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Falcon Girl

Falconry Log: "Phoenix" Red-Tailed Hawk 2015-2016 Season

22 posts in this topic

I know I have a few of you added on Facebook, so this may be old news! But, I am happy to announce that I have acquired my current bird for the 2015-2016 falconry season, a male Red-Tailed Hawk that I have named "Phoenix." Our intended quarry is grey squirrels, fox squirrels, cottontails and swamp rabbits. He is my fourth Red-Tailed Hawk, and the sixth bird I have had on my permits. I've been licensed as a falconer since 2007- time flies! Some of you may remember Charm, the female Red-Tailed Hawk I hunted with from 2008 to 2010. I know falconry is a bit obscure, so here is a definition of falconry: Falconry is utilizing birds of prey (eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, etc.) in pursuit of wild quarry. 

Phoenix was born this year in the spring, in the wild. I trapped him on October 17th, and training has been going well. He is currently flying outdoors to the fist to about 20 feet, whilst tethered to a long line called a creance. I introcuced the lure today-- a thick leather shape that I attach meat to and drag on a line that serves as an "insurance policy" with the falconry bird in question-- we always feed a large amount on the lure, and the bird soon becomes "wed" to it-- so, if the bird isn't wanting to cooperate or fly to the falconer in the field or an emergency is occurring, and we need the bird to come down quick, we pull out the lure and they usually haul butt over to it, because they're always guaranteed a large meal from it. Over the next few weeks I will be continuing his training and increasing the distance of his flights to me, getting him wed to the lure, following in the trees and down to hunting weight. Charm hunted in the 1200-gram range, and this boy is starting to fly well in the 900's! Fun fact-- in the raptor world, female raptors are about 1/3 larger than the males.

The goal is to be in the woods hunting with him by mid to late November. We will see! I'll attach a few photos of him, too. Hope you all are doing well!

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Falconry is just about the coolest sport out there!!!! Ever since I was a kid I thought it would be fun to give it a try. I remember checking into it once, though, and it looked like it would be easier to get a license for weapon-grade plutonium than it would to become a falconer.

Thanks for sharing your story and keep posting the pictures please!

Darren

 

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dhaverstick-- Thanks! It certainly takes a LOT of dedication and years! I had to pass an examination, have my facilities and equipment inspected by the conservation agent (and, are subject to inspection at nearly any time), had to participate in a two-year apprenticeship under a more experienced licensed falconer (even securing someone to be my sponsor for the apprenticeship took some time!), and so much more. :) But it is so worth it!

 

Thanks so much for your kind words, MoHuntress! We will have to get together sometime and go hunting with him! 

 

Today was a good day for Phoenix! He was down to 985 grams, the lightest he's been-- and it shows! These birds must have their weight maintained-- too high, and they are unresponsive to the glove and not hungry enough to chase game. Too low, and you run into health issues, aggressiveness, and other nasty things. So, closely managing their weight and watching their response and activity at each weight (and always making sure to drop their weight VERY gradually!) is key. 

Phoenix feaked on my glove for the first time today. He also feaked in my hair/on my shoulder-- that is a first for me. Feaking is where, after they eat, they wipe their beak off on a dry surface to clean it of any remaining meat bits/guts/blood that may be on it. 

We are getting close to free flight. Nearly instant response to the fist at 50 feet on the creance, and came to and attacked the lure at that length as well. No mantling at all (spreading out wings protectively over their meal); lets me mess with his jesses (leather straps I use to hold the bird on the fist) and feet while on the lure. Cropped him up today (cropping is to give them a lot of food that produces a large "crop"). Roused (puffed up and shook out all of his feathers contentedly) and was sitting on the bow perch with a foot pulled up (another sign of contentedness). Can't wait to see how he progresses!

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Phoenix is doing well! He is coming to the fist and lure instantly and even following me if I get too far away from him on the creance line. I've started throwing tidbits that he "hunts" for and he is doing well. Comes to me at the whistle blow or when I hold my fist or lure up. 

We should be flying free within the next several days. Nervous! I will probably stay out of the woods with him until after rifle season is over though and the woods are quiet again. Hoping to start actively hunting the week after next. Can't wait! Squirrels and rabbits better watch out!

Because of his white head, a friend of mine says he looks like a mini bald eagle. Haha!

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dhaverstick likes this

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Female fox squirrel (which weighed in at 814g after Phoenix got his fill-- he probably ate around ~200 g of the squirrel) on a rainy day. First kill for him! This bird is going to be fun.

 

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Yesterday and today were a lot of fun, but we came home without game.

Yesterday: Early morning hunt. Went to squirrel habitat; no squirrels. But, flushed a cottontail (I have only ever flushed two cottontails in the years I have flown at this certain location.) Phoenix hauled butt for it and missed. A wild adult red tailed flew in and he only gave it a quick look and remained focused on me and the hunt. Followed well and took high perches. Came straight to fist and lure. I ended the hunt after an hour and a half, as I am still sick and achey. Roused and feaked on the fist. He is the smallest RT I have ever flown (and he isnt even that small of a RT) and I love how fast he moves! He has shown me that he can handle large fox squirrels and gave chase to the rabbit. What a versatile, wonderful raptor.

Today: I feel like I'm having deja vu, since today was very similar to yesterday! Hunted in the late morning. Again, an adult RT came in overhead and soared above us. He didn't care, gave it a quick eye and then returned to the hunt. Flushed one cottontail in predominantly squirrel habitat. He wasn't in position and didn't see the bunny. Called it a day after two hours due to still being sick and got back to my work. :) 

Two lovely, sunny days of hunting and fun. Hoping to get out tomorrow if the rain holds off.

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I absolutely love it, Dhaverstick! It certainly isn't a type of hunting to do if you're wanting to rack up a lot of kills (I'll never get as many as I would with my .22!) but it has it's own perks. ;) 

Hunted on Saturday morning. Was cold and very windy. Was the windiest day he's flown so far, and dad tagged along, so it was the first time he flew free with someone else along on the hunt. He did well! The wind and cold had the squirrels and bunnies all holed up, but he got to stretch his wings and took high perches. Did well. Fed him up and gave him Sunday off. 

Hunted with Phoenix this morning before work. Took him to a small woodlot across from a  cemetery just over the field across my house. Was a nice, sunny, calm day. He took high perches and followed well, but alas, no squirrels or bunnies (I've seen both at this location). Since I was rather busy this morning, called him down to the lure after about 45 minutes and then put him out the mews for the rest of the day to catch some sun. :) 

May be meeting a falconry friend on Wednesday to go after squirrels. We will see! 

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Things have been going pretty well for myself and Phoenix. He's gotten a few more squirrels under his belt, as well as his first cottontail rabbit with me! We are having a blast together. Next weekend a friend invited me to hunt his property that he claims is riddled with fox squirrels. Hoping for some success there!

Crashing after (and successfully snagging) his first cottontail (rabbits are harder to come by than squirrels, here):

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Dun dun dun, another squirrel bites the dust:

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Powering past me towards a cottontail:

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Recalling to the glove:

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Hunting loose woods for squirrels and the odd cottontail (can you find him?):

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After missing a bunny, coming up the fist and sulking for minute:

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After a long afternoon hawking:

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Edited by Falcon Girl

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Thanks you guys!

Mon. Dec. 7th: When your bird is finally down to hunting weight and you go hawking for a few hours on public land, and after beating brush and pulling vines in what seems like a dead woods, he climbs up a few branches and then stoops... and you find him on a gut pile. When you find him on said pile, he acts like it is long lost treasure. Ughhhhhhh! At least he was eager to transfer off and only managed a few bites of the nasty stuff. Came swiftly to fist and lure, too.

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Due to long lost treasure and the warm temps, he was too high in weight to take out until Thursday. Blah! At least he looks good while he's waiting:

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Thurs. Dec. 10th:

Hawked hard today. Phoenix chased two grey squirrels-- one chase lasted over an HOUR! We got into a dry creek bed and lost the squirrel in super thick woods. He tried his little heart out today, but just didn't connect. It was fascinating watching him learn his prey throughout the duration of the longer chase. Laddered up and positioned himself for the stoop while I kept the grey in the trees. He has scored multiple fox squirrels so far this season, but not greys. Soon.12348032_10153761957755011_284046944850012369226_10153761956060011_2437673404513

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Will do, dhaverstick!

I have gotten out a few times since my last post, but sadly it has been WAY too warm and too rainy for us to hit the woods as many times as I'd like! I'm hoping to go out tomorrow. So ready for December weather to actually come! Here is a video and some photos:

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Since my last post, Phoenix and I have been doing fairly well! We're up to around 16 head of game, including multiple fox and grey squirrels, cottontail rabbits, and a rat! Here's some more photos:


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