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Posts Tagged ‘lessons’

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 , ,

Hunt Training: Episode I

October 26th, 2009

Hunt Training: Episode I

When setting your raptor free of the leash for the first time, it’s important to level set your expectations for the first free flight.  Success for hunting may be defined in many ways, but for the first flight un-tethered, a good hunting excursion would be one where the hawk ends the afternoon back in the box. High hopes for an untrained hawk may lead you to be a discouraged falconer in the field, questioning your falconry-training skills, the worthiness of your raptor, or both. If you consider training an incremental series of stages, then getting your raptor back after the first few flights would be quite successful.

And so it was time for that moment, both filled with excitement and nervousness that I unclipped the jesses from Tahoe’s jess straps and set her on the fence pole and started to walk away. With great trepidation, I took a position around the swail and stuck out my glove.  I blew the whistle for her to come to me.  It took her a minute, but she alighted to the air and took my garnished glove.  Ah, success! She knows to fly to me and recognizes the familiar landing pad. Then I did a jess-throw and put her up in a tree.  She took a nice perch about 12 feet off the ground, in order to watch two falconer’s flail at the bushes with brush beaters. She didn’t move, and we didn’t get a rabbit going out of those bushes, so we moved to the next step.  I took another good position, stuck out my glove, and blew the whistle. No dice this time.  At which point my Sponsor proclaims, “She’s too fat”, and we decided to enter Tahoe on a rabbit to see what she would do.  A black rabbit appeared out of Sue’s pouch on the ground; “HO-HO-HO!!!” cried the falconers, shouting the game call so that Tahoe could key in on the auditory cue in future hunts. She sat there in the tree. The rabbit, much to his credit, didn’t know that death was eminent, as Tahoe mulled over the potential meal beneath her in the brush.  After about two minutes, Tahoe dove out of the tree and hit the rabbit in the head with the full force of her talons and didn’t let go. Good hit and good grip!

So, the lessons learned here contain a few positives:

  • Tahoe came to the glove in the field, and didn’t bolt off in a different direction.
  • She recognized the rabbit as food, and hit it.
  • She also grabbed the rabbit properly, placing her talon grip on the head, thus ensuring a swift end to any struggles from her quarry.
  • Lessons learned for the falconer include assessing weight properly, i.e. 888g is still too fat to hunt. I was also able to successfully trade Tahoe off her prey by covering the bunny with a towel, and then tossing out the lure, garnished with a turkey neck and a mouse.

All in all, it’s a good first outing, and future outings will contain advanced lessons that will hopefully develop game-hawk and falconer into a well orchestrated team. Time will tell, but we’ll learn from this first hunt and plan appropriately for the next one.

First Season Hunting , ,

Early Training

October 17th, 2009

Early Training

Three weeks after Tahoe’s capture, we are working through training lessons to mold and shape her into a high quality game hawk. Just getting to a training state of mind has been a challenge for my first raptor.  Her capture weight was 1147g and that was on the high side, considering she was trapped with a super fat keel and a full crop.  Taking off the extra weight to bring her full attention to training has been a trying task.
We have worked through the initial steps of training to get her to step to the glove and then take a good leap to the glove for a tidbit.  She went out into the mews without issue this past weekend, yet will not recognize the glove immediately.  Training in the house with very short flights to the glove worked out well for the initial sessions. Training lessons can be quick and short, or completely unproductive.  As a falconer, you are looking for a quick, focused, attentive bird.  She should respond to the whistle and the glove immediately in order for the training to have any meaning for her.  A short summary of the lessons completed so far, in order:

  • Eat off of the fist
  • Hop to the glove
  • Jump to the glove
  • Fly to the glove
  • Hit the Lure (hard, immediate)

This week we are down to 875g and she seems to be getting better at her response times.  Continued repetition and positive reinforcement will hopefully provide a positive training experience for her to be able to fly free in the field.

Happy Training!

Training , , ,

The Falconry Exam

March 23rd, 2009

The first step on the road to becoming a falconer is the falconry exam.  The federal government, office of fisheries and wildlife has established an exam for people to take to test their knowledge of falconry and raptors. The taking and passing of the falconry exam is also a key indicator of success and interest to yourself and to others. This is a 100-question test that focuses on several aspects of the sport of falconry:

  • Raptor Biology
  • Field Identification
  • Hunting Regulations
  • Federal Permit Regulations
  • Raptor Diseases (and how to treat them)

Taking this exam and preparing for it properly opens your eyes as to how much about raptors and falconry you DON’T know.  There truly is quite a bit to knowing how to properly train, house, and care for a Wild Raptor and this test is one of the first ‘toll-gates’  in the sport of falconry. It’s an indicator to you about how much is truly involved in this sport, and it’s an indicator to others (i.e. potential sponsors) as to your knowledge and committment level.

 

Resources

Here are a few resources that I found extremely helpful when studying:

 

Good Luck!

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