Sunday, January 15, 2006

Falconry meet (part 2)

(part 1)
Saturday, not the 13th.

At dinner we ran into another falconer who's starting a new female Harris and was looking for tiercel to hunt with her. He has that calm demeanor with a rich undercurrent of enthusiasm. Every year for the past six meets, I'd run into him and chatted a bit, checked out his first redtail. He spent a couple years hanging around before getting licensed. That kind of patience impresses me, because it's some assurance that he knows falconry is a commitment. Most people hear about the sport and immediately dive in, all impatient for trapping season, and only find out later just how time- and emotion-consuming this sport is. The bird is flown barely once a week, and does lousy. Not so with this guy.

Now, I love S. I've had him since he was fifty days old, caught hundreds of jackrabbits, well over a hundred cottontail, about a dozen ducks and a few pheasants with him. He's been my buddy for 9 years minus one in a breeding project. He works with P in the cast, is smart and cautious, is so well-manned he can ride the car without a hood, yet still hoods well, and loves hunting. Last season and this season I just haven't being flying as often as I should. It's hard to acknowledge that one isn't doing as well for a hawk as one could, but I had to. Two birds is a lot of work, and there are some things you should but can't do with two that you can with one. I also wanted to concentrate on doing more birdy things with P – crows and pheasant. So I offered him S, and the falconer said yes, he was very interested.

The next morning, at the pigeon derby, we talked it about it some more, and at the end of it I said, "If you want him, you can take him today. I think he'll be in good hands." I could feel my voice waver, the kind where it's better to disengage your brain from what you're doing. So I kept blabbing advice until we put S in his truck and he drove away. I would catch him at the end of the day, anyway. We spent the afternoon driving around with a longwinger and talking club politics.

We hooked up in the early evening and got the report: apparently S did fine, as he always does. When my friend went over a bump, he stopped and checked to see that the cloth hiding the dog kennel was still up. It had fallen, and, suddenly confronted by two dogs 8 inches away, S had his wings out defensively. But he wasn't bating frantically. That was good, and it was conscientious of the falconer to check, so I was pretty pleased and felt further assured what I'd said this morning was true.

So I drove home with just one bird in the car. P kept looking over the barrier to where S is usually perched. It's a strange step – P is my first candidate for giveaway, but he wants to kill dogs – but hopefully a good one for all of us. I think S will have fun with his new owner, learning to work with dogs and spending more time hunting. I'll be able to work more closely with P, who is a good hunter too, but a little too accipiter-like in personality. And I'll be able to shift focus from jackrabbits to a new kind of game, which will refresh my enthusiasm for the sport.

2 comments:

Matt Mullenix said...

Hello--

Sorry I just saw your comment on Steve Bodio's Querencia blog regarding my comments to the USFWS. Many thanks for your note.

I've been enjoying your blog and noticed you caught a Virginia rail with one of your HH. They are a common quarry for ours here (and delicious). Are they out of season there now or not a game species in your state?

Best,
Matt
PS: feel free to contact me at matthewmullenix@yahoo.com

max inclined said...

Hi Matt, glad you like the blog, and thanks for posting. Virginia rails aren't a gamebird here. I didn't know they were tasty, but the hawks certainly liked it :-)