West Side Field Meet 2016
The west side field meet is a gathering of falconers for a day of falconry. Straight up, no fluff, just hunting with hawks and other falconers. I generally look forward to this outing as a way to visit with old friends and to learn from others. It’s always a good idea to keep up with skills and learn new things.
A good hunt ends with you and your bird back together again.
Cedar’s day began with a great start! Kida flushed a bunny very quickly into the hunt, only to have Cedar give a swipe at it and miss. Cedar wasn’t discouraged however, as she quickly recovered, attacked a squirrel nest and nailed a big fox squirrel as it bailed out of the nest. All this excitement after only five minutes into the hunt. The folks who came with got a great closeup experience with Cedar and the hunt.
Photo credits, courtesy of Sophie
Successful Deer Hunter
Deer Hunting. A northern Michigan tradition. Many years of history, stories, and hunting adventures passed down in the generations of family hunters. Another year of tradition within my family has passed, and it has been a very memorable one. This year, the weather was warm through opening day and a few days though the hunt. I talked to several folks with mixed reports of deer movement activity; some reporting lots of movement, and other reports of little or no movement. Whichever your experience or theory, plenty of deer were harvested this season in Michigan. Winter came in quickly by Saturday, and I’m sure that held up some of the movement for the next couple of days after that.
I started my hunt this year two days late. That’s not unusual for me, I was unable to make it a four-day hunting excursion away from work and falconry responsibilities. So as I arrived on Wednesday eventing to a temperature of 58° F, there was nothing on the buck pole. Not surprising, given the warm temps. The two deer that had been taken at deer camp so far were hung, gutted, and processed as quickly as possible to save the meat. My first evening was filled with laughter and stories with family and friends, as we packaged up some of the bounty harvested the day before. Always a good time.
I awoke abruptly out in the camper to the sound of a started pick-up truck. It seems that my alarm did not go off as expected. No worries, I had plenty of time to get a cup of coffee, pack up my lunch, and head out to my blind. The preparations this year were very easy, as I had planned everything to make it especially easy. I suited up halfway and drove out to the *NEW* Death Valley deer blind that had been restored the previous month.
The morning started like every other one: dark. The exception to this morning was the left-over “SuperMoon” was waning and still brightened up the landscape a little. The beauty of sitting out in a deer blind so early in the morning is the solitude that you get when you finally get your gear settled. The silence of the woods early in the morning is incredibly peaceful and it’s one of the few times where you can hear the trees whisper. As the morning progressed, a few deer crossed my viewing area across the meadow. Typically, a doe, followed by her yearling were the usual visitors through the valley. Occasionally, there was a spike-buck following the pair, or a larger 4-pointer. The key to watching deer cross the valley is to be keen to the bucks trailing the does a few minutes later, after they pass. Always be ready for them, for they are walking with a purpose. So with a total of 10 deer spotted before lunch time, I was satisfied with the activity and movement in the area, and still hopeful to be successful on my first day. The lunch period was slow, and there was no activity until about 2:30 pm. A pair of does ran up the valley from behind the blind and veered off to the right. I was ready for the buck following them, but he never appeared. I waited intensely with my gun to the ready, holding out for the buck that should have been pursuing them. After a little while, I heard some rustling off to my right. The river runs through the area, about 150 yards off to the right of the blind, and I noticed a deer browsing. It wasn’t until he lifted his head up that I could see the 8 points above his ears. I lined up the shot, and waited until he showed me his shoulder, and I pulled the trigger.
I gave him enough time to lie still, dragged him about 30 yards or so out of the woods and drove back to deer camp with an 8-point buck on the trailer. What a great day of deer hunting! The next day, a couple of us drove into town for some provisions at the local market. We stopped by the DNR office the next day, even got my successful deer hunter patch!
Hunting adventures with Team Austringer have been very successful and exciting. Over the weekend, Cedar was successful on a great big Fox Squirrel that bailed out of the second tree she was scouting. There is such a thing as watching your hawk and trusting that the reason they flew across the field to *that* tree was for some game that she saw. Sure enough, after a few minutes of carefully laddering-up the branches, she scraped a squirrel off the main trunk. When the squirrel maneuvered higher up in the tree, she gave it enough room to make a mistake. As the squirrel traversed the canopy, it moved over a tree and scurried down the trunk in the hopes of making it to a shelter a few trees away. When it hit the ground running, I was sprinting after it, full speed right behind it, yelling the game call at the top of my lungs. Cedar dove from her high perch, sailed over my shoulder and nailed that squirrel in a tumble of sticks and leaves. I was right there to prevent the squirrel from biting her in rebuke. It was an awesome chase and Cedar earned her prize that day.
The next day’s hunt was truly a team effort. Kelly, Kida, Cedar and myself found a new hunting area close to the house that needed a good walking to scout out the entirety of the landscape. Plenty of good area for both rabbits and squirrels, Cedar flew hard and found some squirrels to swipe at. We are definitely going to give it another try someday. Until next time, Good Hawking!
Happy Halloween! The evening is full of tricks and treats. Cedar’s first successful TRICK was to catch a rabbit on an afternoon hunt and the TREAT was to have him for dinner. The whole team, Kelly, Kida, Cedar and myself went out for an afternoon hunt before all the spooky creatures came out in the evening. We flushed the first rabbit within the first 10 minutes and Kida was hot on the trail. She’s getting better at following along with the hunt and is definitely keyed into flushing game. Cedar gave chase after the “HO-HO-HOOOAAAH!” game call but had to pull up due to the thick underbrush.
After exhausting the effort to flush him again, we moved on to another part of the forest. The dog was on scent and Cedar flew ahead of the crew. The rabbit flushed, and Cedar hit the brush hard and connected with the bunny! After pulling Kida back so as not to crowd the hawk, we soon had a bunny in the bag! A great coordinated effort by “Team Austringer!”
Bonus props to my lovely apprentice, Kelly, for the great assist out in the field and for the great photography!