Friday, March 24, 2006

paradise keeps getting better

Back to the secret field for another round. I don't hunt true cottontails all that often, so I think I've picked up a little of P's psychology. If I haven't said before, he's accipiter-like in the single-track-mind way. If he thinks there's a bunny holding in a spot, he'll stare at it until his eyeballs fall out. Completely unaware of, or ignoring, excellent flushes passing by within striking distance, or the fact that the bunny he wanted has gotten away. Odd initially, but consistent with his experiences before he was given to me. He must have seen plenty of potential flushes but was subject to the falconer's control and choice of what would make a good slip.

But he's also a pretty smart bird, and a Harris hawk, so I believe flexibility can be trained into him. Today he seemed more gamey, got into serious chasing fairly quickly. He still takes longer to "reset" after a miss, though. He'll stand there thinking "damn," rouse, zip his beak through his feathers a few times, look again, come back to the fist, look once more with his "damn" thought balloon still floating over his head -- and then he's ready to try again. S would come to the fist, pause, rouse, and would start looking for game.

It was windy at home today, but sunny and still at the secret field. Our first catch was a tiny bunny that hid under a stack of pallets. I poked it out with a stick, and it was an easy catch for P. After a quail drumstick, we tromped around a bit, bringing up a ten good flushes and twenty poor ones. He got stuck in his accipiter trance a couple times, then started getting quite serious. He gave about ten hard chases, one time running smack into a wire fence, but recovered immediately and was after it again. That one he missed, but he caught an adult less than five minutes later. For that he got a wing with a bit of breast, and the tiny bunny's front leg.

After some contemplation and observation, I decided he looked like he could go for one more. He did, and a good flight it was. A straight chase, one zig, then the bunny ran into what it must have thought was cover, but turned out to be a dirt clod. Slowed it down just enough for P to connect. This one was more of a fighter, hauling him ten feet along before all-stopping into a bush. I took control of the back legs and swapped it with the rest of the tiny bunny.

So we had three catches, and two returned live to the field. Just as he finished off his reward, rain started to fall. Couldn't ask for a better day. Well, actually I could, but you know what I mean.

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