Thursday, November 28, 2013

What Am I Thankful For?

Today is Thanksgiving.  It is a day which means many things to many people here in the United States, but mostly a time to come together with your family, friends and loved ones and to celebrate the abundance in our lives.  Rich and I are both off today from work, for which I am thankful we both have meaningful employment, and gathered with his family to feast.  I brought a sweet potato casserole which I made this morning from fresh sweet potatoes to add to the other traditional fare.  The food was delicious, and the company always appreciated.  I am thankful that my life path brought me to inclusion in a loving family.  I am fortunate in the second half of my life to have found Rich, and to be accepted into his clan.  I am thankful for my wonderful husband, who is the best companion I could have wished for.  I am thankful that despite the political rancor that is present in our country today, we still live in a peaceful and plentiful society, where for the most part we can go about our daily activities in safety, and freedom.

I contacted my sisters today to wish them well on this day when we express our gratitude.  My own family of birth is far away, and my beloved mother is gone now, yet when I saw this picture below and selected it to post, I see my mother's face in my own.  I miss you mom!  I look now as she did when I was in high school.
After we all pushed away from our plates, and some people began moving upstairs to catch some football, Rich and I slipped away for a little hawking.  Sassy was quite ready to go, and we were not far from one of the places I like to hunt, but which I had not visited this year yet.  Our time in the woods was brief, with Sassy catching but losing one squirrel as it crashed to the ground through some tree branches, but then pursuing a different one a few minutes later, and bringing that one to the bag.  This is #7 head of game for the year.  We've not been pushing as hard this year, as last year, but still having a good time.  I am thankful for being able to work with such a wonderful game hawk, and that this activity is legal in our country.
It was a relatively warm day, compared to what we have had recently.  I probably could have even flown Wasp, except he was just too heavy to fly today.  I fed Sassy up on what was in my pocket, and let her have the warm, tasty parts from her squirrel.  We then returned to the family gathering . . . for pie.

It is a good holiday, to stop and take time to reflect on the positives in our lives.  I truly have abundance, which I recognize, and always acknowledge a deep appreciation for.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Very Cold

The last couple of weeks we've had a bit of an arctic blast descend over us from out of Canada.  I guess we can count ourselves lucky, in that we didn't get the blanket of snow that a lot of the states down South got (New Mexico, Colorado, Texas).  It sounds like the NAFA meet got a lot of snow to start things off.  We didn't plan to attend, so I'm just hearing about the hawking adventures on Facebook through my friends who did go.  I have tried to get out a couple times, but it has been challenging, as it has been single digits, with WIND.  Brrrrrrr.

On Tuesday, November 26 we did take my new friend Janelle out to tromp through some woods with Sassy.  Janelle grew up just outside of Rochester, and knows lots of people with land.  We were hunting in a wood lot owned by one of her neighbors.  Inside the wood lot it was tolerable, once you got moving and got warmed up.  Regardless of the multiple layers of clothing I was wearing, there was a substantial wind, especially felt outside of the wood lot, so we did not stay out in the open much.  This temperature range is just about almost out of Sassy's tolerance level.  However, she hadn't been flown for several days, and was game to try.
We looped around the lot, and made our way across the creek that winds through it, and were making our way up the hill when Rich flushed a bunny.  Sassy was all over it.  He did catch it on his GoPro, and I may post a video, but will not show the entire clip of the action, as bunny is crying quite a bit before I could get there. 

I'm wanting to limit posting some of the coverage we capture, as I don't want to leave 'fuel' out on the Internet for people who may be adverse to the killing of small game with a trained raptor.  It is a blood sport, although what we are killing is food for the birds, and dispatched as quickly as I can.  However, in the excitement of the moment I also tend to laugh at enjoyment of a fine gamehawk doing what their instincts and training direct them to do, and which I'm delighted to get to participate in.  The laughing may sound like I'm enjoying the death of the small animal, which is not the reason at all.

We did kick up another bunny on our long way back to the car, but it escaped our efforts to catch it.  Janelle had a good day out with us, and I've promised her that I'll be happy to go out hunting throughout the winter with her and her son.  How could I possibly say 'no', when she will get me access to lots of new places to hunt. 
This previous Sunday I went out hawking with Greg, his son Brady, and his bird, Desper.  It was also a fairly cold day, but not as much wind.  We explored a few places not far from his house, and did provide a few slips for Desper, but no game was brought to the bag.  I did have my two birds along for the ride, but just ran out of daylight.  Besides, I was wanting to give Desper more opportunity, as she needs some more successes to cement her gamebird status.  She has caught a rabbit and a squirrel, as well as some miscellaneous stuff.  She flew pretty good, and followed for the most part.  As the day wore on, I think she was beginning to lose focus, so we called her down.  We also wanted to get back to Greg's house with some daylight left, as he and Brady would go out for awhile onto their land and sit and wait for deer.  This is Brady's first year that he could try for a deer, and he is terribly excited by the prospect.  Believe me, it was mostly what we heard from him all morning.
I'm also including this pic from a couple weeks ago.  Justin came over and helped to install backpacks to Greg's bird Desper, and my two Harris Hawks.  Justin is becoming quite the skilled falconer, and networking and making contacts, and perfecting his skills.  After this picture was taken, he went out West to Kansas with Dave and a few of Dave's friends and got to hunt for jackrabbits.  Justin's bird this year, Chomps, took two of those giant bunnies.  I've only had the opportunity to try for jacks twice in the years I've been in this sport, and I've never caught one.  They just don't occur in this area.  I am aware that they can be found out in Western Minnesota, and some time I may plan a trip there to see if I can find any.  For now, I just have to hear about the adventures of others.

Where is Wasp, you may ask!  Well, it has been so terribly cold, I can't fly him.  I can feel his shivering through my glove.  I'm needing to explore other ways to hunt him.  Perhaps some car hawking.  Or I might just have to wait until we have warmer days, which now may not be until Spring.  I'd like to explore his chasing bunnies.  I did fly him last week, and he started to wander and not respond to the lure.  We found him on the ground, shivering.  It was just too cold for him, and I hope that is what was his distraction.  Down in Texas, I got lucky and discovered packrats, which became our preferred quarry.  I need to find an acceptable prey species for him, barring our very cold winters.  I might have to make him more of a fall/spring bird, and maybe into summer if I can get him on birds.  We certainly have plenty of starlings, house sparrows and pigeons. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Surprise Ending

Ooops . . . my audience saw this post before I could type up any text. I was a bit tuckered last night after posting pictures, so didn't get to the text portion right away. Here goes that explanation now.

Rich and I got out hawking on Thursday as we are going into our work weekend, and this will be a 4-day stint for me. So best to fly the birds, as they will be twiddling their talons for the next few days. Soon, very soon I want to attempt to fly both Harris Hawks together, and see how they do with that. I chose a place that I thought might work, but when we got there I felt just a little uneasy for some unknown reason, so listened to my gut instinct, and went with flying them separate. Sassy went first, and frankly I didn't have high hopes as she is way over weight, which I thought for an initial cast flight with Wasp might not be such a bad idea, for then she would not be too sharp. (Side Note to any wannabe falconers out there . . . some HHs can be flown overweight. This is not advised with most birds, as they could fly off, or ignore you. Sassy is quite game even when fat, she just usually doesn't try real hard when not sharp.)

The location is along a railroad outside of my little town. Usually, when there is snow, we see all kinds of rabbit activity, but today I think all the bunnies were down their holes. There is thick brush along this track, which would be great for a little hawking dog . . . dang that Sassy and Monty hate each other. Some day I'm just going to need to risk/try that as well, and see what happens. I think the dog needs some more training. Actually, no 'think' there . . . I'm certain he needs more training!

Anyway, we worked the brush down along the track without much of any prospects. A single rabbit was kicked out, but elluded Sassy through that thick brush. It was somewhat of a dreary afternoon, and had begun to drizzle. I forgot my hat, so proceeded to get wet on my head. With the dismal prospects of success I was just about to call it quits for her and head someplace else, to fly Wasp, or even home if the drizzle kept up. I looked ahead in the trees and saw a break in the cover, and appointed that as my end goal. There we would cross over and walk back. The other side of the track is not nearly so good for bunnies. The end of the track had a thick cover, and I thought it possible we could still bust a bunny that had been pushed down the row. As we came to the end, Sassy burst into action, but not towards the ground. Instead, it was up in the trees after a squirrel. I never even saw the squirrel. She hit it, snagged it, and proceeded to hang up the tree for about 10 mintues. She must have grabbed it with both feet around a branch. This allowed for plenty of time for Rich to take pictures. Squirrel was calling. Sassy was growling at it from time to time. I hoped she wasn't being bitten, as it was up the tree a fair distance, and I don't climb trees!

Eventually, she repositioned her feet, and came down. I moved in to secure her prize, and check her out for any bites. Her feet were covered in blood, but it did not appear to be hers. Good! It was a smallish squirrel, but the first of the season. This puts us at 5 head of game. Three rabbits, one squirrel, and one substantial miscellaneous, which will just go unmentioned here. It was a surprise ending, as I hadn't even seen any squirrels, and wasn't expecting action from that direction.

Here above I'm also gesturing with my safety glasses. I took a big chunk of brush and leaves in the face earlier in the season, and ended up needing to go to the opthalmologist's office to examine my eye. I had managed to get some plant matter imbedded on the underside of my eyelid, which was scraping my eye. Ouch! So . . . when hawking, wear sunglasses, and if it is gloomy, clear safety glasses.

Later in the evening I washed Sassy's feet thoroughly, and checked her over. No wounds!

First squirrel of the season!

We worked our way back to the car and relocated to fly Wasp. There is a brushy area in our little town next to the county fair grounds. We gave that a try. Wasp followed pretty good, but did get kicked around a bit by the wind. He hit a couple fences kinda hard too because of the wind. At some point he did find a mouse in the grass, so we are up to three mice for him. I was also encouraged to see his reaction to the first open ground bunny flush. He went after it, and with some steam. Unfortunately, bunny made it to cover just in front of him, and he hit that cover rather hard. I didn't have time to check on him this morning prior to leaving for work . . . hopefully he's fine with all the bumps he took on Thursday. He seemed fine last night.

At the end of the day, with them both cropped up, and feet cleaned and inspected, I perched them on their 'getting to know you' perch. After awhile, I lifted Sassy, untied her, and set her down next to Wasp. They just stood there, no aggression, and Wasp proceeded to tuck his leg. OK, they seem to be getting comfortable with each other. Soon I'll have to try flying them as a cast.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

It Qualifies!

I spent the greater portion of my morning cleaning my house.  It has to be done once in awhile.  Also, I have company coming for a few days.  Can't let it be known that I live like a slob most of the time.  I also had to mop up the hawk poo on my living room floor.  That took up most of the day.  Rich ran an errand up almost to the Cities, picking up a piece of furniture from a recent auction.  When he got home we pushed and squeezed a "new" loveseat through the doors and downstairs, then packed up the birds and headed out for a little hawkin.

I flew Wasp first, with the hope to kick up something so he starts to get an idea of what we are up to.  He followed well enough, and did get "entered" today . . . on a couple mice.  "Entered" is what we call it when they have caught a particular kind of prey in the wild.  He knows what mice are . . . I've fed him several, both alive and dead.  We did kick up some rabbits, but he doesn't seem to know quite what those are.  He got some good exercise, he caught and ate some good food, and at the end of the day he came to the lure and was returned safe to his box, and eventually to his mews.  They may be humble quarry, but they do qualify.  After all, he's a fairly small hawk.  I may fly him free sometime soon with Sassy, when she is hunting rabbits.  She can hopefully show him what the game is really about.
Next we flew Sassy.  We were at Byron again, as we have yet to fully walk that entire location.  I must say, the rabbit population there is fantastic.  We'll be able to visit it several time this year, I'm sure.  We kicked up a whole heck of a lot of bunnies for her.  She was not well placed for most of the slips.  Eventually, as we headed back to leave, as the sun was going down, we kicked up a rabbit which went on a long run.  Sassy was up a particularly tall tree, and well placed, and stooped with speed towards her prize . . . which was brought to the bag.  This makes bunny #3 for Sassy for this season.  Rich caught my picture above in the fading light.  I look tired!  I am tired!  I had cleaned house most of the day . . . and now was chasing hawks through thick cover.

I posed the picture below.

The End of the Day . . . A Good Day Hawking

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Hawkin Posse

Today I got out hawking with my former apprentice, Justin (on the right) and my current apprentice, Greg (on the left).  Justin is holding his new passage hawk for the season.  He (and his kids) have decided to call her Chomps.  She has been particularly destructive to her equipment.  Greg is holding his new (and first) passage hawk, Desperation.  They are calling her Desper.
We started the day by checking out a brushy spot I've seen, but not walked.  It turned out to be a no-go, as there was a substantial creek alongside it.  So we moved our posse off to my best hawking field, in Byron.  Justin and Chomps went first, and we hadn't been beating brush for much more than a couple minutes when she nailed her second bunny.  Justin indicates he had entered her to bunnies the previous day.  She is now on her way to a successful career as a falconry bird.  He says he has to be careful trading her off, as she is quite footy on her prize.
He told me today he will be going to Kansas in a couple weeks to hunt with Dave and his friends.  He'll probably enter her to jacks while there.  I'm sure it will be a great time.

After Chomps' success, I got Sassy out and beeped up.  It was a very high wind day, and she showed some signs of difficulty flying because of it.  She was also quite distracted by the mice and voles in the field, preferring to chase these, rather than the multiple bunnies we kicked up.  We continued down the field with her following mostly behind.  At one point, when she was ahead of me, I kicked up one rabbit which ran under and behind her.  She completely ignored it.  I looked at her demeanor, and noticed she was staring intently down to my left.  I walked forward slowly and kicked up a rabbit, which she had been watching, and she caught it before it could escape into a pile of rail road ties.  This was bunny #2 for her for the season.
We broke for some lunch, then relocated to an isolated and somewhat sheltered valley to fly the two new birds.  Even here the wind was quite brisk.  Greg flew Desper on the creance for a few flights.  Her response was OK, but then she looked longingly up into the trees, and headed for them.  Greg then pulled the lure for her, but she still is not tightly wed to it.  She would not fly free today, and needs a bit more work.  We then flew Wasp.  He did fly free, but doesn't follow tight, as he doesn't really have a clue about what we are doing.  Where we were at does not have any game to speak of.  I wanted to fly him in Byron, where there are many mice, but the high winds discouraged this.  After awhile I pulled the lure for him.  His response was also slow, though I know he has a good condition for it.  He is still too high.  Regardless, I cropped him up as well, as the following evening I let both Harris Hawks spend time on the "Getting to Know You" perch.
Justin and I posing with the birds that were successful today.  Sassy had thrown her hood while I was getting them out, so got an extra snack off her bunny she had caught.

It was a Great Day with a couple of Cool Guys . . . and some Wonderful Birds.