Weekly Eagle Journal

Archive for February, 2008

Eagle Journal – Day 15

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008 Posted in Journal 2008 | Comments Off on Eagle Journal – Day 15

Female: 8lbs 3oz

Jackhammer (JH): 8lbs 5oz

Both birds are ready to hunt, and frankly so am I! Even though there was a good chance for rain today, I told myself that I was going anyway.  I have said before that I don’t like flying eagles in the rain because they soak up water like a sponge. Sure, they can take any kind of weather, but it’s hawking them in wet grass that becomes a problem. With each flight they get more and more water on their tail and wings and it has a great effect on how they fly. Eagles will still hunt and try hard, but for me it is not as much fun. So, with that said, I was in a holding pattern waiting to see what the day would bring. I was on the phone when I noticed that the sun had broken out, so I hung up and loaded up the team.

jackhammer1

First I did a drive-through recon of the area as I have not been down there since last season, and, as we all know, things change from year to year. The sad news is more fields have been lost, but the good news is I saw many jacks! I went to the warehouse field (WH) first and the grass was very tall, knee to waste high. But there were patches where the grass was s

 

hort and dry, and that is where I concentrated my hunting. My plan was to hunt JH first, in the hope that he would catch a jack and then I could use it for the female.

JH was very excited to hunt — somehow he knew today was the day. He was hopping around on the perch, being very impatient as I was putting on the transmitter. As he stepped up on the fist he struck out and hooked my index finger on my right hand, driving his front talon deep into my poor finger!!. I had to twist my hand down and back, away from the direction that his talon curved, in order to free my finger. I had not even left the truck yet!! So we started off the first hunt of the season with me squeezing down on my finger, trying to stop the bleeding as we entered the field. I held off unhooding him until we crossed the train tracks, as they are lower than the field, and I didn’t want to have JH chase a jack down the tracks if I could help it. The fields are thick with many different types of growth, from grass to plants with major spikes on them, and having been rained on last night, everything was wet. I wore knee-high rubber boots, so my feet were dry, but just above the boots, my knees were soaked.

I hadn’t gone far when a jack flushed off to the right, heading down a game trail. In this heavy, tall grass the jacks don’t run as fast, as I think they feel they have a great advantage with all the cover. JH was off clean and over the jack, following the moving grass, looking for his chance. With a slight pitch up, JH did a wing-over and slammed into the tall weeds. He then returned to the fist and we continued hunting. This particular field is very difficult to walk over – very uneven ground, and you feel like with each step you could sprain an ankle. The next 3 slips were 75 to 100 yards out. We would see the jacks moving through the weeds, and JH would launch and go in cranking in, the whole time building up speed. It was clear that he is out of condition, and with each flight he was getting more water logged. We had covered the entire field and had come back over the train tracks, hunting an area that had shorter weeds in it. I could tell that JH had just a few slips left in his tank, so I moved toward areas that I thought would produce the closest possible slip. There are some old piles of trimmings that someone dumped out there years ago and they are encircled with taller, stickery weeds – the kind black-tailed jack rabbits love to hide under. I  had gone through two of these areas, and out exploded a jack, heading straight out into the short grass…. big mistake! I felt JH tighten up before I ever saw the jack flush. My timing was slightly off but good enough for JH to get off clean and he was over the jack in what seemed like 3 wing beats! The jack attempted a right angle turn, but JH had closed the gap with too much power and footed the jack in the turn. Just that quick, JH had caught the first jack rabbit of the season!!! #1 — 6lb male black tailed jack rabbit.

After loading up JH I decided to fly/hunt the female in the hay field, as there is much less chance for disturbance from people, trucks, whatever. She was in quite a mood, having had to wait 3 hours longer than normal. I had a hard time getting her off the truck perch and she was very footie. The moment I got her on the fist, my old buddy the Swainsen hawk started screaming at me and made a few mock stoops at us. The female was majorly clamped on my arm, and unhooding her, she clamped down even harder! But I walked out into the field and could see some jacks moving out ahead of us. I had placed the dead jack that JH caught in a place that I marked. As much as I could, I made the dead jack look as though it was hiding. Not far into the field a jack flushed, and to my surprise, she launched at it! However, still being locked down on my arm, she did not get off clean. Her take-off was even more clumsy due to the fact that I had to pull my arm back, for fear she was going to fly off with my glove. She did manage to fly after the jack, but lost it in the tall weeds. She turned and landed almost on top of another jack rabbit! And, as she was sitting on the ground, a jack flashed past her and she tried to snag it…got to like that !! I called her to the fist and moved in the direction of the “hiding”, planted jack rabbit. I got to within 20 feet and stopped. She was doing her normal stuff, like trying to bite my shirt, eat my arm, stuff like that, when she noticed the jack. Without any, and I mean any, hesitation, she launched and grabbed it! She stepped off good and hooded up good. When back at the truck, I fed each the back leg and thigh of the jack, on the fist.

So, the first day in the field was a good day, and I think this smallish female shows all the signs of being a good game hawk.

Exciting news for the Eagle Journal…….. the International Eagle Austringers Association, which is a new eagle falconers group based in the USA, has a great website. And the Eagle Journal is going to be featured on the website with photographs, all through the summer. I am honored to be a part of their fine group…….I guess I should have the eagle journal edited now, seeing that my spelling is not so great. Can you tell?? (Note from the editor, his wife: I promise to do my best to make the entries understandable!!)

The web address is www.austringer.org, check it out. Not sure when the Journal will start, but soon I’m sure.