Sunday, January 13, 2019

Minnesota Falconers Mini-Meet and Out on Our Own


It was pretty good weather this weekend for the Minnesota Falconers Mini-Meet in Mankato.  I decided to go ahead and go meet up with some of the club members, and after breakfast did go out to kick brush with a very large crowd (I think just about everyone that showed up for the meet).  I brought Chimera along, but did not feel comfortable trying to fly such a new bird with so many people, not knowing how she would react to the crowd.  I also brought Sumi along just so everyone could admire her.  I have Brynn Johnson to thank for taking these two pictures, and giving me permission to use them.


Sumi has been side-lined for the last few weeks.  I felt there was something just not right with her, and her training.  She always seemed to be ravenous, and burned through her food so very quickly.  I took her up to the Raptor Center, thinking she may possibly have some internal parasites.  They did a workup on her, fecal, x-rays and blood work.  They did not find any indications of parasites in her mutes, but advised that it is possible she was not shedding any eggs.  She was placed on an anti-parasitic as well as a round of aspergillosis prophylaxis.  She finished her treatment on this past Friday.  She has also been getting rather large amounts of food, which seems to have done her some good.  They scored her body condition as a 2.  The scale runs from 1 to 5, with 1 being very bad.  Feeling her keel now, she has a bit more flesh on her, and her attitude is improved.  She is interested in food, motivated, but not acting like she is starving.

On Sunday morning we resumed her training.  I'm happy to see she responds to fist call just as easily as if we did not take this three-week break.  Lure response was also spot on!  She is currently about 110 grams heavier than when I took her to the Raptor Center.  I feel the decision to get some medical attention was a wise one.  I have some time off scheduled this following week.  My goal is to get her flying free in that time.  She needs to become a falconry bird, and start adding some food to the freezer.


After leaving the club gathering, I traveled back to the Rochester area.  I went scouting for a place to fly Chimera, finding a few brushy spots in Stewartville in an industrial park.  Chimera got several slips but did not seal the deal.  I am happy to see that whereas she sometimes is very aerial, flying high up into the trees and sometimes taking far flights, she loops back to return to be near me.  I have had her out on several unsuccessful hunts, but she has seen me kick up bunnies for her, so she is learning to stay close, or return to me, as a good falconry bird should.

Still having some daylight time, I took her to a field I have not visited in Rochester for a couple years.  Getting out of the car I noticed a pair of bald eagles in the distant trees, but didn't worry too much about it as normally eagles don't bother with hawks.  However, after releasing her and encouraging her to follow me into the field, both eagles moved toward her double-time, and made it very clear she was not welcome in that field.  The pair must have a nest somewhere.  Thankfully, Chimera came to the lure without question, and we called it a day.  I gave her a good meal but not a stuffed crop.

Sunday, after a nice relaxing morning I got my act together and took Chimera out.  Driving some of the back roads in my area I was looking for hunting opportunities in some of the private properties. Passing what looked like a good area, and noticing a gentleman working in the back lot, I pulled in and went to say hello.  Tom was more than happy to let me poke around in his brushy lot, following along to watch and help us out.  Chimera flew high and active and took off after several things, bunnies, maybe squirrels, but quickly brought bunny #3 to the bag, chasing it as I pushed it out of a wild cucumber vine choked overgrown wood pile and smacking it hard up against Tom's deck and hot tub.  After letting her fill her crop we took some pictures.  I hope Tom sends me a couple that we took on his cell phone if he'd like to be a part of the blog.  Thanks Tom for letting us fly on your land!  We'll come back sometime, maybe even before the end of the season.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Chimera and Squirrels - First Hunt for those Tree Rats

Recently Rich and I took Chimera to my favorite spot for introducing squirrels to a hawk.  We've pulled a few over the years from this location, and also the occasional bunny, but it truly is a testing ground for squirrels. 

As you can see from the video, which is a little long, she demonstrated that she most definitely will go after them.  We didn't catch one, but will keep trying and presenting her with opportunities.  After about a half hour in the field she left us to go self hunt, which made me a bit nervous as I saw the direction she flew off in, but once we made it down past the creek and back up the hill could neither find her nor hear her bells.  Thankfully, she is well wed to the lure and she returned when I called her. 

Good Bird!

Sunday, January 6, 2019

First of the New Year

Saturday January 5, 2019 was a clear, sunny, warm day for Minnesota. It got up into the low to mid 40s, which is very welcome for this time of the year.  I was just about to get myself out the door and go looking for some hawking opportunities, when Justin Johnson called me and wanted to know if I wanted to hawk with him.  Well, heck ya!

We met up together just off I90 as he was coming from Lewiston, and proceeded on to Rochester.  We went to his "new" hot spot, which after today I think may not rank so high, as since the last time I was there just a couple weeks ago, someone has come through and clear cut a lot of the brush.  It is not obvious why this was done, but for whatever reason, a large swath of the rabbitat is now gone.  That said, there were still some bunnies to get pushed around under a hawk.


I had flown Chimera the previous day.  She followed me very well, but the location I picked, which has usually been pretty good for rabbits, and has a lot of sign, simply did not give up a single slip.  They must be all underground.  A lot of this location was also under water, as the unseasonably warm days have melted the snow.  I was frustrated in not being able to reward her for her good following behavior.  On this day she was still a bit higher in weight than I would normally have flown her, but she greeted me when I went into the mew with a lot of enthusiasm and appeared to be excited to hunt, so I took her along.  I am glad I did.

She picked up right where she had left off the previous day, following very well.  We kicked up a few rabbits for her, and she was captivated immediately.  It did not take long for the perfect opportunity to be set up for her.  A bunny flushed and ran down along the building the brush is alongside, and cut left as the building ended.  Chimera was stooping from a very tall power pole.  I did not see the actual catch as it was around the corner, but "Woweeee" I heard it!!  She slammed that bunny so hard I almost felt the thunk of her impact.  Bunny did not squeak either, as she must have knocked the breath out of it.  She also lacerated it's belly, as some of the intestines were popping out.  I dispatched bunny, secured her, let her eat some, then picked her up, hooded her, and returned to the car to get Wyvern.  I'm not quite ready to try for doubles yet, and had a second bird to fly.


Wyvern was a perfect weight today.  I have been flying her several times, but her being kept in a heated mew, because she is a Harris Hawk living in Minnesota and has to be kept warm, her weight is not always ideal for hunting.  She is flying and makes efforts, but not great ones.  We have had many unsuccessful hunts in the last few weeks.  This location gave her several opportunities to be successful.

Her first catch was a vole.  Always, she is a prime mouser if she gets the chance.  She also knows to not let me approach her if she has a small prey item as I will take it away.  She wants to eat it, so will keep her distance to do that.  Now I just let her eat it.  After that first little meal, and after a few more dives into the grass, we kicked out a bunny that she chased.  Initially she followed it into thick cover and raked away from it, but it busted out of that cover heading to the parking lot by these same buildings mentioned above.  She got back into the game, which is a move I have seen her do several times and is very admirable for a hunting bird.  She overtook her bunny and slammed it in the middle of the parking lot.  Justin got around the corner first and said the bunny was dragging her along some.  It was actually a larger rabbit than the one Chimera caught.  I approached her carefully as I felt pretty sure she could possibly release the bunny when I made in to help her with it.  Sure enough, within inches from my grasp she relinquished the prey.  Fortunately, bunny was hurt pretty bad so could not run away, allowing me to recaptured it.

What followed was a silly demonstration I told Justin we were likely to be subjected to.  She flew up into a tree and proceeded to sulk.  I moved the rabbit out of the public view of the parking lot and back into the brush.  Dispatched and gutted, I offered her prize for her to come back and have a meal.  She remained stubbornly up the tree.  I put bunny away and told Justin that we would just walk back to the car. She would follow, which she did.  Thankfully, whether in a snit or not, she does come back to the car fairly reliably.  However, we only made it a part of the way back before Justin got a phone call and we stopped for him to talk on his cell.  I then offered Wyvern some of the bunny liver, tossed away from me.  She came down to snatch that up, and then was easily lured in with the whole rabbit laid out for her.  She got a crop full as I secured her jess to the leash. 


After returning to the car, and stopping by a local convenience store to wash my hands, we went to check out a different location that Justin has hunted.  We walked the field for just a short while with his two Jack Russell Terriers, Lucy and Ricky, working the grass and the brush.  A couple more bunnies were flushed, but his gos was just no longer in a prime hunting frame of mind, as she had already caught 5 other rabbits earlier before Justin had joined me.  So amazing!!  I don't even know what it would be like to catch so much game.  I really seriously want to get one of the puppies from his pair if they are successful breeding this year.  I really don't need another dog, but could use a good hawking dog.  Justin has assured me he will help me train one if I get one.

It was a great day for falconry, made even better by hawking with a friend!