Summer is the slow time for falconry. If you have a bird you’re feeding it, watching it molt, and making sure it’s not eaten alive by mosquitoes or gnats (and getting West Nile from them). If you don’t have a bird because, it’s even worse. There is a high point in Arkansas, however, and that’s the Arkansas Hawking Association’s summer picnic. I attended last year and got my first taste of falconry and the people involved in the sport. I went again this year and, even though I’ve only seen many of the falconers once or twice in person (at the summer picnic and winter field meet), it was like seeing friends I’ve known for years.
Sarah and I left work early Friday afternoon and headed down to Lake Catherine State Park. It’s a four hour drive and we had decided to camp at the park rather than get up early to make it by 10 am. The drive itself was uneventful and we arrived around 7 pm. We set up camp and Sarah was immediately disappointed in the 2-man tent we had. It was the first time we’d set the tent up and she thought it was too small – she had imagined it fit 2 people comfortably and was the size of a 4-man tent. I got a fire going and after night fell we roasted some marshmallows.
I slept well, but Sarah didn’t. We got up around 6 am and I got a fire going and made some coffee. We sat around for a while, waking up and enjoying the morning, before breaking the tent down. We decided to get showers because the bath houses were really nice, but we hadn’t packed towels (though had shampoo and soap). We ended up using the t-shirts we wore on Friday to dry off with. After showers we hit up the gift shop and I picked up a really nice knife sharpening set made from local rocks.
Around 9 am we made our way to the pavillion where the picnic was held. A handful of people were there and we helped set up the few things that needed set up. Mostly it was just BSing and hanging out.
Rusty and Heath brought their new birds. Rusty recently received a new Harris’s hawk after his other Harris’s, Padawan, succumbed to liver failure. He hasn’t named the bird yet, but she’s gorgeous and has been responding well to manning. Heath brought his new goshawk eyass, which also doesn’t have a name. He pulled the 13 day-old chick from a 50-foot tree in Montana earlier in the week.
The food was excellent, just as it was last year. We had BBQ brisket and pulled-pork that had been cooking since 4 am that morning. There was also fried chicken, baked beans, and other deliciousness.
After lunch we had a short business meeting and then held a raffle.
I bought $40 worth of tickets and made out like a bandit. I got a great hood that should fit a large female red-tail, a nice AHA t-shirt, another leash (can never have too many), and a 30′ measuring tape. A couple other apprentices also made out well.
After the picnic, Sarah and I drove 45 minutes to Little Rock to participate in a 5k run/walk Race to Remember to support some friends of ours who lost a full-term child a few months ago. The air was pretty festive and I enjoyed it, though it was hard thinking about all of the children who’d died that were represented at the event. The weather was hot and humid and I only ran the course in 32 minutes. Sarah walked and came in half an hour after I was done. There was no way we were going to drive the 3.5 hours back to Fayetteville after camping the night before and running, so we got a hotel and came back Sunday morning. All in all it was a great weekend.
*edit* Last summer picnic photo added on 28 June 2014.