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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Morning Hunt 12-28-08




Still striking out. I saw one today - no telling how many Percy saw in 2 hours of hunting. I saw one one good chase. I think a dog would help a ton! Need to order a training collar. Doing it now. It was nice to see the morning sun today after a couple days of fog, wind, rain, sleet and a little snow. The good news is it was a welcome break from a tragic day at work yesterday. That being said my heart goes out to a local family. Blog will be under construction. I am sick of photoshop images. I will be hosting the pics on my server space, shouldn't be any noticeable difference when finished except friendlier photo links, etc.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Help, I have seem to lost hare!

I had a couple hours on 12/23/08 to go hunting before I had to pick up my youngest and get to work. Being the first time I had been able to go out since the wind pushed the snow. I went to a place where I hunted with Magellan. I doubted it at first when I heard it but the past couple hunting ventures (where conditions were right) have proven to me that rabbit numbers are significantly down. We are still getting bumps, but the opportunities are few and far between. On this trip I went to a ditch off the last active railroad tracks in my city. I can remember taking a couple rabbits in here (and can check my journal on exact numbers), but this day we only got one rabbit going which hit a warren in after about 20 feet. Percy was right on it. I ended up hunting for two hours with only about one more possible dive attempt (I was too far away to see). Today after a couple of fresh inches of snow the wind started blowing, so I was unable to hunt.

On another note I would love to introduce my rat/Jack Russell Terrier "Clyde" to hunting as he would improve odds greatly. Only issue is he is aweful "headstrong" (read: stubborn). I am sure if he overstepped his boundaries Percy would give him a "hand" (read: talon) to help him remember. In the meantime I took the attached video calling him to the lure. Please excuse the dark setting (it was 10:50 AM). The iris setting got "adjusted" by one of my children. Enjoy!

video

Monday, December 22, 2008

鷹狩り/ cetrería / Falknerei / Fauconnerie / Falconeria / Valkerij / 放鷹捕獵 / Разведение и подготовка ловчих птиц

Falconry - -

Friday, December 19, 2008

Afternoon Hunt 12-19-08

I left work early (actually I put in extra time working on my days off) to go out hunting after a winter storm dropped 8-10" of snow. We didn't catch anything despite some good effort (on both our parts - I will explain in a bit). I first went to a school wildlife area that has yielded rabbits in the past. There were plenty of tracks but all the rabbits were tucked away. I was able to call Percy to the fist multiple times. I hooded him and started the 1 block walk back to the truck to head out to a new field. I was drenched in sweat and VERY thirsty despite the mid 20 degree temperatures. I went to a convenience store and grabbed some Gatorade. I went to the park where we caught rabbit number two. I figured there would be rabbits in the deep ravine so I went down (I need to take some photos of these ravines). Sure enough a rabbit bumped out of the north side and scrambled up the hill. Percy was hot on it's tail but it went into a bramble patch. I started to trudge up a drainage trough, which was a very hard climb. When I got up I jumped on a brush pile a couple times and nothing bolted. I ended up going 100 yards to get to a point where I could walk without trudging though thigh high snow. I made my way to the north ridge line and walked there without any luck. I crossed the bike trail to the ridge line of another ravine (with VERY THICK COVER). I walked along the top and ended up going down in. The snow had built up on all the tree limbs so besides the sweat from the carpetbagging (falconry term for hunting a red tail) I was covered in snow. I am hoping that I can eventually make a path or two through this mess. Percy did dive on something without any success. I got out after a slow and laborious climb. I was thirsty again and considered calling it a day. I walked back to my truck and took a couple swigs of Gatorade and hit the trail again. By the time I got back to the hunt Percy was no where to be seen. I walked to where I heard bells and bumped a rabbit. I kept wishing to her the jingle of his bells (in the event that he was in a tree and I didn't see him) but it never happened. I whistled and he came nearer. I circled back around to walked the ridge line again. No luck. I ended up calling him down to a garnished lure and calling it a day. Our family Christmas is tomorrow and I hope to go hunting with my nephews (three of which I spoke of in this post - second paragraph). I can't remember any hawking in the past that was as hard as today was. I had to shower when I got home because I was soaked in both sweat and melted snow. It was a good cardiac workout nonetheless, which I obviously need. I had heard that rabbit numbers were down. I am starting to believe that. Places which Magellan and I took numerous rabbits are just not there like they used to. Of course Percy has had opportunity and it is not for his lack of gusto. He is appropriately aggressive and, usually, follows nicely. It is times like this where I remember back to being patient. Rabbits will come. In the meantime, I am helping this hawk make it through a critical time in its' life. An estimated 70% of raptors do not live until their first year. The life and death consequence of NOT catching a rabbit are replaced by the falconer keeping the bird health and vibrant during lean hunting times.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Morning Hunts 12-17-08 and 12-18-08

We went out after the snowfall to see what we could see. My momma (you gots to luv yer momma) took the lil one early yesterday. So I had an hour and a half to kill. I went to what I thought was a sure thing for rabbits. Only thing is the rabbits didn't get the memo. I proceeded to walk a long way without seeing anything. I began following the bird thinking he knows more than me (which is probably true). I ended up crossing a half-frozen stream. I found the unfrozen part when my boot broke through the ice and ended up falling forward and crushing my (naughty) finger. My ungloved hand was numb by that point. So I didn't feel the blood rushing out. I couldn't get it to stop bleeding. I ended up wiping blood on my ole flannel "hunting" shirt and in the pocket of my jeans to try and get my hand warm. After my injury I lost track of my bird. A little fear crept into my heart as I saw my hawking season pass before my eyes. Being the prudent observer I am (no laughing please) I heard a "murder" of crows cawing in the distance. I went to where they were and lo and behold there he was. I will send a peace signed "thank you brothers" to the crows. I lured him down and decided to press my luck in another area in which I had some success getting some rabbits going in the past (see the bottom of this post).

I was able to get one going after being forced to get on and stomp around on a large brush pile. He missed a catch by mere inches, which frustrated him. I had to get to work and spent the better part of 15 minutes trying to lure him out of a tree. I presented and whistled at least 30 times. Finally, he looked as if the say - "oh, you have the lure out" and down he came.

Today was a little different. I went to the abandoned railroad right of way where we got the first catch. He was spot on. I pushed it to the north with no luck for the first 200 yards or so. Finally, I got into some good cover and was able to get some rabbits running. Percy was way to far out in front of me. I push through some woods and he makes a dive. The rabbit ducked into a woodpile right next to the railroad track. I almost have to step on it to get it going, as he obviously knew the bird was there. When he did Percy dove hard from a branch and provided the rabbit a little bit of a "crewcut", but he couldn't hang on. I end up pushing it up to the city limits and then some. Finally, I broke out the lure and called him down without incident. It seems as though in recent hunts the rabbits have been getting the better of us. However, there is always tomorrow (well, after the winter storm passes).

Monday, December 15, 2008

Afternoon Hunt 12-15-08


Yes, there is a bird in there somewhere!





Lack of intelligence abounding - I decided to try to hunt. One factor or another has kept us out of the field. The winds yesterday were sustained gusts of 20+ mph with gusts even higher. This afternoon saw some relief from the wind. Percy was slightly lower than his first catch which was needed after the debacle on Friday. We went back to the park that yielded rabbit number two, only this time we started on the northwest end of the park, which is adjacent to an abandoned rail line. Percy was sharp and responsive even in the wind. Unfortunately he came up short in a thick wooded area, otherwise our hunt would have been over in just ten minutes (I wouldn't have complained!). Nevertheless, we played back and forth with no real success. The cover was just too thick to walk through so I would go around on one side and he would fly to the other. This happened about 4-5 times. He ended up diving on about 4 or 5 rabbits. He really looked sharp and crisp. Finally, the underbrush cleared a little and I was able to get him over by me. I started to push and saw a rabbit break from cover before disappearing in the weeds. I thought I would push the rabbit back to Percy but the rabbit had slipped past me. I took my time and the rabbit made a break. Percy launched from a high perch and did the power glide before snatching the rabbit. Again I was in a position where I couldn't see. I walked around to where he was and listened. Thank goodness for my Velarde-Style Acorn Bells from Northwoods Limited. I was able to find where Percy was. I assisted him and allowed him to eat a full crop. The walk back to the truck was rather long and cold. All in all an interesting day. I would like to get some video but need an assistant brush-beater or two to facilitate that. In the meantime please enjoy the photos I took.

Curse the Wind!

Still windy with the possibility of them dissipating this afternoon. I may try to hunt in an hour, but proceeding with caution!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Weather - it is for good or bad!




Note on this photograph: Although this is a red tail hawk it lacks a red tail. First year or passage red-tail hawks have brown tails with darker horizontal bands. After their first molt these brown tail feathers will be replaced by the crimson or red feathers that are commonly observed on maure red tails where the name Red-Tail Hawk come from. Read the WIKI here.

No hunting today for us. Although I did take the time to explain to my kids that there will be times when we all will go out hunting and what could happen if the bird catches a rabbit. I explained that hawks need to eat rabbits, mice and other animals to survive and I gave them the option of going or not. The five year old said that she would go, but would like to sit in the truck. The three year old was in. Nevertheless, various conditions prevent us from going out. So I decided to allow for some weathering, bath and kid time in the yard. Which, combined with the lighting and the fact that my wife found the charger for my "almost indestructible" Olympus Stylus 1030 SW camera made for the attached photographs. Since I am dropping names of sponsors (yeah, right) I would like to mention Filson (links broken on purpose - I need written permission to link to their site) you can always go to http://www.filson.com/ to look at their wears. I had a Filson "Original Hunting Vest" that I lost in the house fire. To those that don't know in 2005 my family lost almost everything in a house fire. We were able to save some photographs. We lost almost everything. The blessing was that no body got hurt, but it was bittersweet as we lost our family rat terrier "Maggie". Alas, I digress... My Original Hunting Vest was replaced with a Filson "Tin Cloth Game Bag". While the Game Bag is a great product, the Hunting Vest is the cat's meow. Just enough pockets for a falconer (which the Game Bag lacks) the Hunting Vest is the ultimate falconers vest. So if any of you readers have any connections at Filson or "corporate friends"- I would gladly advertise their product on my hunting adventures in exchange for the excellent Filson - Original Hunting Vest.

Yesterday (December 12, 2008), we went out to a local out of the way lot. Percy, despite the cool weather, is still "rabbit heavy". Which is good, in a way. We did try but after three perfect slips and refusals by the hawk it was lure time and pack it up. Two of the three slips were unique because it was a fenced in area and the rabbits had to go right under him in order to get out. He didn't even lean toward the rabbits. It may be until Tuesday until I can hunt again with the weather forecast.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Morning Hunt 12-11-08

Rabbit Number Two was caught this morning. Percy was still 20+ plus grams heavier than his first catch. As you can tell by the photo the sun was out at the temps were in the 20s. There was a slight Northwest wind. I went to a park near where my wife works. It has some super deep ditches with a lot of cover. Almost too much cover! First I circled an area that was about 30' down into a ditch. Again, I didn't want to go down, but after I didn't get anything running on the top of the hill I went down. There were a lot of rabbit tracks but no rabbits here today. I climbed back out after Percy relocated to another tree. I pushed along a trail without even seeing a single rabbit. There were tracks galore, but no rabbits. I went to the other side of the trail where another deep bowl was. The cover was much thicker on this side. I did scare one further into the woods as I decided that I would walk around to attempt to push it across to the bird. When I was walking to the other side Percy saw one sneaking away and made a dive but came up short. When I got to the other side, against my better judgement I went down. It was very thick. When I was halfway through Percy relocated to another tree. I lost sight of him but every once in a while I would hear the bells to reassure that he was still in the area. I crawled up the other side (wishing I had an oxygen tank - falconry hunting is a great workout by the way). Low and behold I was right below him. He flew to an area along the trail that I had previously walked. Figuring that he could see more than me (higher point of view and keener eyesight) I went over in that direction. He was in a tall tree adjacent to a field. I walked where the field met the woods hoping to scare one out into the field. The cover here was again very thick. I didn't see this one as much as I heard it. As I was in the middle of the cover I heard the telltale sound of a catch and looked up to see him on a rabbit in the middle of the field. Number 2 was in the game bag. The pick up was less than desirable. Percy has taken to plucking at least one field jesse out during a hunt. I will deal with that issue tonight. In the meantime a happy hawk and hawker!


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Update 12-10-08

I went to fly Percy this morning after an ice/snow storm passed Monday Night into Tuesday. Weather was picture perfect. Percy was a little heavy. He no sooner got into a tree when I flushed a rabbit right in front of him. Be bated and flew half-hearted to a better perch. I was able to bump another one just 25 yards later. He looked and leaned but didn't chase. He was 60+ grams heavier than Sunday so I knew I was taking a chance. I ended up calling him down to the lure and giving him his reward before putting him away to try again tomorrow. The weather window looks great for the next five days. Hopefully we can put another rabbit or two in the bag before I got back to work on Wednesday (I still have to work tomorrow, but depending on where Percy is - I may come in late).