It was the perfect day for an after work hunt. The temperatures were in the low 40s and the wind was still. It had been freezing and windy all week, so this was a welcome respite.
Tess' weight was still on the high side, Gonzo was too fat to fly at 710 grams - I like to keep him between 640 - 660.
I launched Tess into the scrub and started heading towards the thicker woods. It felt wrong. Crap.
I ran back and let Gonzo out of the giant hood. What is the worst that could happen?
He started following way back, but as soon as I started pulling vines, both birds were hop-scotching over top another as they followed me through the thicker pines. We worked our way up towards a ridge. My sponsor, Chris, was with me in this spot last year when my birds got the four kill day. I popped a squirrel out of a low nest and the chase was on. These woods are an interesting mix of hardwoods, mature hickory and oak, along with pine and live oak which the squirrels love for cover. Vines are abundant and snake into just about every nest.
The chase took us down a giant, steep hill, and then back up again. I couldn't keep up and was panting and gasping for air. The squirrel bailed - and both birds were hot on its heels. Tess got him and they rolled, with Tess landing on top.
I paid close attention to how Tess was holding it - as I just wrote that long post about chaps and how my hawks always grab the head. Tess didn't that time.
She had the squirrel by the scruff with one talon, and the throat with the other. It was curled up and immobilized.
Sweet. Traded off both birds and moved on. We quickly found another squirrel in the same vicinity. This one took longer. The birds had to move up and down a pine, with me banging on the bottom,then the squirrel climbed and jumped to an ancient live oak- still with leaves. It was massive and sprawling. The squirrel had plenty of places to hide. So the chess game began.
Move, twist, hide. Dive, scrape, adjust. Reposition.
Climb for height. Freeze.
This went on for a good ten minutes before the squirrel found himself in checkmate. Nowhere to go and Gonzo scraped him from the side of the tree, dropping him. Gonzo folded up and barreled into the squirrel with Tess piling on.
When I got to them Tess held the squirrel firmly (by the head) and Gonzo stepped off when I grabbed on, waiting for his trade.
We took the long way to the truck, hoping for another flush. I wanted to take a picture of the birds sitting together, but the new camera that I got for Christmas (notice the clearer pictures?) was broken. Gotta check the warrently.