There is a late winter storm expected here in the Upper Midwest. Before it got going, I got going and took Ruby out at a recent location that I have been given permission to hunt. It is a good area with lots of cover for bunnies. Ruby's weight was a bit high today, which showed as she didn't keep a really close trail on me, and missed many opportunities that I flushed but she just wasn't close by. However, in the end she did shadow me, and I moved a bunny that she caught in very thick cover.
The clock is ticking, and the 2017 / 2018 season is about to come to a close. I will try to get her out as much as I can in the next few days before we end the fun.
Ruby is really starting to click with this whole falconry thing. She is following great and fly-offs don't happen as much anymore. I think she has started to figure it out that she needs to stay nearby me, as I'm the one kicking up the game. Most times when I do, she catches it. She is not the biggest bird I have ever flown, but apparently that doesn't matter. She is flying at about 1040 grams, and that is plenty big to bring the game to the bag. It is quite possible that "she" may be a "he". The weight on this bird is solidly in the "tweener" range. Either way, the hunting season is quickly coming to an end, and she has certainly done her part to put some chow into the freezer for the off season.
I really do wish the falconry season was longer at the end of it. March in Minnesota is still plenty cold, and there is snow on the ground, and more to come this weekend. My bird is hot, and it all comes to a stop within a couple days. I definitely plan to keep this bird through the summer molt and see what she can do next year.
The Minnesota Falconers had their major meet this weekend, but due to a work conflict (mostly that I worked Friday morning and have to return to work on Sunday afternoon), and also because I had some things I needed to get done around the house, I decided I could not join them across the state. However, after the work was done, I did get out for a quick hunt with Fox. Ruby very quickly put her opportunity bunny into the bag . . . and then Fox and I went and had a hot chocolate.
Over the weekend of February 3 & 4 I drove up and over to Wausau, Wisconsin to join the Wisconsin Falconers at their Winter Meet. I've not attended for several years, and this year I went ahead and dropped the $$ to bring along my bird, Ruby. She got lucky, and I managed to find and flush a bunny under her, which she caught. Game was apparently a little hard to find, and difficult to flush as all afternoon and evening there was a steady snowfall. The roads around Wausau were really crappy for driving. I did not have a room at the meet hotel, so had to venture out on those roads after the dinner, guest speaker and raffle to get to my sleeping location. I drove slowly, but there were many accidents on Saturday for others.
I started my journey with falconry in the Wisconsin Club. It was nice to see many of the people I met and first hawked with when I was new to the sport. I did join one of the large groups in the morning, which I have many fond memories of all those years ago, but decided to break away and hunt solo with Ruby because I did not trust how she would behave with a crowd. I drove around the area where my hotel was, and managed to find a small, abandoned field tucked next to a closed business. There were some rabbit tracks, and best of all, a fairly good sized but stompable brush pile. I believe the bunny that was caught ran from this pile, although I didn't actually see it. I did see Ruby respond, and followed her to where she caught it, just as it tried to escape down a hole. It was a very lucky catch.
The guest speaker was Lynn Oliphant, a falconer from Saskatoon, Canada, and he spoke about his training philosophy and method which he calls "The Four Week Window". It has been recently updated and reprinted. I did buy a copy of the book. The information he presented makes a whole heck of a lot of sense. I am entertaining possibly giving it a try, but with a very unlikely species, the kestrel. We'll see! I have access to the young, as there is a pair that breeds on the farm, so it would be easy to pull one at the appropriate time.
On my way home on Sunday I detoured off my route as I got into the Eau Clair area, and found a nice, thin slice of overgrown brush that had plenty of bunny sign. Falconry with some of the more spectacular birds, falcons and goshawks, sometimes, most of the times, requires finding wide open spaces, which are increasingly becoming difficult as the human population grows and spreads out and takes over the wild places. However, small little pockets can be found in cities, and this is where the bunnies take up residence. People in suburbia help this out too by cutting back the brush in their manicured lawns, and then tossing it out back in the abandoned lot, making more cover. They then wonder why they have rabbits in their yard. Trying to find these little pockets is a challenge, and sometimes also the thrill of falconry, for me. From a distance you spot a potential place, as you approach closer you drive around to see if there is someplace to park your car and not be noticed, followed by slipping in to hunt, and again, hope no one sees or cares.
While scouting the spot before getting Ruby out I did kick up a rabbit which ran out in the open. Of course, after I got her ready and brought her to the field, all the rabbits that were moved stuck pretty close to cover. Also, after a few minutes at this location I attracted the attention, that is Ruby did, of the resident red tail, confirming it is a good spot, and claimed by a wild pair of hawks. We worked the area for about a half hour, with her diving a couple times, but had steadily made our way closer to a line of houses nearby which I didn't want to go near, so I called her down and called it a day. With more time, and maybe one or more brush beaters, I probably would have been able to add to my Wisconsin take, but I still had almost two hours of driving to go and wanted to get home.
It was a nice weekend, and I still have a couple days left on my permits, so maybe I will see if I can add one more banny to her Wisconsin take.
Falconry! Or more appropriately for me, Hawking! It is a passion, and a way of life. I happily pursue this sport, with the loving assistance of my husband. Come along with me for our adventures with the birds. Primarily we actively pursue it in the colder months . . . the rest of the time I try to make this blog as interesting as possible. Come let me share my stories, and feel free to contact me. I always enjoy talking about my obsession with this sport.