Sunday, November 25, 2012

NAFA Field Meet Day #4 (for us) Friday Nov. 23

Weight control had been difficult most of the week as the daily temperature rose into the 70s.  Warm birds don't burn their calories as much.  Also, I was housing them overnight in their boxes in the car.  Certainly it was cold, but not too very cold, as a fed up bird in a confined space also radiates heat into it's small enclosure, making warmth, and reducing calorie consumption.  I was determined on Friday that we would make a last, final strong push to increase our game take in Nebraska.  I researched online some possible places to try and hunt, and headed to bed with plans on getting an early start.  It was such an early start that Hit Girl was not even awake when I opened her box in the morning to check on her and weigh her.
With a little prodding she woke up, and immediately informed me she was hungry.  This girl is becoming increasingly more vocal . . . as Nina was, my very talkative hawk from a few years ago.  We met up at the weathering yard with a couple of local folks who approached me the day before.  Andy Mason and his father Steve had come out on Thursday to see the birds tied out in the weathering yard.  As I looked like a likely target walking by (had a bird on my fist) they inquired if they could ask me a few questions.  I never mind doing that . . . and after a brief chat, I invited them to go hunting with us on Friday.  Our first location was a Wildlife Management Area, which turned out to not have any game prospects to speak of.  After we pushed through a very thick, dried up pond of cattails without pushing out any bunnies (if they were there, they would have been in that spot) I decided to try someplace different.  Steve suggested a location closer to Kearney, so we relocated to check that out.    
The new location was not far from the place the lurchers were run, as well as where we saw the Gos fly.  As we moved into the spot, at first, it wasn't looking promising, but after awhile pushing the grass and whacking around a large downfall tree a bunny was flushed and made a quick exit towards a junk pile.  Andy and Rich and I followed and began to poke around and whack the junk pile . . . which popped the bunny out . . . and Hit Girl was overhead to take advantage of our efforts.  Andy was able to see a catch up close, which is what I had hoped.  He was the engaged party of our guests . . . . with perhaps those first flames of interest for falconry being lit.
Because she had already caught one bunny early in the week (and pretty much had a second one by effort, if not brought to the bag) I decided to crop Hit Girl up on this third rabbit and declare her day done.   She would spend the rest of the daylight hours weathering with a full crop.  I indicated to our local guests that we would take a 'coffee break' (I wanted to reward my early morning success with something hot from Caribou), and to meet back up around 11 at the weathering yard.  Rich and I then went to switch out birds, get that coffee, and some donuts from a local shop we had seen.  All sugared up, we returned to get Sassy's hawking party going.

Back at the meet hotel we met and invitations requested and granted for two other bunny whackers.  These two are experienced falconers who were not flying birds.  Donna Vorce is a Nebraska native, and her guest was an elder falconer, Bill MacBride from Pennsylvania.  Bringing along two experienced falconers can always be just a little intimidating.  They know what good falconry should look like.  When flying with such people you hope your bird performs well, and has been managed to catch game.  Management is what the game is all about!  These birds come to us with natural instincts to hunt and kill, but must be healthy, fit and at the correct weight to give a good effort.  Sassy is usually up to the task, but because of the warmth and her increased weight over the week had not given that good effort.  I had high hopes on this day to correct that, and for her to contribute to our game count for the week.

We caravaned back up north to the location we had hunted earlier in the week.  Connie Telford, to my immediate right, owns the land.  Her daughter, Jessica is on the end with her red cap.  Connie was able to go out with us earlier in the week and see Hit Girl fly, but on this day she was headed out to take care of her patients.  She is a home care nurse.  Jessica was able to stay with us, and we were welcomed to try and catch all the bunnies we could.  OK Sassy . . . No Excuses!  Let's get crackin!
She took my challenge seriously!  Before much more than a couple minutes had passed as we walked away from the back door (above) we kicked up a bunny.  Sassy was on it, giving a really nice flight down the hill and into the trees.  We all ran down to take care of business with Bunny #1, and with just a little treat, I put Sassy back up to keep going.  She needed more flight time.
Our second slip took a little longer to accomplish.  Our party of six moved around the property of thick grass, several brush piles, some collections of tumble weeds (both still attached and free-tumbling) as well as junk piles.  As we worked down the hill, among the trees, around, and then began the ascent, Bunny #2 was kicked up, and Sassy made short work of it as well.  Again, a small reward, and I decided we would try one more time.  I knew Sassy was good for the task . . . even though Bill teased me for being 'greedy'. 
Being greedy may have been a true assessment, but it did pay off.  As we returned up the hill and came close to the house again, a third rabbit was kicked up, and Sassy caught it in a fast flight.  I have never tripled, mostly because I don't like to push any of my hawking sites too hard, preferring to preserve the game there, as I return from year to year.  However, I was not going to be returning to this Nebraska farm, not for a long time at least, excepting that I could return in several years when the NAFA meet returns to Kearney.  Any heavy toll of bunnies today would not impact their numbers in years to come, rabbits being rabbits!  I ended Sassy's hunt, and cropped her up.
I think calling this cropped up is an exaggeration.  She was absolutely stuffed!  A very good reward for a very good effort.  She preserved my dignity, if not at least my luck, among these other experienced falconers.
Here was our hawking party for the day, excepting Rich who was taking the picture.  Donna is on the far left, with Bill to her left.  As we finished up the day, I made sure Andy had contact information from Donna to the Nebraska Falconry Club.  It was a very good way to finish up our hunting portion of the 2012 NAFA Meet in Kearney, Nebraska.


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