Three days, three hunts.
I've been out every morning this week for both eventful and uneventful flights.
The weather has been cooler, 30's and 40's. Perfect weather for hawking. as the days have been wearing on though, the winds have been picking up, so I need to be done by mid morning.
It works, as I have been home before the rest of the family really starts moving.
Day one ended with a triple.
Day two was interesting in that we didn't catch anything for a long time. The wind picked up earlier, and the spot where we were hunting was riddled with live oaks (read "thick cover") and lots of holes.
We had some good chases as the hawks waved in the tops of the trees, but the squirrels kept escaping into bowels of the trees.
Not much I can do there. Some people will try to flush squirrels out of holes using cigarette smoke, or smoke bombs. If I can't poke the squirrel out using a stick, or my hands - a squirrel in a hole has gotten away - fair chase and all that.
Cooler temps are great to teach the bird to follow, squirrels tend to hide in their nests more often and the hawker can pop them out with a tug on the vine.
This was the case yesterday. I pulled the vine that led up to the nest and out pops a squirrel. the hawks were off, chasing to my left. I turned, saw something flash past my field of vision - then it was gone and the chase was on.
Tree to tree, until the squirrel bailed from way high up. Tess was grabbing at it as it plummeted to the ground, the squirrel facing her, falling backward. It was like the scene where Gandalf fought the Bulrog.
She nails it on the ground. I make in, take control, but Gonzo never joins us. Usually he waits on the wings for his tid-bit, but this time he wasn't with us.
I look up, thirty feet from us, Gonzo is parachuting to the ground, his own squirrel dancing in his clutches.
That was our double for the day.
Today was the bite.
It started out normal enough. I went back to the spot where we got our four squirrels last month.
I waded into the trees. Both birds were heavier than I like, but not ridiculous. I wasn't long before I found a nice tight little nest, just above head height on a spindly pine.
I shook it..... hard. A big squirrel blasts out and makes for it. Jumps to the ground and sprints across open ground. He squirts through grass tunnels, and briers, and under logs, shaking the hawks with every jibe.
I bumble along behind. When I finally catch up, Tess is up high, and Gonzo is on the ground near a root bundle with some holes in it.
I knew the drill - I was the flushing ferret.
I started poking into holes with my stick.
I wear two gloves - my thick hawking glove and a lighter leather work glove. I soon realized the dirt was soft and loamy, so I began tearing it apart with my hands. Dirt and loam went everywhere.
There was the squirrel, plastered up under a root, pretending to be invisible. The hawks didn't see him. I reached in with my right hand and pulled the squirrel out. I called in Tess to come get him, but the squirrel squirmed and sank his teeth right through the leather and into my biggest knuckle.
I admit, I screamed. the little bugger wouldn't let go until I had choked him out and pulled him off.
I cleaned it up the best I could, and it was time to let the hawks catch a squirrel.
On the very next catch, I waded in again to secure the squirrel, and I got another bite, through the glove, on my pointer finger. Not nearly as bad, but I couldn't believe it happened again (plus a talon puncture through the pad of my thumb).
My right hand is a mess, but I have already surpassed my seasons' goal of 35.
8 squirrels in three days - 37 squirrels total for the season (so far). Time to reevaluate my goals.