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End of the Season

As the end of rabbit season approached (Feb. 28), I tried to get in as much hunting time as possible.  Cody sent me a message, said he and Bob would be in Fort Smith the week before the end of the season and invited me to come hunting.  I jumped on the opportunity and took a morning off of work.  We met near the Ft. Smith airport around 9 am (I was running 30 minutes behind, whoops) and I loaded Ogedei and my gear into their truck.  It seemed fitting to end the season in the same back seat I started it off in when I trapped Ogedei.

We hunted Marge, Cody’s 9 year-old red-tail, first.  She always hunts first and throws a fit in her giant hood if the truck stops and she hears Cody and Bob preparing to hunt without her.  MArgedoesn’t like people other than Bob and Cody in the field, but I hunted with her so Bob thought she might be alright.  I flushed a rabbit 20′ from the truck but Marge was out of position.  She still chased it hard and the flight ended over a small hill out of sight.  After that chase Marge started getting spooky and we eventually decided she was nervous of with me and kept flying away when I approached.  So I went and sat in the truck while they finished the hunt.  I listened to most of an episode of the HPPodcraft while I waited.  Cody reported that Marge missed more rabbit slips than she’s missed all season.  She was harried by a pair of haggard birds and he suspected she may have hit a fence when she chased the first rabbit.

After Cody put Marge away we drove to a nearby field that Bob and Cody had found numerous rabbits in.  I got Ogedei out and he weighed 731g.  Within the first minute we flushed a woodcock and Ogedei launched after it after a second of deliberation.  He flew after it a couple hundred yards but couldn’t connect.  Woodcocks are fast once they’re under way.  Ogedei had good posisiton and had he decided to fly instantly he may have had it, but not after a second or two of deciding.  I’ve heard of and seen photos of red-tails taking woodcocks, but it seems to be uncommon.  I flushed a rabbit in the perfect slip when I went to retrieve Ogedei.  It ran through some thin grass and across some open rocks straight away from where Ogedei had been perched.  If only he hadn’t chased the woodcock…  I called Ogedei came to the glove.  He was a few hundred yards away.  It’s probably partially a problem with my training, but he refuses that kind of distance without a tidbit.  He can be stubborn and smart, and once I made the motion of pulling a tidbit from the pocket they’re always in he started coming back even before I blew the whistle.  We kept beating the brush and flushed 7 more woodcocks – Ogedei chased two of them without success – but no more rabbits.  Cody and Bob were really surprised at the lack of rabbits so we packed up and went back to the first location.

Back up in the trees Ogedei made some nice flights at rats, including a really nice waiting-on hovering flight for 10-15 seconds.  He followed along pretty well, though consistently refused the t-pole.  We flushed some rabbits from scrap piles but Ogedei refused to chase most of them.  He made one half-hearted attempt but gave up when it crawled into a junk pile and didn’t chase it on the reflush.  One rabbit even stopped in the open under the tree he was in and Ogedei just looked at it.  I was quite frustrated.  I ended his day by calling him a a hundred and fifty yards to the lure.

Cody and Bob were impressed with how well I’d trained Ogedei.  Cody suggested if I dropped him another 25g if I wanted him to chase rabbits.  They said if he were a female (which fly from 1000-1300g) with the same attention and ability to follow on he’d be banging rabbits left and right, but that as a small male (some males fly at 900g, so at 730 he’s pretty small) he was probably intimidated by  the rabbits.  He was obviously motivated enough to chase the woodcocks and rats that were small enough he thought he could take them, but in order to tackle larger prey he would need some additional motivation in the form of weight reduction.  The problem with that is Ogedei would have a razor-thin keel and no fat reserves if he lost another 25g.  He would be on that line where one missed feeding might push him over the edge and he might not be able to recover.  Some falconers don’t mind flying their birds like that (and Cody and Bob weren’t suggesting that I should, just that if I wanted Ogedei to chase rabbits I could), but I don’t, especially as a first-year apprentice.  I’d rather have a slightly high bird that chases prey it’s  comfortable with and refuses some slips, but will also survive the night if it is lost or if I miss a feeding (not intentionally, but accidents happen.  I may get in a wreck and spend the night in the hospital.  You never know).

After Ogedei fed up Bob got Sega, his passage red-tail, out.  She followed along great and worked with the dogs well.  The first flight she made was a hard-pumping flight across an open field upwind at a bunny.  She tried but never gained ground against the wind.  The dogs kept on the scent and we followed the rabbit through some cedar trees.  It gave the dogs the slip a couple of times but they kept finding the trail again.  After 10 minutes the dogs flushed the rabbit again and I thought Sega had it.  She made a nice flight with a wingover, but the rabbit juked and she missed.  It ran through a scrap pile, where I thought it stopped, but the dogs thought it kept on going.  We followed the dogs and the rabbit quickly reflushed.  Sega didn’t miss this time.

Even though Ogedei didn’t perform like I wanted it was still a fun day of hunting and a good way to end the season.  I’ve started fattening Ogedei up and cut contact so I can release him.  I already removed his anklets and bell; it’s weird to to hear him jingle in anticipation as I open the mews door. The rabbits around here don’t have large fetuses yet so it’s too early to release him.  I’d hate to have him starve because the only prey available is smart and survived the winter and predators, instead having easy, dumb newborn bunnies and mice to catch in a few weeks.  Also, there are still a lot of migrant northern red tails around, so more competition.  So I’ll wait a bit until mid- to late-March before letting him go.

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Podcasts

This has nothing to do with falconry, but I don’t keep any other blogs or otherwise have an outlet for this information so I’ll put it here.

I spend a lot of time at work when I’m sorting insect trap catch or working on steampunk insects at home.  To fill the audio void I’ve started listening to podcasts.  I have three to recommend today:

Hardcore History – Dan Carlin is not a historian but rather a fan of history.  He takes an event or story, reads as much as he can about it from historians and primary accounts, and then boils it all down into what he thinks is the most accepted or probably account.  Podcasts can range from 1.5 to over 4 hours, and some events, such as the fall of Rome or the rise and splitting of the Mongol empire, span multiple podcasts.  I absolutely love his style of story telling, the fantastic amount of detail he puts into each podcast, and the events he thinks are worth covering.  My favorite, and from what I can tell one of the fan favorites, is his account of the Mongol empire, Wrath of the Khans.  Some of the podcasts are free and some you have to pay for.  I admittedly haven’t paid for any podcasts yet, though I’m planning on it as soon as I’m done buying supplies for the mews I’m building.  The only downside is that he only puts out a new podcast every few months.  I can’t blame him, given the amount of reading and research that goes into each episode, but now that I’ve listened to everythign that’s free it’s frustrating to sit here without new shows.  I’m seriously considering listening to Wrath of the Khans again to pick up details I missed the first time through.

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The Cromcast – I have to confess upfront that I’m biased for this podcast because I know the guys who are making it.   That being said, I’d listen to it even if I didn’t.  The Cromcast is a weird fiction podcast that is currently going through Robert E. Howard‘s Conan the Barbarian (e.g., Conan the Cimmerian) in the order the stories were published.  They typically talk their way through a story each week, discussing the plot, what they liked and didn’t like, how the story relates to the real world (such as Howard using the names of gods from real civilizations, such as the Egyptian god Set), influences they see on Howard through his writing, and how other fans have recieved the story.  They also provide a bit of background, such as when the story was published, and sometimes get off on tangents, such as comics and other nerdtastic things.  They’re only 7 episodes in, with new episodes coming out every two weeks or so.  Episodes are generally around an hour and a half, though that’s mostly because that’s about how long it takes them to cover what they want to say and not a hard line.  Did I mention they’re fueled by bourbon?

Breaking Bio – Breaking Bio is a biology podcast cohosted by Morgan Jackson, a PhD student at the University of Guelph in Canada, Steven Hamblin, a postdoc at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Hedi Smith, a postdoc at the University of Texas at Austin, BugGirl, from various undisclosed locations in the eastern US, and various other cohosts.  They typically have a guest (or two) on the podcast and interview them about their current research and interests as far as biology/ecology/systematics goes.  I know what you’re thinking, but it is really entertaining and they generally talk at a level that even nonscientists can understand.  The hosts are from very different background within science and while one may understand what the guest does there’s a good chance that the others don’t.  And even if they do they’ll often ask the guest to explain whatever they’re talking about for the listeners.  They’ve has guests on to talk about fly/flower interactions in South Africa, crowdfunding science and science projects, squid sex, zombie ants and World War Z, and that’s just what they’ve covered since June.  They have 43 episodes up currently and get a new one out every week or two.  The shows began freeform in length (usually around an hour, but often closer to two) but are now limited to 30 minutes.  If you have any interest in science in general this is great to listen to.

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