more ducking hawking

Rat Hawking at its very best


The anatum peregrine 'Cowgirl' was in her 5 season. It was a duck season no different from most, rain, wind and mud, lots of mud. My duck hunting with longwings is executed over long irrigation ditches that separate corn and hay fields. The ditch flight if orchestrated correctly with a clean flush is almost a guaranteed kill. But it can turn bad in an instance. The key is to have a flusher on each side of the ducks. The falcon is then put in the air before the flush positions are intact. The falcon waiting on should pin the ducks allowing for a controlled flush. That's the theory, but nature has it's own survival push. If you are lucky the falcon will be served a clean flush and everyone can go home in a few minutes. Thinking how great life is and how awesome the hawk is and wondering how you can put a spin on the flight making it in to something grander than it was. On how the hawk never flies lower than ‘500 hun’ and always remounts even higher, never perches and flies for the pure love it. You see my bird flies to please me...


IMG_0163

Good god this is why I despise fluffy hawking stories. Tell me about what went wrong and why. Tell me it was a kill on the 5th flush and from a porta pottie! You would then have an intent reader, interested and focussed. It's the you never really can predict nature of falconry which keep's me coming back for more. It is flights that take on a flavor and style that separates it for last twenty. It's the ‘kill me' setup ruined by a duck flushing at your feet with the falcon still attached to glove. Or a uncontrollable hound running the field flushing everything in sight with the hawk out of position. While a hoarse falconer is creating new curse words, never heard before in unusual sequences.
 
The very wet late summer last year created an interesting dynamic to a field where I fly. The machinery was unable harvest a corn field and it was left standing for much of the winter. This brought in hordes of waterfowl and some interesting flights were enjoyed. On one occasion I recall an interesting flight with Cowgirl. It's was a late sunny afternoon, the rain had subsided for the moment.  I parked the diesel about 200 yards from feeding ducks. Did the pre flight checklist, with transmitters beeping and jesses removed the hood traces were struck. She did the usual song and dance on the fist, scratch the back of her head, big rouse and a mute to lighten up. Suddenly she shrink wrapped the plumage, opened the pointed sails and took flight. Her wingbeat looked urgent and I sensed the kill would be quick. Good I thought because the Nucks were playing the flambé's at the garage and I didn't want to miss the first period. She raced straight for the field without her usual fly by checking for pigeons hanging out of my vest. As she gained some pitch the ducks began swarming with a little dip she bound to a big duck. Great I thought the beer and hockey were imminent. However she releases the duck and it dropped into the vast corn stalks. I had walked ten feet from the truck and watched as she worked the ducks with false stoops and half hearted tail chases. Maybe I should have put her on the scale!? Weighing her had become only a habit and because I was keeping track of a new baby hybrid. As long as she was under 1000 grams I would not require a pigeon to get her down if the flight ended without a kill. 

She was new to this type of flight and she seemed to trying different tactics I hadn't seen before. I had now covered the distance to the field and my presence sent a wave of mallards flying. They flew underneath her and she folded the wings and cold cocked a green-head, he crumpled in a heap. She did not go after him. Interesting I thought, she is a fat hawk playing around and wasting my time. The peregrine was now joined in with the local haggard peales. They didn't crab as they often did instead CG started to climb, the lazy wild bird zipped over to the woodlot and left us to the serious business of catching a duck. Why she climbed higher wasn't apparent until later. Groups of waterfowl were flying between the two cornfields separated by a large berry field. Do get me started on the blueberry wasteland!! 

After she was about 500 ft she dropped in behind a group of ducks that were about 60 feet in the air...thawaak a hen in the back takes a blow but keeps going. The hit victim no worse for wear escapes. This went on for minutes, and I could have brought the lawn chairs. The ducks just kept flying underneath her and she smacking them. It was like the peregrines version of batting practice I guess.  At last a green-head took a blow hard enough that he dropped and hit the dirt. Only to regain his composure and escape onto the ditch!! She wanted him and I obliged with the help of a fellow falconer, Bob Smirfitt we pinched him into the air, a stoop and scoop ensued and time to go home!

We had a great number flights and catches before heavy rains turned the field into a mud pit.

Good hawking!