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Late November Hunting

December 1st, 2009

Late November Hunting


With another deer hunting season over, it’s been a strange season this year.  Many folks I’ve talked to about their deer hunting adventures seem to indicate similar success, or rather, the lack of it.  With this month being warmer than previous years, and the weather being relatively pleasant for November, deer hunting success is down this year comparatively to other years. Some hunters even noticed the lack of deer hunters this year in regular hunting places where they tended to be in past years.  It appears the economy is taking it’s tool on outdoor recreation too. I know I saw deer over the course of my deer camp experience, but there were not that were target-able for me.

Squirrel Chase

The Thanksgiving Holiday was filled with good food and good family.  It was great to visit with folks and enjoy the kids and even celebrate Merrick’s birthday.  A great Thanksgiving! I was lucky enough to have some time to get out and take Marius for a walk in the woods.  I found a local place where we were lucky enough to chase two squirrels through the tall timbers.  The first one that I saw was a Fox Squirrel that was high in a cottonwood tree.  At about 40 ft up in the tree, he scampered across a few branches.  Tahoe didn’t see it because she was only perched about 15 ft up in a small tree.  I tried to get it to move down, but it found a home somewhere in the treetop, and we didn’t see that one again.

A few moments later, a Grey Squirrel popped out from a tree trunk and dashed along some big branches high up. Again, Tahoe was only perched about 12 ft up in a tree, but she was at least looking up this time. It took a few minutes, but the squirrel came down the tree trunk and took a few hops along the ground.  Tahoe simply watched until she was ready.  When the squirrel attempted to climb another tree, that’s when Tahoe launched herself from her perch and took a swipe at the squirrel as it tried to climb up the tree.

Rabbit Sign

Sunday was another good afternoon to get out while the weather cooperated. Marius, Tahoe and I went out in the afternoon right after lunch to fit in a short hunt while it was still dry.  I missed the forecast for rain, but it wasn’t a steady rain. It was like a water spigot; on and then off.  It did that for a little while until it got more steady and we had to call it an afternoon. In the meantime, we were able to get a bunny going with Tahoe taking a good flight from a high tree perch after the flushed bunny.  The rabbit dashed through some thick briars, but Tahoe was very interested in where that rabbit went.  I called Marius over to take a position on the trail, and then I moved in to flush again.  The rabbit took off to the south, and Tahoe was after it again.  With all the good hiding places, it was no surprise that the rabbit disappeared again.  I rewarded Tahoe’s pursuit, and put her back up in the tree in a higher perch.  She was in a great position for the next flush, which I anticipated pretty well, considering the brush piles and briar patches in sight.  The bunny flushed out and away from me and Tahoe, she saw it quickly, and took a dive after it, missing it just by a hare.  I beat brush for another 10 minutes without success. By this time, the rain has developed into a steady shower, and it was time to call it an afternoon.

Lessons Learned:

  • Keep Flushing! – If the bunny doesn’t find a hole, you have a good chance of getting it out into the open again.
  • Hawk Eyes have it – Tahoe can see quite a distance and pick up on things even when you think she can’t. I was pleasantly surprised that she saw the bunny the first time it flushed, as it was quite a distance from her perch.

First Season Hunting , ,

Improved Hunting Skills

November 19th, 2009

Improved Hunting Skills

Some Hunting Success

This past weekend we had a few hunting excursions wrapped around the Deer Hunting weekend.  It was some good walks through more good rabbit / squirrel hunting areas.  I was happy with Tahoe’s performance and following along.  She even endured some mobbing crows and a pestering resident Red-tail hawk in one of the hunting areas.  While walking through a seriously dense patch of briar thicket, I noticed Tahoe had taken a perch directly over my head in a tree. This was a good sign, as she noticed that I was moving things out into the open.  In the next moment, she dove to the ground directly in front of me and proceeded to catch her first mouse.  Now, a mouse is not a great trophy, as you cannot get a picture of it before she wolfs it down the hatch. However, it is a good accomplishment to catch something while hunting and for her to connect the act of brush-beating with game, even if it is just a mouse.

On our deer camp hunting excursions, she hunted better in the late afternoon instead of the mid-day hunting down Death Valley. The late afternoon hunt was another good learning experience for us as we had a few extra brush-beaters walking through the woods. On Monday afternoon after deer camp, we found a good patch of local woods to fly through for rabbits and squirrels.  It was prime rabbit and squirrel country that appeared to hold both cover and food, but no rabbits or squirrels to be seen.  Tahoe took two mice this afternoon and returned to the lure after successful hunting.  It’s more positive learning for her and myself as a team.

Lessons Learned:

1. Let her eat her quarry – with both mice getting hit fairly successively, I wanted her to enjoy her success and eat her capture.  Taking mice away from her would have been a negative experience, plus stealing food can create bad habits.

2. Judge the response – after eating two mice, I was starting to get concerned that she would not return or follow.  She was somewhat slow to follow after the second mouse, and was even a little hesitant to the lure. There may be trouble going for doubles if she doesn’t ‘reset’ properly or feels full.

3. Enjoy the positives – It is approximately 7 weeks after her initial capture and she is doing great, all things considered:  She responds to the glove.  She responds to the lure.  She has never flown off for no reason.  She is in good health and her feathers are in prime condition. She has had good success today, even if it is two mice:  That’s a good meal for her efforts and she should feel proud too!

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Family Hunting Introduction

November 19th, 2009

Introducing Marius to Hunting

The other afternoon, my eldest son, Marius was able to join Tahoe and me on a rabbit hunt for the first time. It was a short hunt, but a great way to introduce Marius to walking around the woods, brush-beating for Rabbits.  We got to see Tahoe fly a little bit and follow along.  It was a good introduction for both of us and Marius had a good time.  It’s always important to ensure positive outdoor experiences for children whenever possible.

Marius enjoys going for walks in the outdoors as they are great adventures for both of us.  Tahoe is a great hunting partner for us and every day Marius looks forward to the next time that we get to go Hunting.

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First Solo Hunt

October 28th, 2009

First Solo Hunt

Oak Tree Line

In the afternoon on the way home from the Hootch after a great Bird Hunting Weekend, I stopped at a favorite area for hunting and found a good tree line to walk with Tahoe.  I felt she was ready, and I was ready, and today was the day to find out.  Find out what?  Is she ready to hunt? Is she going to respond to commands? Is she going to fly back to me?  Do I have all my gear?  Am I prepared? Can I find some game for her to chase?
All of these questions race through my mind as I prepare my equipment, and verify the telemetry receiver with the transmitter on Tahoe.

I find a good branch to set her up on so she could watch me walk out into the field.  I called her a little ways out and she came to me. I set her off into another tree, and she jumped up off my glove.  This is a good sign. I walk out a little more, find a spot under a big Oak Tree and call her with the whistle without flashing the glove.  She flies towards me, but ends up taking a nice high perch in the Oak Tree.  Marvelous!  I walk on a little more, calling her to the next tree and she follows! I am now thinking, *This is awesome!*  I move out to the next set of brush and call her towards me. She is looking around, and after a few moments, flies across the road and dives into a bush.  Cool!  She saw something and went after it!  I cross the road to find her under a bush looking around.  She has pinned a chipmunk under a branch and cannot leave it alone.  I watch it escape out the other side, much to her dismay.  She comes out of the bush and hops up to my glove.   Wow. She is really doing well!

I get her back across the road and set her out on a post.  She takes off from the post, and does a wing-over right into the grass! I look over to see what she has and her talons are empty.  While she may be discouraged, I am beaming with excitement, as I definitely notice that she is in Hunting Mode.  She is keen, watchful, and attentive — and fearless.  She launches again out towards another tree for a perch, and I strode out across the tall grass towards another clump of brush.  Tahoe takes off, and plunges into the grass again, looking for a mouse or a vole.  She was unsuccessful again, and quite remiss that she can’t find it.  I pick her up after some refusal, and then walk out in the tall grass again. This is where things get interesting. I notice she is distracted by mice, but I can’t get her close enough to a brush pile to look for rabbits.  She takes off from my glove towards a high perch in an Oak Tree and sits.  I walk along further, turn, and call, but she bolts out the back side of the tree in the opposite direction. She flies up and over a ridge, and I cannot see her! I am running up the hill to get a glimpse of where she landed. I reach the top of the hill, only to find her sitting in the mouse-bush that I just picked her up from. She is looking directly below her in the tall grass for some movement, but doesn’t see it.  A very determined young hunter.  At this point, it’s getting late, and I decide that enough distraction is enough and I pull out the lure.  I blow the whistle and swing the lure in the air.  Tahoe takes a moment to contemplate the meal to come, and after the lure swings a few more swings, she leaves the branch, makes a determined flight in my direction, and hits the lure in the air.  An Air-Strike to the Lure!  Great!  That’s another first, and a great end to a good first hunt.

Lessons Learned

  • End the Hunt when things get unpredictable. I felt I ended the hunt at the right time.  She was distracted and not focused.  I was getting wary of her flying off in a different direction. Ending the hunt on a good note with a lure strike is key, also.
  • Allow her to hunt.  Picking her up too soon could discourage her from jumping up to the glove. When the distraction is passed, move on to the next thing.

As I walk back to the car with Tahoe pulling on a tiring, I am filled with a great sense of satisfaction at the success of our first solo hunt.  This is what the falconer lives for, why he/she goes out day after day, searching for game.  The partnership that is forming is an exciting one, and I am excited about the journey and adventures that lie ahead for us.  This was an accomplishment, indeed, but it’s not an ‘arrival.’ It’s not a goal achieved, or a milestone to be celebrated.  This is a step in the journey, and exciting and personal one. The joy of Tahoe accepting me as a hunting partner is my celebration.  The gift of her flight back to my glove is my reward.

First Season Hunting , ,

Hunt Training: Episode II and III

October 27th, 2009

Hunt Training: Episodes II and III

Episode II

After two nights of dropping only about 40 grams of weight, I decided to get Tahoe out for another Hunt-Training Session. Earlier in the day, we had shot a squirrel during our Upland Game Hunting excursion. So we used the squirrel tied to a string this time and I wanted to see how she’d react being close to the house.  I set up the squirrel behind a log, out of view until the time was right.  My brother was the squirrel-puller and he set up down the driveway.  I took Tahoe out of the box and set her on a post on the deck.  I walked down the driveway and called her to the fist.  She took off like a shot, and took a high pitch with several good flaps. She alighted on the glove very well.  My next task was getting her to take a higher perch in a tree so she could have a good view when the squirrel was pulled.  I attempted to throw her up in a tree, but instead, she landed on top of a nearby garage and didn’t get a good view.  I had to call her down again, and put her up in a different tree.  After she gained this perch, I told Matt, “GO!” and he pulled on the squirrel.  The fuzzy carcass dragging through the dirt didn’t register at first, until Matt gave it a few tugs and allowed it to flop around.  This got Tahoe’s attention and she quickly left the tree and blasted the squirrel carcass.  I allowed her to feed a little bit since it was already opened. Quickly traded her off the covered squirrel for a  tidbit on the fist, and she did great. Another training session ending with the bird back on the fist and a good solid hit to the target.

Episode III

The following day, we packed up the cabin during the morning and quickly left the Hunting Lodge for one of our favorite hunting areas:  Cranberry Lake.  We walked around the area for about an hour and put up 6 grouse in the area, with my Dad bagging one Woodcock after a flush.  Great morning.  It was another great opportunity for Hunt-Training with Tahoe. I had a small audience with my Dad and Brother looking on to see what Tahoe would do.  We parked in an open area with a few choice Oak Trees for high perches.  I got Tahoe out of the box, took her to a small tree and rolled her up on the branch.  I walked half-way across the open area and called Tahoe to the glove. She came right away.  This was a good sign!  I tried a jess-throw to get her to back up in a different tree, but we are still working on this.  So, I walked her back to a perch in a low tree, and walked out under the big Oak Tree in the center of the lot.  I called her to my fist, and then withdrew it.  She took a good perch in the tree.  *GREAT*  This is exactly what we want to see when we go out in the field; follow and take a higher perch on the next tree.  Shortly after the next call to the fist, I put her away and finished out the training session.

Lessons Learned

So, with all the creance work completed, two good ‘game’ teaching opportunities, and two good returns, these were good sessions in preparation for the real thing. One of the things I remember reading during my studies indicated a couple of things to watch out for during training:

  • The bird learns quickly. Only a few reps and you are ready for the next step. Don’t dwell.
  • Always be prepared for the next lesson. Have the next lure, reward, step, setup ready to go.
  • Weight is crucial to response, interest, and behavior. Pay attention!

With her weight dropping, and response not quick, I decided she needed some nutrition and fed her up for traveling with some good rabbit heart and liver from the previous bunny.  I took her out on Thursday at 888g and she was not very responsive. I took her out again two days later after some good nutrition, even a little higher weight and saw about the same response and interest at 935g.  At this point, I just thought I needed to get her out into the field for some real hunting experience to get her into the swing of things.  That seemed to do it. By practicing these things out in the field, I was able to connect all the lessons and get the response I was looking for. In the end, only you know your raptor. Response time or interest may be relative to the bird. Each bird is different, only the falconer may be able to properly interpret behavior.  Lesson for the me, the falconer is that Tahoe has a bigger ‘Hunting-Weight-Window’ than I thought she did, even if the response isn’t instant.

First Season Hunting , ,