Falconry with Friends

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The Virginia Falconers’ Association held its Harrisonburg Field Meet last weekend. I met some new people, beat brush until I was near dropping, told some lies and tall tales, and generally had a great time seeing old friends who all share my particular form of insanity. The high temperature on the primary hunting day was 27 degrees, so it was also exhausting, trying to keep warm and stay out of the wind while following a hunting bird of prey. Still, it was rewarding to have my 2x intermewed redtailed hawk catch one of only two squirrels nabbed over the weekend (Harrisonburg is renowned, among falconers, for its rabbits).

When I was a start-up falconer, I hunted alone (with a bird, of course) for many many years. I’m very glad that circumstance changed for me. There is nothing quite like being in the fields and woodlots with my peers. I watch a recall to the glove: the singular beauty of a gliding hawk, homing in on a tidbit sitting on a leather gauntlet, some 50 or 100 yards away. We all stop whatever we were doing and watch, thrilling in the extraordinary discipline that has convinced this wild entity to voluntarily return to the fist; we all shake our heads, and murmur “nothing like it on earth,” and each knows what the other means. It is truly priceless.

I didn’t have the opportunity to fly CJ, the crow-eating falcon, during the field meet. I think it was too cold and windy for the crows to be sitting on the ground anyway; but I honestly didn’t have time to go check through the byways of Rockingham Co. So I flew CJ on the Monday morning upon my return home. He was so anxious to fly, he went out the window and nailed a crow within the first ten minutes of our effort. It was the first one we saw. He got a good crop-up in return for his good behavior and patience (ha! this is a joke: the very last thing counted among attributes of birds of prey is patience). Actually, I fed him up because I felt guilty that he was waiting fruitlessly all weekend to hunt.

It was a good weekend (plus). Hoping the approaching deep freeze won’t prevent more flying this week.

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