Saturday, January 29, 2011
I started out the season with an aggressive goal.
35 head of game. That would beat out my all time record by four. I thought at the time it was realistically attainable, if I hunted hard.
I've been a falconer since 1999, hunting squirrels almost exclusively, averaging around 25-30 a season. I hunt two to three times a week. With my growing family - I'm okay with that number
Last weekend was my last hunt for the season. It was planned.
I originally started this blog to toot my hawks horns - so that when breeding time finally happened, people would want to buy my hawks. I have not had them breed yet. I'm not sure why,, but it has been suggested that I might want to try and get them together earlier.
Around here, hawks start pairing up in the next month. During February, I often catch red shouldered hawks in the act. So I decided to put the birds up early, and maybe they will finally breed.
So on Saturday, we went out for our last hunt of the season.
Of course, I forgot my camera.
A pair of red tails were circling over the adjacent field where we were hunting - making me more firm in my decision to be done.
Late season squirrels are tough, and these were no exception. We had a few great chases, but these squirrels were smart - maybe they had been practicing evasive maneuvers with the local red tails.
They knew how to hide behind vine bundles, and run across the ground through the tangles. The hawks had a hard time connecting. Finally, from the top of a pine, the squirrel bailed out, landing in a pile of brush. the hawks couldn't get through, so I started flushing - the hawks gave chase across the forest floor, while I tried to keep up.
Tess did a roll-over into the brush, then pulled back up. She missed.
Then Gonzo dove. The squirrel had tried to squeeze under a downed log, and didn't make it.
I found them with the squirrel half under the log, and Gonzo firmly planted on his back, one talon on the head, the other on his rump.
Quick trade, put the birds back up.
I had about another 20 minutes before I had to head back, maybe time for one more squirrel. It was the last hunt of the season for me, after all.
The next chase was uneventful, except for the fact that this was one wily squirrel. tree to tree, nest, tree, and on, never coming to the ground. Gonzo tore apart two nests, before pulling the squirrel out, boxing with it in mid air, before dropping it.
Tess closed the deal on the ground, crashing into the squirrel.
I seemed like a successful hunt until I saw the bright red blood, it wasn't the squirrels, as it had dripped on the squirrels fur, and stood out in relief against his white belly fur.
I inspected Tess' talons as they held onto the squirrel, they were clean. Traded Tess off, then called up Gonzo.
He had tussled with this squirrel too.
He landed on the glove, great fist response, acting like he was ready to hunt.
His middle toe on the right talon was leaking blood, but it didn't look too bad, until he shifted his feet. The middle toe canted dangerously at the last joint.
It was a bite, and it was deep. The toe was pointing in an unnatural direction.
In 10 plus years hunting squirrels - this was only my second bad bite - and it was in a bad place.
I rushed the birds home, got Gonzo in the house, and immobilized the foot. I have done this type of doctoring before, and I am hopeful that Gonzo will keep the toe. Though he may lose the talon.
Disappointing - to say the least.
We ended the season with 57 head of (furry) game - my most successful ever. The hawks have performed amazingly all season long.
They have done things that I wouldn't have believed just a year ago.
Now I have to worry about that bite. I'll keep monitoring it.
For the next week or so, the birds will be getting fat in their respective cages.
Tess is already there.
Soon, I'll let them get together and cross my fingers.