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Posts Tagged ‘hawk-traps’

Second Trapping Adventure

September 17th, 2011

Second Trapping Adventure

So I’m combining a little internet humor* (meme) with some falconry adventures today in order to warn all the hawks out there that I’m looking for YOU. Specifically, I’m looking for a large immature female Red-Tailed Hawk.  I’ve been out for three trapping adventures so far with little success.  4 adults sighted and no immys for the first adventure;  12 hawks sighted on the second attempt with two birds trapped.  The night was looking like a success until the weigh-in occurred. There is a special hawk out there, the one that will be my partner for the next 6 months at least.

Trapping is quite simply the process of capturing a wild hawk for use in falconry. It involves a special trap**, a live bait animal, and some additional equipment for caring for the freshly trapped raptor.  It also involves lots of driving.  You drive around until you see a hawk that you can trap, and then you try to figure out the best way to present the trap to the raptor so she can see it, and then you are potentially waiting (long periods) for them to hit the trap.  Just as long as you don’t ‘bump’ them off of their perch.

Once you trap the hawk there are a few things to take care of; mainly, immobilize the bird so it doesn’t hurt you or itself.  Grab the feet with gloves on, throw a towel over the bird so that she can’t see what’s going on. Then hood the bird as soon as possible.  Unhook the nooses off the hawk feet carefully, this is where an injury can occur so sometimes it’s a good idea to simply cut the nooses off the feet.  You’ll then have to re-noose your trap at the end of the day.  It’s also a good idea to apply some ‘poultry-dust’ to a bird to get rid of parasites and insects.  Tape up the feet with stretchy co-flex tape and then slide a sock over the bird to keep its wings under control.  Once you’ve done these things you have a bird that looks like the picture below.  You are now ready to get weight.   Carefully place your bird on a scale and get some weight. Now it’s important to examine the bird for any other injuries, diseases, condition of the feet, or issues that would prevent this bird from making a good falconry hawk. So, you’ve got a decision to make; will you keep the bird or let it go and look for a bigger one?  It’s a tough call for sure; you’ve been driving around for hours and this is the first Immy you’ve seen, let alone been able to trap one.  My favorite part is letting the bird go after undoing all the dressings and the hood.  You’ve given the bird a little help with the poultry dust and it’s great to watch them fly back to their home.  Very satisfying to me.

 

Drop a comment on this article if you think I missed some important details or would like to share your hawk trapping adventures!

*Ackbar trap graphic borrowed randomly from the ‘net.

** Detailed hawk trap pictures or construction plans are not found here due to trade secret reasons.

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The First Trapping Adventure

September 23rd, 2009

The First Trapping Adventure

With the falconry adventures soon to begin, there is one thing I am missing after all my paperwork, equipment, and facilities are ready to go:  I need a raptor!  So it’s off to trapping my first red-tailed hawk with my sponsor. Most folks that I tell this to are astounded that you have to go trap your own, and the immediate next question is:  How do you trap a hawk?  Well, I went on my first trapping adventure with my sponsor late in September to find out for myself. I had a pretty good idea of what I was in store for by reading the trapping guides and watching a few videos.  I was super excited to go out looking for my first red-tail with an experienced trapper. Knowing that trapping could be a many-day activity, I set my expectations low, but I was still excited to finally be attempting to capture a wild raptor that seem so difficult to get close to in the wild.  Many redtails will spook or ‘bump’ off of their perch with the slightest appearance of people.  Most of the adult hawks that we saw on our drive immediately alighted on the wing once we stepped out of the car, which is why it’s so important to ‘serve’ traps from a moving vehicle – very carefully.

Once you do get lucky, serve your trap, and have a redtail land and get caught in the nooses, it’s important to remember that you have a wild animal in your hands and that extra precautions are prudent when handling them.  A wild raptor is very scared, and will grab with its feet/talons at the earliest opportunity.  When approaching a raptor on the trap, it’s a good idea to get a towel and cover them quickly to calm them down.

Since trapping red-tailed hawks is a whole different adventure than hunting with them, you’ll need some equipment to help you with the task of catching your trainable raptor.  Here is a short list of my ‘trapping-kit’ that I take with me when I go out looking for a hawk to trap:

Trapping Kit

  • Trapping Permit*
  • Hawk Trap (possibly two)
  • Trap Bait (Gerbils or Chipmunks are best)
  • Towel
  • Heavy Gloves
  • Hood
  • Nylon stocking
  • Co-Flex Tape
  • Poultry Dusting Powder
  • Scale
  • Binoculars
  • Camera
  • Med-Kit
  • Anklets and Jesses

How-To: Trap a Hawk

1. Identify a trappable bird. An immature red-tailed hawk is the trapping target. Sometimes, this is easier said, than done. Finding and identifying hawks can be difficult for the novice if you’ve never done it before.  Find a hawk, identify it as an immature hawk, and getting close to it is just one step in the trapping process that can take more time than you think.

2. Serve the trap so that the hawk can see it.  You need to present the trap in a manner that does not ‘bump’ or move the hawk out of the area.  The hawk needs to see the tasty morsel inside the trap.  Active chipmunks are usually the best, as they stay quite active in the trap after it’s thrown.

3. When the hawk lands on the trap, you must hurry up and get to the trap as quickly as possible.  A flailing hawk can injure itself on the trap nooses.

4. Cover the bird with a towel. Make sure it is protected from further struggle.

5. Immobilize the feet and get the bird under control.  With the feet in one hand, you may or may not get a struggle from the wings, but you should at least have a subdued hawk in your hands.  Expect a gaping mouth, and scared eyes. Be gentle, this is an elegant creature and it deserves your respect and proper treatment. Now is a good time to apply poultry dust to kill off any mites and fleas that the bird may be harboring.

6. Hood, sock, and bind the feet.  Hood the animal with a raptor hood to keep it calm. Slide a nylon stocking down over the body of the bird so that it cannot move around, and get the feet under control.  Co-Flex tape is a great way to bind the feet but the tape can sometimes leave behind a sticky residue, which you have to clean off the feet later, but I prefer to use “dog shoes,” one for each foot. The dog shoes have a Velcro strap that bind around the leg, and the heavy canvas does not allow the talon to poke through the fabric.

7. Now that you have the raptor immobilized, you can now weigh it. Getting a weight on the raptor gives you an idea as to their suitability for falconry.  A small bird may not be desirable if you are planning on hunting squirrels.  Also take note of the keel and the crop.  You’ll want to know if your raptor has eaten recently.

8. Inspect the raptor’s feathers, keel, and feet, evaluating the overall health of the raptor to make the ever-important decision to keep it for falconry or not.

9. Should you decide to keep the raptor, this is a good time to outfit the bird with anklets and jesses so you can leash it up later on your glove to start the manning process.

Now you have a decision to make.  Do you keep the bird, or let it go?  It’s up to you, based on your own requirements, health evaluation, and gut feeling about the bird.

*DISCLAIMER: Trapping wild raptors is permissible by Michigan DNR Permit ONLY. DO NOT attempt to trap *any* raptor without the help and assistance from a licensed, experienced falconer.

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