The weather and my health have not been cooperating, but I was able to get out this week and see if Tess was in the mood to hunt. Gonzo's weight is almost there, and his behavior is evening out tremendously. Before I get him in the field, I need to change his jesses and anklets.
I decided to take Tess to a spot where I know there are squirrels, but not tons, and the ground cover is pretty sparse. Being so early in the season means hard walking in a lot of my hunting spots.
Her weight was right where I wanted it, 945 grams, and she was ready to go. I tossed her up into the tree and started walking into the trees.
This time of year, the woods are still thick and green and lush. Visibility is poor and I really didn't anticipate seeing a whole lot of game with the amount of cover that there was. So really, all I expected today was a hawk walk. This time of year is tough. There are still bugs, and ticks, and I hate the spider webs breaking across your face.
I also cant stand the poison ivy. It is thick and prolific. Another little bonus to avoid.
I called Tess down to the fist, just to check her recall, and she slammed it hard as soon as the whistle sounded. Fantastic. I tossed her back up and kept walking. I pulled vines and beat on trees, trying to get something to move while Tess followed from branch to branch. It was hot, low seventies, and I started to sweat fairly quickly and I wasn't even trying yet.
Then Tess darted from the branch, angling down low, into the underbrush. Squirrel on the ground? maybe, I never saw it, more likely a rabbit in that undergrowth. She pulled up, landed briefly, then plummeted towards the ground again, disappearing from sight.
I ran to follow and soon found Tess sitting in a low branch, peering over my shoulder. Then she took off again, angling around a trunk and disappearing between the leaves. I bounded to follow, realizing that I had played no part in this hunt and it was all Tess. Though, in hindsight, it is nice that after an entire summer of inactivity she knew exactly what we were here for.
I found her on the ground, mantling over whatever it was. It definitely wasn't a rabbit, too small. I moved one of her wings aside and reached down into her talons.
It was a squirrel, just a baby. It couldn't have been long out of the nest. Crap.
First kill, nonetheless.
She traded off impeccably with a mouse and I put the little critter in my bag. I hung the tail next to the last season's tails.
I need to take those down and start a new board for this year, but here is to number one, small as it is.