I went up again with the same guy who brought me with him last weekend. The owner of Zippy and the Ohio Falconer Association’s president, Mick Brown. He brought his two apprentices with him and I got to meet both of them. Being apprentices they both flew red-tails; Mike, the newest apprentice, has a bird name ZuZu, and the other apprentice, Rusty, flew Athena.
Athena was the first to hunt. We went to a patch Mick had never been to, but Rusty seemed familiar with it. We looked for a good area to flush towards the bird and wandered around the plot, passing many holes from diggers looking or scrap as we did so. After settling on a direction, Rusty cast Athena off to a high perch and we started flushing. We got a rabbit really early on, but it ran underneath the fence and we ended up not seeing anymore in that whole area. We spent about 45 minutes unsuccessfully pillaging around the bright bushes and tall grass before finally giving up and moving on to one of Micks favorite rabbit places.
The day was cold and windy. One of the first problems we encountered when we finally reached the wide open field where we would be hunting were the high winds. Athena was the first to fly, and she fought hard against the gales. We realized the best thing to do was try to keep the wind at the birds back, but because we don’t control the whims of nature that wasn’t always possible.
We flushed a few rabbits, but Athena couldn’t quite grab any of them. She followed them well most of the times but the winds were making it very difficult for her to make a kill. She often took to nice, high perches where visibility was best. The only real problem was that she didn’t want to always follow when Rusty would try to move her up, but again that was probably due to the winds.
While riding on the falconers glove the, birds did enjoy spreading out their wings as the wind washed over them.
After a few more flushes and a few more unsuccessful rabbit flushes we decided to bring out Mikes bird, Zuzu, for a chance at catching a few rabbits.
Mike cast his bird against the wind. The bird fought with it for a bit before finally deciding to settle on a lower branch. Zuzu was also having difficulties following whenever we pulled ahead, because of that she missed a few rabbits we had flushed. Mike called Zuzu back down to his glove a few times so he could walk her to the other side of the fields himself. This way Zuzu wouldn’t have to fight the wind trying to follow us all over the place.
While hunting with Zuzu we noticed a great big raptor in the sky a couple times hanging around the area. It was hunting the rabbits we had been flushing out and was getting surprisingly close the entire time. It made a dive at one point, getting less than 10 feet away from Micks face as it did so. When it had done so Mick saw it was a passage red-tail. The bird was very impressive, flying the sky and making incredible dives. It took the highest perches it could find and made dives at nearly every rabbit we flushed, and even ones we didn’t see ourselves.
A few more flushes and Zuzu made a dive herself. She swooped down before pulling up, pausing for a second, and then dropped straight down. We rushed over to the red-tail to see how it did. Unfortunately she missed, and even more unfortunate she got her tailed tangled up in the weeds. Mike and Rusty crouched down checking their pockets for small scissors or a knife to cut the stalk of grass off.
Giving up Mike decided to break the stalk of in the middle to loose the bird from it. Zuzu was very unhappy, pulling all over the place trying to free herself. Rusty moved his gloved arm over in an attempt to get the bird to climb on his gloves from Mikes, this way Mike could have more room to maneuver. The bird continued to struggle, Mike was pulling the weed, Rusty was trying to coerce the bird onto his glove, and finally the bird got too anxious. The weed finally came loose and Zuzu struck out with her left foot, and with her right foot clung hard, digging into Rusty’s arm.
Mike stopped moving and just stared forward when he realized the bird had punched him right in the face. Rusty was wailing as the bird continued to dig into his arm as Mike just kept staring forward, probably wondering if the bird had gotten an eye. After finally getting a grip, Mike got the bird out o Rusty’s arm and back onto his own glove. Mike kept touching the blood on his face and asking how bad it looked while Mick, Rusty and I all laughed at what had just happened. Mike had three little nicks on his cheek, nose and chin from the talons, and a small scratch across his neck. Rusty rolled up his sleeves to reveal the puncture holes on his arm from the bird footing him. They began checking the tail and pulling the remaining pieces of weed and stick out.
After that adventure we decided to put Zuzu away for the time being. Mick checked his watch and realized we’d been hunting for about eight hours, and decided now was a pretty good time for a lunch break.
When we returned Mick suggested Rusty try to hunt with Athena again. He agreed and got her out once again to hunt. We ran a ew rabbits out of the field and, before long, Athena made a dive. She hit the ground hard and we heard the familiar cry of the rabbit as it was struck. Rusty rushed over with everyone else close behind. Athena had made a successful strike and the rabbit was under her talons. Rusty dispatched the rabbit quickly so as not to cause it unnecessary suffering, and allowed Athena to crop.
With Athena finished hunting, Mike decided he might try to hunt with Zuzu again. He weighed her first, and when he did so saw that the bird was a little heavy. Mike wasn’t sure how well Zuzu would hunt heavy, especially in this wind, but he decided to give a go anyways.
Zuzu was fighting once again with the wind. Rabbits all seemed to run straight into the wind, forcing the bird to fight it every time it dove. Zuzu was having problems following still, ignoring Mikes calls in favor of saving her strength. It got to the point where she began to ignore rabbits in favor of mice that would pass through the field. The red-tail caught two of them during the second outing, and she had the habit of swallowing them whole, faster than I’ve ever seen even a snake do. Regretfully, Mike decided to bring Zuzu in for the day.
With the other birds done hunting it was finally time for Mick to bring out his Harris. Mick was a nice guy, and on every hunting trip I’ve gone on with him he always allowed the others to hunt with their birds first.
Zippy flew like a champion. He followed Mick flawlessly, trusting his falconer to lead him to the food. He followed the rabbits we ran out with a keen eye, making a few good dives in the process. Zippy always took the highest perches he could find. Often times it was the very tip of an evergreen in the center of one of the fields. Finally he made a winning dive. He hit the rabbit hard and we heard the squeak of it as he did. Everyone rushed to the rabbit to help Zippy finish the job.
As Mick allows Zippy to crop he leashes him to his vest. After allowing the bird to eat for a bit Mick decides to bring him back on his glove. He pulls out a piece of food from his bag and holds onto it. Zippy quickly hops up onto the glove and Mick puts the rest of the rabbit into his bag.
With two birds successfully hunted, one bird thoroughly exercised, and an hours and hours dedicated to hunting, it’s time to pack everything up and head home. It was a great day for both the birds and the hunters, a day filled with blood, sweat, and victory.