Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hawk Hunting!

Stephen received his final falconry permit on October 13th. Every since that day we have spent every afternoon and entire weekends looking for a hawk for him.

We have driven every back road from Colbert to Ardmore, Tishamingo, Atoka and Durant. I am positive that we have put in over a 1000 miles. Up until this point Stephen and his mentor has spotted on passage bird (a hawk under one year of age) but the spot wasn't a good one and the hawk wouldn't attempt the trap due to traffic.

We have seen a lot and trapped a few but in the end it was always a hag (a hawk over a year old). So a lot of other falconers have been going on about this place called Hackberry Flat/The Wet Lands

Hackberry Flat surrounds Fredrick , which is a good 3 hour drive from where we live and we need to be there by sun up. Hawks hunt at sun up and in the evening, they like to sore during the middle of the day. Needless to say we woke up at 3 am yesterday and was driving toward Fredrick and the Flats. We met up with Sephen's mentor and his daughter on the way and traveled by two vehicles with hand held radios in each for communication. Stephen and I took with us our 18 month old daughter (Katie) who has been a real trooper with all the driving around the last couple of weeks, and Our 11 year old daughter (Shelby) who only got involved with the whole hawking adventure because she wanted to keep the hampsters that we used as bait. Now she is an Ace Hawk spotter!!

We arrived about 3 minutes from Fredrick just as the sun was rising! I think this is the first time Stephen and I have ever watched a sun rise together and we spent it looking for hawk movements lmao..

Once the sun was up and we where moving into Fredrick we spotted some birds. One amazing looking hawk that was uniquely extremely dark. In fact we had written him off as crow when Stephen and Steve (the mentor) both realized that no this was a really dark hawk. Unfortunately this hawk was no fool and the trap was not about to trick him.

We then found a passage bird that hit the trap before we could turn around to see it. This one made me sad really. She was a beautiful bird but it was apparent that she had an encounter with a power line and didn't fair so well. If I had all the qualifications to rehab birds this one would have been my special project! She was missing a lot of wing feathers and some of her tail feathers had came out and she now had 2 red tail feathers to replace them, but the red feathers where damaged and her future wasn't looking bright.

Stephen has been trying to get me to look into all the test and requirments for rehabing birds but I have been reluctent, that is another story for another day. But I think this bird changed my mind and I can see Stephen and I getting into the rehab area.

Steve had to head back at noon because his daughter had a soccer game to attend. By noon we where tired and thirsty and hungery but not willing to give up. So we left the flats and headed into town. We had sandwiches and soda and went right back out looking for more hawks. Determined that we wanted the trapping to end and the training to begin.

We drove around until 3pm, my eyes where acking, my body hurt and I was beyond exhausted. Stephen was getting down about the whole thing as well. We spotted a bird and chose to trap it just for moral really. This was no nice bird! we sat the trap and went to turn around and she was already on the trap. Stephen did the release but the bird had grabbed hold of the towel that he used to cover her face and refused to let go. in the end he had to just lay her on the ground and walk away so that she could fly off. Most birds fly away from you as quickly as possible. This hag flew straight up to the pole that we had trapped her off of, by the time we got in the car and started to leave she was eyeballing us, feathers all turned out and was actually stomping her feed like a child throwing a fit! She was pissed and we couldn't help but laugh.

After that we drove around some more until about 4 pm. Stephen finally said look we aren't getting the hawk today lets just drive home. However we did choose to drive the longer way so that we would be in Oklahoma the entire time so that if we happen to spot a hawk we would be legal in trapping her.

At a few minutes until 5 we spotted two hawks on poles and decided to go on and try trapping at least one just to see what happened. The first one bumped off and wasn't interested so Stephen moved the trap just 3 or 4 poles down to the next hawk. Before we could go half a block and turn around she was on the trap and flapping around.

We sped up to her and jumped out of the van. I had to pause to grab my camera so Stephen got there before me. He had a towel on her before I could get the first shot. but her feet and tail feathers where out. All I could think or say was " those are not red tail feathers!" ( red tail feathers meaning she is over a year old) . By 5:05 pm Stephen was standing my the side of the highway with a shit eating grin on his face showing Shelby his hawk!

We had to finish our drive home and didn't get here until around 9:30 pm, unload every thing and wait for Stephen's sponsor to get here to help him with the initial stuff. Putting on the leg straps and showing Stephen how to handle the hawk.

The hawk had not been happy to be shoved into a box and driven hundreds of miles in an unfamilar place. We could hear her in the box having a fit and before long she stunk up the van. It turns out she had already eaten a lot and threw it all up. I was shocked to see how much she had thrown up. She had to be pretty much full when whe went for the trap, greedy bird is all I can say.

Official gender of the hawk, per Steve, a female, we named her Zoie. Stephen was up until almost midnight just practicing having Zoie on his hand. This is the first steps of training her, because she isn't used to him and he isnt used to her, they have to spend a lot of time just getting used to being near each other.

Stephen says his arm is sore and Zoie is still a bit shy but she isnt trying to fly off of his hand any more. The next 3 weeks should be interesting. I for one am pleased that the trapping is done and the late night training falls on Stephen!

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