I stumbled across a thread on the NAFEX (North American Falconry Exchange) forum a few months ago advertising Bill Boni’s new book “The Passage Cooper’s Hawk and Those Who Fly ‘Em”.
I’m intrigued by Coops and would like to fly one some day so decided to get the book. The book is self published and in the thread Bill gave instructions on how to get a copy (basically mail him $20). The thread can be found here:
Overall I’m very pleased with the book. It’s set up as a series of chapters written by different austringers who have had success manning, training, and hunting passage Cooper’s hawks. The book is pretty professionally made for a self-published book, though the pictures are a bit grainy. There are also some mistakes as far as basic grammar, punctuation, and spelling that should have been corrected before publication, but not so many that it’s distracting to read.
Being set up as chapters of different people’s experiences has pros and cons. There’s no single method of training spelled out in discrete steps, which might be annoying if that’s what you’re looking for. However, after reading more than one or two chapters you start to see the commonalities between successful training and hunting regimes.
Many of the take away messages seem pretty self-evident to me, but perhaps they’re not to everyone:
1. Treat the hawk like an individual and respond to what it wants. Don’t force a hawk to hunt from the fist if it would rather hunt from a tree.
2. Some people have success training Coops the same way they train a RT. Other people deviate from that in various ways, such as using a strobe light in initially manning or start hunting them before they’re fully manned and finish training in the field.
3. Birds trapped at different times of year are very different. People have had a lot of success with birds that are just out of the nest not being fed by their parents but also haven’t left the family group/nest area yet. They have some traits of imprints in being easier to train but not the bad qualities like screaming or attacking the falconer for food. Conversely, birds trapped later in the season are still trainable but much more difficult or impossible to make do what you want; they are much more focused on hunting how they want and will not be good falconry birds if you try to force them into hunting how you want.
4. Weight control is important. They’re small birds with pretty tight windows, though some people have had success increasing their weight as they become better trained through the season.
5. The most important point is that Cooper’s do make good falconry birds and aren’t the hell beasts some people make them out to be. They take a lot of work and aren’t for everyone, but can be rewarding if you have the time.
All-in-all I think it’s well worth $20 (which includes shipping!), even if you’re not interested in fly a Coops.