Weekly Eagle Journal

Archive for August, 2008

Widow 7/29/08

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July 29, 2008


Location: Rattlesnake Ranch, Oregon


Cordi and I loaded up the two dogs, Maggie and Thistle, and Widow, and headed out early for Rattlesnake Ranch which is about an hour and a half from home. It’s a beautiful drive through the mountains and high plains. It’s fun to see all the deep canyons and then, rather abruptly, the road levels out into the great basin which goes on forever. As far as you can see it is flat grassland. This basin covers parts of three states, so it is quite large.  During the winter we hunted JH on this ranch and found many jack rabbits, as well as tons of eagles, both golden and bald. My hopes were high, simply because, like I said, we had found plenty of jacks along the hillsides before. It wasn’t the greatest for JH but could be perfect for Widow. We arrived in good time, just past 10 am, which is the time the thermals start and Widow likes to fly. We drove in and Glen, the ranch manager, greeted us and basically told us we could go anywhere you gotta love that! The plan was to go right to where we had found jacks before, hike up the side of the hill, and launch Widow. Once she was airborne we would work the side with the dogs and see what happened.

 The air was almost dead and Widow had difficulty finding any rising air. She flew back and forth looking with little success. She finally found some updrafts with the help of a turkey vulture and, just as she was getting up there, a Swainsons hawk stooped at her. When another joined in, Widow was in a panic and soon landed. After a good long while she got back in the air and we started to hunt. We worked a good section of the hillside and saw not one jack rabbit.  So we changed plans and drove over to another spot on the ranch which is quite beautiful. It is a valley with mountains on both sides and plateaus with flat tops that are very high, 1,000 feet easily, and very dramatic looking. The entire valley looks, to me anyway, like prime jack rabbit habitat. There’s water, cover and food.


We walked out into the valley, working our way to the base of the hill with the tallest rocks and cliffs on it. We could see ravines and a pair of eagles circling the top. The breeze had picked up some and the closer we got to the base of the hill the stronger the wind got. I decided to launch Widow a little sooner than planned, mainly because I was tired of carrying her. She flew out over a hay field around the base of the mountain and disappeared to the other side. We continued to walk along the base as we had no intentions of going higher. Plus, I wanted to work the valley floor for jacks.

Widow reappeared on the side of the mountain, riding the wind and gaining height quickly. She worked her way up the hill, landing a few times, until she launched out and caught a thermal that literally took her straight up and over the mountain. Coming from the right side we saw an adult male golden eagle flying directly under Widow, looking up at her, interested in the jesses, I’m sure. He made one pass, jumped on the same thermal as Widow, and continued on his way. I called Widow down from the top of the mountain and she came in with a magnificent stoop from a great height. Widow launched off my fist again and headed in the same direction as before, flying around the mountain and disappearing. This time, however, when she returned she had a large first year female golden following her and this youngster was very sure Widow was carrying food (i.e. the trailing jesses).  The young female followed Widow around for several minutes and on two occasions went in after Widow who really did not seem to care all that much. Cordi and I just stood and watched as Widow flew thousands of feet above us with ravens and wild eagles all using the same rising air. We saw no signs of jack rabbits in the valley.

Widow 7/20/08

Sunday, August 31st, 2008 Posted in Widow passage female | No Comments »

July 20, 2008

Widow has been putting on quite the show. We have flown her for several friends and she has been super. She goes up to tremendous heights and repeatedly stoops to the lure.

I have started to change the game plan. I want Widow to look for me and Thistle out in the field and come over, which she has done. She is not bothered by the presence of a dog, so that is good. Today I went to a different location, not far from the other spots. As I was driving in I saw jack rabbit tracks on the road so I pulled over and got ready to hunt. My plan was to carry Widow on the fist, have Thistle find a jack and go on point, and then I would release Widow and hopefully she would go up so I could flush the jack. I walked up the hill and Thistle got hot. I could tell she was close to going on point. I unhooded Widow, the jack flushed, and Widow launched. She went bombing down the hillside after the jack and did a wing-over and missed. Great . the jack was pinned in a small group of sage, so I waited for Widow to get back in the air. Well, she flew over, across the road and up on the side of a large hillside. Even I could tell there was nothing but dead air over there. Widow flew around, back and forth, and found nothing. The rabbit got bored and trotted off! &#$##^%#^#. I called Widow in *$%#! I think I got out just a little too late in the morning. It seemed to heat up rather quickly, so tomorrow I’m going again and I’ll be there earlier. I think what I’ll do is take Widow up on the mountain, release her there, and drive back down. Then, when she is in position, start hunting. Widow will find me, and if she comes over and Thistle flushes the jack, then I don’t want to talk about it.


Widow 7/ 7/08

Sunday, August 31st, 2008 Posted in Widow passage female | No Comments »

July 7, 2008

Cordi and I have been soaring Widow up on the mountains across the road from the tank hill. Widow has become a fantastic soaring eagle; she will go up to a pin dot 5-7 times in a row. She will go more than a mile out looking for a thermal and once she finds one will mount up, come over us, and stoop to the lure. Yesterday we changed the routine somewhat and did not go up to the top of the mountain but stopped on one of the benches about half way up. The idea was to see if Widow would still go find a thermal, mount up, find us and come over, she did. I had brought Thistle, our German wire haired pointer, in hopes that she would find a jack rabbit. Thistle didn’t but, none the less, Widow did her job. I can only hope to produce some game under her when she is in position.

Widow 6/2/08

Sunday, August 31st, 2008 Posted in Widow passage female | No Comments »

June 2, 2008

Rain has been the order of the last few days. Cordi and I have spent some time looking for different areas to fly Widow and have found some interesting places. But, for today, I went back up the mountain with the water tank to let Widow stretch her wings. The sky was filled with big puffy clouds, warm, 70’, with a 12 mph breeze coming from the north perfect conditions.

As I sometimes do, I wired her up, undid her leash, and pulled the hood while she sat on the perch in the back of the truck. Then, with Widow off flying, I can put on my vest and snake gators while she looks for a thermal. I also had a pheasant with me to serve her when she got into position. I was fishing out my gators in the back seat when I glanced up and saw that Widow was already almost a pin dot directly over the truck. I’d say that was good position!

I quickly finished and walked out on the point that overlooks the valley below. This point that I go to is at about 4,000 feet. It’s not the tallest mountain around but high enough for training purposes. Widow was right overhead and at least a couple of thousand feet up so I launched the pheasant out in the direction of the open valley. Luck was on my side. Widow was so high I am sure the pheasant did not see her and it flew into the wind which took it out into open air. Instantly Widow was in a full stoop, wings tucked up against her body. The only question was would the pheasant stay in the air long enough. Out the pheasant flew and down came Widow in a stoop that took my breath away! Coming in with speed I am sure she had never tried before, I think Widow momentarily lost sight of the pheasant because she did a falcon-like pitch up and I could see her looking side to side. She locked back on the pheasant and hit the jets, closing fast on the now freaked out target. Down it raced to the ground; a race that Widow was clearly going to win! Just seconds before the pheasant reached the ground Widow arrived with extreme attitude and bounced the pheasant into the ground where a slight ground chase ensued. I say slight because the pheasant was already finished from the blow Widow had delivered. What a flight! She makes it look so easy. Still not the midair grab but we are inching closer.

Widow went back up 4 more times, ending with the last flight when I called her in from well over a mile out and who knows how high up. I could just see her as a dot in the sky.

Widow 5/25/08

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008 Posted in Widow passage female | No Comments »

May 25, 2008

Widow has been grounded for several days because of high winds but today Cordi and I took her up on the mountain to fly. What a spectacular day — huge clouds with brilliant blue sky. Widow did not disappoint us. She flew for more than an hour, at times going more than a mile out over the valley and going up to a speck. She stooped on something out in the middle of the open sage and when I got to the cliff edge I could see her on the ground with a wild female coming in on her. They fought over something and the wild bird left. I started to go down the very steep mountainside and at the halfway point Widow flew off. I continued down and looked around but could not see any sign of a kill. Widow flew off, caught a thermal, and went back up into the clouds. I called her down several times to the lure on the side of the mountain. Just great flying on her part.

I served her a pheasant when she was 3-4 thousand feet up. Widow put on a magnificent stoop and closed easily on the flying pheasant, missed it, and flew it down over the cliff. A raven stooped as well and was there to help if necessary.

Widow 5/19/08

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008 Posted in Widow passage female | No Comments »

May 19, 2008

The weather has warmed up into the high 80’s, so today we went up in the late afternoon. We arrived at the mountain about 6:45, well into evening. Widow was hungry. She had spent the day worrying about being flown and by the time we got her up on the hill she was a little hungrier than I like. I wanted to bag her on another pheasant but she was not interested in going up. Plus, there was not really any lift in the air. It was quite beautiful. The entire area changes with the sun going down, the colors were spectacular. We saw antelope and a neat horned lizard, much bigger than the first horned lizard we saw before.

Widow 5/15/08

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008 Posted in Widow passage female | No Comments »

May 15, 2008

Temperature 75’

Wind 6-14mph


Cordi and I went up to the mountain with conditions looking perfect for thermaling. As we pulled up, a first year female golden was working the hillside and drifted out over the east side. She caught a rising thermal and shot up about 500 feet in an instant. The air was very good out in that direction because Widow immediately went the same way and in 2 or 4 circles was a pin dot. I, unfortunately, did not have a bagged pheasant with us so we settled for calling her to the lure several times from extreme heights. Probably just as well because I am not sure what will happen if I serve her from that kind of height. What I mean is, where is the flight going to end? How far away will she carry the pheasant? Soon I will find out. I just have to have the time to track her down and then lug her out of whatever canyon she lands in. We saw a young rattle snake and a green racer.

Widow 5/13/08

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008 Posted in Widow passage female | No Comments »

May 13, 2008


Temperature 64’

Wind 6-14 mph

This afternoon I went up to the mountain and planned to bag Widow on a pheasant.

I didn’t drive all the way up because if she caught the pheasant way down in the valley I’d have to carry her all the way back up the hill. So I parked at the rim and launched her from there. She flew over to the next ridgeline and landed. I figured I’d have to walk across the main hillside to get her over to where the lift was better. Not that she didn’t want to fly, but I wanted her to come over me before I released the bagged pheasant. I do not want Widow to settle for coming off the side of the hill and catching pheasants that have landed and are now running along. that’s not what I am looking for. Once Widow followed me across the face of the mountain she worked her way up the side and was, in no time, gaining height. I then walked back down and went out on a bench that juts out from the side of the mountain. Now the trick was to get her attention focused on me so that she would come over. Taking a guess I’d say Widow was 1500 feet up in the air, and coming towards me. I flashed the pheasant in my glove at first because Widow has never been bagged like this and may not know what a pheasant is and, therefore, not go after it. By flashing it she would think Oh, that’s food’ and want it. She was coming in my direction so I threw the pheasant straight up in the air. It turned and flew uphill. Why? I have no clue, probably because it’s a bag, I guess. Widow at first hesitated and then folded up and stooped on the pheasant. I am not sure if the pheasant saw Widow and tried to dump or just landed. The whole thing looked a little funny but, regardless, Widow caught it!

This was not unlike bagging a falcon for the first time. They see the bag and hesitate, then go after it; same thing here. Many a time the pheasant lands and the young falcon catches it on the ground; same here. It takes 2-3 more bags, released at the right moment, to get things going in the right direction. I expect this will be no different with an eagle. Can an eagle take a pheasant in the air in full flight? Yes, I think they can. In the wild they catch sage grouse which are many times faster and harder to catch than a pheasant. But, like I said, I am not interested in flights off the side of a hill, ending with birds caught on the ground. So it will take some work. I would grade today’s flight a C-. She did react and chase the pheasant and would have struck it in the air if given the opportunity

Widow 5/11/08

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008 Posted in Widow passage female | No Comments »

May 11, 2008

Cordi and I and two friends, Derek and Cindy Marshall, took Widow back up the mountain and flew her. What a show she put on in a 35 mph wind. Widow flew for 2 hours. Cordi was filming the entire time and got some outstanding footage. We saw one snake sunning itself on the rocks.

Widow 5/9/08

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008 Posted in Widow passage female | No Comments »

May 9, 2008

I went up to the mountain just to give Widow a short flight ..

After calling her to the fist a couple of time she went up and out of sight. For two and a half hours she stayed up over the area so high I was not able to see her. Clouds rolled in and she was, according to my receiver, over the top of the storm. My last signal was coming from the north and very faint which would indicate that she was a long ways away. I drove out in that direction, covering the general area as best I could. If this was to be Widow’s last flight with me I knew her condition was high enough that she would be fine. I did, however, want my $200 transmitter back. As the sunlight faded I drove home with a heavy heart, not wanting to end my relationship with Widow so suddenly.

Next morning..

By 8 am I had already fed the horses and scanned the area with my receiver with no signal. Our ranch is on top of what is called a bench and gives a great view of the valley and mountains. The plan was that after feeding the rest of the birds I was going to start driving around looking for a signal. Cordi and I were talking near my truck when I turned on the receiver again and suddenly got a strong signal. Widow was close. I tracked her into a huge canyon along the Malheur River with steep cliffs on one side and the river on the other. The signal was strong one minute and would fade to almost nothing the next, indicating Widow was moving. I realized that she must be on top of the mountain that overlooks the river. I found a way up and began to climb the very steep hill, all the while looking for snakes. I was about half way up to the top when I heard the rushing sound of a stooping bird and, BAM, Widow was on the lure! She had indeed been on top of the mountain and thankfully she saw me before I had to climb any farther.