Hunting With Zippy

Today I went on my first falconry hunt with a group of great guys. I had to leave early to take my hunting test so unfortunately I didn’t get to stay for the entire hunt. The only bird I got to see in action belonged to the man whom invited me to the excursion. Since we were going to have to leave early he knew there wouldn’t be enough time to hunt all the birds so he tried to hunt his quickly while the others guy flushed prey out. After we headed off they hunted with their birds which I, unfortunately, didn’t get to see. Phooey.

Along with the Harris Hawk the falconer brought with him two dachshunds trained to flush out prey from brushes. One of the guys we went hunting with also brought along one of his hunting dachshunds. The dogs all wore cowbells and florescent collars so it was easy for the hunters and hawks to find them in the brush. The brush was terribly high and there were briars everywhere; one of the dogs ended up cutting her ear pretty bad.

The first time the dogs spotted prey was underneath an old car surrounded by logs. The dogs yipped and crawled under the car trying to scare out whatever was under the car. After about five minutes the two men accompanying us on the hunt decided to check underneath the car to see what all the hoo-hah was about. The hawk, named Zippy, sat in the tree very antsy, waiting for whatever was under the car to run out.

Finally they determined it was in fact an opossum underneath the car. An opossum is much too large prey for the Harris to go after, so they tried to keep the opossum out of site from the hawk as they moved it from the car and yipping dogs. When we left the old car in the brush the dogs started sprinting down into a think part of the woods. We tried to keep up with them but the thorns and brush was intense. They took us in circles for about an hour without actually flushing anything out.

The owner of the land we were hunting on, one of the falconers who was accompanying us, took us up towards a big field littered with plants and bushes. The dogs went in and began looking for rabbits. One of the problem with the cowbells on the dogs is that they make it harder to hear the rabbits moving around for the dog that are trying to find them. After they ran up and down the entire field they finally exited unsuccessful. It didn’t look like poor Zippy was going to be getting a kill.

If you take a hawk hunting it’s important for them to be successful. For that you use a lure to impersonate a successful hunt and give the hawk the necessary esteem it needs to keep hunting. The hawks falconer pulled out his lure and tossed it in the air. Zippy swooped down, just a blur in the sky. He outstretched his wings to slow himself and slammed perfectly into the lure. He pulled out the meat and started to eat, stretching his wings over the “kill” to protect it from other predators.

Zippys falconer asked me to return the lure to his bad when Zippy wasn’t watching. He warned me if the hawk saw the lure there was a pretty good possibility he would go after it in my hand. I wasn’t sure if he was joking or not so I was very careful about returning it to his pack. We got back to the house and packed up the dogs, Zippy, and headed back so I could take my hunting test. I did fantastic on the written portion of my test, though the field testing was pretty embarrassing.

The officer ended up passing me, telling me that he had failed people for doing what I did wrong in field day before, but at least I wasn’t waving the muzzle at him while I did it. When I told him I wasn’t actually getting my hunting license for gun handling he guessed, “Bow?” I grinned and shook my head. “Falconry.” The officer got a bit wide eyed and grinned. We talked about it for awhile, how trapping the hawks works, and he stated he had to pull some big raptors from traps a few times. Apparently, the raptors saw the carcasses of the animal that were intended to be caught in the trap and went after them, catching themselves as well.

The guy who had taken me hunting with him called a few hours later making sure we made the trip back home safely, and asking how I did on my test. After we talked a bit he invited me to come again next weekend. I’ll be heading up on Friday evening and staying until Sunday afternoon. Hopefully we can get some real hunting in since I won’t have to take off early for a test.

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