"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.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jan 15 – Asheville Entourage and Near Miss on a Rabbit

After an almost perfect day yesterday of hawking in the morning in the glorious snow covered mountains followed by skiing with my family until ten pm yesterday, I was thinking that another hike up the mountain for hawking might just do me in but I was wrong.  Poor Rebel had been cooped up in her giant hood for waaaay too long and was in dire need of some flight time so we headed up the ridge shortly after daybreak.

Rebel, Addie and I got to the top of the mountain via the trail and were slowly making our way down.  Rebel had chased one squirrel waaaaayy down the opposite side of the mountain, but he had gotten away, thank heavens.  I am not sure I could have made it down that ravine to help and if I had, I was pretty sure that making it back up was going to be straight out of a bad survival flick.  Pretty sure I don’t want to go down as the “Into The Wild” guy of falconry….

Nothing much was moving so we set our down the ridge when my cell went off.  My sister had told a few of her friends about her brother with the obvious mental imbalance who liked to chase after hawks.  They came a-runnin’.   My sister, her friends, and their children met me halfway down the mountain.  Brynn came along as well.  I could hear them about a mile before I saw them.  Oh well, we got a kill yesterday, right?..

I started down to introduce myself and say hello.  The kids had all kinds of questions on falconry.  Rebel was still uphill in a tree, turning her nose up at the whole situation.  She flew down a little closer but would not come to the fist so I was thinking maybe she had seen something.  I made my way up to her through the worst patch of deadfall ever to be found in the NC Mountains, leaving small bits of blood and cotton fibers on most of the briars in the area.

The young girls weren’t too far behind me, managing to traverse the briars without nearly as much difficulty, still asking questions.  I turned to answer when Rebel dove off of her perch and slammed into the briars in the middle of the deadfall.  It was so think I couldn’t see exactly where she went, but I knew that she had just tried for a rabbit!  We had not caught a rabbit together yet and I was anxious to add that to our game totals for the year.  I crashed through the briars to the spot but when I got there, no Rebel…

We started fanning out looking for her on the ground, as I was sure she was trying to be sneaky with her prize.  Nope.  She was up in a tree looking at us like we were crazy.  Oh well, not today.  I guess it was probably a good thing not to scar the little ones with a dead bunny.  It looked like they could possibly get behind a dead squirrel, but as we all know, Peter Cottontail is a bit different.

The biology lecture continued and Rebel consented to come down for a preen and a chance to show off.  After the oohs and ahhs, had subsided, more questions started coming.  Rebel had had enough so she took back off for a distant perch as we made our way towards home.

As we were leaving the park area, My sister’s dog came bouncing up with something in his mouth that he had dug up from the snow.  It was a rabbit head!  I started to get psyched because I at least knew that they were here.  I picked the rabbit head up to study it a bit and noticed the little ones staring at me.  I must have looked a sight with a mangled rabbit head, complete with one bulging eye, in my hands and a grin on my face.

I expected to see the moms pull the youngsters in close and give me a dirty look as they walked away.  I expected a tear or two and a look of betrayal from at least one of the princesses, but nope.  Wouldn’t you know they came and crowded around wanting to look at the bunny and ask me questions about it.  I explained that a raptor or a four-legged predator who couldn’t finish his meal probably caught this particular rabbit.  Since he couldn’t finish, he had tried to bury it in the snow for later, but the dog with his keen sense of smell was able to find it first.  More questions incoming and one of the dainty things actually wanted to touch the bulging eye.  I guess I need to give kids these days a bit more credit.  That or relook at those immutable rules that I thought governed the universe.  Pretty sure that one of those rules was that little girls don’t like dead things…

I reburied the rabbit head so Rebel wouldn’t see it and come for it.  It looked fresh, but you never know and I would hate it if that rabbit actually died of poison or something.  Anyway we headed down the mountain, the girls possibly a little better educated on hawks and me possibly a little better educated on little girls, if that is even a possibility, which I sincerely doubt.

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