This past Fall 2017, I had a great trapping season shared with several other falconers as well as a few great friends, some that I have known for 40 years. (Wow! The reality of that statement is just now sinking in.) When I say trapping season, I mean the time of excitement when we are on the hunt for a new immature red tail hawk to train for the local Falconry hunting season.
The excitement has been real for the past 20+ seasons, and this year was no different. I was able to show the other Falconers all about the birds’ behavior and they were able to see birds come in at over 100 mph. It was something I know they will never forget. I was able to supply birds for 2 other falconers.
Trapping Immature Male Red-Tail Hawks
Although we missed more than we caught, we were able to trap 4 redtails, all of them males. Males are typically smaller than females but everyone seemed happy with having smaller birds. It was so much fun drinking beer and talking about high school days interrupted occasionally by yelling “Don’t move! Bird coming in!” At times, we were laughing so hard, we didn’t even see a hawk coming in until it had streaked by the bait birds! I chose the largest bird that we caught over the 2 days we trapped. He was a cookie cutter twin to the others that we had trapped so I decided he would be mine for the season.
How Sago, The Red-Tail Hawk, Got His Name
I have always let the birds name themselves. They do something or exhibit some behavior and a name pops into my head. I usually try to keep it to 2 syllables or less. Just because it makes it easier to yell in the field, but I have broken the rule a few times. About 12 years back there was Jezebel. She was a real witch for the first week, during the naming period. She later turned into a real pussycat, like most immature red-tails do.
Anyway, I had just moved a client’s large potted sago palm into their house from their patio. They were out of town and a frost was predicted for that night so I figured I better get it inside. It was a monster and I was still feeling the pain from moving it the next day.
So when I bent over to take my new bird out of the bow net there was a twinge of pain that reminded me of what I had done the day before. The sago palm popped into my head and the bird was named. The first time the situation named the bird. And so it began. My new birds’ name is Sago.
I Am Not Like Most Falconers
Once the bird is trapped and named, it’s time to train! Training went as it does for most of the red tails I have trained over the years. Although I am always excited about having a new bird, there is rarely anything special about an individual bird. There is a zillion nuance that you have to read when training a bird and that is what I live for when it comes practicing the sport of falconry.
You see I am different than most falconers. All the folks I know in the sport love the thrill of the chase. Watching the bird that they fly chase the quarry of their choice. Not me. I love trapping more than anything else. Although it is only for about a week each season, It really gets my blood boiling when I see that hawk that isn’t too much more than a speck in the sky, turn and head my way. It rarely takes more than 15 seconds from sighting until I am tripping the bow net and the bird is caught, but my adrenaline goes through the roof in that short period of time!
What Makes My Falconry Training Different
After trapping, my next favorite part of falconry is training the new bird. I have trained somewhere between 30 and 35 red tail hawks over the years. Trapping a wild bird and taking it to the point where it feels comfortable around humans and domestic animals is another major thrill for me. Each little read, each little manipulation which creates a new positive behavior, is seen as a triumph for me.
Taking a bird from being scared to death of humans to working in harmony with them in 2-3 short weeks, is one of the most satisfying things I have ever done in my life and I am lucky to be able to do it every year. Trapping season will begin again in the Fall. Who wants to go have an Eastern Shore Experience with the next new Red Tail Hawk and me?