The closest fields and forests I can hunt are a 30-45 minute drive, so I usually can only hunt on the weekends. This was the second weekend I had Jebe free flying. She seemed to act much better this week flying between 770-785 g. Saturday she followed along the edge of a field as I beat the grass, then moved between the little islands of brush as I started whacking them. She made two attempts at a woodrat, but missed both.
After hunting for around an hour I finally flushed a rabbit and she made a short chase but came up short. The rabbit ducked through some thick, close-set samplings she obviously didn’t think she could crash through. A squirrel hunter had heard my whistles and came to investigate. He saw Jebe’s flight at the rabbit and I invited him to help me beat the brush and reflush it. He thought that was great and jumped in. As we walked around I kicked a honeysuckle bush and heard a jingle of bells. I knew I didn’t flush a rabbit and got confirmation when Jebe slammed into the honeysuckle. Her back was to me, but when I got around the bush I could see she was strung out, dangling beneath outstretched wings with a dead woodrat.
Jebe with her wood rat
I extracted her from the bush and she was not happy about it. I imaging she thought I was going to rob her of her kill. I clipped her jesses to my glove and laid her and the rat out in some shorter grass. She came around in a minute and started working the rat. After she broke in I let her feed up a bit, then covered the rat up and traded her off for some quail legs. The trade-off went smoothly and I called it a day.
Jebe not happy I picked up her out of the bush.
Sunday I went back to the same field but after more than an hour failed to flush anything, rabbit or woodrat, though did find about a dozen woodrat nests. I think I’ll have to find a different spot. The field originally looked promising, but didn’t deliver.
Jebe on a low perch just after I released her for the morning’s hunt.
Ogedei finally caught something! It was an eastern woodrat- not exactly the pinnacle of dirt hawking, but at this point I’ll take it.
I drove 45 minutes to a field in the Ozark National Forest I remembered seeing during field work. It’s a powerline cut for some high-voltage wires. I was a bit worried about the wires but they’re spaced pretty far apart and hang under the towers, so I didn’t think they would be too big of a problem. Once I let Ogedei go he flew to the trees next to the field and never gave the towers a second look.
Hawking field in a powerline cut
The field looked pretty good. I found fresh rabbit sign immediately – there was a light dusting of snow that fell this morning, so I knew the tracks were at most a few hours old. There were pellets all around that hadn’t frozen yet too.
And fresh rabbit pellets
I followed the first set of tracks for a while but they ended in a hole. I never saw the rabbit and suspect it was gone before we got out of the car.
I tried to follow a second set of tracks but they circled around on themselves and I couldn’t figure out where they went. After half an hour of beating the grass and brush I came upon a tangle of honeysuckle with some rabbit tracks going in and out of it. I kicked the tangle and Ogedei crashed into the top of it. He didn’t get very far in so I picked him up. He was very intent on something so I cast him into a tree and jumped into the honeysuckle. He crashed into it again and worked his way to the bottom of the pile. I saw the woodrat at that point run through the snow. Ogedei hopped/crawled through the tangle as I tried to flush the rat towards him. At some point he made his way to the top of the honeysuckle again, launched into a short wingover and crashed into the top again. I shook the bushes a bit more and realized he wasn’t moving. I untangled myself from the pile and saw he nailed the woodrat. It never made a sound or struggled, he had it by the head. At that point Ogedei either fell backwards through the honeysuckle or purposely tried to work to the bottom of the tangle. He ended up getting caught up in some branches but I freed him to feed on the rat.
Ogedei crashing into the honeysuckle
“There’s a rat in here somewhere…”
Ogedei finally caught something!
And then he ended up at the bottom of the honeysuckle in a heap