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By Katherine Grand
When I first started practicing falconry I had never even hunted so the learning curve was often painful. I have learned so much in my 7 years practicing falconry and I look forward to many more lessons yet to come. The following are just a couple lessons I’ve learned while practicing the ancient art of falconry.
Lesson #1, Always wear a hat
When out in the field hunting with falconry birds, people often end up being used as perches. Although the hawks are not treating your head like prey, hawks and falcons will still end up scratching your head with needle sharp talons as they try to gain traction on slippery scalps. Also any smart ass falconers in the field with you may decide to purse their lips and squeak like a screaming mouse which will make any hawk clamp down on whatever is beneath their feet, namely you. This is also a good reason to never hold a hawk barehanded as falconers love these types of jokes. My dog Lucky played this trick on me yesterday by whining while Aurora my current red-tailed hawk was perched on my head. My red-tail Apollo was much more polite and would perch on my shoulder like a pirate’s parrot instead. Yaarrr that be much more comfortable
Aurora also enjoys smacking me in the head with her feet as she flies by me if she thinks I am not flushing enough game or calling her frequently enough to the fist for tidbits. A good ball cap makes the difference between that being mildly annoying and expletive eliciting pain. Aurora also decided this season that my ponytail periodically looks like a squirrel. This generally happens on evenings when the weather prevents me from taking her out hunting and I do some backyard training. I usually keep my hair in a braid and she hangs from my ponytail until I push her off. So far my Prois caps have prevented stray talons from ending up anywhere with nerve endings. I also learned this season never to handle her while wearing my faux fur trimmed hooded down jacket that my Mom bought me for Christmas. You may use your imagination on that one. Needless to say falconry is not the sport for those with a low pain threshold or fear of talon acupuncture. Last but not least hats are great for keeping mutes (AKA raptor poop) out of your hair. Hawks and eagles projectile poop which is called slicing while falcons mute straight down. Slicing is the reason I have been banned from bringing my hawks on work trips. While hunting with my first red-tailed hawk Artemis using a T perch he muted and it landed directly on my hat. I watched it drip off the front of my bill like a giant brown and white glob of snot but luckily it wasn’t sliding down my face. T Perches are used in flat areas with no or few natural perches to give your hawk a height advantage and added acceleration on prey. They also put hawks in a great position to mute on you and your friends in the field. Here is my friend and fellow Colorado falconer Chuck Butler explaining more about T perches (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ojpp5_iyv34).
Lesson#2 Aiming your bird
If being pooped on by birds is lucky then I am one of the luckiest girls on the planet. As a falconer one of the first things I learned was a hawk’s body language when it’s about to mute . When you are indoors initially manning (acclimating your new hawk to people and pets) if you have any carpeting or furniture you don’t want pooped on you get very quick at aiming your bird for them to launch a flying hawk shit in the most cleanable direction possible. Sometimes you can’t redirect them quickly enough. On my wedding day when I was holding my goshawk Hades during our ceremony I was able to point him away from myself and my maid of honor. He muted into one of the large bouquets instead. I have accidentally pointed Aurora at my dog Lucky but he was still easier to clean than our area rug. I did receive an angry and insulted look from Lucky when it happened. He is a poop connoisseur and much prefers being covered in coyote and fox poop than hawk. This is yet another reason not to piss off a falconer. We are crack shots with a muting hawk. Don’t believe a falconer when they tell you that you being in the line of fire was an accident if they are holding the hawk.
Stay tuned for more incredibly serious and very important Falconry Files, Lessons for the Field.
Falconry is the most highly regulated form of hunting. It requires an extensive licensing process and it is a huge commitment. Most falconers describe falconry as a lifestyle rather than a hobby. Please DO NOT attempt falconry without a license. Please visit http://n-a-f-a.com/AboutFalconry.htm to learn more about falconry.
By Lanny Barnes, Prois Pro-Staffers and Twin Biathletes www.twinbiathletes.com
The path to becoming an Olympian has no map, or trail marker, or mile marker, or Olympian for dummies book. This path however sits at the corner of life, heartache, and dreams. Every step is carved out by a million missteps, stumbles, falls and leaps. When we set out, we discover how many of those around us are willing to lend us a hand to help us find the right path. Those are the people beside us and behind us lifting us up and helping us find the right road, the right path, and giving us the wings to soar. Every setback isn’t a step back, it’s a comeback and a chance to soar again. These are a few things I’ve learned along the road to becoming an Olympian and while the 2014 Olympic Winter Games have ended, it is only the beginning of a new dream and new path. I didn’t bring home a medal in Sochi, but I brought home so much more in experiences, perspective and my gratitude towards those who have helped both of us in this incredible journey.
The life lessons and challenges we’ve faced in biathlon over the past 15 years have not only helped us to become a better competitor, but it’s allowed us to find out exactly who we are. Thanks to all of you we know now that we won’t give up no mater what life throws at us and that we are also willing to make sacrifices for the ones we love. The last race of my career and my last Olympic race I decided that I was either going out there to win it or die trying. The sacrifice all of you have made for me deserved nothing less than my full effort. I unfortunately didn’t win, but I did die trying and had nothing left at the finish. I have always set very high goals for myself but nothing that I didn’t think wasn’t possible. All of you have pushed and encourage me to try and follow my dreams no matter how hard and challenging they might be. One of my big goals besides bringing home a medal was to try and inspire those around me in some way. I hope that both Tracy and I have as all of you have inspired us to keep pushing no matter how hard things got. I know that when I die and it comes time for God to judge me, he will not ask “how many gold medals have you won?” rather he will ask “how many people did you inspire and how much love did you put into what you did and those around you.” This is not only what I hope to have achieved, but it is something you have achieved as well. Thank you for your inspiration and for allowing us become Olympians and represent not only our country, but you. Tracy and I will dedicate our lives to giving back to all of you who have selflessly given to us and our dreams. Thank you!
-Tracy & Lanny
By Gretchen Steele
Now that most hunting seasons have come to close, many of us want to stay in the woods and keep our scouting, tracking, patterning, and stalking skills intact. One of the best ways to do this is to hunt with a camera.
These days, my work as an outdoor communicator finds me hunting with a camera more days than I hunt with a gun or a bow. Rarely a day goes by that I am not in the field, with a pack full of cameras and lenses, my shooting sticks strapped on to use as camera rests. Thanks to the high quality and durability of the Próis line one worry I don’t have is that of durable, well fitting, technical outdoor clothing. Whether I am lying in a snow covered field photographing incoming geese or sweltering in the swamps photographing snakes, salamanders, and wading birds; Próis has me covered. Literally.
Many hunters and outdoor enthusiasts ask me how to improve their wildlife photos. The short simple answer is treat it like hunting. Just like hunting with a firearm or bow, hunting with a camera requires many of the same skills. Whether I am putting a trophy on the wall or an image of that big buck, the process is the same.
Good wildlife photos don’t just happen – it takes time and effort. Here are a few tips to help you improve your wildlife photos.
Scout – Scout, scout and scout some more. You can’t photograph the creatures if you can’t find them. The added advantage to hunting with a camera is that one can access areas that are closed to hunting. Burn the boot leather, and figure out where that flock of turkeys is roosting, when they come down, where they are strutting.
Pattern – Pattern the creatures that you wish to photograph. Learn their habits, watch them long enough to know when and where they usually feed, drink, and bed down. Soon you will know that every evening just before sunset the elk come down out of the trees to a meadow pool to drink and eat sweet fresh grass.
Stalking – Yes, wildlife photographers routinely use long focal length lenses, but often the cost and sheer need for a pack mule to haul around those giant heavy weight lenses makes the need to get close and fill the frame an often utilized skill. Just as a bow hunter needs to close the distance, so does a wildlife photographer. The same methods that you employ as a spot and stalk hunter are exactly what you will use when it is a camera in your hands versus a bow.
Concealment – we all know that concealment is key when hunting. This is no different when hunting with a camera. Thanks to the camouflage patterns offered by Próis I can stay well concealed in a variety of settings. Conceal that camera too. My cameras and lenses have camo covers that keep the glaring white of Canon L series lenses from blinding everything in the neighborhood. My black camera bodies and lenses will stick out like a sore thumb in a snowy cornfield, so again, don’t just camouflage yourself, camo up that camera as well.
Use a blind – Like it or not, just hunkering down in brush pile, the tall grass, or a clump of cedars won’t always work. I’ve spent just as many hours in a blind with a camera (I’m inclined to think more actually) as I have with a bow or gun. Just like a day in the blind hunting, some days I leave with cards full of images, the photographers version of tagging out; sometimes I come home with odd shots of the mouse in the corner, a mockingbird in a nearby tree and way too many of my boots.
Learn to call – Just like calling in the geese, the ducks, the turkeys to get them within in shooting range – I need them to be in camera range. Being able to use a range of different calls effectively will work well to bring the creatures in close. Using calls can also be an aid for enticing the creature to “look at the camera”.
By the time the cute babies from spring have grown into gangly teenagers, and the rest of the hunting community is ramping up for the next season, I have often become part of the landscape to the animals around me. They are accustomed to my scent, they are accustomed to my presence, and in many cases they have come to trust me. One would think I would use this to my advantage as a hunter.
Tempting as it might be, I try to not hunt the areas where the animals trust me the most. That just seems patently unfair. Instead, since I have been out there every day of the off season watching, patterning, and clicking away I still have a pretty good idea of where the best hunting will be.
Do my skills as a hunter make me a better wildlife photographer? Or perhaps my skills as a wildlife photographer make me a better hunter? I say neither – the skill set is essentially the same.
By Twin Biathletes and Prois Pro=Staffers
Tracy and Lanny Barnes
Today Tracy was awarded the United Nations UNESCO Fair Play Award. Since its foundation by UNESCO and a number of international sports governing bodies in Paris in 1963, the goal of the International Committee for Fair Play is the worldwide defense and promotion of fair play. In order to honor and directly recognize the acts of fair play performed either within or outside the sports world, the International Committee for Fair Play annually awards Fair Play Prizes to personalities who have proved to be excellent ambassadors of fair play. Tracy was given the Pierre de Coubertin World Trophy – for an athlete or team for an act of fair play. Pierre de Coubertin was the founder of International Olympic Committee and is consider the father of the modern Olympic Games. This award has been instrumental in promoting sportsmanship both on and off the field. It is a huge honor in sports to receive this award. Very few are given out annually. Here is what Tracy had to say in accepting this award-
“I think sportsmanship, which this award embraces, is a way for people to go beyond the playing field, or the ski course and recognize that there is more to sport than just a win. Sportsmanship is about creating champions, both on and off the field. And while I am not a champion in my sport, I do strive to be a good person and do the right thing. In sport there is winning and there is losing and sometimes in order to win you must lose or at least sacrifice the win. I didn’t go to the Olympics to compete, but I feel I have won. I had the most incredible experience of cheering my twin sister and best friend in the greatest sporting event in the world. And I couldn’t be more proud of her effort. In biathlon Lanny was not only my best friend, but my greatest competitor. And I’ve come to realize over the years that without your competition there is no sport. You have to show the same kind of respect to your competitors that you do to your teammates. That’s what makes you a good competitor both in life and in sport. I hope that my story will help to inspire people to do something good for the people they care about. Their friends, their family, their teammates, their competitors and their neighbors.
I for one have been surrounded by incredibly inspiring people my entire life and I have to say that their selflessness has rubbed off on me. Both my grandparents were in the army and air force and served their country. Our men and women in uniform are the ones who make the ultimate sacrifice, sometimes with their life so that we can enjoy our freedoms. Both my parents were school teachers and their selfless dedication to their students and that of all teachers continues to inspire me. And my older sister is a doctor and surgeon. Her dedication to helping others is a model I will continue to strive for in my life. So, if I may, I’d like to dedicate this to my family who have supported me and given me a purpose to live by and also to our men & women in uniform, our teachers, and our doctors who work to selflessly help others on a daily basis. May we all strive to dedicate ourselves to others so that we may enrich each others lives in sport and otherwise.
Thanks for seeing something in me that I may never have had the opportunity to see myself. Thanks to the International Fair Play Committee for this incredible honor and thank you to the US Olympic Committee for being such wonderful hosts.”
The Olympics officially start just 4 days from now and I am on the ground in Sochi training at the Laura Biathlon venue that we will compete on in the Olympics. This venue is the largest biathlon venue in the world and is supposed to hold over 80,000 people in the stadium and on course. We had our first training on the venue and our race course yesterday and I have to honestly say I love it!!
We concluded our final training camp in Antholz, Italy and headed to Munich, Germany which would be the staging point for our team processing and our charter flight to Sochi. Our team processing consisted of checking in with the US Olympic Committee, getting our visa’s, our phones for Russia, all our team clothing such as opening and closing ceremonies and medals ceremonies clothing, doing interviews, and taking team and individual photos. A lot of Olympian describe the team processing as shopping without a credit card. You usually leave with more bags and gear than you can cary.
The next morning early, we boarded our charter flight to Sochi. Our flight consisted of the entire Biathlon team, as well as some members of the Luge, cross country, figure skating and Freeskiing teams. It was a fun flight that made it into Sochi only 3 hours after we took off. As soon as we landed we grabbed our mountain of gear (minus our rifles that went straight to the venue) and headed through several security and accreditation checks before taking the 1 hr bus ride to the base of the mountains. There was a definite security presence everywhere that made us all feel really safe. Sochi is a tropical city, so there was no snow and plenty of palm trees. Once we hit the base of the mountains, we took a gondola up the mountain and hoped on another bus that brought us to our athletes village. After running around organizing gear and checking into our cabins and few meetings later we hit the sack after a really long day of travel.
The next day we woke up to the most beautiful 360 degree view of the Caucasus mountains. It definitely one of the coolest athletes villages and venues I’ve ever been too. All of our races are in the evening, so most of our main trainings are in the afternoon or evening. So we took the morning to check in our rifles which were locked in a secure facility at the venue and will remain that way until we leave, we will have access to them for training, cleaning, and dryfiring. This is normal for all Olympic games.
Our training on the venue couldn’t have been any better. We trained mid after noon and had blue bird skies and rock hard ski tracks. The course was a lot of fun too with some slalom type downhills and steep uphills on the 3km loop. The shooting range sits in front of a gigantic stadium that is boasted to hold over 80,000 spectators both in the stands and out on course. With the stands sitting less than 100 meters behind the range, there will definitely be some intense cheering during the shooting.
The Olympics officially kick off on Friday and the women’s first race is Sunday. We won’t find out what races we do until later in the week, so once I hear, I will send you the schedule of events I’m in. Please check out our facebook page Twin Biathletes as well as our website for updates and pictures. Thanks for all your support and help in making this dream possible. Can’t wait for the races to start!! Have a great week.