Tag Archives: Training

Training

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update as I’ve been having a lot of trouble getting Jebe to jump.  The first two weeks I had her she steadily dropped weight but refused to jump.  Her interest in retrospect was a parabola: not interested when she was high in weight, then very interested (rowing her wings, leaning as far as she could) but refused to jump (even for a full quail on the fist), then a decrease in interest.  She showed a similar decrease of interest in the dogs, with full-spread wings trying to intimidate them at first grading into sitting on the fist, seeming to not care if they were there over the course of weight drop.

I got worried she was getting to low when she hit 800g (she was trapped at 1200g), but she didn’t show any signs of being dangerously low (almond eyes, lethargic, etc).  She had a razor-thin keel and after talking to Howard and Cody, we decided that I’d somehow missed the jump weight and she was too low.  Cody said later he suspected she was only a few hours to a few days from being so low I’d lose her.  That happened right before I had to leave for a work conference, so I started feeding her  twice a day to bring her weight up and get her out of the low-weight danger zone.

I had my wife Sarah feed Jebe off the lure while I was gone (US federal and Arkansas state law allow non-falconers to care for a falconry bird for up to 45 days) and she was back up to 1000g when I got back a six days later.  She was also familiar with the lure, and even though she still refused the fist would hit the lure with vigor at 30′ outside on the creance.  I tried to use this familiarity to my advantage by putting a fully garnished lure in the fist, but she refused it.  As soon as the lure was swinging or on the ground she rocketed off the perch.

Jebe on lure 1

Jebe was lure trained, but refused the fist

So I started trying to get Jebe to jump again as if I hadn’t worked her at all.  She didn’t show interest at 1000g, so I started dropping her slowly, feeding her enough so she shed 10-20g per night.  At 960g I offered her a full quail.  She jumped and beat her wings, but one foot would hang on to the perch.  She’d swing towards the ground with one foot still gripping the perch and have to flap to reset.  She did that four times before finally jumping to the fist.

The following day, which was Thanksgiving, I cut the turkey giblets into tidbits (so Jebe could have a Thanksgiving too) and she jumped to the fist for them with no hesitation.  I don’t know why she had such a hard time breaking through the mental barrier to jump.

The day after the initial jump, I her moved outside and she came 5′ to the fist for a tidbit.  I gradually increased the distance, curious about where she’d balk, and got to 30′ (the end of the creance) by the end of the session.  All of the flying was upwind against a 20 mph wind.    I finished training with the body of a quail (sans wings, legs, head) on the lure and she hit it hard midair.  Overall her response was good, but not instant, though considering how long she took to jump I’m really happy with it.

Jebe on lure 2

Jebe on lure

Training proceeded quickly after that.  Within four days I took her to a baseball field on the 100′ creance.  She came instantly for the first tidbit at that distance and then consistently launched before I turned and whistled (see a  video of her second flight).

She obviously learned the game, so I decided to free fly her.  I don’t have a lot of daylight after work during the weeks, so cut her loose in our neighborhood.  She immediately flew to the top of a light pole.  Jebe refused to come for tidbits from that high perch, which isn’t surprising since I hadn’t free flown her before, but she did come down to the lure.  I’d planned on flying her this weekend, but we had a warm spell and she didn’t lose weight as quickly as I’d thought.  She’s was at 1040g this morning, which is higher than I’d be comfortable with.  Hopefully she’ll lose enough weight by this afternoon that I can take her out to the woods to chase some rabbits, but if not I’ll try again tomorrow.

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Dropping Weight

Jebe weighed 1195.5g the day I trapped her.  Since then it’s been a waiting game as she drops weight.  The second day I found a 22g casting that was made of fur and grasshopper legs.  She weighed 1145g, so had dropped 30g after taking the casting into account.  She had healthy looking slices, with brown fecal material and no specks of blood.  Over the next few days she continued to drop around 30 grams every night and had multiple slices per day.  On the fifth day she started dropping 16 to 25 grams per night and her slices became smaller and green as she ran out of food to process and unused bile started coming through.

That trend kept up until today.  I weighed Jebe tonight, expecting her to be around 950g as she’s been at 976g yesterday.  She was unexpectedly heavier and weighed 1026g.  Her response to tidbits, even though she hasn’t jumped to the fist yet, is markedly lower than yesterday – while yesterday she could barely stop herself from jumping today she barely gave the tidbit a second glance.  In retrospect, the bow perch was in the middle of the mews while it was closer to the wall this morning and the falconer’s knot that secured her to the perch was really tight.  The only thing I can figure is that a mouse or some other small animal got into the mews and she drug the bow perch to get at it.  I guess tomorrow’s mutes and any casting will tell the tale.

I’ve been told by a few experienced falconers, my sponsor included, not to weigh a wild-trapped bird until it first jumps to the fist.  While this is probably an anomaly (eg, catching something in the mews), it seems like a good reason to at least take note of daily weight prior to jumping to the fist.

Also, it goes to show that the mews should be well secured no matter where you live.  I assumed that since I live in the middle of suburbia and have two dogs that nearly always outside in the fenced yard I wouldn’t have problems with small mammals or venomous snakes.  Obviously I was wrong, though I still don’t think I have to worry about copperheads or rattlesnakes.

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Introducing Jebe

Allen and I drove down to Little Rock for the telemetry scrimmage today.  On the way we passed an enormous red tail; Cody and/or Bob said they thought it was a balloon caught on the wire before they realized it was a hawk.  I thought about trapping it but decided not to as I didn’t want to sock a bird for 3 hours during the scrimmage or drive straight back to Fayetteville.

After the telemetry scrimmage while driving to lunch Allen and I (following behind Cody and Bob) passed a red tail hanging out on a power pole next to an industrial park.  I thought it looked like a juvenile and after a bit of hem-hawing for twenty or thirty seconds decided to turn around.  As I was turning Cody called, confirmed it was a RT, and asked if I was going to trap it.  I told him I would and would let him know how it went.

After passing the bird and turning around again, Allen tossed the BC trap with Russian hamster 5′ off the highway on a side road to the industrial park.  We turned around and waited.  The bird was obviously interested, bobbing it’s head and looking at the trap.  It swooped down onto the trap after a minute or two.  I eased the car up because the trap was on the far side of a small rise in the road.  The bird was oblivious to us, the cars on the highway, and the truck that rumbled past it on the  side road.  The bird footed the trap for a minute and Bam! was caught.  She immediately tried to fly off and drug the trap into the highway.  I was out of the car and running as fast as I could because I could just picture the hawk splattered on the highway.  I got to the bird and a truck was slowing down at the spectacle we were making.  In retrospect I need to add more weight and a drag line.  I got lucky, but it could have ended in disaster.

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I trapped a bird!

Allen and I socked and hooded the bird and drove to lunch.  Everyone thought it was a relatively large bird and worth keeping.  After lunch I cuffed, jessed, and leashed the bird so it could stand on the fist and slice.  Which it did while bating.  All over my arm.

Instead of socking the bird again, Allen was kind enough to drive my car back to Fayetteville while I held the hooded bird on the fist in the back seat.  She sliced onto the seat cover and Allen’s shoulder twice while we traveled.  The feces were brown, so she’d eaten relatively recently and there weren’t any bloody specks or other oddities about it.

After three hours of driving and five minutes from home the bird started making a hacking noise.  I smelled something rank and, worried she couldn’t get whatever she was throwing up through the hood, I struck the braces and unhooded her in the backseat.  The bird cast up some more rancid-smelling meat and, realizing where she was, promptly bated toward the window.  She hung from the fist, thankfully, and I laid her on her back where she stayed for the rest of the trip with that freshly-trapped hawk stare.

After we got home the bird I stood her up on the fist.  She bated a few times, but then stood on the fist without bating for two or three minutes.  She’s chilling out in the mews with cardboard over the window to keep it dark while she mans.  She weighed in at 1195.5g.

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She’s not sure about this situation at all.

I asked Cody and Heath about the smelly meat.  They suggested she probably gorged on Thursday and didn’t put all of it over yesterday.  There was less than half a tidbit’s worth of meat that came up, and she’s a healthy (if a bit stressed right now) bird, so should be alright.  I’m going to keep an eye on her to make sure it doesn’t develop into sour crop, but I think she’ll be alright.  I have pedialyte and apple cider vinegar on hand just in case though.

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Sitting on the bow perch

Over dinner I decided to name the new hawk Jebe (pronounced Jeh-beh) after one of Genghis Khan’s generals. It translates to “The Arrow” in Mongolian because he shot the Khan in the neck during a battle.  He voluntarily confessed to the shot, saying “if Genghis Khan desired to kill him, it was his choice, but if he would let him live, he would serve Genghis Khan loyally”. Jebe went on to become one of the best (top 3) generals in history.

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Look at those feet!

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“American Kestrels in Modern Falconry”

American Kestrels in Modern Falconry” by Matthew Mullinex is the only book that is dedicated to these tiny falcons.  Often overlooked as just an apprentice bird Mullinex demonstrates that kestrels can be excellent gamehawks when flown at the proper quarry (European sparrows and starlings) and have a place in modern falconry.

The book is pretty short at 139 pages with smallish pages and largish font.  I managed to read it in two days.  Still, there is more than enough here for an aspiring apprentice.  Mullinex covers natural history, the historic use of kestrels in falconry, and what bird to trap (which is not necessarily straight forward when many states allow haggards in addition to passagers to be trapped), in addition to fairly standard issues found in other introductory books such as trapping, manning and training, equipment, entering, weight control, and diet.  He emphasizes the importance of weight control, which may be tough for a first-year apprentice.  Kestrels have a flying window of 2-3 grams, and often within 1 gram.  In order to achieve that kind of control is is necessary to weigh the bird twice or more a day and feed it small portions twice or three times a day.

He also gives a substantial number of pages to different methods of hunting and accidents – important considerations when hawking these little birds.  Car hawking should be a pretty obvious choice as it lends itself to the generally short flights of kestrels at their best prey.  Mullinex also described pallet hawking – that is, sending a kestrel after sparrows that are hiding within stacked pallets often found around the back of stores and feed lots – and night roost hawking.

Like other introductory books, Mullinex provides appendices with an example of the first month of training and hood patterns.  These can be very useful to a new apprentice.  A few things I haven’t seen other places that I really like are a weight control and behavior chart, and disposition tables, which illustrates that kestrels are not lost or killed more than red-tailed hawks in falconry.

The book is peppered with photographs (b&w unfortunately) and line drawings.  One I particularly enjoy is a still-life, “Kestrel Fare”, because it plays upon the classic paintings of the game larder.

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“Kestrel Fare” by Steve Hein

All-in-all, the book makes me confident that I could fly a kestrel.  It’s well-written and worth buying, especially if you don’t have another introductory-type book.  For the experienced falconer there is perhaps less here to be gained as much of it is covered elsewhere, though it may convince them that the kestrel isn’t just an apprentice bird to be ignored or scoffed as a serious choice for a gamehawk.

Finally, I like how he ends the book:

“There is room to explore here.  A true generalist, the American kestrel borrows at will from the falcons, accipiters, and buteos whatever is necessary to make the catch.  Already falconers are training kestrels to wait-on; some using kites to raise pitch.  How long can it be before balloons or dogs are added to the formula? The kestrel’s ability in a cast of two makes me wonder if three might not be the magic number for pursuit flights at quail? Imagine a group of sibling kestrels perched shoulder-to-shoulder, leaning toward the dog and a scaled quail just waiting to break.  One lifetime is too short to try it all.”

That sums up the book nicely and mirrors my own attitude toward falconry.

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“A Hawk for the Bush”

“A Hawk for the Bush: A Treatise on the Training of the Sparrowhawk and other Short-winged Hawks” was written by J. G. Movrogordato and initially published in 1960.  It quickly became a classic falconry work and a first-edition in good condition can often fetch $500 or more.  Thankfully a revised edition is currently available for much less and has more current information.  While Movrogordato wrote the book about training the Eurasian sparrowhawk the training techniques can be applied to any shortwing.

Movrogordato covers all of the basics of training a hawk, including the choice of hawk (he argues for the hacked eyass), rearing an eyass, breeding sparrowhawks, equipment, hood training, diet, and hunting. Most of this is applicable to North American austringers; some, such as hawking along hedge rows, is not, though can still be interesting to read.  I think his point about carrying the hawk is applicable to most birds – it’s either carry the bird on the fist and offer it no other perch during manning (quite difficult without friends willing to carry it throughout the night), or you must make it want to ride the fist and not carry it a second longer.  When it’s done eating replace it on the perch and do not pick it up until the next feeding.  Don’t try to carry it for long periods (even up to 18 hours a day, only to replace it on the perch so you can sleep, otherwise you will have the worst sort of bird.

He also included a chapter titled “Mishaps”.  While some of the information should be fairly common sense (such as change old jesses before they snap) it also includes things like imping feathers and how to find a lost bird (which is much easier now thanks to telemetry).  It is a good chapter for apprentices to read and take to heart.

While most of the book deals with eyass hawks Movrogordato does spend some time discussing sore hawks, which are hawks that are out of the nest and capable of flight (so older than branchers) but that haven’t left the nest area yet and continue to play with their siblings while they learn to hunt.  They fall somewhere between the eyass and passager as far as training and  temperament.  Not many authors discuss the sore hawk, though this interesting developmental stage is being rediscovered by falconers.  Many people cite Movrogordato’s discussion about it.

Included in the revised edition are chapters on health and disease, a chapter of short overviews of other shortwinged hawks, and appendices on how to make and Anglo-Indian hood and patterns for such a hood.  These definitely add to the book rather than detract. Some of Movrogordato’s hawking diary entries are also included.  Looking over these can be a good way to get a general idea of the speed at which a shortwinged hawk might be trained.

In addition, numerous drawings and paintings by R. D. Digby and G. E. Lodge are included as illustrations that were not in the original book.  I really liked many of these, they’re quite good and some art interspersed with pages of text always helps to liven up reading.

“Gasim Rizgala with female lanner Johara, Larry Crowley with tiercel saker Sindibad and Jack Mavrogordato with female peregrine Selema at Khartoum, Sudan”

One thing I enjoyed about the book is the dry humor.  For instance, he begins in the preface by stating:

“It has for some years been the lot of falconers to receive enquiries from would-be falconers anxious to train the sparrowhawk.  My own advice to all such has generally been identical with the famous piece of advice which Mr. Punch once gave to those about to marry*. Experience has, however, shown that well-meaning if negative recommendation has been almost as generally ignored…”

and down in the footnotes states:

“*Don’t”

Later on when discussing carriage training he states:

“Remember that sparrowhawks (unlike goshawks, in my experience) are most frightened of human beings, less so of dogs, and do not greatly object to machines.  Get them used to people, therefore, especially women and children.  Your hawk may be perfectly used to you and quite fearless in your presence but yet regard every other person she meets as if they were not merely a stranger but a different sort of animal altogether.  It is, therefore, a good plan to have the hawk carried by more than one person.

And, if your household is deficient in well-trained women and children, there is quite a lot to be said for the falconer getting himself up in “drag” and wearing skirts and fancy hats instead of the dull old clothes with which the hawk is so familiar.”

He later goes on to warn:

“Never forget that the relationship between you and your hawk is one of partners, not of master and servant.  Avoid the “I’m the master now” attitude.  Don’t swear at the hawk, however infuriating her behavior (easier said than not done, this).”

Great advice for any falconer, but it’s delivered in such a way that’s dryly humorous and serious at the same time.  I love it.

“Jack Mavrogordato, Renz Waller e Ernesto Coppaloni”

All in all, I really enjoyed reading “A Hawk for the Bush”.  There is a lot of information here, much more than can be had in one reading, so I’ll be picking it up again.

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“The Falconer’s Apprentice”

The Falconer’s Apprentice. A Guide to Training the Passage Red-tailed Hawk” by William C. Oakes was the first falconry book I ever read.  It’s quite short, only 173 pages, and has relatively small pages and large print.  It’s not the most technical manual about falconry ever written, but it is a very good introduction to the sport for someone who thinks they may be interested.

The book offers a step-by-step guide for the first year apprentice.  It starts with a short introduction to falconry as a sport and it’s history.  Next is a rather lengthy chapter devoted to pre-trapping preparations, such as game prospects in your area, building mews, equipment you’ll need, hawk food, and figuring out where you’ll hunt.  These are all very important aspects for the falconer-to-be to consider and may be enough to turn some people off.

The section on traps and trapping is very short, only two pages, as Oakes expects the apprentice to get most of their instruction in this from their sponsor.  And rightly so, the sponsor should be very involved in the trapping of an apprentice’s first bird.

Manning, feeding the bird and using food as a training tool, and flying a bird all follow in fairly rapid succession.  He treats hunting and game with some brevity, again because the sponsor should be involved with this.  The conditioning and diet chapter addresses what to feed the bird, different ideas on exercise, weight control, and keeping a log book.  He covers how to build a giant hood and how to use it in the short section on transportation.  The book finishes off with a chapter on releasing the bird back into the wild.

One aspect I really enjoyed about the book is the focus on ethics in falconry.  As much as some people would like to make it out to be, falconry is not a blood sport when practiced correctly.  While both falconer and hawk enjoy catching game, it’s not the head count that matters at the end of the season.  It’s the thrill of the flight, whether it ends in a kill or not, and enjoying being near a wild animal following it’s natural instincts and being allowed to join it.  There is a respect for the quarry.  I share his sentiment: “I accept the kill as a natural conclusion of, but not the ultimate reason for, the chase.”

The illustrations are acceptable.  They’re not the best I’ve seen in falconry books, but they serve the purpose.  Ideally an apprentice should see their sponsor’s equipment in hand to understand how it should look anyhow.

All in all I find this to be a good, if short, intorduction to falconry.  It’s best suited for someone who is on the fence as to whether they want to take the plunge or not as it does a good job as demonstrating how much effort is required to train and fly a hawk.  For a more serious apprentice it is best paired with a more comprehensive book though is still a good resource to have on hand.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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