Falconry Files- Lessons from the Field

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

Photo courtesy of http://chickadeephotoart.com/red-tailed-hawk/

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.

 

Thous Shalt Not Poop on the Bride

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.

Shooting a Doe

 

I overheard someone scoff at the fact I was excited and sharing pictures of the doe I harvested the morning of opening day. For just a short moment I thought, geez, maybe it is a little childish. I mean, I shot the first dear that walked out.  Most people it seems only brag about the biggest bucks and if they shoot a doe, aren’t proud and even act embarrassed to admit. Or sometimes, if it’s not a huge buck, they give some sort of excuse why they took it like they are having to defend themselves.

But then I realized that I really don’t care what they think. I don’t. I don’t have land of my own to hunt, I am blessed with the occasional invite from friends or when we travel out of state to visit my in-laws, we have very little time to hunt there. My number one goal is to fill my freezer with venison. One deer usually lasts most of the year for our small family. We save the loins and a couple of roasts to use for other things  but other than that, we grind most of it up and use it with anything that calls for ground meat.

So HELL YEAH I’m proud of that doe. I’m proud of the fact that I just provided my family with many nights of good clean meat to eat.  Not to mention I didn’t exactly sit in a warm cozy permanent stand to hunt by a feeder. (I have and would if I could again- so no judging on this end), but sometimes the harder you work or more you commit, the greater the value of the reward. In my case, it is a doe. She walked out of the woods, turned and started to walk back in so I took the shot.

With that one shot, the pressure of filling our freezer is off. I am now very comfortable with waiting for a buck if I choose to. But I would also be proud to shoot another doe. Either way, it means more meat to share with friends and family. Who wouldn’t be proud of that?

Prois Hunting Apparel Announces 2013 Pro and Field Staff Selections!

Donna Boddington's 2013 Kudu

New to Pro-Staff, Donna Boddington!!
Prois Hunting Apparel
Donna Boddington is a tough hunter. Period. Whether she’s leading the charge up a goat mountain with debilitating blisters or mustering for another scorching hot day of stalking Cape buffalo she is ready with fortitude and an indeed unbeatable spirit.

Born in Braintree Mass, she was raised in a large family before moving to California. Her hunting geography ranges from whitetail on her farm in Kansas to big game in South America, Asia, Europe, Africa, and Australia. On the Dark Continent she’s taken game as small as the dik-dik and as large as the elephant and giraffe. She has harvested both ibex and chamois in Asia and Europe. On her home continent she’s enjoyed hunting all of our big game species and is still on the quest for a mountain goat.
She often enjoys the fun and camaraderie of hi ring alongside her husband, Craig Boddington. She shares Craig’s passion for mountain hunts. Her current short term goal as a hunter is to become proficient as a bow hunter and her long term goal is to succeed at two goats that eluded her in the past; B.C. mountain goat and Pyrenean chamois.

New to Field Staff, Becky Lou Lacock
Becky Lou Lacock is an avid outdoors girl from the word GO! She actively hunts year round including but not limited to deer, turkey, hogs, ducks, birds, and various predators. Sport shooting is often on her agenda including Sporting Clays, and she actively competes in Cowboy Action Shooting noted with her registered S.A.S.S alias “Sassy Bandit”. Having spent most of her life indoors, she is keenly aware that there are many women that do not consider most outdoor sports simply because they do not have 3 very important things; 1.) Information, 2.) Encouragement and 3.) Inspiration. This has helped define her mission in life, which is to provide these 3 things to women using all platforms made available to her. She is an avid volunteer for events and workshops teaching and inspiring women into outdoor activities. With her first TV appearance in early 2010, she has since appeared several times, as guest host, featured hunter, and is currently Co-Host of Double Lung Outdoors TV.

New to Field Staff, Candace Crick!

Candace Crick is a mother of 5 boys, married to her best friend, owner of Tusks-N-Tails Ranch, videographer for Okie Wild TV and now hosting a new show called Vital Obsession. She is a volunteer and guide for Oklahoma Youth Hunting & Shooting Sports program and has started to volunteer her time to helping the local NASP program. She has begun her pursuit towards the North American Grand Slam solely with stick and string. She has been on hunts for Yukon Moose in the vast bush of Alaska; hunted the mountains of Idaho for black bear, and been blessed to witness the migration of Caribou at arms’ length. She takes pride in filming all of her hunts with her husband. Videography to her is just rewarding as harvesting the animal. Candace believes, “We are the vitality to make this dream a reality; we are unconquerable and anything is possible! Sometimes you just need a helping hand and an open heart”. Candace hopes to use the avenues she has been given through the great outdoors to inspire other women and to help them believe they too are unconquerable! Candace is elated to be given the opportunity to take Prois on all of her adventures

New to Field Staff, Joni Kiser

Joni Kiser is co-owner of Full Curl Archery, the largest archery store in Alaska. She was raised in a truly “Alaskan” lifestyle with a father who was a Master Guide and Outfitter that ran a hunting lodge on the Alaska Peninsula for over 40 years. Whether she is teaching private archery lessons, running her youth Home School Archery Classes for the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP), or being an instructor for Alaska Department of Fish and Games Women’s Archery Program – her life truly revolves around archery and hunting and it is something that is deeply embedded in the core of who she is. In 2012 she organized an “all ladies” bear hunt where she took a few new lady hunters out to get their first black bears (successfully!) and says she feels so proud when a woman she has taught how to shoot, goes out and successfully takes an animal with her bow! In 2012 Joni also successfully took a Pope and Young Record Book Brown Bear with her bow and is looking forward to more hunting adventures with her hunting buddies in 2013!!

New to Field Staff, Tad Mecham
Tad has been hunting her whole life. Being outdoors and hunting is not what she does but who she is! Tad is an avid Houndsman, and her passion is hunting with the hounds. Tad and her husband Clint live in Southern Utah on the Paunsagaunt Plateau. They own and operate Sun C Outfitters. Tad is the reigning 2013 Extreme Huntress, has filled 2-once in a lifetime tags, plus-several mountain lion, mule deer and elk tags. She and Rebecca Francis (guide) will be in Alaska in October, hunting for a trophy brown bear. Tad inspects semi’s (DOT COP) for a living, when she’s not in the hills hunting or under a truck, you can find her riding her Harley in Beautiful Southern Utah.

Promoted to Field Staff, Kristen Monroe
Kristen Monroe began her career working for Bast Durbin Advertising selling advertisements for the outdoors industry in 2007. She has always loved being outdoors, and finally put her dreams into action in 2010. After learning how to shoot a handgun at the NRA’s, Women on Target Event. She quickly escalated in the shooting sports — learning how to hunt waterfowl, upland game, deer and turkey. As a mother of two, her children have provided motivation to learn as much as she can about the traditional outdoor sports. She believes hunting and fishing are great ways to stay connected to one’s family. She has found a new level of confidence through shooting and is determined to pass it onto others. Her passion is clearly evident in her writing and presentations. Her latest focus has been concealed carry. Kristen is a freelance writer and currently writes for Outdoor News Publications in an outdoor blog called Pass It On. She is a regular contributor to Women’s Outdoor News and other select publications and websites. She is a member of The Association of Great Lakes Outdoor Writers, National Rifle Association, Ducks Unlimited, Illinois Rifle Association and National Wild Turkey Federation. Stay tuned to here all about our new Event Staffers!

Próis® Hunting & Field Apparel for Women specializes in technical, high-performance hunting and shooting gear for women. In business since 2008, Próis® has established its place as the premier source of gear for the hardcore female hunters and shooters. Female owned and operated- we take pride in not being one of the guys.
For more information about the full Próis® line, contact: Próis® Hunting & Field Apparel, 28001-B US Highway 50, Gunnison, CO 81230. 970-641-3355
Or visit www.proishunting.com

http://proishunting.com/community/index.php Próis® blog- find out what is happening in the world of Próis® and the strange albeit brilliant people who work here.
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Prois-Hunting-Field-Apparel-for-Women/110925409020195?fref=ts You MUST check out our Facebook page. It is insightful and occasionally inappropriate. OK…more often than not.
https://twitter.com/ProisHunting for those of you who love Twitter. We love it too. It’s neat.
http://pinterest.com/prois/ Even Pinterest cannot escape Próis®. Believe us…they have tried.

Falconry Files, Much Ado about Moulting

By Katherine Grand

Katherine Grand and Aurora during their first season hunting together

Many people ask me questions about what it is falconers and falconry birds do during the summer so I thought I write a little blog with answers to my most frequently asked questions. During the summer most hunting seasons are closed for both falconry and other hunting methods. Furthermore raptors are moulting during this time which means they are losing their feathers from the previous season and growing in new ones. During this time falconry birds need to be kept at a higher weight than their ideal hunting weight for the increase metabolic demand of feather production. Poor diet, disease, or starvation can result in feather deformities. In falconry a raptor’s weight is very important to its performance while hunting and responding to its falconer. Falconers weigh their birds daily while they are hunting them, often times multiple times a day. Also growing feathers are much more susceptible to being damaged, sometimes resulting in permanent damage to a feathers. For these reasons the majority of falconers do not hunt their birds during the moult.

A moulted juvenile tail feather from Aurora

All my previous red-tailed hawks I have trapped in the fall as juveniles, hunted during the winter, then released in the spring. I am keeping Aurora through the moult this summer which is called intermewing. The transition between juvenile feathers and adult feathers in red-tailed hawks is especially dramatic and exciting as typical juveniles have brown tail feathers (AKA train feathers in falconry speak) and most adults have brick red tail feathers which are the red-tails namesake.

This photo shows Aurora's adult brick red train feathers coming in. The brown feathers are her juvenile feathers which have since moulted.

Many people ask me if raptors are still able to fly while moulting. Healthy raptors do not lose all their feathers at once, in the wild they continue to hunt and fly year round. They lose their feathers gradually so they are always able to fly. There are of course exceptions to every rule. Raptors that are unable to fly would die of starvation or predation. To learn more about raptor feathers and moulting visit http://www.themodernapprentice.com/feathers.htm.
So what do falconers do with their birds during the moult? I like to continue to work with my birds handling, training, and flying them throughout the moult. Some falconers just leave their birds alone in their mews (raptor aviary http://www.themodernapprentice.com/mews.htm) while other handle them extensively. I enjoy feeding Aurora from the fist (on my falconry glove AKA gauntlet). As you have probably already guessed falconry has its own extensive vocabulary. I also enjoy flying her outside on a creance. A creance is essentially a leash that you tie your bird to so they can’t fly away.

Creance training flight with Aurora in the back yard mid-moult

It’s used during initial training before you trust the bird not to fly away and in situations like during the molt when the bird’s weight is high and they may not return to the falconer. (http://www.themodernapprentice.com/creance.htm) My favorite creance material is fly line. Furthermore I work with her do indoors doing flights in our garage and jump-ups where the bird flies from a low perch straight up to your fist while holding your hand as high as possible (http://www.themodernapprentice.com/games.htm). When doing multiple repetitions this is great exercise. To learn more about falconry you can visit http://www.themodernapprentice.com/ and http://www.n-a-f-a.com/.

A good view of Aurora's growing adult tail feathers during another creance flight.

Stay tuned for future fun filed Falconry Files from your favorite falconer, Katherine Grand!

Prois is Moving

 

By Katherine Grand

Kirstie's New Office

We found this great lot for rent super cheap and Prois is moving.  We are saving a lot of money on  our new location.  What do you think of our new diggs?  Neat freak Kirstie Pike is about to have a nervous breakdown while I am  enjoying nap time on the numerous outdoor mattresses   If you believe for a moment that Kirstie Pike would allow for this type of messiness I have some ocean front property in Arizona I’d be willing to sell you . . .

 

We are all moved in and ready to take your order!

 

Life after Falconry

By Katherine Grand

 

I feel depressed, the days feel darker and emptier.  Everyone is excited about spring arriving in the Gunnison valley but I am longing after eternal winter.  What could be causing this you ask?  Or maybe you didn’t ask.  I often break into long winded soliloquies about falconry with little or  no provocation.  In fact when telling our IT person Paul not to ask me about falconry because i will go on and on for hours, he replied “but I didn’t ask.”

Last weekend I came to terms with the fact that Aurora was going into breeding mode when she was half heartily chased bunnies and flew further and further away from us and the dogs while hunting.   Less than a week prior she was hunting with us like a superstar, staying close to us, and giving every rabbit we saw a run for it’s money at the same weight.  This change in attitude is inevitable and  but it marked the end of my time hunting until this coming fall with the best game hawk I have flown.

Aurora's last rabbit of the season

In the summer not only are most hunting seasons closed but falconry birds need to be kept heavier than their normal flying weight (http://www.proishunting.com/community/?p=2509) to produce new feathers while they are molting.  For this reason the majority of falconers do not hunt with their birds during the summer months.  Nutrition is very important during this time for birds to produce strong feathers to carry them through the next hunting season.  Also when spring hormones flood a falconry bird’s system telling them to breed they tend to become much less consistent and responsive to their falconers.  Furthermore when flying a bird during the molt you risk them breaking growing feathers which could permanently damage that feather’s growth, even in future molts .  Since Aurora broke three feathers this year crashing through brush after bunnies that is not a risk I am willing to take not to mention the extended falconry cottontail season ends March 31st.  Birds of prey drop their feathers during the molt over time so they can still fly during the duration of the molt, otherwise they would not be able to survive int the wild.  Healthy birds molt their feathers in a specific order so falconers know by watching their birds and collecting molted feathers when they are finished molting and ready to hunt again.  Most falconers wait until their bird’s feathers are completely finished growing in before resuming hunting.

I am planning on keeping Aurora through the summer which is called intermewing.  The aviary falconers use to house their birds when they are not hunting them  is called a mews and the number of seasons a birds has been flown coincides with the number of times they have been intermewed.  During this time off from hunting I will continue to work with Aurora regularly to keep her from getting bored, keep her in shape, and keep her used to me.  I have already been training her indoors and outdoors and  exercising her with flights to the fist (my falconry glove, AKA gauntlet).  Falconry has a vocabulary of it’s own, and falconers often sound like they are speaking a different language.  Next year Aurora will be a once intermewed passage hen red-tailed hawk.  Say that 3 times fast.  In layman’s terms she is a  female red-tailed hawk that was trapped as a juvenille and kept over the summer during her first molt.

I already miss hunting with Aurora and I am feebly trying to replace that joy with shed hunting, fly fishing, and other sports that bring me great joy but see dull when compared to seeing a Aurora close in on a cottontail from a high perch among the rocky cliffs of Gunnison Colorado.  As my withdrawal symptoms subside and the rivers open enough to float I will happily take to the rivers and spend some much loved time riding my mare Fiona.  Luckily this break gives me a chance to reset and tone my falconry obsession to a level that will frighten fewer people.

When Aurora molts this summer she will grow the beautiful brick red tail feathers that are a red-tail’s namesake.  As she ages her eyes will darken from a golden hay color to a darker brown, and her plumage will change dramatically.  Her flight feathers will be shorter than her juvenile feathers.     I can’t wait to see how she looks as this  will be the first red-tail hawk I intermew.  I also can’t wait to see how she continues to develop as a hunting companion with one season under her belt.  However, I won’t wish away the beautiful Colorado summer in the meantime.    Thanks for reading and happy hunting!

 

A Traumatic and Memorable Day

By Katherine Grand

 

The day began with no foreshadowing of events to come; normal as things get here at  Prois.  The morning started with Joni and Kirstie ruthlessly chiding me about my unorganized desk and the fact that I had no leg room under my desk as I was storing things there.   I texted Kirstie a very unattractive picture of me flipping her off as she would not come over and look at my legs fitting comfortably under my desk. Needless to say said photo ended up on facebook.

Do not text your boss pictures that you do not want to end up on facebook

I was saved by the bell when one of my dealers called with some questions and Joni and Kirstie continued to cackle loudly while I diligently worked.  Out of nowhere I looked over and a dying mouse was convulsing next to my chair.  I exclaimed “Oh my God, hold on a second” and immediately put my dealer on hold.  While I regained my composure Joni kindly scooped up the dying mouse and deposited it outside.  The cackling increased exponentially as Joni and Kirstie discussed how there were mice living under my desk.  The timing was impeccable for an animal to crawl out and die next to me.

 

Joni scooping up the dying mouse. Note to self, do not use the blue bowl.

While feeling thoroughly weird about the random dying mouse, my husband appeared in the office to accompany me on a hunt with Aurora our red-tailed hawk and our dogs Lucky and Sadie.  I was sure hunting would make me feel better.  Eric and I started hunting and Aurora was following us well and chasing each rabbit we flushed.  While hunting an immature golden eagle suddenly flew less than 10 feet over Aurora which sent me screaming and waving my arms wildly to scare it off.  Golden eagles will kill and eat other birds of prey when they see an opportunity and many falconers have lost their birds to goldens.  The golden continued out of the valley but our dog Sadie is old and was having trouble with the icy, punchy snow so I suggested Eric to take her back to the truck.  The timing couldn’t have been worse.  While he was gone, I continued to try to flush bunnies when suddenly Aurora made a spectacular dive and loudly crashed into some brush in a ditch below me.  I excitedly ran to where I saw her disappear and found her holding a rabbit and she and the rabbit were totally tangled in the brush.  I stretched the bunny to break its neck and in the excitement of untangling Aurora and her rabbit from the brush she grabbed a hold of my right index finger and sunk her talons into my flesh.  She was super amped up from catching the rabbit and was not going to let go.  The more I tried to pry her off the tighter her grip became.  The pain was intense and I knew that I would need Eric the pry her front and back toes off at the same time which is almost impossible to do one handed.  The other option was to wait until she relaxed which I have had to do in the past while hunting alone.  However, Aurora is one of the strongest birds I have worked with and the pain was excruciating.  Oh the mayhem!  I started screaming for Eric and he heard me as her rounded the corner in our truck with the windows up.  I must have been pretty loud.  I was crying by the time her found me and he pried her talons off my finger, one of which was sunk in over a half an inch right into my joint.  I calmed down and gave Aurora a feast on her bunny.  She quickly forgot the incident and dug into her prize.

 

Owwwwwey owwwwww owwwwww

On the drive back home I realized I was due for my tetanus shot and was concerned over the location of the deepest puncture wound which quickly sealed up trapping in all the awesome bacteria and gore from Aurora’s talons that had just been sunk in the rabbit.  Upon returning to the office CEO Kirstie Pike and certified award winning nurse told me I should go into the doctor because I did not want an infected joint. When I called to make an appointment and the nurses asked me what had happened, it took me a while to explain the circumstances of my injury.  When I arrived at the office the nurses were asking me a million questions and treating me like I was some sort of newly discovered 2 headed creature.  Apparently being home to the oldest consecutive rodeo in the Colorado, they have lots of experience with bull horn injuries but this was their first talon maiming.  After listening to some awful cat bite stories about people that ended up filleted open (he definitely used the word filleted) I was prescribed a course of antibiotics.  Unfortunately there is little literature about the bacteria common to a hawk’s talons so I received the cat bite meds, my tetanus shot,  and was ordered to return in two days.

We still got a bunny!

 

I returned back to the office and retold the harrowing tales of my day to Kirstie, Joni, and Shonda who has since arrived.  It was a thoroughly traumatic and memorable day but I learned some good lessons about the importance of office cleanliness and I now bring an extra leather glove and pruning shears to cut my hawk out of the crazy tangles of brush she crashes into after rabbits.  This suggestion came from another lady falconer,Laura Culley.  Also I learned not text your boss pictures you do not want to end up on facebook if you happen to work for Kirstie Pike.  Thanks Kirstie Pike for putting up with me going on lunch hunts and the subsequent doctor’s visits that are sometimes required.

Hawk this Way! Traits of a good game hawk.

By Katherine Grand

Aurora is the fourth red-tailed hawk I have trapped, trained, and flown in pursuit of game as a falconer and she is quickly becoming the best falconry bird I have ever worked with.  My coworker and friend Joni Viles asked me why I thought that was this morning.  Was I becoming a more experienced falconer or was it because she is just a great bird?  I really believe it’s a combination of the two.

A good red-tailed hawk will follow you from tree to tree or rock to rock as you try to flush game.  Red-tails rely on gravity for acceleration so it is best to let them chase from a high perch.  Yesterday Aurora followed  Eric, Lucky dog, and I for over 3 hours as we flushed game and chased every rabbit she could see from her vantage point.  Aurora not only follows us when we are flushing rabbits, she flies past us in the direction we are moving.  This is ideal as we can push game towards her perch and the rabbits often are running towards her.  Flushing involves letting Lucky dog look for rabbits as well as hitting the sage brush and rabbit cover with sticks or my favorite flushing stick, an old ski pole.  Aurora really seems to understand that game appears around us.  This is a result of us hunting her hard and almost daily since show season and in bringing her to areas where we can reliably flush game.  When she isn’t successful I toss out a lure with food tied to it that she has been trained to recognize as something akin to game.  She knows when she “catches” the lure she is guaranteed a good meal.

Aurora enjoying a good meal off her lure

Weight control is the key factor in falconry.  I weigh Aurora daily and with the help of my falconry friend Roger Tucker, I found her ideal weight where she flies really well, chases game hard, and comes to me readily in the field.  I had been flying her an ounce higher than her current hunting weight when Roger came hunting with us, felt her keel (breast bone) and told me she could come down an ounce after watching her fly.  With a red-tail, an ounce can make a vital difference in performance and attitude.  I had been thinking her weight could come down but you have to be very careful not to cut a bird’s weight so much that it makes them weak.  Performance is a combination of training and weight.  One is not effective without the other.

A successful hunt for the Grand family

Even though I have been a falconer for 5 years now, I often ask advice from my falconry peers who have been falconers much longer than I.  Roger is an excellent falconer and has an amazing goshawk named Nova.  I have often turned to him for advice.  Raptors used in falconry have a very specific window of weight where they perform  at their very best.   This weight can increase the longer you have a bird and the more consistent you are as a falconer.  Though Aurora does not come to my fist (gloved hand) as well as other birds have in the past, she comes easily to the lure, and follows us so well that coming in for a piece of meat on my gauntlet (glove) is not important.  Our main goal is to chase and catch game which she is doing very well.

Aurora's very first rabbit

Each and every bird I have worked with has had a different personality and has taught me many new lessons.  Aurora is a big, stocky, powerful female red-tail hawk and seems to really enjoy hunting with myself, my husband, and even our dogs.  Her personality lends itself well to falconry and I feel very fortunate to have found her.  Even so falconry requires and incredible amount of time, devotion, and patience.  Furthermore, it is the most highly regulated form of hunting out there.

I trapped Aurora in November and she has just recently started to regularly catch rabbits.    My first falconry bird only caught two cottontails the entire season though I was inexperienced as a falconer and as a hunter at the point.  Falconry is like an advanced form of bird watching.  Rabbits and other game have been running from birds of prey for thousands of years so more often than not your prey escapes especially in the rugged terrain where we hunt.  I enjoy the flights on game that escape nearly as much as I enjoy when we are successful.   If you want a sport with more immediate results and a higher success rate take up a shotgun, but if you love birds of prey, hunting, and are passionate, patient, and have the time to devote to the sport there is nothing that compares to the thrill of falconry.    To learn more about the ancient art of stay tuned for more Falconry Files! You can also visit http://www.n-a-f-a.com/ to learn more about falconry and becoming a falconer.

Falconry Files- Going Goshawk

by Katherine Browne

Hades the Northern goshawk on a cottontail

Since beginning falconry I have always been interested in flying a goshawk. They are incredibly fast, fierce, and versatile birds that can catch a variety of game. They have a long history in falconry and were known as the cook’s hawk because they were such reliable game birds and kept the cook well stocked. I really enjoyed the red-tails and kestrel I flew but I was so excited about the prospect of flying a bird that could catch ducks, grouse, quail, and pheasant in addition to rabbits. I had read a ton about goshawks and as soon as I finally received my General falconry license over a year after submitting my application I borrowed and built some Swedish goshawk traps and was out every day trapping. You must be a general falconer to hunt with a goshawk and you have to have at least two years’ experience as an apprentice falconer to become a general.

A great horned owl trapped while looking for a goshawk. This bird was released immediately ater the photo was taken.

Unfortunately I got a later start trapping because of the delayed arrival of my General license. Though I caught several raptors including a red-tail, a great horned owl and cooper’s hawks, I did not manage to trap a goshawk. I trapped a nice big male red-tailed hawk (Ares) as the weather turned towards winter so I wouldn’t be birdless and resolved that I would probably not trap a goshawk as the trapping season drew to a close.

Ares the red-tail just a week before he escaped

Out of the blue I received a call from one of my falconry friends saying that a banded goshawk had been trapped which was a large adult male and it had been a falconry bird but the person who had it on their permit didn’t want him and was willing to transfer him to me. He had been wild two years and as I learned more about his history I found out that the two falconers that had flown him hadn’t had much luck with him and in the meantime my red-tail was coming along nicely and I wasn’t sure I could manage two birds. However I couldn’t resist the pull of a goshawk and figured it would be worth a try to see if I could get him to come around and if I couldn’t I would just release him. Also I thought it was a unique opportunity to fly a bird that had two years of experience and had survived in the wild.

Hades during early training

Shortly after picking up Hades (the goshawk) my red-tail escaped while hunting after my telemetry failed and he caught a cottontail and ate his fill before I was able to recover him. He was in a large track of public land with very few roads and after weeks of searching I was never able to recover him. Though I was heartbroken, I was able to devote 100% of my time to the fat wild goshawk I had in my possession. I was very encouraged when he ate from my fist on the second day I had him and I felt well prepared for the challenges of a goshawk after all the reading I had done after flying one extremely cantankerous female red-tail I flew two years ago that I am convinced was part goshawk.

As expected he was a challenging bird to train and handle and I have several scars to prove it. The first hunts were frustrating as he flew time and time again to the same tall trees and sat there as we flushed rabbit after rabbit nearby. However, from the beginning he was excellent at sticking around and I sacrificed many a pigeon to prove to him that I was a good hunting companion. I also started hunting areas without tall trees and had a much easier time with him. Though he has yet to follow me, by the end of the season he was following the rabbits we flushed and took 4 wild cottontails before the season was over. Rabbits were a challenge as goshawks love birds. However, after my first pipe bunny (a rabbit found in an irrigation pipe which provides an easy hunting scenario during early training) with Roger Tucker he developed a taste for cottontails. In falconry as in any sport I am always blow away by the differing opinions on training. I combined the advice of some of my closest and most trusted falconer friends, my own intuition, and what I had read while training Hades. Though I made mistakes that Hades eagerly reprimanded me for I had a great season with him and have already fallen in love with the fierce nature of these incredible hunters. He also really helped me develop my weight control skills as his effective flying weight window was only about a half an ounce. I definitely understand why goshawks are reserved for more experience falconers because all my husbandry, handling skills, and patience that I had developed were integral to my success with him and I would have had a VERY difficult time with him as an apprentice.

Right now Hades is fat, molting, and wild but I am looking forward to next season and taking some waterfowl and hopefully upland birds in addition to cottontails. Hades is the first bird I have ever intermewed (kept over the summer) and I have never liked the idea of keeping a bird cooped up all summer, especially a high strung goshawk. Most falconers do not hunt with their birds in the summer for a number of reasons. Hunting seasons are not open, and the birds need to be kept heavier than their hunting weight for feather production. Also there are many small animals such as mice and ground squirrels making hunting for larger game difficult. However, all the falconers I know that have incredible game birds have kept them season to season and they just get better and better. I feel like ever bird that I have flow has finally started to figure out things by the end of the season right around the time I am getting ready to release them. Luckily he seems to be doing well in my mews (hawk house), his feathers look good, and has already dropped several feathers. I can also personally attest to the sharpness of his talons. I am so excited about being able to hunt early duck season this year and not have to start from completely from scratch. Thank you so much for all the advice, help and support all my falconry friends have offered and I will let you all know how next season goes. I also couldn’t have had the success I did without the all the help of my very supportive fiancé and soon to be husband Eric.

Falconry and Próis at Cabela’s Spring Great Outdoors Days!

Próis Dealer Relations and Pro-Staff Coordinator Katherine Browne attended Cabela’s Spring Great Outdoors Days at the Grand Junction Cabela’s last Saturday with her goshawk Hades. It was a beautiful breezy day in Grand Junction and Katherine drew a great crowd with her gorgeous hawk. She spoke at noon this past Saturday and answered numerous questions about falconry and birds of prey. Katherine was decked out in her Próis gear and spoke about Próis and hunting apparel in addition to falconry.

The questions asked were very thoughtful and everyone learned a lot. The event was a great success and Próis and Katherine were very proud to be there. There were many great clinics and talks that day including a women’s fly fishing casting clinic and a talk on elk hunting. There are many more awesome events planned for the coming weeks. Visit http://www.cabelas.com/stores/store_info.jsp?pageName=033 for a full list of upcoming events at the Grand Junction Cabela’s. Many Cabela’s stores are hosting special events during the Spring Great Outdoor Days and there are some great sales going on right now too. You can visit http://www.cabelas.com/ to find out what’s going on at a store near you! Thank you Cabela’s for planning these great events!