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!

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