Another season has come and gone. The temperatures are going up, bud break is happening with the earliest plants, the ants are starting to appear on the sidewalks, and Jebe is sitting in the hawk house fattening up for release at the end of the month. Before the season ended though I took her out one last time. Tyler and Mariah, two falconers I know through the Arkanas Hawking Association, invited me to hunt with them in Russellville, Arkansas so I could have a good chance at a rabbit. Tyler is a first year apprentice and had taken around 30 rabbits with his bird Mable, which is absolutely incredible.
I left around 7 am as Russellville is a two hour drive from Fayetteville. Jebe was at 1030 g, the highest I tried hunting her the entire season. I hoped she would do well and not act like an overweight bird.
Tyler and Mariah weren’t in the field I was supposed to meet them in when I drove past, so I stopped at a Starbucks down the road for a pitstop. When I came back they’d arrived. The field was a few hundred yards from the interstate and bordered by roads on two sides and a creek edged by trees and underbrush on the two. It was a few acres in extent; besides the trees along the creek it was mostly open tall grass.
I opened the giant hood and started to pick up Jebe, but she wiggled past me and flew to a tree a hundred yards away. It’s where I wanted her to go, so I didn’t worry about the flub getting her out of the hood. Since I didn’t know the field, I let Tyler suggest where we walk and were to proceed. We beat the grass towards her but didn’t flush anything so continued across the field to the trees along the creek. She refused to come the two hundred yards, so I offered a tidbit. She came for that and after eating it took a tree above us. We flushed a rabbit in pretty short order, but Jebe missed it. We couldn’t reflush the rabbit and suspect it swam across the creek.
We followed the creek and flushed another rabbit. Jebe chased, but didn’t connect. We followed the rabbit across the creek and reflushed it, but Jebe didn’t see it. We couldn’t find it for a second reflush so continued on. After a few minutes we flushed a different rabbit from some bushes around the base of a tree. It ran across some open ground towards more bushes. Jebe took a second to launch and Tyler and I both thought she didn’t have enough time to catch it. The rabbit made the bushes but must have stopped just inside them because Jebe slammed through the leaves and we heard a squeal as she connected. I ran for the bushes and found Jebe solidly in control of the rabbit with both feet on it’s head. The rabbit wasn’t dead, so I put it down. At first I tried grabbing the back legs and behind the head and pulling to break it’s neck, but couldn’t get a good grip with Jebe in the way. I wanted to put the rabbit out of it’s suffering as quickly as possible, so grabbed around it’s chest and squeezed; it stopped breathing and went limp after half a minute, and it’s heart stopped a bit after that. Tyler suggested I try for a double. I planned on releasing Jebe and knew it was the last time I would hunt her, so I traded her off. It went smoothly, especially considering it was only her fourth kill of the year. Had I planned on intermewing her, I wouldn’t have even considered a double.
Jebe sulked for ten minutes after the trade off, but flew above us and started hunting again. We flushed four more rabbits – she missed two and didn’t chase the other two. Tyler and I didn’t feel that she was as hot as she had been earlier, so I called her down and we put Mable up. Mable made many chases, but never connected. Tyler said she’d been a bit off the last few hunts.
All in all I was pretty pleased with Jebe’s performance. If I planned on flying a red tail next year I would definitely intermew her. While she hit me in the face once, she seemed to be a good game hawk once I started flying her at higher weights and got game under her.