I am a woman falconer, enjoying the Great Outdoors with a hawk on my fist.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
The Upper Midwest was hammered with snow on the weekend of December 10th and 11th. I decided to try my one close-by field that we've been successful at catching the only rabbit that has gone into the bag with this bird. The snow was beyond belief in how deep and difficult it was to work the field. Most of the time I was up to my knees, but occasionally you'd find yourself up to your thighs or hips, as this field is an old tree nursery, so there are holes where trees previously were growing. With the snow, you don't see the holes, until you are in them, but at least the deep snow cushions the fall. It is now an abandoned field, perfect for bunnies to inhabit . . . and inhabit they do! There was sign of rabbits all over, and a few were spotted . . . but it was incredibly hard work to flush them. Richard took a picture of Bailey perched atop one of the many pine trees still growing in the field. I should have taken a picture of the snow-covered trees, but didn't realize a camera was along.
Upon returning home and talking with one of my hawking friends who frequently travels to Alaska for work, she indicated the falconers there utilize snow shoes. This prompted an Internet search, and I think very soon I will purchase a pair. I might not be able to stomp brush as well in them, but at least, hopefully, I'll be able to walk the field with a lot less effort.
With the snow dumping has also come some sub-zero temperatures. I have been allowing Bailey's weight to maintain a little higher. I think I'm guilty of allowing my sentiment for the animal to cloud my falconry wisdom . . . as he tells me he's starving, but field performance proves otherwise. At the end of our time in this field I had herded a rabbit towards the front of the field. I was just about to give up and go home, when I exited the tree line, having already tossed Bailey towards the large tree at the end of the field, to notice the bunny I had been chasing was sitting in very short cover between myself and the hawk. It was a perfect set-up, for any other bird. I gave the game call, and Bailey whipped his attention towards me, as I ran towards the hiding rabbit to flush it. It did flush, and ran out into the open field towards the trees . . . and my bird just sat in his tree and ignored it!! This is sure indication that the 890 grams I've been allowing him is just too fat for true response. I had determined his flight weight earlier in the year to be 865, and 865 or below is where he needs to be. Since that time, I have been managing his weight a little closer, and hope on Monday the 19th to try again, somewhere. My long work weekends just really cut into my hawking!!
Above is a wild Coopers hawk spotted sunning itself in one of the trees in our yard. I spotted it outside my window where our computers are set up. We watched as it watched the world around it, to include several juncos foraging for food around the base of the tree where it was sitting. If you look closely, you can see this bird already has a crop on it (bulge at the neck) so was not interested in hunting . . . only interested in catching some rays. It is the unseen Coops that is the dangerous one. Those sitting out in the open usually are not hungry or hunting.
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.