I met him when he was a youngster of 6 months. This was November of 2011. He was not, at first, happy to see me. Not happy at all.
At first, I was unsure if he was a male or a female. But in time, I knew by his demeanor, character, and general lack of aggression that He was not a She. Thus, he was not known as Cass but rather Cade.
We had a great first year together.
Then my hunting/helping dogs died, and during that winter of 2013-4, the squirrels died because of the acorn crop failure.
Cade and I were reduced to trying to find rabbits, and I can tell you, I’m not much of a rabbit dog.
Over this past hunting season (2014-5) we still had difficulty finding squirrels as their populations had not rebounded in my neighborhoods. Cade lost his touch for the bushytails — and even though he’d caught two fox squirrels in 2012; and even though they were more abundant than the grays; Cade suddenly refused to even look at the fox squirrels we stumbled upon in the woods.
The first dog I chose as a replacement rabbit flusher turned out to be more afraid of the bird than he was attuned to rabbits. He’s sweet, but useless in the field with a bird.
Poor Cade spent much of the 14-15 hunting season cooling his talons in his enclosure.
His time to reclaim his freedom has arrived, and today he realized it. One of the greatest things about the way I practice falconry is that a wild-caught redtailed hawk, trained in the sport of falconry and thus fit, skilled, healthy and mature, will readily revert back to the wild.
As he did today.
He ate the quail I held in my glove while I cut through the leather bewit holding the bell on his leg; and through the two leather anklets on his tarsi. Once he finished the quail, I had a large rabbit’s head for him to carry with him into the surrounding woods. The head would keep him occupied for a while after I left.
Once he realized he was free, he took off, looking as if the only thought in his head was, “Who are you?”
I thanked him for his willingness to work with me, and for the opportunity to get to know him.
And I drove away.
Fly high good bird and make many more of your kind; Live Long and Prosper, my friend.