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December West-Side Field Meet 2011

December 12th, 2011

MHC West Side Falconry Meet, December 2011

Intro

The West-Side (of the state of Michigan) Field Meet took place this past weekend near Grand Rapids.   It was a great day full of hunting and adventure for those folks who came out to brave the cold and elements that go with hawking in cold weather.  Several falconers even stayed the afternoon to put on a ‘Hawk-Talk’ for the boy scout troop who came to the center to participate in earning an animal encounter badge.

First Hunt: Rabbits with Jaeger

The first hunt of the day took place close to the center with Jaeger, an adult male red-tailed hawk. There were five flushes in a lowland bowl area that had a small stream running through it to make things interesting.  Jaeger passed up all the slips for whatever reason.  Figuring out the hawks and their optimal hunting conditions is difficult for even the most seasoned falconers.  Jaeger’s typical hunting hour is late in the afternoon. Couple the additional brush-beaters in the field, the early AM hunt time, as well as the early morning cold temps, and well, it can make things unpredictable.  I’m always happy when I at least see game and get the hawk out for a few flights.  The hunting team gave it a good try.

Second Hunt: Falcon Flight

Falcons require large, wide-open areas in order to hunt their winged prey.  It takes them some time to get up to a reasonable height in order to stoop on their quarry. So, as the falconer narrated the orchestration of the hunt, the observers got colder and colder.  With the thin air, getting to an ideal height was difficult for the falcon to get up to it’s normal height of around 300ft. for a good stoop. So, the group of hopeful falconers and hawkers waited patiently until the falcon reached a decent pitch for the show. This late afternoon hunt involved a lot of standing around and waiting while the cold breeze chewed on your cheeks. Once the tiercel falcon (the male) reached a decent height, the falconer served up a pheasant for the tiercel and he barreled out of the sky and blasted the pheasant for a ‘bind’ and held on to the pheasant until they hit the ground. It was quite the sight to behold, especially if you haven’t seen it before. The falconer explained afterwards about eating and food rewards while the falcon plumed it’s meal and ate a good serving.

Third Hunt, Rabbits with Indie

From the Falcon flight, a good portion of the group drove over to small wooded area with some drainage moving through it for another rabbit hunt.  Indie was first out of the box and had a large group beating brush to provide several good flushes.  Indie took two good swipes at the first couple of rabbits and flew far ahead of the group.  There was a good brush pile near, so we flushed some additional bunnies which she also took a dive at.  On one of the stoops, she pulled some fur before the rabbit escaped into a near-by warren.  Some days, that’s the way it goes.

Fourth Hunt, Rabbits with Sable

After Indie was done, we took out Sable for a flight at some bunnies.  The group walked to a field and flushed one rabbit quickly for Sable to give chase.  She perched really low in the brush and had a hard time coming back to the glove, or taking a higher perch.  So, I moved sable over to another perch and the group walked a field to flush game.  After coming up empty, Sable moved to another area, where the brush-beating group was moving towards.   A rabbit flushed and Sable gave a dive after it, if even half-heartedly.  The remainder of the hunt, Sable seemed unresponsive and wasn’t following well, so I called an end to the hunt and the group made it’s way back to the center to regroup.

Great Day of Hawking and Hunting

Hunting is an experience that most hunters *I know* simply enjoy the experience of being outside in nature and interacting with the wildlife and the elements.  Hawkers and Falconers take this up a notch by participating in the hunt with their birds and being a partner. Falconers live for the partnership with thier animals.  Today was no exception for several falconers who participated in the hawk-talk for the boy scouts during the afternoon.  I personally enjoy any opportunity to educate folks on the sport of falconry or raptor biology/ecology in general.

The hunting and game opportunities were very good, even if I was not witness to a successful catch today.  Just being outdoors and providing the opportunities for these raptors is a decent reward for the falconer.  The educational exeperience I was able to provide for some young outdoors people was rewarding as well.  I truly had a great day and am thankful to be able to participate with several other seasoned falconers. Thier insight, experience, and knowledge is one of the main reasons I attend these field meets, so as to soak up and learn every little tid-bit of knowledge that I can. I continue to learn something new each time, with each new hunting excursion and falconer.   I am truly grateful for their kindness and experiences.



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