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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.

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