Tag Archives: giant hood

Traveling with a hawk

My wife and I have been traveling for the last three weeks or so visiting family for Christmas.  My family is a 17 hour drive away in Pennsylvania and hers is 12 hours away in northern Indiana.  It takes a lot to see them so we tend to stay a while to make the effort worth it.  This was the first time we traveled with a hawk and I think it went rather well.  I’ve already posted a few photos in the last post.

Ogedei spent his time inside a giant hood, sometimes called a hawk box.  There are some variations on the basic design, but it really is what it sounds like – a box to put the hawk in.  It works like a hood in that the bird is calm when it can’t see (hence the name giant hood).  The box must have a perch that is high enough the tail feathers don’t bend and must be big enough to fit the bird comfortably.  The hawk box is great for transporting a bird because it catches all of the mutes and castings so the vehicle doesn’t get messy.  Newspaper is generally used to line the box so the mutes don’t absorb into the box (if you’re using wood) or slide around if you’re using something impermeable like plastic.

The giant hood I constructed for Ogedei was 23″ high, 21″ deep, and 11″ wide.  I built it out of 3/8″ plywood.  It was relatively easy to screw the wood together without it breaking if the screw holes were predrilled.  I tacked velcro along the edges to ensure it sealed well and kept out light.  I couldn’t find my manilla rope so wrapped the perch in cotton clothes line; it was screwed 6″ from the front and 6″ from the bottom of the box.


Giant hood mk I

While we were in Pennsylvania the box got damp – even though the porch it was on is covered the rain came in sideways.  The door of the box warped badly and doesn’t keep light out now.  I had to cover the crack with a towel or blanket most of the trip to keep it light tight.  In addition the newspaper drooped a few times and so didn’t catch every mute.  The back of the box absorbed these stray mutes and became dirty.  I’m going to build a new box for the Arkansas Hawking Association’s winter meet because aside from being embarrassing I’m worried the mutes will allow fungi to grow and possibly get Ogedei sick with aspergillosis.  Once suggestion at the AHA’s apprentice workshop is to use corrugated plastic as it doesn’t absorb mutes.  I’m going to give this a try and will write a post about it when I do.

It was relatively easy to train Ogedei to the hawk box.  Like everything else with training hawks it comes down to food.  I placed a tidbit on the perch that he ate while on the fist and repeated that a few times.  Then I carefully backed him into the box.  It took a couple of tries to get him into the box and onto the perch without him trying to flap out of it, but once he was inside I fed him the better part of a quail.  I fed him his dinner this way for two days and he seemed to take to the hawk box.  He still needed more training because he randomly protested going in the box for the next week, but eventually he settled into it and goes in without problems most of the time now.

The box conveniently fit behind the driver’s seat of the car.  I had to wedge it into place with some fiberglass (it came with some frozen quails I ordered and was on hand when we were packing to leave) to make sure the box didn’t wobble or wasn’t knocked down by the dogs who shared the back seat with Ogedei.  He did become more active when the sun came in his window, so we covered the box with a jacket or blanket when that happened.  I suspect the box was getting warm or some light was creeping in a crack.  One thing I read about having a hawk in a vehicle, whether in a hawk box or hooded, is to never idle the vehicle to warm it up.  Birds are more susceptible to carbon monoxide than people and can die easily in an idling car.


Giant hood packed in for a road trip

A few times while traveling I had to weight Ogedei outside.  At those times I set the scale up in the back of the car.  I learned that I shouldn’t let Ogedei see his bow perch because he will try to stand on it, no matter how tight the space the perch is packed in.


“I get a tidbit for this, right?”

I was feeding Ogedei in the hood during the trip and made the mistake of letting him see food in my ungloved hand before I transferred it to the glove.  He footed my finger, which was much more painful than I thought it would be.  He’s landed on my ungloved hand, shoulder, and head while on the creance, which wasn’t bad.  Even when he was trying to gain purchase or balance he didn’t grab too hard then.  This was different, and painfully so.  I learned my lesson and will be more careful in the future.



Finally, here are a few fun photos.  I had Sarah hold Ogedei on the fist for the first time when I cleaned some mutes that missed the paper out of the hawk box.


She’s excited about it, really.

On the way back to Arkansas we were caught in the polar vortex.  Traffic on the roads slowed to a crawl, then a stop.  We were forced to get hotels for two nights and what is normally a one day trip turned into three.  The overnight temperatures in Indiana dropped to -20F (-29C), with windchills down to -40F (-40C).  That’s cold enough that I brought Ogedei into the hotel room.  Wild birds can withstand those kinds of temperatures, but a hawk at hunting weight with little body fat might be pushed over the edge and get too low and die.




Filed under Falconry

Further Training

This post will document Ogedei’s training up through his first free flight.  If you missed the fist post on initial manning you can find it here.  

 Each day’s entry will follow the same outline:

Training date (Ogedei’s weight in grams, overnight low temp in F, food weight in grams, type of food)

Notes and comments.

I can only write this post because I’ve been keeping a detailed falconry log book.  You can buy pre-made log books, but I just used a college-ruled notebook.  At the very minimum you need to record the bird’s weight, overnight low temperature, amount of food eaten, and type of food eaten.  I also like to record a rating (on 1-5 scale) of his performance and other notes.


First page of my log book

Training, day 7 (812.5g, 33F, 0g N/A)

Rode the fist well but would not jump to the fist for a tidbit, so he didn’t eat.  He also tried to bate to the ceiling fan.

Training, day 8 (795g, 20F, 46.5g beef heart)

Ogedei jumped to the fist from the back of a chair.  He picked up the game quickly so I flew him on the leash 3′ and 6′ in the garage for tidbits.  He picked this up quickly as well so I tried flying him the same distances outside.  He did this well with the distractions that being outside brings.  I also had him do a few jump-ups.  He tried to bate onto the roof after the session.  He at 46.5g of beef heart.

Training, day 9 (800g, 8F, 25g beef heart)

He flew 30′ multiple times on the creance.  Towards the end of the session he started looking around and being distracted.  He flew to the roof of the mews roof instead of the fist for the last tidbit.

Training, day 10 (759g, 20F, 50g beef heart, 100g rat)

Ogedei flew 30′ without hesitation  for all 50g of beef heart.  The rat was attached to the lure.  He to leave for the perch for the lure.  I called him to the fist and then set him on the lure.  He probably didn’t associate the lure with food and may have been scared or intimidated by it.  Once he figured out the rat he carried it 2′ to the perch and fed there.

Training, day 11 (769g, 19F, 41g chicken heart)

No casting during morning weighing, 5g casting at afternoon weighing.  Flew 30′ and 40′ on creance half a dozen times before flying to a low tree branch.  After retrieving him from the tree we did 30’40 jump-ups for the remaining tidbits.  He flew without hesitation to the glove with whistle and flew a couple of times without the whistle.

Training, day 12 (710g, 10F, 24g chicken heart, 41g beef heart)

Weight dropped extremely low overnight due to the low temperature.  Began training at 5:00 pm.  Came 30′ on the creance a few times then started to hesitate.  I think it got too dark and he was a bit skiddish.  We finished with jump-ups in the mews for the rest of the tidbits so I could get more food into him as his weight was low.

Training, day 13 (710g, 11F, 75g chicken heart)

Started with some jump-ups from the bow perch in the yard.  He seemed a bit weak, had difficulty with vertical flights.  Took half of his tidbits on 15′-30′ creance flights, but had some hesitation.  Finished taking tidbits on the glove in the house with the dogs present.  He didn’t raise his wings or get defensive with the dogs as he fed on the glove.

Training, day 14 (690g, 8F, 60g beef heart, 93g rat)

Jump-ups for half of the beef heart.  Fed the other half of the tidbits on the glove .  The rat was fed on the lure.  He jumped from the bow perch to the lure with some hesitation.  Once on the lure he tried to carry it until the rat was broken into, at which point he fed on it. I kept him in the house over night on the bow perch in the guest bed room.  I kept the lights off and laid down some plastic to keep the mutes off the furniture and carpet.

Training, day 15 (751g, 68F, 80g chicken heart, 63 g beef heart)

I tried  to take Ogedei to a local baseball field for training.  I didn’t have a hood or giant hood so tried to drive with him on the fist.  Twice he tried to bate either to perch on the steering wheel or through the windshield, so I gave up on that.  He flew 45′ on the creance in the yard and came without delay.

Training, day 16 (735g, 68F, 76g chicken heart, 74g beef heart)

I walked Ogedei and the bow perch a block to the baseball field.  He tried to bate into a few trees but otherwise rode the fist well.  He flew increasing distances up to 115′ on the creance until he because distracted by a wild red tail.  After the wild RT appeared he ignored all whistles and refused to come to the fist.  He took the last 50g of chicken heart on the fist in the house with the dogs present.

Training, day 17 (750g, 68F, 26.5g beef heart, 73g chicken heart, 90g rat)

Ogedei flew to the fence and then to the top of the house roof as I set up the creance.  He came without hesitation to a tidbit on the glove.  He responded well on 50′ creance and even preempted the whistle a few times..  He responded quickly to the lure but tried to carry the rat; he settled down once he broke into the rat.

Training, day 18 (762g, 33F, 27g chicken heart, 94.5g rat)

Ogedei didn’t come to the fist in the mews for just a whistle.  On the creance he had a fast response.  Most of the time I couldn’t walk more than 20′ before he launched at my back without a signal.  I asked about this on the Arkansas Hawking Association Forum and was told it’s not necessarily a bad thing during creance training – he’s learned the game and knows he can get food out of me.  We can work it out in the field while hunting that he doesn’t get food when he comes to the fist without a signal.

I spun the lure in slow circles when I showed it.  Ogedei flew to the fist and watch the lure until I tossed it onto the ground.  As soon as it was on the ground he slammed the lure.  He didn’t try to carry the lure.

Training, day 19 (750g, 28F, 89g rat, 50g chicken heart)

I took the cardboard off of the thin, PVC bars of the mews.  Ogedei didn’t seem to mind.  However, when I checked on him for training I found him slamming into the bars.  He ripped a pad off one toe and was smearing blood everywhere on the bars.  I don’t know what set him off, if it was the dogs in the yard or he tried to use the bracer bar on the window as a perch or what.  I put cardboard back over the window but he continued to slam into it.

Ogedei attacked the lure with gusto, making a pass while it was in the air.  He missed and hit it on the ground.  The chicken heart was given as tidbits on the fist in the house and as rewards for proper behavior in the giant hood.

After training I leashed Ogedei to the bow perch as he tried to fly into the window.  He bated incessantly, even after it got dark.  I’d hoped he would calm down and regretted not having a hood.

Training, day 20 (760g, 24F, 126g quail)

Ogedei damaged his leg scales from the constant bating the night before.  It wasn’t too bad, but required some iodine and neosporin.

We started driving to Pennsylvania from Arkansas for Christmas.  We didn’t leave until 1 pm as we were waiting on a shipment of frozen quail.  Ogedei spent a few hours in the  giant hood without much fuss.  We pulled off the highway and found a large grassy field for training.  Ogedei hit the lure in the air on a low swing from 30′ with the dogs and lots of traffic nearby.

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Setting up for training in a field just off the interstate

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Even with all of the distractions of dogs and cars Ogedei had a great response to the lure.

Training, day 21 (773g, 70F, 125g quail)

Ogedei spent the night and most of the morning riding in the back seat of the car in the giant hood.  He didn’t get motion sick and rode in the hood quite well.  The light tinkle of bells every now and again was a great comfort to know he was OK instead of having to stop and check on him.

He flew 50′ to the lure from an 8′ perch with people watching.  His response was a bit delayed, but he was in a new place on a high perch with lots of distractions in the form of forest around him.  He missed the lure on a swing and came up short on the creance.  This is very bad, negative training.  I didn’t think he’d miss the lure and continue his flight so stood near the end of the creance like I did while flying him to the fist.  Luckily he was already banking back with he pulled up short, so he didn’t stop too hard.

Training, day 22 (796.5g, 61F, 131 quail)

I kept Ogedei in the basement overnight.  He has to stay in the giant hood as we travel and I didn’t know how he would respond to being outside in the hood or if wild animals would try and get to him inside the hood.  I took him to Davidson’s Falconry to get fitted for a hood.  He bated non-stop while there even there were no windows and no perches higher than I was holding him.  During training he had a delayed response to the lure from an 8′ perch.

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Ogedei showing off his new hood. He absolutely hates it, but it will be useful when it’s necessary.

Training, day 23 (819g, 55F, 131.5g quail)

I kept Ogedei on the back porch in the giant hood over night.  I blocked the door with a stool and the side of the box with the box perch just in case some animal tried to mess with the giant hood.  Nothing happened and he was just fine in the morning.


Giant hood on the porch, somewhat protected by the stool and bow perch.

Ogedei was heavy during the previous day’s training and showed it with his delayed response to the lure and constant bating.  I wanted to drop him a bit back to between 760-770g, but it only dropped to 55F over night.  55F in Pennsylvania in the middle of December!  What the hell.  He responded instantly from a the bow perch and 8′ perch for tidbits.  He also responded great to the lure with a dozen people looking on 100′ behind me.

Training, day 24 (807g, 55F, 48g quail parts)

I really wanted to try free-flying Ogedei but he was just too high for my liking.  The temperature was high again the previous night and he didn’t loose much weight.  It was going to remain warm for part of the next night and drop to the lower 40’s after 1 am so I decided to give him a half-ration to induce some weight loss.  He responded well from the 8′ perch to tidbits of quail wings and legs.

Training, day 25 (790g, 35F, 82g quail body)

Even though Ogedei was 20g higher than I’d like him to be I decided to risk free-flying him.  After weighing him I changed out his mews jesses for field jesses in a darkened bathroom and popped him back into the giant hood.  We drove to a neighbor’s field where I planned to fly him.  The field is pretty open – it used to be more over grown but the new owner runs his quads through the field.  Still, there is some brush along the sides and I thought I might scare up some rabbits.  I tried to release Ogedei onto a low branch but he initially refused to leave the glove.  After a minute of coaxing he finally jumped into a spindly 15′ tree.  I kicked the brush around the tree as he laddered to the top and watched but nothing ran out.  I moved to a different piece of brush and Ogedei flew to a different, larger tree.  He wasn’t really close to me, but was close enough I wasn’t worried as he was only 20′ high.  He started laddering up the tree as I kicked the brush and after a few minutes was near the top, 60′ high or so.  I wanted to see if he’d come for a tidbit, so offered one and whistled.  He refused and turned his back.  I started to panic.  I moved around, whistling and offering the tidbit but he still refused.  Finally I blew the whistle long and hard and offered the lure.  I swung it around and Ogedei watched it.  As soon as the lure was dropped onto the ground he had and instant response – he tucked his wings and dropped like a stone from the tree, pulling up 10′ above the ground and coming horizontally at the lure like a rocket.  He tried to carry the lure initially, but quickly broke into the quail with the tugging and began to eat.  As he ate I attached the clip to his jesses and breathed a sigh of relief.

And with that first successful free flight I feel like I’m finally a real falconer.


Filed under Falconry