"Falconry is not a hobby or an amusement: it is a rage. You eat it and drink it, sleep it and think it. You tremble to write of it, even in recollection. It is, as King James the First remarked, an extreme stirrer of passions." T.H. White

The Godstone and Blackymor, 1959 (First American Edition) Van Rees Press, New York, page 18.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

April 1, 2012

April 1, 2012

The day began as a reflection of my mood.  It was overcast when I finally struggled out from under the covers and peered out the window.  My honest first thought was trying to decide if I could possibly put this off any longer.  Sigh.  No way.

The season was over and my once intermewed RT, Rebel, was expectantly waiting for her release.  I should have released her weeks ago, but I kept finding reasons to put it off. 
She just wasn’t ready yet.  I needed to spray her one more time...  She needed one more dose of wormer…  Another good meal of duck was definitely in order…

Who was I kidding?  This bird was definitely ready to go.  She was spending her afternoons gazing at the sky and watching the other birds soaring all around her, occasionally calling to them softly under her breath.  Heck, this bird already had her own boyfriend who had been soaring over the mews for the last two weeks and frequently perching in the trees above.  They would call back and forth to each other incessantly despite my obvious disapproval.  I mean come on…  She’s only two years old and has been very sheltered.   I don’t think she is ready for some boy following her around…

As I pulled on my clothes for church, I kept reminiscing about the two seasons I flew Rebel.  From the first, this was a special bird.  She bent down to eat on the very first night and calmly sat the glove.  Her first season was one for the record books, catching 44 squirrels, three ducks (a rare occurrence for a RT), numerous quail, a rabbit, and several miscellaneous birds on the wing.  The flights she showed me that first year were incredible.  She began her second season by catching her first squirrel on 9-11-11 before the season even began.  The details are still a little fuzzy.  Rumor has it that this was a heart-broken squirrel that cast himself into her mews to end his suffering.  I have good information however, that it was simply an unlucky young squirrel who lost a bet.  “I bet you ten acorns you won’t run across the roof of that mews while that old hawk is asleep!”  Followed by the inescapable, "Hey Y'all!  Watch this!..."

Church was a welcome but brief distraction and I found myself once again looking out my window looking for something.  A way out maybe?  Sigh.  When the phone rang and a neighbor called in a panic about a heifer having a difficult labor, I perked up and said I would be right over.  My wife looked at me with amazement.  “Ab, you aren’t a vet, honey.  Have you ever done anything like this before?”  Well, no, but I saw a cow once…  All I knew was that there was a need and I could help.  I felt very noble in putting off my own plans for the afternoon to help others in need…  And besides, I couldn’t come up with anything else on my own.

Well the delivery was extremely difficult.  I got there to see a bunch of anguished faces and an exhausted heifer lying on the ground.  Before I had really said hello and taken full stock of the situation, I surprisingly found myself up to my armpit inside the cow, trying to turn the calf.  Did I mention that I am not a vet?  I was able to slip ropes around the hooves and with seven people pulling, including to my shock my wife and kids, we were able to get the calf out of the exhausted mother.  Sadly, the little calf did not survive the long and difficult birth.

Back home and on the third wash (thus far experience tells me that it takes more than a full day to remove cow smell from the hands. Oh well.  I am pretty popular with the dogs right now.) my mind kept returning to Rebel.  My sponsor and two of his girls came over and I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer.  Well, maybe a little.  I mean, she needed a nice last coot to chew on to celebrate the occasion, right?  I was hoping I could say that it was too late in the day, maybe we should wait until tomorrow or something, but when I brought it up, they all just looked at me.  Damn.  Daylight savings says there was still almost five hours of light left.

I placed Rebel in her Giant Hood for the last time and we drove off to Waccamaw Farms for the release.  My wife held my repulsively stinky hand and alternated between saying nice things and gently laughing at me, a very nice summation of our marriage I think. 

By this time, the sun was shining brightly and spring was in its full glory.  I took Rebel from the box and cut off her anklets.  She looked at me a bit askance as if asking me “Are you for real?”  Then she roused a bit while I talked to her and then with almost no effort the wind lifted her up and she was gone.

I watched her for about half an hour, preening in the trees and checking everything out.  Finally my kids pulled me away, they had important things to do on a beautiful spring day.  The rest of the day was a bit of a blur honestly.  I did go back and check on her before dusk and I found her sitting up in a tall tree, comfortably hugging the bole as if she were settling in for the night.  She jumped up to a different perch to have a few good looks at me but that was about it.  Then she was right back to preening and taking in her new surroundings.  I could almost see her planning her nest.  I started taking bets on how long it would take lover-boy to find her and trying to make a few jokes to lighten the mood.  No I was not covering anything up.  Yes it was a little weird because I was the only one there…

I stayed out there for a half an hour until the mosqitos couldn’t find any open space to bite anymore.  I prayed a little.  Said a lot of thank yous.  Took a few pictures…  I actually fell in a hole once.  Big one where a palm used to be.  Made me think about all of the holes I had fallen in while watching this bird chase squirrels.  Hell, one time I thought I had broken my ankle about three miles deep in the swamp last winter.  I actually tried to MacGyver’d up a splint with a stick…  The phone rang and my mind had wandered as far as it could.  My wife was calling me back home for dinner with the family. 

So.  I said goodbye to a friend.  A friend that, for a time at least, had helped me keep my eyes off the ground.

Thanks Rebel.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Falconry Season 2011-2012

Hawking Season 2011-2012

While I am certain that the blog world did not suffer in my absence, it is time to get things back up and running and explain a little about the topsy turvey season that marked my second season in falconry.
I purposefully avoided blogging about my adventures this year because I was allowed to do some exciting things outside the norm for a second year apprentice and I didn't want to give anyone the wrong impression.   In short, I had the blessing of being allowed to work with many different birds this year in conjunction with my sponsor.  At the same time I got to fly my own bird, Rebel, for her second season.   This was due to a rare combination of luck and timing more than anything else.

During the second year an apprentice is still limited to a single bird.  Many sponsors urge their apprentices to trap a new bird the second year so they have a new experience with a different bird during a time in the falconer's development when the sponsor is heavily involved with the apprentice.  I had every intention of following this plan but as the spring passed into summer, I found myself extremely reluctant to part with Rebel.  I think everyone probably feels this way about his or her first hawk, and I was no different.  I talked to Al about this at length and he did not pressure me either way.  Let's be honest here, Al and I will be hawking together years after I make general and I will always have his experience to fall back on, apprentice or not.  I have no misconception that my learning will suddenly be complete the day that I get a certificate that says General Falconer on it. I ultimately decided to keep Rebel because she was such a gamey hawk and my first year exceeded everyone's expectations due to her skills alone.  I was anxious to see what she could do in her second year.   

Rebel moulted beautifully.  I remember seeing her first red tail feather peeking out when I went in her mews to feed her.  She actually turned on the fist and preened to show it off several times.  It was amazing to watch how playful a fat RT can be during the moult.  When she was out weathering on a homemade perch, her favorite game was to pick up a pinecone, toss it in the air and quickly grab it with the other foot before it landed.  Reminded me of when my son would get up before dawn to practice his soccer juggling.  I got a few funny videos of that.

Around the end of June, Al began to contemplate expanding his hawking repertoire by flying a cast of Harris Hawks the following season and was making plans.  Harris Hawks are very social raptors that hunt cooperatively in the wild in family packs called casts led by an alpha female, a setup very similar to a wolf pack.  Because of this social nature, which doesn’t really exist to this degree anywhere else in the raptor world, these birds react and behave differently and are much more receptive to falconry training.  This has led to a surging popularity in their use in falconry.  We saw casts of Harris hawks flown at previous meets and I always thought I would one day fly a cast after making general.  Well, Al had decided that the following year was to be the year for him and started researching breeders and training strategies.  We had heard that if you get a cast of hawks that were pen raised together, you had a much higher likelihood of those birds being able to hunt cooperatively in a cast, so he was planning to get the whole cast in one fell swoop from a reputable breeder in Georgia.

As he learned more about the training, he became concerned that he might not have the free time to train three raptors at once and realized that he would need some help.  When he asked me if I would be willing to help man and train his cast with him, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.  I mean, if the man who had taught me so much had asked me to help paint his house I would have said yes as well, but this was like winning the lottery!  I was going to get to keep and fly my favorite bird and still get the experience of manning and training another bird to help improve my falconry!  Sweet!  My nights were filled with reading everything Harris Hawk so I would be prepared.  I am still shocked I actually passed both of my boards in September, as I was constantly setting aside my workbooks to learn a new way of lure training or a more effective trade off or one of a hundred other things I felt pressure to master.  Besides my board exams, I had a lot to do to prepare Rebel for the season as well.  I remember a lot of head shaking from my wife on some of those long nights…  I was full on into the throes of my obsession.

In my never-ending quest to expand my falconry horizons, I had decided that year two would be a test of free lofting.  During her first year, Rebel was tethered in a hybrid mews/weathering area.  I felt like it would be nice to free loft and let her stretch her wings a bit more.  As is typical of me, my simple free loft mews turned into something much bigger, incorporating two 10’ by 22’ mews on either side of a 12’ by 22” new workshop.  I did everything but the roof myself, which is probably why I am still not done…  I would work all day and come home to hang plywood or paint or hang perches. I didn’t think I would ever get it done.  With a little help from my friends, I finally got it together and the unfinished place still looked a palace compared to the hybrid setup.  Rebel was moved to the new mews right before hunting season started and loved the huge hemp rope swinging perch and all of the space.

I began trying to get her weight down prior to the move but it was tough.  I really didn’t weigh her at all during the moult and just fed her large amounts every two days.  I will not do this again.  She started her training regimen at 54 oz. on a 36-hour empty crop!  Big difference from the girl I trapped at 36 oz..  It did not help that she got her first squirrel kill of the season on 9/11 while still inside the mews!  I had dropped her weight and was planning to start a quick creance regimen that afternoon when I found her munching happily on a young suicidal squirrel on the top of her box.  I don’t know if he was playfully running across the wire roof or if he snuck in from the sides, but Rebel was waiting.  Those squirrels had been torturing her all summer, playing with impunity right outside her mews…  She had waited all summer for one to get close enough.

Needless to say, that set us back a little bit in the training process, but not too bad.  The biggest problem was the weight loss.  She was used to being a fat happy and playful bird and I began cutting her weight at the same time that I gave her much more freedom in her environment.  That set the stage for an aggressive, hungry bird that was very unpredictable upon entering the mews.  She would typically fly to the glove and mantle and scream a bit at me.  The scream would transition to her whine for food for a few minutes more.  It would take a little bit more time for her to slick back down and then I could secure her jesses.  Even then she would occasionally try to foot me but fortunately was unsuccessful for the most part. 

I was surprised to have to cut her weight all the way back to 39 oz. to get good whistle and glove response from her.  She flew much higher than that last season.  When we finally took to the field, she was as amazing a hunter as she ever was, taking a double on our first day out.  The new problem became carrying.  I really think it was a function of her huge weight variations.  At the end of last year she would glide with her squirrels a bit away in hopes of getting to break in by herself, but now it became something different.  She carried one young squirrel two miles through the swamp flying away from me every time I got close.  I thought I was going to lose her that day because somehow she had pulled the antenna on her telemetry unit and my receiver was sporked as well.

This new habit of carrying put a severe crimp in our hunting plans and we went back to basic training for a bit.  It helped some, but I found that the carrying habit was not too easily over come.  During the last season, I had the freedom to fly Rebel at almost any weight and once in the field, she was the same fierce hunter that she always was.  While that part was still the case, her following was poor as was her fist response when in the field now and that made for very frustrating hunting.  She was successful by all accounts, but her head count was nowhere near what she got last year due to fewer hunts.

Of course, her hunts were also fewer because I was dividing my time in too many ways.  In addition to trying to finish the mews, I was avidly trying to perfect a new Giant Hood complete with computer fans to ensure adequate ventilation and constant cooling on some of our hot and stuffy days.  I made new perches and new paracord leashes and jesses.  I fashioned numerous traps and read voraciously everything falcon.  Oh, did I mention that I raised quail as well?  Yeah, that brought me a lot of brownie points with the wife…  Of course, right as I finished my board exams, Al came home with the new Harris Hawks.

The first bird I was going to help with was a young male who unfortunately died the day after he was pulled from the breeder.  Autopsy never revealed the cause.  I started working with one of the females that Rich, a former apprentice of Al’s, had been manning named Luna.  She was an amazing bird and an extremely quick learner with strong hunting instincts.  On her first free flight, she chased a doe halfway across the county, and had her first kill a few days later while doing some following practice in the yard.  She was amazingly gentle in contrast to Rebel.  She would frequently sit on the ungloved hand and often flew to my shoulder or head while in the woods.  She was without question the smartest hawk with whom I have had the privilege to work.

I trained Luna on and of for about a month while Al was working on Luna’s sister Grace who was a bit more of a challenge but coming along.  Grace was having a lot more difficulty bonding than Luna had and we had to try several different experiments with her weight to get her to a pint where she could be reliably free flown.  Even then she was very skittish so we “switched” for a bit to give both birds more exposure to each other.  My time with Grace alone was short.  She didn’t trust me very much and we didn’t have time to build the bond that came so effortlessly with Luna.  In order to build a better bond, I set up a quail in the launcher so she could get the confidence of a kill.  I was planning to sit right beside her while she cropped up as much as she could stand and then put her on the fist for an hour or two so she could associate that happy full feeling with the glove and the bond with the falconer.  The flight was beautifully acrobatic with Grace actually coming up from under the quail to catch it in a classically goshawk style grab.  She brought it to ground, took one look at me, and took off like act with a firecracker on its tail.  I chased that blasted bird through every yard in my neighborhood.  Twice!  Needless to say, when at last I did catch up to her, that peaceful bonding moment wasn’t even a remote possibility anymore.  What did I learn?  No two birds are alike, assuming they are makes you look like an ass, and until you know what the bird is going to do, tether the first damn quail…

Meanwhile, Al was having a blast with Luna.  Luna had killed seven squirrels by this point and we decided it was time to fly the two of them together to start the cast bonding.  We hoped that by putting them up together, Grace would overcome some of her reticence after seeing how comfortable Luna was with us.  The first flight was a complete and total disaster.  They immediately attacked each other trying to establish dominance but it quickly escalated from dominance behavior to intent to kill.  After pulling Luna’s talons off of Grace’s head and neck for the third time, we called it quits.  In retrospect, we did it wrong.  We talked about it a lot and now feel that both birds needed to be well made to game before attempting to put them up together.  That way, when you flush, they both know what the prey is and can find a common ground in the chase.  Further, they should have been socialized much more together prior to any attempt at cast flying.  In putting two sharp birds in the air, one of whom did not yet have a wild kill and neither of whom were solidly wed to game, we simply entered our Harris hawks on Harris hawks.

We were both somewhat dejected after that, but we analyzed it, talked about it, and came up with a new plan.  We decided that the next step in the cast building was going to be to socialize the two birds while tethered to better establish their social order.  Al came up with a divided perch where they had to sit right beside each other but could not actually touch.  After bating at each other and finding they couldn’t reach, they resorted to screaming at each other.  Fortunately fro my marriage, Al did this at his house!  For about two weeks, the birds were tethered together until they finally settled down.  The first successful cast flight was amazing, with Al about as giddy as a schoolgirl, grinning ear to ear.  Oh they crabbed for a second or two, but they had already established which was the dominant one in a more safe environment so they got right on to hunting instead.

About this time, the replacement male Harris Hawk was ready to be pulled from his parents.  Al brought Flick home after Thanksgiving as a late hatch male weighing 660 grams when Al pulled him.  The plan was for me to start his socialization and training while Al worked further on the cast of females.   I fell in love with this little guy from the very start.  Totally different from Luna who was calm and gentle, this guy was skittish as all get out and bated constantly from the fist for the first two weeks.  I manned him constantly even bringing him to work so I could offer him tidbits until he finally ate. 

He was pulled so fat that it took him five days to eat and I was a mess the entire time.  Rebel ate the first night.  Luna’s initial manning was done by one of Al’s former apprentices and was eating and calm by the time she came to me.  Flick on the other hand was a total basket case.  I was totally paranoid that something would go wrong with this bird.  When he finally ate on day five things really took off and he flew free just days later. 

I began using the clicker for the first time in this bird’s training.  The idea behind clicker training is to create an association with a secondary stimulus, the click, to the primary reinforcer of food.  Over time, this is supposed to allow you to shape more complex behaviors by not having to positively reinforce with the primary reinforcer for every step of the behavior.  It is almost a communication tool to allow the animal to complete a series of behaviors with reinforcement of the idea that the reward will come at the end.  I have to say that the training portion proceeded much faster with Flick using these techniques than with either Rebel or Luna, but whether clicker training or more experience from the handler played a role, I do not know.

As quickly as the training was proceeding, however, I was still feeling a huge push to hunt.  We were already into December with a new bird who had zero experience hunting but who was showing some very gamey behavior.  Flick liked to investigate everything.  When I say investigate, I really mean attack.  He footed more pinecones, mushrooms, moss piles, and sticks than I could believe.  Every time I saw him stoop down I thought he had found a luckless vole or field mouse but no, he was destroying another inanimate object. 

He showed tremendous interest in squirrels, killing one despite my best efforts to not enter him on them.  Compared to the girls, Flick’s talons were like toothpicks and I couldn’t imagine him taking some of the bites that Rebel had shrugged off.  I vowed it wasn’t going to happen on my watch, so we focused mostly on ducks, rabbits, and crows in the beginning.  Flick was tremendously interested in ducks but he was giving up too easily on the chase.  I started working on teaching him to get a high perch to gain speed but right as he started to get this, the ducks literally disappeared.  The hunting pressure from the gun hunters forced them out of my little honey hole and I couldn’t get close anywhere else. 

We drove to Columbia to meet another friend’s sponsor who has been flying male Harris Hawks for years.  He has a pair of male Harris’ and three rescue beagles that team up beautifully into a rabbit catching machine.  After his boys had had a successful catch, he allowed flick to fly ahead of the dogs.  It was amazing!  Flick watched the dogs and immediately knew what it was they were doing!  He watched the dogs work the heavy cover and flush rabbits out ahead.  He took several stoops and wingovers that were breathtakingly beautiful and my heart was hammering the whole time.  He would actually go back to check on the dogs before flying back up into position ahead of them like he had been doing this for years, almost like he was flying back to push them on or give them a pep talk.  When he finally crashed into the briars and caught his first rabbit, I just looked at Al and grinned.

A few weeks later, we took Flick out to another place where a group of twenty hunters were coursing rabbits.  There were 28 beagles running and rabbits scurrying all around.  I was a little hesitant, but at their request, I put Flick up into the air.  He was little afraid to commit with all of the dogs on the ground, but he hit a few rabbits, finally killing one.  He did not bind to it though as the dogs were close.  I let him fly for a while with several more near misses, but he was clearly a little skittish with all of the dogs and people around because he wanted to move further away on his own.  We had several near misses and finally I called him to the lure. 

The following week I began investigating falconry dogs.  I went to a friend’s quail preserve and went out with his trainer to watch his German Short Haired pointers work.  What beautiful dogs!  The puppy was a little excitable, but the four-year-old female was just a working machine.  Flick caught four quail that day and was full to bursting by the time I put him up.  On one of his flights, the quail tried to make out between flick’s perch in a nearby pine and me.  Flick hit it literally four feet in front of my face!  For the next week, Flick was happy and calm, eager to be handled. 

I kept waiting for Flick to turn on to the sparrows and grackles that are constantly flying into the rice fields near home.  There is a gorgeous levee that we would walk frequently where Flick would chase scaup and cormorants and right as the sun would set, the grackles would pour in.  So far he doesn’t seem to think he has the speed to fly these down.  We got up several snipe that he wouldn’t chase either.  I wish I could enter him on these as snipe and woodcock are incredibly elusive game birds and the flights would be outstanding.  He did chase a few surprised woodcock but never got close.  His aerial style through the woods on those flights was breathtaking and I would love to be able to see that kind of flight in the open.

Flick ended the season with a couple dozen quail kills, three rabbits, and a squirrel.  Not great numbers, but a late start and a busy handler make them much more praiseworthy.  This spring will see him start his socialization process with the cast.  This will have to go very slowly as these dominant females will kill him in a split second if they are not all happy and fat.  I am not sure if starting this now or waiting another couple of months is better.  We felt that it should wait until after the girls were up from their keen hunting weight and would be more tolerable, but have no clue as to how the hormonal surges of mating behavior will affect bonding. 

In the meantime, I will continue to work on fitness with Flick.  I think the key to his success will be strength.  He is already a more aerial flier than the females, but I want to see his endurance and sprint speed increase.  As such, I have decided to start flying him to a kite this spring.  The idea is twofold.  I will introduce him to a lure hanging from the kite and after he understands the concept of the reward, I will serially elevate the height of the kite.  Climbing to 2000’ in a headwind is a great way to build muscle and long wingers have been doing it forever.  I do not know if you can even entice a Harris to go that high, but once he is climbing well to altitude, I plan to “serve” him slow flying bait birds at first and watch him learn the power of a stoop.  Hopefully, he will see the advantage that height gives him when flying on birds.  Maybe this will make him a great duck hawk for next year.  Maybe I will be venturing into the “over-trained” spectrum of falconry, but I hope not.  Regardless, I will be learning how to use one more tool in a falconer’s arsenal, albeit in a fashion and for a species for which it is rarely used.

So that was my season in a nutshell.  I got to keep my beloved Red Tail and continue to learn from her without missing out on manning a new bird as an apprentice.  In fact, I got to work extremely closely with three!  I got to learn about new birds and gain more experience in one year than I would have expected in five.  I got to learn about new techniques in training and housing.  I gained some very valuable avian medicine experience as well.  All in all it was a much bigger year than I can write about in a blog post, even one that is way too long, as this one clearly is.  I owe this great year all to my sponsor who felt confidant enough in my abilities to allow me to play a role in the development of his cast, in addition to flying my own bird.  I am blessed to call him a very close friend and I hope that he has found his trust well placed.  So here’s looking to next season, where we can see what kind of success our efforts have earned.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Feb 19 – Back to Back Doubles

Sunday morning came with cooler temperatures but a bright almost cloudless sky.  The cabin we were in was awesome and the kids were laughing and having a blast.  I left them to shower and get ready and took Rebel outside for a look around.  There was a squirrel moving right by the house but he scuttled off before I could get Rebel out. 

Rebel was in good spirits after yesterdays’ successes.  She had spent the whole day out on her weathering perch with four other Red Tails around after her successful hunts.  I was in a hurry to get her out and I forgot to weigh her, which was a bummer.  I would have loved to see if there was a change at all after two chicks and a ton of exercise yesterday. 

The squirrels that I had been watching play on the ground and in the trees through the window had disappeared once they caught sight of Rebel.  We walked around for quite a bit before we finally got our first squirrel moving.  She was a gorgeous tawny-red squirrel that I found myself almost hoping would get away.  She was really that pretty.  She led Rebel on a merry chase through several trees before trying to duck into a knothole, only to find it occupied by an gnarly old grey male with a bent tail who promptly chased her out of the knothole and around the tree, chittering away like an angry shopkeeper speaking in Chinese.  This spectacle proved too much for my one track mind Rebel who swooped in once and then promptly forgot how to pick only one squirrel to target.

The distraction proved to be just the right thing for Red, who made it to the top of the tree and a nice hiding place.  The buck made it back to his knothole and Rebel sat perched trying to figure out what had just happened.

After a few minutes, we slipped on down the path looking to drum up more squirrels as these two were clearly doing excellent impersonations of statues.  Just down the hill, Rebel pitched up into a large pine just out of my line of sight and I heard a familiar and disturbing cry.  I looked up to see a hag female stooping down into the tree where Rebel had perched.  I ran over as fast as I could.

A male Red Tail wheeling above the pine tree quickly joined the female.  As I got there, I saw why.  Rebel was sitting in the middle of a nest, high in the top of a large pine tree.  This nesting pair was already working on their nest for the coming breeding season, and Rebel was perched in their living room.  My presence quickly drove the two hags away, and Rebel came almost instantly down to the glove.  Whether Rebel was hungry for the tidbit or just thankful for the protection, I wasn’t sure, but it was definitely her best fist response of the day.  We decided that it was probably best to head to another area for further hunting. 

We headed back to Al’s house where my friend Rich was flying a huge female.  She had already killed one squirrel and was chasing another when I arrived.  After the chase, Rich put her up and I was hoping to see his apprentice’s bird fly, but the bird was overweight.

Laura and the kids had arrived and Al was putting a bridle on one of his horses for them to take a walk when someone spotted a flock of turkeys making in from the hardwoods.  I decided, “what the heck?”, and pulled Rebel out to make a flight.  Rich decided to circle the turkeys and drive them to us.  Rebel, Dave, Maddox and I got into position.

The turkeys proved a little too smart for us but Rebel quickly saw a captured a small grey in a live oak overhead.  He carried it off a good ways but was looking for the trade off, which was becoming increasingly consistent.  We were still pretty close to the house and Al, Laura, and the kids rode / walked up.  Rebel hopped up into a tree and I went to chat with them, knowing that Maddox was about to leave for his soccer game in Sumpter.

Laura made the comment that Al was a good friend for taking my daughters riding instead of going with me to watch my bird chase a turkey.  He replied, “Nah, I just knew what I would have really watched was three turkeys chasing a turkey!”   Classic.

Some other falconers came up and I decided to pull Rebel down so that they could hunt the area.  She would not come to the fist very well so I went in after her.  When she finally left the perch to fly down to me, she zipped right over my head to take another squirrel out of the tree!  I hadn’t even seen the thing.  No wonder she didn’t want to come to the glove!

A second trade off and we had our second double of the meet.  I was proud, but felt a little guilty at our success.