Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Trade Off

With 20 plus mile an hour winds, no hunting recently, so I'll talk about something else.

I remember when I first got involved in falconry and I was in the phase where I would read everything I could get my hands on.

My first book on falconry was by Philip Glasier; Falconry and Hawking.

It is still one of my favorites. His writing is a bit stiff and very English. I loved the sound of the words, and the phrasing. There was a lot of good information in there as well, but as any falconer knows, falconry is better learned first hand than from a book.

Don't get me wrong - books are great. I love books, but I learn better watching and trying under the supervision of someone better.

One of the "techniques" that I could never visualize from any of my studies was the "trade off".

The trade off is where the falconer takes the captured quarry from the hawk and replaces it with something less/ smaller/ harder to eat... for the bird to snack on instead.

Some techniques you read about are whole elaborate affairs that would involve three people and a circus ring to execute.

Most common is the technique where the recently caught quarry is covered by the falconry bag, and the hawk is coerced off the game with another tid bit, or chicken wing.

Recently a well known hawker and author related his multi-step process to get his hawks of squirrels. It included at least three, maybe four different transfers.

Too much for me.

Early on, my sponsor taught me a quick, easy method to transfer the bird off of game.

Like anything else, it takes training, but it is not hard to do.

I want my falconry fun - too much baggage detracts from that. So I continue to use this method.

It might not work for all hawks, but I have used it successfully on quite a few Red tails, as well as Harris hawks.

It's simple.

First, in the weathering area, call your bird to a big, hard to eat piece of meat. Have the hawk pick for a minute, then blow your whistle, and toss a tidbit to the side.

The hawk should jump off, snatch the tidbit, then jump back up to the fist.

Just like jump ups.

My hawks now will sit on the fist, waiting for a tossed tid bit.

After repeating this process, the hawk will be conditioned to look for the tossed biteful.

When quarry is caught, simply repeat the same process. With a squirrel, I pick up the squirrel, the hawk attached, and get the bird to hold onto the head, the rest of the squirrel dangling below the fist.

Once the hawk is mounted there and mantling, I blow the whistle, toss a whole white mouse near-by.

The hawk will dive after the mouse. Sometimes he will forget to let go of the squirrel, but a quick shake of the fist should get him off.

Stash the squirrel in your bag or vest. Plant another tidbit on the fist, as the hawk will come back to the fist looking for its squirrel.

The bird will suck down the tid bit and look around for his squirrel for a minute, but soon realizes that it needs to continue hunting. Toss him into the trees and move on.

I rarely feed off of the kill anymore. The hawks don't get possessive over their catch. There is never a tug-o-war. Often, when I start to pick the squirrel and hawk off of the ground, Gonzo will jump off and wait for me to toss his tid bit.

The bird now work for the tid bits, not the game.

It get slightly more complicated with two birds, but not much. Generally, Tess will wait for her tidbit on the fist, while Gonzo waits on the ground. I put my body between the two and toss to Gonzo first where Tess can't see, then I toss another tid bit to Tess.

My tid bits have gotten smaller now. Often I will just use fuzzy mice, or half a full grown mouse. Sometimes chicken hearts, cut in half. But start bigger than this, once the birds are conditioned, then your trade off pieces can diminish.

Remember, there are a million ways to skin a cat. Just like there are dozens of ways to trade off your hawk. This is one that has worked well for me over the years. I give total credit to my sponsor Chris. I've tweaked the process to suite my needs and my hawks, but the process remains.

I hope you try it. Let me know how it works.


steveo_uk said...

nice one Doug that is well worth thinking about !

Doug said...

It is a fast and easy trade off. The hawk makes the decision to leave its kill, so it isn't robbing.

How do you trade off\?

Isaac said...

Very nice. Passing this along to a friend who has had difficulty trading off lately...Thanks!

Doug said...

If he has any questions let me know. It makes trade off no big deal, just another part of hunting. It's a pause - then continue.

Ab Wilkinson said...

Great trade off tips. I just started using something like this and it is working well. The only difference is that I don;t pick up the squirrel but leave my fist on the squirrel on the ground and toss a tidbit or a small mouse for my bird who happily leaves and I pocket the squirrel. I think I will try this tomorrow.