Sunday, August 20, 2006

sharpie fever

My friend R has a new eyass musket, which is coming along great. R got him at 12 days and is practically dancing with delight. Sharpshins seem to come pre-wired to catch; they don't need the grooming and encouragement that longwings often require. A few baggies, and he was up and running. I got myself up at 5:30 (ugggh) to be over at R's place at 6:30, and we drove out in search of small birds. The bird stayed on the fist really well, and we got some great flights. At one point I was looking over a culvert and begged the gods to make the video camera appear in my hand: a perfect, classic flight after a quail. Saw it all.

There's something about the accipiter shape and the way they move that even the 85-gram musket sends the words "power hawk" flashing in red lights through your mind. They're fast and direct and determined, and now I want one! R's was very tame and relaxed, didn't blink twice at a total stranger following him around.

After the sharpie caught two birds R let him feed up, and we went off to plink some food for his other hawk, which is still molting. I have a .22 rifle and a borrowed 12 gauge shotgun, and have shot a few other types of guns, but know very little about them. The .177 pellet rifle seems like a much better tool – it's extremely quiet and accurate in close range. With sufficient fps power small birds just drop. Non lead pellets are available, too, since you can't risk your raptor ingesting a lead fragment. The .177 was a spring action, ready when we were. CO2 pellet guns don't work for me because I would load one up and throw it in the glove box, but by the time I encountered a good shot days or weeks later, the gas was gone, a complete waste. I know, I should have left it empty and put the canister in at time of need, but . Plus a pistol just can't compete on accuracy. The only things I ever hit with a pellet gun were a pigeon and several raccoons. And I missed the pigeon twice.

So rarely do I get up in time for dawn that I always forget what a pleasure it is. The crisp air, the quiet, everything seems clean, even the dust that rises while you're crunching through brush is less dense than when you hawk in the afternoon. Few people are about on the sidewalks or roads. The prey birds are hungry and perhaps a little less cautious. We'd take ten or twenty paces, stop and listen for the rustles. It was very easy hawking compared to larger birds that take quarter-mile slips. The sharpie stayed within 80 feet all the time. I could see everything that happened.

And I'll probably go out and do it tomorrow evening. R says the sharpie is much more keen in the evening, so better flights are possible. I'd say the flights today were pretty hard to improve upon.

Update on P: the cracked feather clotted fully and he broke it off, partially taking care of half the problem himself. I'll try to cast him this week (shudder) and see if I can't put in a new one.

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