I am a woman falconer, enjoying the Great Outdoors with a hawk on my fist.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Today my newest hunting companion proved that he has what it takes to be a successful falconry bird. This morning, about 10:15 AM in a brushy field not too far from where I am living, he caught his first rabbit while under my care. This "enters" him to rabbits. Chasing rabbits may have been something familiar to him from his previous wild life, or he may have simply been going after something that he recognizes as potential food because the opportunity presented itself. Either way, bunny #1 is in the bag today.
I've been flying him mostly in the late afternoons. I was planning to do that yesterday, but late in the day while returning from doing some errands, I noticed a juvie RT sitting on a pole very close to the house. The dilemma was to either gear up, and try to find someplace to hunt with the dark coming quick, or go chase that juvie, and give my bird a little snack, and take him hunting in the morning, when I had a lot more time to find a better hunting spot. I chose to chase the juvie . . . . which turned out to be a bust, as it was gone when I returned. Of course, I saw it again this morning, but I was now busy going about the other activity.
I'm in new territory, so I have to find new spots to hunt. With time, I should be able to find many places that I can rotate, so as not to place too hard an impact on the bunny population in one spot. However this does require driving around sometimes, looking. I did just that this AM.
A couple towns down the major County Hwy that I live on, I found just such a spot. It is on the edges of a village, and appears to be an old tree nursery. In fact, I had to walk carefully, because there were lots of big holes left where trees had been dug up in years gone by. The trees now are all very large, and look as if they are in the spot they are in for good. It is brushy and overgrown, and appears abandoned. Some short distance behind it all there is also the remains of a greenhouse frame, but I never made it that far.
As I was getting my gear on, and putting telemetry on the bird, I saw someone drive by slowly and eye me. They drove by again a short time later, eying me again. I had parked across the street in what appeared to be a fairly abandoned ball park. I was concerned while there that I might have the local law show up and question my behavior. Apparently it is also pheasant season, and there were some cars lined up along the road down the way working some open fields. The place I was at had no signs saying to keep out, looked abandoned, so as far as I'm concerned, is open for walking and 'exercising my bird'. Thankfully, no one came to challenge me.
Bailey took a perch as we entered the field, and moved along with some encouragement following me as I moved. After about 5 minutes in the field I did flush a bunny, and he did react to it, but crashed down too late. Well, at least he did respond to the rabbit, which is a good sign. It was one of the unknowns about my bird . . . would he chase bunnies? Well, the answer was Yes!
I worked down the field, then followed him over to a small island of trees across a harvested field. Finding nothing over there I brought him back over to the place I was before. We then moved to the other side of a line of coniferous trees. As I cleared the hedge I threw Bailey off, and he wheeled around and flew to the front of the field, landing in a very large tree. OK . . . good location! From there he could see the action. I then worked my way back to the front of the field. Just as I was about to the front I must have flushed another bunny, which I neither saw nor heard. Bailey did! He took off from his perch, pumped his wings fast to get some speed, then did a wing over and crashed into the grass. The effort was rewarded by the cries of my first bunny back up in the Midwest. I raced over as fast as my stubby legs could get me there, hoping he had a good grip and would not lose his prize. He clearly had control of the situation when I got there.
This being his first bunny caught as a falconry bird, I wanted to reward his efforts. I dispatched the bunny, secured his leash to me, then opened it up and let him enjoy the fresh, warm innards. I then allowed him to consume a far greater meal than I normally would give him. As he stuffed himself I cut away and removed portions, to make the meal just that much less without his noticing. Even still, afterwards weighing him, he was 160 grams heavier. A normal healthy meal for this guy is about 90 to 100 grams, so it was a generous meal.
Once I had allowed him to eat everything that I left on the ground for him . . . it being important that he not see me as a competitor for his food, and seeming to him that he ate the whole rabbit, though portions of it had been snuck into my game bag, I had him jump up to my fist for another small treat, then exited the field. He let me hood him without any problem.
When I got him home I put him up his tall perch so he could settle down after the hunt, do a little preening, and digest. His tail was all jammed against the ground while he ate, so needed some re-zipping. I also sprayed his feet to get rid of the blood. Sorry, no pictures with the first bunny. Rich, my primary 'dog' and photographer is at work today, and what was left is not much to look at! Above he has his wings out, drying, though mostly I had just sprayed his feet and his tail. Even now as I watch him through the window, he is relaxing, putting over his crop, and occasionally working through some of his feathers, putting them back in order.
Bunny #1 in the bag!
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.