Archive for January, 2013

Why train a raptor to take a hood?

Posted in Falconry on January 27, 2013 by ABS

I received a comment a while back asking why is hooding so important especially when flying a Harris Hawk or a Red-tail. I believe Gary Brewer said it best is there any good reason not to. Below are just a few examples:

1. You’re hunting late and it gets dark you can hood your bird and walking through the brush to your vehicle isn’t so bad when she gets hit by twigs and other things.

2. If you ever need to tether your bird down to a limb in the brush hooding it first is best.

3. If you decide one day to trap another Harris to fly a cast, then it is a simple matter of making in trading one bird off to a tidbit or using a lure then trade it off and hood one bird set her down then work on the other bird to retrieve the downed game.

4. When you are around other falconers with Red-tails a hooded bird is much safer when in close proximity to them.

5. You have a ways to walk through an area with people to get to your hunting site. A hooded bird is alot safer around all the barking dogs and kids runing around.

6. Why not train them to a hood.

It is a simple matter of every day when you go pick your bird up off the perch hood her, weigh her and put her on a perch while you get your tidbits and daily ration together. Then put her in the giant hood to go hunt. Then un-hood her for a tidbit to go hunt once you are at your hunting site. After the hunt or training session you can re-hood her place her back in the giant hood to head back home. Once at home un-hood her for the remaining rations however you serve it, jump ups or lure.

That way you make hood training part of each and every day. It becomes a routine. Now remember I am just a three year apprentice and really don’t know squat so this is just how I feel and what I have learned from others. So take it with a grain of salt.

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T-Perch Training Tips

Posted in Falconry on January 27, 2013 by ABS

Training a hawk or any raptor can be a little tricky. In my first two years as an apprentice I tried multiple methods to train my Redtail to rely on the t-perch for hunting. None of them worked very long. The result was usually like this; I took the bird from the giant hood tossed her up to the t-perch and off I went into the shoulder high Laredo, thorny brush. After a few minutes the bird would take off towards a telephone pole a ¼ of a mile away to sit. About 10 feet later I would kick up a rabbit and the bird was out of position. My work around, I used my daughter to carry a second t-perch and we hopped the bird between us about a 100 yards in the brush continuously working the bird back and forth. This resulted in us starting to get some decent kills in the brush.

I usually train my birds to the t-perch by having them jump up to it for a tidbit (chicken gizzard/neck) garnishing the t-perch. After about 10 jump ups I begin tossing the tidbit to the ground and when they drop to it I call them up to the t-perch. I do this jump up training repeatedly over a few days. Then when I am out hunting and they leave the t-perch to take another natural perch (i.e. a telephone pole, tree, etc.) I call them back to the t-perch every so often to a garnished t-perch to reinforce them coming to the t-perch. The negative to this is these birds will quickly learn that your right hand has the food and watch for it. As we all know this can eventually lead to a painful conclusion. Also the bird can get in the habit to taking a high perch thinking she is being rewarded to the t-perch for it. Which is the exact opposite of what I want. These birds are smart and they have trained me very well before.

I spoke to the President of THA, Chris Davis at the 2013 event and he gave me an awesome training tip. Cut you about 10 or so 1 to 2 gram tidbits. Take your bird to your hunting sight but leave her in the giant hood. About 5 feet from your car place a tidbit on the ground. I usually make a mark in the dirt I can easily find near the tidbit so I don’t lose them in the brush. Every 10 feet or so in a straight line or whatever pattern you wish place another tidbit till their all on the ground. Then go get your bird and perch her on the t-perch. Walk up to the first tidbit and using the toe of your shoe kind of tap the ground near the tidbit. It will only take your bird a few second to see it and come down to get it. Call her back to the t-perch and keep walking. She will quickly find them on her own and return to the t-perch after each one. You will notice she will begin to find them further and further out as she scans the ground further in front of you.

We tried it today and I was amazed. It helped glue her butt to the t-perch and made her scan the ground out in front of me. We ended the training with a short 40 minute hunt in the brush and she was scanning the ground all around from the t-perch. She had two chases and stoops but missed both in the deep brush. All in all I was very happy. We ended the day with a garnished lure.

My t-perch is just an extendable painters pole with a 14” long ¾ inch pvcround pipe epoxied on the end wrapped with long leaf grass mat.

THA 2013 Second Hunt

Posted in Falconry on January 22, 2013 by ABS

On Saturday I went out to a Ranch on Hwy 6 with a group to fly their birds. I was kind of worried that “Elia” might hang back with all the people present. Luckily I lowered her weight down another 8 grams and it seemed to have helped out. It was on this trip that I met the THA President Chris Davis. He is a very knowledgeable, approachable and a very helpful falconer. He flew his male Harris Hawk first which snagged a released Quail very quickly. I also met Maryann Coody who also flew a male Harris Hawk. Next I took “Elia” out and we walked away from the group beating the brush to see how she responded. She seemed to fly tight in the brush and I was pleasantly surprised. This was the first time I tried to fly her with paracord jesses on.

When we came back towards the group she took a high perch and another quail was released. The quail flew directly towards the tree line where she was. As it got approximately 10 feet away she stooped and barely missed the quail. I saw some feathers fly so she raked it at least. The quail flew up and sat in th top of the tree. Elia hoped up and finished her off quickly. Then she flew off into the woods.

I found he 50 yards into the woods all mantled up watching me. I sat down approximately 15 feet away to wait for her to settle and start plucking. She never did, a few seconds later she was up and flying further away from me. Approximately 25 yards away I found her under a cedar tree watching me. Again I waited. This time she started plucking and working on the quail legs and breast. I made in and grabbed one of her hunting jesses with my hand.

As I was looping them through the swivel she lashed out and sunk her halux through the knuckle of my right un-gloved hand. I managed to slowly pull her halux out and finished tieing her to the swivel. We traded off no problem to a chicken neck.

Ussually I use a french clip on kangaroo leather jesses. It is a matter of a split second to clip her in and sit back to let her pluck. With the paracord jesses I was taking to much time tieing her in and she quickly let me know.

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I got the opportunity to talk to Mr. Davis at length the following day both at the hotel and later at Buzzard Billys. I can definently say I am glad he is the THA President. He is passionate about the sport and is making sure the state represents Falconers rights to hunt public hunting lands. He also took the time to explain how kite training falcons work. He has a rehab Broadwing, which is the smallest buteo.

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THA 2013-Guest Speaker (Gary Brewer)

Posted in Falconry on January 22, 2013 by ABS

I found the book, Buteos and Bushytails by Gary Brewer to be one of my favorite falconry books. I love his writing style and I thoroughly enjoyed the way he wrote the book. It is less of a how to book and more of a book of hey this is what worked for me and this is my experiences. I loved it. The fact that Mr. Brewer was going to be a guest speaker at this event was the number one reason we went.

After his speech I had a chance to meet with him and get my copy of Buteo and Bushytails personalized by him. I had the opportunity to speak with him at great length from aound 9:30 PM till 3 AM. We might not have any squirrels down here in Laredo but much of what he covers is useable for any quarry. The Redtail is such a resilient and adaptable falconry bird it is successful everywhere.

Mr. Brewer’s passionate and open behavior is infectious. I could easily listen to him talk for hours on end. I have to say I was very envious of his apprentice until I spoke with Mr. Brewer. He makes it known right away that you can call him anytime and he will take the time needed to help anyone. It was an honor to meet such a wonderful person.

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THA 2013 Event-Waco (First Hunt)

Posted in Falconry on January 22, 2013 by ABS

I met Richard Benoit, a General Falconer from Nevada that lives here in Texas on Friday. He is currently without a bird because you need an out of state trapping license then an out of state hunting license. We talked for a quite a bit and both my daughter and I immediately liked him. He asked if he and his dog could join us hunting in the morning. I have never flown my bird with anyone other than my daughter or my Sponsor of course I said yes immediately.

We met down in the Atrium at the hotel at 6 AM and took off for the Willie 3 Ranch. We got there at sun up and hunted till almost 9 AM. At first “Elia”, my Harris Hawk, hung back quite a bit but then she got her act together and started following quite well. I guess she was a little freaked out by all the tall trees because she started acting like a Redtail prefering the trees to her t-perch. Around 8:30 AM we saw a short stoop from a windmill that ended in a miss. We were beating brush around the area and I am pretty sure it was a rat. It looked like it went through the brush into another pasture near a small pond/tank.

A few minutes later the rancher came down and opened up the next field so we went in and worked the fenceline around the crops towards the pond hoping we could flush whatever the quarry was she had stooped at earlier. As we crested the embankment around the pond we saw no ducks so we worked the brush around the pond for quite awhile with no luck. Around 9 AM I saw some falconers starting to finally show up at the ranch. I guess they finally woke up and decided to go hunt. I told my daughter at that time lets go ahead and leave for breakfast so others could hunt the ranch.

As we left I noticed the other falconers had already turned around and left. We stopped at a small breakfast resteraunt in Moody and I have to say they serve a good meal. We got back to the weathering yard around 11 AM and put Elia back in the yard.

At that time I saw a longwinger near the weathering yard with his falcon, so I approached him to see if he had hunted that morning. I was really hoping he hadn’t hunted yet because I really wanted to see her fly. I approached him and asked him if he had hunted yet. To my surprise he said that he had tried to go out to the Willie 3 Ranch but some Harris Hawker was beating brush all around the only duck pond there scaring off all the ducks so he left. I explained to him that it was me and that we had gotten there at 6:40 AM just before sun up and that once I saw other falconers arriving at 9 AM we left. I also told him we saw no ducks there. That is when he went off on me. WOW I thought. I came here to hunt not sleep in a hotel bed till 9 AM.

I listened to him and apologized for hunting HIS POND. Definently not an approachable fellow. So my next tip: If you fly a Buteo or Parabuteo stay away from all waters sources in Texas because you might piss someone off. Every falconer knows rabbits never go near a water source. …..Well I didn’t but I do know now.

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THA 2013 Annual Event

Posted in Falconry on January 22, 2013 by ABS

Well we arrived at the Clarion Hotel in Waco on Friday at 11 AM and found the Weathering Yard in the back really fast. Here we finally got to meet falconers from around Texas and I was in awe. I had thousands of questions for the longwingers of course since that isn’t what I fly. The only falconer I had ever met in person was my Sponsor, Manuel Gonzalez, and his Sponsor, Paul Moore. Of course they were really helpful, informative, approachable so I thought therefore wouldn’t all falconers be like that. Survey says “No”.

I found that like every sport you have people who are or think they are elitists. Whether this is caused from time they have done the sport or money they have spent I do not know. My daughter said it best when she asked me “Why does that falconer talk to me without looking at me like he is wasting his time talking to me when I have a question but those guys on the other end of the weathering yard are real friendly and helpful.” Please don’t think this is a negative post because it isn’t 99% of the falconers we met were very helpful and passionate about falconry.

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Luckily barely a handful of people there were of the former sort most were unbelievably easy to approach and would talk at great length about their experiences. I actually learned quite alot. Mr. Pitcher, Mr. Davis, Mr. Weigel and quite a few other experienced falconers explained at great depth what I always wanted to know about the longwing falcons. I probably could have talked their ears off with all the questions I had. What I learned was man I wish I could try one but down here in Laredo I just don’t think it would work unless I flew a Kestrel.

The Buteos I saw were the largest I have ever seen. All my Redtails must have been the runts in Texas. One person there had a Redtail that was easily a 2800 or 3000 gram bird when he trapped it. My largest was like 1300 grams.

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I only saw about 20 birds in the yard at anytime but after speaking to many falconers I found out why. A great majority of them keep the birds in their room and don’t weather them in the yard. I saw some of their set ups and I agree with them.