Cascade’s Freedom

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.



Falconry Season: February Crows

It’s been a strange season for flying birds. First the crash of the squirrel population. Then the wicked cold temps keeping everything (including me and my red tail) tucked into shelter.

So this has been the season I’ve reversed my “normal” A and B team concentrations. Where my most dependable and fun outings in the past have been flying the red tail on squirrels, and the falcon-on-crows focus was more of a “dawdle,” I have found myself frustrated and un-inspired by working with the red tail and the new dog. 

For one thing, the dog remains clueless. It’s hard to get the dog to understand what we’re doing out there when there are no squirrels to chase. So when I’ve looked for red-tail-style dinner options, we have devolved to rabbits. Not many of them around, either. So both the bird and the dog get bored. The other day, on one of those rare warm days, the bird found a significant snake crawling around — who’d have thought that a snake would be active in 45-50 degrees? And it wasn’t a little shoestring-sized snake, either. When the bird had finished eating it, we were done for the day.

A bored red-tailed hawk picks up bad habits. It might even think that the white-and-black canine running around randomly and not noticeably helping flush anything might just do for a quick meal.

Enter the traditionally-dubbed “B-Team.” My Crow Joe (CJ) the falcon has been spot on his targets. The thing about the crows, however, is that my fave time for getting out before too much human activity starts up for the day is right after dawn. But when the temps are in the teens and below, the crows are waiting for the sun to warm things up a bit before they start pecking around on the frozen-solid ground. Crows are smart, remember.

So it’s been tough finding the right timing and putting together the situations where both CJ is at weight and ready to fly, and the crows are out, messing around on the ground feeding. But it hasn’t been so tough that I have been unable to offer CJ opportunities to fly, and he has been eating heartily on fresh dinner á la corvid. 

I guess the upshot of all this is the following. You’re never too old to learn something new. If you try different things, you’re likely to find an alternative that works. If you’re patient, and try not to get your knickers all knotted up, the rough patches will smooth. And its useless to cry over situations that you cannot change; instead, make an effort to adapt.

So this is the winter of my adaptation. And I love my falcon.

February Crows: