A dream come true.

Greetings All,

My name is Abner and I am an Apprentice Falconer in Laredo, Texas. (Falconer = A person who trains and hunts with falcons. Austringer = A person who trains and hunts with Goshawks. Typically accepted term for all hawks and Accipiter.) I created this site as a way to track and share my journey in this exciting sport, hobby, er life changing thing I do. I also plan on posting about cooking with my daughter, gardening, and fishing which are also things I enjoy doing. Please be tolerant of my grammer at least I try.

A little bit about my falconry experience. Back in September 2010, I met Mr. Gonzalez a local Master Falconer living in Laredo, Texas.

 

He stated he would be glad to be my Sponsor once I had proven I was really interested in the sport and it wasn’t a passing fancy. I was overjoyed at this prospect. As a child I grew up in New Port Richey, Florida and I had often been fascinated by Raptor displays at the local amusement parks. It was a childhood dream of mine to always become a falconer and this man had offered to open up this whole new world of experiences to me.

This required a couple of months of going out with him and his Harris hawk “Cheekies” to beat brush for rabbits once or twice a week. He also required me to purchase everything I needed in order to properly care and maintain a freshly trapped hawk. I was very nervous at first because I barely knew him and this man was requiring me to make a significant cash and time leap of faith before he would even consider signing my Sponsorship letter. Mr. Gonzalez loaned me several books to study for the exam. Which I read and re-read, wrote out on flash cards, studied and dreamed about.

He also helped me to build a mews, an 8×10 foot building the raptor lives in.

I had to purchase all the equipment necessary by Texas regulation for falconry. The below list is in no means everything you need.

  • Jesses & anklets (or the materials necessary to make them)
  • Leash and swivel
  • Bath Container
  • Weight Scales or balances for weighing a raptor.

There is a lot more like a hood, several perches, meat shears, Vitahawk, extra bath pans, a field T perch, bells, telemetry, a Giant Hood, creance, lure, bells, kangaroo hide, leather working gear, indoor perch, Bal Chatri, Bownet, and this list could go on and on and on. But I can tell you this if your wife is like mine you are going to need a chest freezer in the garage because my wife won’t let me keep frozen dead rats, day old chicks and quail in our fridge in the house.

Then I spent hours upon hours studying for the Texas Falconry Exam.  After I had purchased everything and the mews was finished, Mr. Gonzalez signed my Sponsorship letter. I took the Texas Falconry Exam on December 2, 2010 and passed it. Then two days later a Texas Game Warden came to my residence to complete the inspection of my mews and to insure I had all the necessary equipment. A day later, I was emailed my Texas Apprentice Falconry Permit. After purchasing my hunting license with a duck stamp, it was on! I went trapping for a bird of my own like crazy.

On December 19, 2011 at 4:09 PM, my son and I trapped a passage female Redtail Hawk in Riviera, Texas. She weighed 1361 grams. She had massive feet, a full crop, and no deformities that I could see. We hooded her, taped up her feet and I doused her with mite spray. Within 2 hours of trapping, I had her on my fist twice, hooded. Once we got home we took her hood off in the dark and placed her in the giant hood to let her rest. I of course took the hood off so she would have no problem getting rid of a casting from her previous days meal. We decided to name her “Noel” because of the Christmas season.

After 24 hours, she weighed 1150 grams. Which is considered her true weight. The next day she weighed in at 1067 grams.

“Noel”
 
 
 
 
Two days later my Sponsor helped me man her and get her standing on my fist unhooded. Lets just say it was exhilarating and at times a little scary.
 
 
 
 
 

I started teaching her to perch and step up on the first day of manning, which she picked up quite quickly even though she didn’t like it. As you can see in the picture below her wings are still open and she is still in that aggressive posture.

Awesome Christmas gift, my bird and my oldest son, AJ.

Eventually she started to take tidbits from my hand. (Lesson learned = hold the jesses firmly when tid-bitting or she will grab the tidbit with her talons in a death grip of fiery pain.) By the fourth day she was picking up tidbits from my glove at her feet bending completely down in front of me. Which is a sign of trust. I carried her everywhere I went. We took walks in the neighborhood. She sat on my fist while I sat in a lawn chair and watched my grass burn from this oppressive Laredo heat. (Lesson learned = don’t tidbit your bird too much. Wait until she hops to your fist or you will be waiting for a very long time. Their hunger has to outweigh their fear for them to hop to you.) I believe my Sponsor was getting a little impatient with me on that note. So it took her almost three days before she finally hopped 3 feet to the glove from her perch to get a tidbit. Once this happened I increased the distance of her hop every time over the course of three days. Soon I had her flying the entire length of the living room. Before you knew it we were outside and she was on the creance. This is where you start all over again hoping 3 feet and gradually work your way up to 100 yards or more. This is also the same time I introduced the T perch which she took to readily enough by me placing a tidbit on the perch and calling her but she really doesn’t like it. She prefers a tree or telephone pole.

After about two days of creance flying, I introduced the whistle with the tidbit. She picked up quickly that the whistle meant FOOD! I even started hiding the tidbit in my gloved hand so she didn’t see it. This is when I started calling her but not tidbitting everytime that way she doen’t get use to not flying to me if she doesn’t see the tidbit. Next I introduced the lure with the remainder of her days rations after creance flying. She quickly picked up the importance of the lure and would chase, pound and beat it up badly. Once she learned the importance of the lure, I began to practice making in and transferring here from the lure to my fist. It was during this time I managed to dial her weight in quickly.

As far as weight we found that at 940 she seemed sluggish and after about her sixth flight on the creance she would land on the ground and walk to me. At 965 grams she seemed to hesitate when called before she flew to me. At 955 grams she was quick to respond. This made her a Tweener, meaning we aren’t sure if she is a male or a female, but we all agreed she is a small female and not a male.

Two weeks later I hooked up with my Sponsor at his place and was showing off how happy I was with “Noels” progress. My Sponsor just looked at me and told me to free fly her. OMG was all I could think. No way was I going to let her off the creance, what if she didn’t come back. After I voiced my concerns he just gave me that look. I pulled the leash out of the swivel and popped the swivel out of her jesses. I held my arm up with Noel to wait for her to fly. I could barely breath as she took off from me and flew to a nearby tree. She hopped around in the tree to get a higher perch, all the while watching me. My Sponsor told me to call her back. I held my arm up, with a tidbit concealed in my palm, and blew the whistle. She immediately flew back to me. I was ecstatic. We immediately went out behind his place and started hunting. Creance training was over. 

A few days later, my wife and I drove to Encinal, Texas to hunt there on a small ranch a friend of mine has access to. Our first hunt was of course to catch game but also to teach her to follow on and learn commands like “Ho Ho Ho” which means basically I see a rabbit get over here bird. We also use a command “Hup, Hup, Hup” which she seemed to pick up which means I am over here beating bruch come watch just in case. She picked that up as well.

"Noel" riding the T perch.

Her first kill a Cotton Rat.

Anyone have a napkin? I have blood on my cheek.

Well the first days hunt was a success. She nailed a cotton rat and chased a few rabbits. She will ride the T perch but not for to long. She quickly looks for a tree to perch on and then we beat brush. She picked up on following us rather quickly as well.

Since then I have hunted her and flew her on baggies a few times because she will chase rabbits but had a hard time connecting. We took a trip up to Granger Lake, Texas and let her chase squirrels which was quite awesome. We were there a week and she only got 2 squirrels but it was fun none the less. She finally got into the swing of things and was successfully catching rabbits.  Then the worst happened.

On June 26, 2011, she was found in the mews dead. We are unsure of what happened to cause her death. I didn’t realize how hard her death would affect me. To me she was a beloved companion and to her I was a …. refrigerator but still. She became such an influence in my life. I awoke every morning to get her from the mews and weigh her and check to see if she molted another feather. She was molting up beautifully and every feather molted was kept for imping purposes and to keep track of her molt. Then I put her on her perch to get the morning sun. I would later go out and do jump ups with her and feed her on her lure. Before work she went back into her mews and I updated her daily weight log, daily temperature, what I fed her, Rat, D.O.C, etc. All this documentation is really important because it helps you track their calorie burn rate so you can keep your bird sharp when hunting and of course fat and happy during the molt. When I came home from work and as I pulled into the driveway I could hear her bells moving in her mews. I would come in the front door to see her peeking out her mews window to see if her refrigerator was home. I’d go pick her back up and bring her in the house to watch TV.

Now I come home to an empty mews and her weathering yard perch is lonely. I often go outside and just stare at her empty perch and remember how truly magnificent she was and I feel as if somehow I let her down. Now I work on my new Bal Chatri, an indoor perching area, a jump box, and a zip line inside the weathering yard. I am doing all sorts of falconry projects to keep myself busy counting the days till the Redtails start migrating back south for this winter. My daughter and I look forward to trapping and training another Redtail. I just pray I get another bird with such a lovely disposition. Of course my daughter says it won’t be the same without “Noel”.

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