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Posts Tagged ‘tahoe’

Early Winter Hunt

December 5th, 2010

Early Winter Hunt

It’s the first weekend in December, 2010, and the snow is flying already.  Light dustings and flurries are coming down sporadically throughout each day as the lake-effect snow makes it’s way across the state from Lake Michigan.  Choosing a weather slot can be a very quick decision, knowing that the weather can turn at any moment. The calendar may not be past December 21st, but the weather sure says it’s winter out there.  So, on Saturday, with the wind blowing and the grey skies threatening more snow at any moment, I took Tahoe out to the field with a friend to walk through a nice field for some rabbits.

Our hunt started out briskly with the wind cutting through my jacket and the occasional snowflake brushing against my hat on it’s way down to the ground.  A few bushes and brush piles later, we had our first rabbit on the run.  The rabbit bolted from the safety of a hollow log and Tahoe was in pursuit.  She took a dive after the rabbit while it flushed towards her.  She missed, and the rabbit was lost in the high grass.  I think he found a nice hole to crawl into under one of the logs, but I couldn’t track it well enough to know where it went.  Then, Tahoe did something she’d not done before; she took off from the ground, and began to fly over the field, with a slow, steady soar.  She moved slowly, looking at the ground carefully, and then after a moment came back to take a perch high in the oak tree.  Chalk one up to the rabbits.

A few steps later in the next row of trees, I was charging the brush ferociously.  It was deep cover and the vines were tight;  I plowed through it anyway, hoping another rabbit would flush.  What happened next was quite unexpected.  A female Pheasant bolted from the brush with a cackle and took off quickly across the meadow.  The pheasant put on it’s after-burners once over the tall grasses.  Tahoe took from her perch in pursuit, but quickly gave up halfway across the meadow.  She ended up in a lone cottonwood tree in the middle of the meadow.  I called her back and we resumed hunting.

A few minutes later, after crashing through some thick underbrush, I circled around a large log pile and flushed another bunny.  The bunny made it around to the far side just as Tahoe did a spectacular wing-over and crashed the log pile.  She came up short with no rabbit in her clutches.  Another tough flush with no results.  The remainder of the afternoon produced two mice with Tahoe clutching for choice tid-bits and no other flushes, save for the deer that I put out in the middle of the meadow. Conclusion to this afternoon’s hunt is wonderful;  I ended up with two new hunting spots and Tahoe had a successful afternoon, even if measured by two mice.  Game is game and if she caught her own meal, the more successful she feels.   I’ll enjoy the success as well, even if it isn’t a bunny or a squirrel or a pheasant.

Good hunting!

* Picture above courtesy of T. Perez, 2010.

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First Hunt of the Season

October 9th, 2010

First Hunt of the Season

This past week has been an extraordinary week of incredible fall weather.  It has been perfect: clear blue skies, an occasional breeze, 70 degrees, crisp-cool nights.  I’ve been so eager to get out into the woods, I can hardly stand it. Crunchy leaves, wonderful fall colors, and the sunlight so bright, it makes each day seem like a jewel to me.  So it wasn’t surprising that I wanted to get Tahoe out into the field as soon as I could.  It may have been a little early, but it was great to get out into the field and let her fly free.

We went to a place close to home because once the sun goes down, it get’s dark pretty quick.  We were out in the field for just over an hour before sunset tonight to get in a few moments of hunting.  What a grand way to start the season!  Tahoe took to a perch and appeared to be enjoying her release for a few minutes before she took off across the field and landed hard underneath a pine tree.  I didn’t make it over to her in time, but I did catch her wolfing down the last bite of what appeared to be a mouse.  When I got over to her, she jumped up into the trees and I couldn’t see her.  The leaves on the trees were just too thick and they concealed her very well.  Once I did find her, I took a few steps toward her and a pheasant went up.  Tahoe jumped out of the trees and nailed it! Wow!   I can only hope that her next hunt is just as successful.

What a great way to end the day; game in the bag, hawk in the box, a proud sponsor,  a smiling falconer and his son enjoying the outdoors together!  Big thanks also go to my wife who helped me get ready for my day.  Thanks Sweetie!

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Closing out the First Season of Hawking

March 10th, 2010

Closing out the First Season of Hawking

While the calendar isn’t quite past the Vernal Equinox, the moderate temperatures and increased wildlife activity surely signify that Spring is coming soon.  I’ve noticed a significant amount of wildlife the other day on my drive home:  sandhill cranes, several groups of turkeys, 3 herds of deer with 20+ in each group, counted 5 Red-Tailed Hawks and two nests, many flocks of Canada Geese, ducks, songbirds, and even a Red-Winged Blackbird.  All the animals are showing more activity, even the rabbits in the swamp in my back yard. So with spring around the corner, the end of the first hawking season is very near.

While Tahoe did not target fox squirrels this season, she did take a swipe at a few and even chased one around a tree trunk one afternoon.  Squirrel Hunting season officially ended on February 28th of this year.  So they are done.  Rabbit season finishes up at the end of this month. However, the end of Tahoe’s flights may end sooner, if the weather gets warmer and Tahoe gets more distracted in the field by the call of the wild.  Hawks tend to take to spring thermals very quickly, and then end up in a soar for the afternoon, leaving the falconer driving around a while with the radio-telemetry going.  Sometimes it’s best to call the end of the season early, especially when the weather turns unseasonably warmer.

So now what?  What do you do with a Red-Tailed Hawk until Rabbit season starts again in the Fall?  Warmer weather and a surplus of food make it great for hawks to molt and rear their own brood.  Tahoe won’t be mating this year being cooped up in the mews, but she will molt her feathers and turn her plumage into the adult feathers, complete with red-tail that these raptors are famous for. Looks like we’ll get to witness a wonderful transformation, up-close and personal with Tahoe over the summer months.

The joy of falconry has taught me much about predator-prey relationships, bonding with raptors, and the truly wonderful world of hawking for rabbits. I have a well-mannered hawk in my mews that I truly enjoy taking care of, hunting, and watching.  While the partnership will have to remain within the confines of the mews, backyard, and house for the summer, I sure am looking forward to a break from the hunting excursions  for some warm weather activities and fun with the family.

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Great January Hunt!

January 17th, 2010

Great January Hunt!

The mid-January thaw is always a great time to get outdoors.  If you love to ski or sled or toboggan, or just get out, the (relatively) warmer temperatures always make it easier to enjoy the snow. The animals also notice the change in the weather and they become a little more active.  So I like to take advantage of these days as a hunter and get out into the field to chase after rabbits.  Of course, Tahoe loves to fly for them too.  So with the nice(r) weather during this weekend, I wanted to get out and hike through the woods, beating the brush for bunnies.

Marius came with today to get outside and get some fresh air. Besides, what kid doesn’t like to get outside after being INside for a while?  We started out at one of our usual spots, and Tahoe flew through a series of regular perches.  She follows along quite well now, and really starts paying attention when the brush starts shaking. I began walking through the ‘tough’ stuff, and I mean viney, picky, thorny-briar patch stuff.  The kind of stuff that would wrap around your ankles, trip you up, and tear you to shreds on your fall down.  It was a great area because the rabbit-sign (evidence of rabbits) was abundant and fresh, so I couldn’t NOT walk through this swail.  After I had checked as many places as I could, I wandered off to the left to check out another patch, and Tahoe took a second high perch.  I turned around just in time to see her dive out of the tree, and hit the ground hard.  I heard her crunch through the thorny underbrush, and I was concerned about her feathers and feet. When I heard the rabbit cry, I knew she had hit her mark.  I ran over to her and peeled back the brush to give her some room to move.  She had a nice head-hold with both talons, and the rabbit was quickly immobilized.  I traded her off the rabbit to the lure and dispatched the rabbit properly.  After giving Tahoe a few minutes to ‘reset’, we continued our hunt around the park area and finished up without seeing another rabbit.  It was a good hunt!

* I should also note here that photo credits go to Marius!  He took the photo above!

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Success! Tahoe’s First Wild Kill

December 31st, 2009

The First Wild Kill

It took three months from trapping her, but Tahoe was finally successful out in the field today.  She caught her first rabbit and made her first wild kill as a falconry bird!  Marius came along today for a nice walk in the snow, as well as Sue. We were walking a short brush-line with some trees, and Tahoe was following along well. She stayed overhead, and didn’t stay much more than 25 yards behind before moving to a new perch.  I was very happy with her following ability today.  About 15 minutes into hunt, Tahoe launched herself from her high perch and flew past me and took a slicing flight through some brush and nailed her target.

I quickly caught up to her landing site, and helped her with the rabbit.  With this being her first kill, the interaction had to be positive. She did not bristle, and she did not give me any trouble with the trade off.  It was a good learning experience for both of us.

We walked through another section of the hunting ground for another 45 minutes in the hope of scaring up another bunny.  We chased one through another section of brush, and Tahoe saw it and took a short flight before checking off and finding a high perch.  I was not able to flush that bunny again, but Tahoe was flying well and the day was a good hunt.

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