Tag Archives: Arkansas Hawking Association

Summer Update

It’s been a long, slow summer without a bird.  After fattening her up for a month, I released Jebe at the end of March.  While I didn’t catch nearly as much game as I would have liked, I think the season was a success.  Through the ordeal of getting her to jump to the fist, to tending a mysterious wing injury, to figuring out her ideal hunting weight, to finally putting a squirrel and rabbit in the bag I learned a lot.  For her part, Jebe survived the winter and was fat enough upon release to survive for at least a few days or a week without having to worry about catching a meal.


Released from the giant hood. This is the same locality I released Ogedei the previous year.


The last time I saw Jebe.

The Arkansas Hawking Association held their annual summer picnic in June.  Sarah and I took Vaun this year.  The four hour drive turned into a five hour drive after we fed Vaun and had to stop to calm him down once.  It was great to see everyone again, but it was swelteringly hot and humid.  It rained hard for a few minutes, which cut the heat while it came down, but ended up just making the humidity worse.  Vaun did not have a good time and Sarah had to sit with him in the car with the A/C blowing while I ran the raffle.  The raffle went off well, though I didn’t realize I was in charge of bringing bags and tickets as well as all of the donated items.  Luckily for me, we made due with some plastic solo cups and someone else brought the extra raffle tickets from last year.  I ended up making out like a bandit and won, among other things, a Merlin telemetry transmitter and two red-tail sized hoods.  I felt kind of bad because I organized the raffle and won so much, but sometimes you just get lucky.

I also upgraded to general class this summer.  It’s a bit of a relief because I don’t know when I’ll get a job and move from Arkansas and I didn’t want to have to deal with finding a new sponsor in a new state.  It also means I can fly any bird except eagles.  I’d like to move toward accipiters, especially sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks.  First, though, I’d like to trap and train a kestrel to get practice with such tight weight management before I have to deal with the weight and behavioral difficulties of an accipiter.  I’d like to build a small indoor enclosure for a kestrel, but it’s been in the mid to upper 90’s here for the last month, which means the garage is over 100°F, even at night or in the morning, and simply unbearable to work in.  Hopefully it will cool off soon.  I still have a few months before I really get into trapping, so I’ve got a bit of time left to get everything together.


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2015 AHA Winter Meet

It’s February again, which can only mean one thing – it’s time for the Arkansas Hawking Association winter field meet.  It was a blast last year and  I expected as much again.

A bit of an update before the meet though.  I’ve taken Jebe hunting each weekend and had a handful of rabbit flushes.  Working by myself without dogs I manage a flush every one or two hours.  It’s not enough to keep her interested while we’re out and she’s missed every rabbit I’ve produced.  It led to her being extremely frustrated I think.  At first it manifested as being skiddish in the mews.  I’d pick her up and she’d hop off the fist or fly to the tall perch.  After a week of this, I changed the routine a bit – I had to reweight her ration so put her back in the chamber instead of taking her out to fly to the lure.  When I opened the door she hit me full in the face.  I dropped her ration – not a great idea as it rewarded very bad behavior.  I was lucky as I got away with a few talon punctures and she missed my eyes.  I didn’t hunt her the weekend after the attack as it was raining.  I changed the routine and she didn’t come at me again, but I started wearing safety glasses and cracking the door so she could see me before walking into the chamber just in case.  After flying hard and hunting during the meet she’s calmed down significantly.

I left at 6 am Friday morning and drove 5 hours to Ethel, Arkansas for the field meet.  The drive was uneventful except for the fact that I couldn’t remember if I closed the garage door, which added half an hour to the drive after I turned around to double check.  No falconers were around when I arrived, so I hung out with Ms. Ida until they started to show up.  I didn’t have to wait long as it was nearly lunch and no one wants to miss Ida’s cooking.

After lunch Ron and Brenda offered to take me behind Ida’s house to hunt squirrels.  Francie and some others came along to help shake vines and get the squirrels moving.  Jebe climbed nice and high, but was a bit flighty and kept flying ahead of the group.  She reached the edge of the small bit of forest and I thought she was going to fly off.  Just then Ron flushed a squirrel.  Jebe came around as soon as he shouted ho-ho-ho and landed on a branch next to the tree the squirrel was in.  The squirrel bailed from thirty feet up and Jebe drove into it as soon as it hit the ground.  It was a nice flight even though I never saw the squirrel.  Everyone enjoyed the hunt and I couldn’t have been happier.

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Jebe on her first squirrel

After I finished cleaning the squirrel, most of the other falconers had left to hunt their birds.  I was lucky that Heath hadn’t, but was gearing up to take out his first year imprint goshawk Gretel.  Everyone that had hunted Jebe loaded up and went out with Heath and Gretel. We managed to flush eight or nine squirrels and she made hard attempts at all of them.  She nearly had two or three, but never quite managed to connect.  It was a great show – goshawks are amazingly fast and Gretel is no exception.  She flew up and down and around the trees after the squirrels, feet pumping and clawing like lightning the whole time.  We (except maybe Heath) were just as happy with the performance at the end of the hunt as if she’d have caught something.  She and the squirrels gave it one hundred percent and the squirrels managed to come out on top.  There’s no shame in that.

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Gretel on the fist

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Heath and Gretel

The longwingers all fly their birds in the evening and we had just enough time to watch flights from all three of their birds.  Greg was up first with his 1x intermewed peregrine.  She flew up to 700 feet or so and ranged around the area.  After a few false stoops at nearby ducks on large flat water, the falconers flushed the targeted ducks from a ditch.  Greg’s bird came down in a beautiful stoop and bound to a duck, riding it to within 20 feet of the ground before releasing it and pulling up.  She winged back over and killed the duck by the time everyone ran the few hundred yards to her.

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Greg’s peregrine on her duck

Chris’s 1x intermewed male peregrine Little Guy (I think that’s his name, at least that’s what Chris called him) was up next.  Being smaller than Greg’s bird, Chris set him up after some snipe.  Little Guy flew up to 500-700 feet and also made a great stoop.  The snipe survived the first hit and made into some tall grass.  Chris reflushed it and Little Guy sealed the deal on the second stoop.  Little Guy landed in marshy ground so carried the snipe a hundred yards to some dry ground.  A red-tail was sitting a few telephone poles away, so Little Guy cached the snipe under a clump of grass.

Heath’s 4x intermewed male gyr x barbary was the last falcon of the day.  He made an impressive stoop at a duck, but couldn’t take it down and the duck managed to escape.

Saturday started with breakfast at 7 am.  Most of us were out hawking by 8:30.  I spent the morning hunting with Ashley and her red tail Tess.  The rabbits were pretty scarce and she didn’t put any in the bag, though not for lack of trying.  I flew Jebe at rabbits after lunch but had similar luck – half a dozen slips, but no bunnies in the bag.  It was quite windy all day and as evening came on the longwingers were unsure if they would fly their birds.  A huge caravan set up with Greg to watch his bird, so I went with Heath instead.  We drove around for a while looking for doves and waiting for the wind to calm down.  We found a dozen birds and eventually the weather settled enough to fly.  Heath set his bird up and he flew thirty feet over the doves as he gained altitude.  Most of the doves flushed, but a few stayed put so we waited until he had a pitch of 500 or so feet.  Heath, Billy, and I walked to field and flushed a handful of doves.  Heath’s bird was in front of most of them, but saw the last dove in the field.  He made a gorgeous stoop, but the dove had a 20 mph tailwind and the stoop was a bit behind.  The stoop turned into a tail chase; the falcon gained ground and raked the dove, but the dove managed to put into some bushed before he could finish it.

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Chad and Ashley’s jagdterrier Baya, who helped flush bunnies

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Rusty and Vulcan, who I didn’t get a chance to hunt with

We had the AHA business meeting Saturday night after dinner.  I’ll spare the details here as they won’t interest anyone outside of the club.  A few of us stayed us and bs’ed after the business meeting.  I tried to keep up with them as we were having a great time, but had a ripping headache after driving around at sunset looking for doves.

Sunday morning started by hunting Tyler’s red-tail Mable.  We hit two promising fields, but only managed to flush two rabbits.  After a couple hours we hunted Jebe.  she was obviously sore from the workout on Saturday, but made a nice crashing stoop through thick cover.  She came up empty and wouldn’t get very high in the trees.  I brought her in and Bob put up his red-tail Sega and dogs.  The dogs quickly scented a rabbit and after a few minutes of trailing flushed it.  Sega crashed into it and came up with a small cottontail.

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Tyler and Mable

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Bob and Sega with her rabbit

All in all the meet was a great success.  Thirty six people attended with 16 birds and took 17 heads of game.  I really enjoyed seeing all of the Arkansas falconers and can’t wait until the summer picnic.


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2014 Apprentice Workshop

The Arkansas Hawking Association held their annual apprentice workshop a few weeks ago.  I left at 5 am in order to be in Little Rock by 8:30.  Unfortunately for me, I read the announcement wrong and the workshop didn’t start until 9, so I sat around for a while.  They had coffee though, so it was alright.  People started drifting in – I helped Francie and Rusty unload equipment and supplies from their vehicles – and we all BS’d for a while.  In total, 3 new apprentices/pre-apprentices and 3 second year apprentices came.  Francie started the day demonstrating how to make cuffs and jesses, followed by how to mount a tail bell. I drifted in and out as I’d make cuffs and jesses last year and there was only so much room at the table for the new apprentices.  Francie did show them the set of cuffs and jesses I made for a kestrel; she thought they were so cute and couldn’t get over how small they were.  She also showed the new apprentices how to make a lure.  I cut down some of the leather she provided and made a kestrel-sized lure (I still haven’t decided what I’m trapping this year and want to be prepared for either species)

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Francie and the new apprentices

Cody had an excellent demonstration on building his self-righting bal-chatri trap during/after lunch.  I plan on making one for this season and will provide plans when I do.

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Cody demonstrating how to make a BC trap

The apprentices were also shown how to make leashes, both braided and from paracord.  The paracord leash, which I prefer, is quite simple to make, but I messed it up four or five times in a row.  Rusty gave me a hard time about not being gentle enough, but it was in good fun and I eventually did make the leash.

Heath outlined how to sew and block a hood, and provided pre-cut leather pieces to each new apprentice.  I still have my (unassembled) pieces from last year…really need to get one that.

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Heath and hoods.

We had three birds at the workshop this year, which was quite nice.  Heath brought Gretel, his wild-caught goshawk; it’s turning out quite nice, I can’t wait to see it’s adult plumage next year.  Rusty brought his Harris’s Hawk, who’s name I can’t remember at the moment and didn’t get any good photos of.  Finally, Jim brought his newly acquired CB aplomado falcon.  She is absolutely gorgeous and should be a killer on doves and other feathered game this season.

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Jim and his aplo

All-in-all it was a great day.  I’ve only seen most of the Arkansas falconers a handful of times (Bob and Cody being the exception), but they’re all so nice in person and available on the AHA forum that it feels like I’ve known them for much longer than the last year.  I’m excited and reinvigorated for this upcoming season and can’t wait to get back into the field.

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Falconry article

Here’s a short popular article about falconry featuring Cody Fields, one of the falconers I know through the Arkansas Hawking Association.


Cody and Marge. ©Arshia Khan, used without permission.

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AHA 2014 Summer Picnic

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 (left) and Cody (right) tying up the banner.

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.


Rusty’s Harris’s


Heath’s gos eyass. ©Sarah Skvarla

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.


Lunch! ©Sarah Skvarla


BSing around Heath’s goshawk. ©Sarah Skvarla


After lunch we had a short business meeting and then held a raffle.


Raffle. ©Sarah Skvarla


Looking over the raffle items generously donated by various suppliers and bought by the club. ©Sarah Skvarla

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.




Everyone who attended the summer picnic. ©Rusty Scarborough

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.


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AHA Field Meet

The Arkansas Hawking Association held it’s annual field meet in Ethel, AR last Friday through Sunday (31 Jun-2 Feb). A handful of people showed up Thursday to get some hunting in early, though most everyone, myself included, showed up Friday. I arrive at the Butler Lodge around 1 pm and found that, besides Ms. Ida, I was the only person there.  The other falconers were out hunting their birds.  I unpacked and changed into some field clothes, during which time Francie also arrived.  She brought her bag inside and then we headed out to find the other falconers.  We checked a few spots she thought they might be, but no dice.  After half an hour of driving we saw a half dozen vehicles parked along the side of the road.  We found everyone!  Except they were leaving to go back to the lodge.

Everyone regrouped at the lodge while we decided what to do next.  It was getting on in the day and the longwingers wanted to fly their birds at some ducks so we decided to go watch them.  Greg was the first up.  The caravan parked along the road a quarter a mile or so away from him to avoid flushing the ducks he was after.  Greg released his peregrine, Delta, (one of two wild-trapped peregrines taken in Arkansas this year) and up and up it flew.  Within a few minutes it was circling around 500′ up.  The peregrine could get much higher (upwards of 2000′), but it was quite windy.  Greg flushed the ducks and a group of five flew up.  The peregrine came screaming down and knocked a duck out of the sky.  The duck spiraled to the ground as Delta pitched up in a J shape.  Delta must thought the two ducks flying away were the ones she hit because she flew after them instead of the duck on the ground.  She realized her mistake after a few seconds, but the stunned duck she’d hit was up and moving again.  Delta switched her pursuit to the first duck and blasted off to it, covering the 200 yard gap.  She pitched up and stooped the duck a second time.  But that wasn’t enough to knock it down again.  The duck turned into the wind and Delta couldn’t keep up.  It was still a great sight to see though, even if it didn’t end up with a duck in hand.


Everyone watching Greg’s peregrine stoop a duck

Chris was up next.  His tiercel peregrine (the second of two wild-trapped Arkansas peregrines) is smaller than Greg’s female and can’t take on all the ducks Greg’s bird can.  We changed location and found a small wet area with snipes.  Chris put his bird up and it immediately flew to a grain silo.  It perched there for 10-15 minutes before deciding it was safe enough to start flying and gaining altitude.  Much to Chris’s dismay  the bird  zoomed off after it reached a few hundred feet.  I thought it was leaving the county but apparently it saw something it wanted to kill.  That something turned out to be a crow 500 or 600 yards away.  The tiercel made a nice stoop and knocked the crow to the ground.  Cody and Rusty ran after the bird in order to ward off and hawks or eagles that might be in the area.  I took off after them to see how the flight ended.  By the time we reached the bird the crow had gotten away.


Chris getting ready to fly his tiercel

Chris’s tiercel on a flyby

Feeding on the first after stooping a crow

Heath was the last longwinger to fly.  His bird is a captive bred barbary-gyrfalcon hybrid.  It flew up and up and I eventually lost it in the clouds.  I could still hear it’s bells every now and again when the wind was right, but eventually jumped back in the truck with Bob as he wanted to leave and I couldn’t see Heath or his bird any more.  Heath said later his bird stooped a duck but couldn’t hold on to it on the ground.

After the longwing flights we all headed back to the lodge to hang out.    We ended up in the living room watching videos of Cody and Bob’s red-tails hawking in Texas.  It was a great time talking to all the falconers about their birds and experiences.  Everyone drifted off to bed, leaving Heath, Jim, Chad, Cody, and myself up.  We ended up BSing until 12:30.


Hanging out in the living room


Hanging out in the living room

Breakfast was at 7:00 Saturday morning.  Everyone was up by 6:30 as Ms. Ida does not tolerate tardiness at meal time.

After dogs were fed and birds were weighed we all went out.  Everyone (20 or so of us) went out to a field that had been productive the previous year.  Chad got his red tail, Kraken, up on a t-pole and we began to beat the brush.  Rabbits weren’t abundant and after an hour and a half we only flushed three.  Cody said they flushed a dozen rabbits last by the time we saw the first one this year.  Kraken did catch a cotton rat, but didn’t bag a bunny.


Beating the brush for Kraken

We broke into smaller groups, with the Harris hawkers going to hunt squirrels and the red-tails going to hunt bunnies.  I jumped in with Cody and Bob while Chad and his wife (Ashley?) followed.  We scouted a few fields that used to produce lots of rabbits but they were overgrown now.  I flew Ogedei in one field for a few minutes before we decided there wasn’t any rabbit sign; he made some very nice soaring/kiting flights above us as we beat the grass and brush.  I was a bit worried that Ogedei wouldn’t come down from his tree to a tidbit as he’s been stubborn before but he responded almost immediately.  We moved fields and I got Ogedei out again.  He followed along well and made a nice 75 yard flight at a rabbit.  The rabbit made it into some thick saplings and Ogedei pulled up.  We didn’t flush any more rabbits unfortunately.


The tiercel in the weathering yard


Greg’s peregrine in the weathering yard


Heath’s barbary/gryfalcon hybrid in the weathering yard.

After lunch we went out to fly Kraken again.  Chad did a great job of wedding Kraken to a t-perch so we flew her in some very tall brush.  Cody ran his two beagles with Chad’s beagle.  We flushed a rabbit within the first five minutes and then followed the beagles while they chased it for the next hour.  None of us saw the rabbit again, though Kraken apparently made a try at it towards the end of the hunt.  She didn’t connect and we came up empty again.

We headed back to the lodge and everyone loaded up to watch the longwingers fly again.  Greg got Delta ready and was walking into a field when a couple people showed up late and accidentally flushed the ducks he was trying to fly at.  He was not happy and we moved locations.  Greg got ready again and was walking across a field when a tractor from an adjacent field blew by at top speed.  It blew it’s horn at the ducks and flushed them before Delta was off the fist.  I couldn’t believe it.

We headed back to the lodge for dinner a bit disappointed.  After dinner we held a raffle and business meeting.  I won a very nice leash and two pairs of safety glasses (rabbit hawking involves beating lots of brush, often briars, so you need eye protection) in the raffle, so was pretty happy with that.  The business meeting went smoothly, if a bit uneventful.  Rusty shared some photos from the trip he and Francie took to Texas for the NAFA field meet during Thanksgiving.  It was neat to see the jack rabbits he bagged.

Sunday was windy and rainy and cold, so much so that no one hunted their birds.  Heath weathered his bird on his fist instead of tying him out in the rain.  I flew Ogedei at the lure as he’s never been trained to it in such conditions, but even with as wedded as he is to the lure he was rather miserable in the conditions and had a slow response.


Heath and his barbary/gyr


Cody and Marge


Marge showing off her brick-red tail

All in all 31 people (18 of which stayed at least one night at the lodge) and 17 birds came to the meet.  Three rabbits and eight squirrels were taken over the course of the weekend.  I saw some great flights and it was nice seeing everyone again as I haven’t seen most of the club members since the summer picnic.  I’ve got some ideas about what I want to do next season and can’t wait to go back to Ethel for the meet next year.


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Meeting Other Falconers – AHA picnic

One of the best way to get into the sport of falconry is to meet other falconers.  That may seem like a no brainer or easy to do, but it may not be depending on where you are. Arkansas, for instance, has only a few dozen people who are licensed to fly and keep captive birds of prey (across the US there are around 4000), most of whom are in the central and southern parts of the state. In northwest Arkansas where I’m located there are four.  I didn’t know any of that prior to deciding to start falconry.  I did look around for other falconers and found The Arkansas Hawking Association.  I figured that was a good place to start my journey and after tooling around their website discovered they had a summer picnic and a winter meet.

The picnic was only a month away at the time, so I emailed the apprentice coordinator, Heath Garner (who is also the president).  He was enthusiastic and encouraged me to come to the picnic.  I waited for what seemed like forever but eventually the day rolled around.  Sarah and I packed up the dogs and drove 3.5 hours south to Lake Catherine State Park.    I was honestly a bit apprehensive when we got there, but mostly excited.  Kind of like that scene from Armageddon.  We showed up an hour or so late and everyone was already eating (there was no way I was going to get or even ask Sarah to be in the car by 7 am, so we didn’t leave until 8).  We were greeted warmly enough, I think Heath warned everyone to be on the lookout for some new people.  We tied the dogs up – Emma to a tree so she had some shade and Buster to a water spigot – and grabbed some lunch.  It was BBQ chicken, brisket, and pork, baked beans, cole slaw, chips… basically what you’d find at any good BBQ.  Also pop and beer, which were equally important.  We found Heath and sat with him and another apprentice, Derek.  It was great to finally talk to someone about falconry.  I talk at Sarah about it, and she pays attention because I like it, but it’s not really the same.  It was neat to find out that Heath’s job has him do various environmental assessments and he’d worked with American burying beetle.  Even had photos of them on his phone.  He also has a MS degree.  A surprising number of the other falconers also had higher degrees as well.  It was good to know that at one point he’d been able to mix school and falconry and had managed to pull them both off.


Pavilion at Lake Catherine State Park where the picnic was. Photo © Cody

After lunch we hung out and bs’d with people.  I met one girl who is finishing up her MS in biology or wildlife management and keeps her Cooper’s hawk in an indoor mews in her apartment.  I talked a bit more falconry and met more people, but it all kind of blurs together now.

The main event after lunch was the raffle.  They had various equipment and books on the tables.  Most of it was donated from falconry suppliers around the country and included telemetry gear, two different leather gloves, some calf leather (useful for making jesses, anklets, lures, hoods, and other equipment), framed pictures, bells, and other things.  I bought 10 tickets for $1 a piece and Heath got me another 10 for showing up.  I think he really wanted me to win something to keep me interested, but I was already hooked at that point.  I didn’t draw for the glove I wanted or most of the other equipment.  There was only one more item left I’d put tickets in on when I finally heard one of my numbers called.  I’d won a pair of bells.  Maybe not the most expensive or exciting item I could have won, but it was still something I could go home with.  My first pieces of falconry equipment.

The picnic wrapped up a while later and Sarah and I started the long drive home.  I’d framed going as just checking it out, seeing what falconry was all about and how it was in Arkansas.  Sarah says I have all these crazy ideas and talk them out but only really ever go through with one in ten of them.  She knew on the ride back that this time this crazy idea was going to happen for real and wasn’t just talk any more.

Everyone who attended the 2013 Arkansas Falconry Association Summer Picnic. Photo courtesy of and copyrighted by Rusty Scarborough

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