have had to say good bye to our old Boxer, Riley.  I got this dog my sophomore of college at Butler University when I was living in the Lamba Chi Alpha house.  She was the fraternity's house dog and mascot for the next couple of years.  After college she moved all around the country with me and made many a road trip.  She would quietly sleep in the back seat until I would stop for some rest.  Then I would get some sleep and she would sit up alert the whole time growling at anyone who would walk near my truck.  As the years went by Riley and I were joined by my wife Katie, and became Katie's first dog.  A few years later came the kids.  To them Riley was always there to be petted, hugged, tugged on, and, a on an occasion or two, the perfect pillow.

Riley was nearing 13 years old this year; old for a Boxer, who was the runt, and who had a heart murmur from birth.  She had gotten a lot slower over the past couple of years.  Tuesday night I came home from work and found her having a seizure in the back yard.  I brought her in and put her on her bed.  She eventually calmed down over the next few minutes and seemed to slip into a coma.  After consulting with a vet friend we decided to let her rest on her bed through the night.  The next morning, nothing had changed.  She could not respond to us and we made the decision with agreement from the vet that our time with Riley had come to an end.  My sidekick for all of my adult life, was quietly laid to rest.

 That evening my Hybrid was on weight, the weather was perfect, and ducks were on the pond.  I was still feeling down about the days events, but it wouldn't be fair to the falcon not to fly on a day like that day.
Slightly cross wind of the pond I cast her off.  Right away she looked good.  Quick wing beat and all business she headed out to the east.  At the edge of binocular range I saw her turn into the wind and start powering back.  Things were looking pretty good so I made my approach to back of the pond's dam wall.  I looked up to see my bird coming directly over the pond as a tiny silhouette against the yellowing sky.

Scrambling over the dam, I jumped the pond and off flew about 20 Gadwalls.  The falcon folded up instantly and began her stoop.  Fully tucked and looking good I foolishly though something great might just happen here on this down day.  She was coming hard but her lack of experience and confidence got the best of her and she pulled out of her stoop about 50 feet above the ducks.  This of course was more than the ducks could take and they turned back to the water, crashing into the assumed safety of the pond.

The falcon decided that she may not be comfortable hitting a duck in the air quite yet, but she sure wanted to eat one.  Again she stooped but this time went straight for a duck on the water.  Only instead of trying to grab the duck she just flat out hammered it straight down right in the middle of the pond.  Somehow she was strong enough to hang onto it and rowed herself and the duck to shore.  Odd way to catch her first duck.

I'm sure this will lead to stooping them on the water for a while, but every young falcon goes through that stage.  She did however get to eat a duck and now knows that they are food for the taking.   I'll have to wait a few days to find out.   I'm running the Route 66 Marathon this weekend so no flying until next week.


Death is a strange thing to a hunter.  It can be sad and can leave you with something missing from your life.  Change very little, and it can be celebrated, creating a memory of triumph.  Oddly enough you cherish the departed in both circumstances because of the happiness that each has brought you.

Riley will be missed but I have the great memories of her from the past 13 years, the death of this duck may just be the start of great memories to come with this falcon.....


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Long Way From Home

Duck season in our part of the state is now open and I had planned on holding off from starting my duck hawking til after Thanksgiving.   Things change however, and a friend of mine invited me along to go hawking and take out a land owner and his son.

I was reluctant at first but eventually gave in (got to at some point anyway).  Having only one flight under her belt without the kite and only being served twice, I was not expecting much.

We found a real nice small pond with 10 or so ducks on it, "here goes nothing," and she was on the wing.  The falcon made a small circle around the pond and me about 100' off the ground.  Her wing beat indicated that she was not really sure what was going on.  She kept on flying though, and eventually made a run out for the horizon.  After a few minutes her wing beat changed and she really started to climb.  Twice she started to come over and then turned and made another wide ring into the sky.  On the third time I decided to go ahead and flush with her wide.  A quick yell and the ducks were heading out.

The wide flush proved to be too much of an advantage for the ducks.  The falcon tried her hardest to close the gap and just as she did the ducks put into the next pond a 1/2 a mile or so down the way.  We could see her last minute stoop through our binoculars, then a pitch up, then off and away.  We followed her telemetry signal as she made her way north, then northwest, then west, then southwest, but she was out of binocular range.   Several times we thought about getting in the truck and heading her way.  Just as I was about to head toward the vehicle the signal started getting stronger and she was coming back.  Thirty seconds later I could see her humming along toward me ready to knock the lure out.  All in all, she was in there air for maybe 15 minutes before she came back.

This flight was not a loss in my book.  She learned to come over me if she wants a chance at catching a something, also to go even higher to have the angle, ducks do leave the water, and there is an easy way to still get fed if I just stay in the vicinity of that tall skinny guy.  Off to a good start, really too early in her training to expect anything more.