Monday, November 21, 2005

Weekend Hawking

Wow, what a weekend! On Friday I headed out to Kishigawa to do some flights with the Harris in preparation for Saturday hawking. When I arrived however Oguni san, a regular out at the club, was there with his giant grey gos and said that we were going hawking! No complaints on this end! We loaded up the birds (two gosses and my Harris) and were off to check out some of the local areas where the club flew last year. First stop yielded no pheasants so we went to check out some ponds to see if there were any ducks around. We bumped a couple of teal off a small pond and couldn't find any others so as the light began to fade we decided to check the best spot of last year since there had been rumors that it had been turned into rice fields. About 2/3 of the field had been plowed over but a good swath was left and we're hoping for more concentrated pheasants when we check it next Wednesday. So no luck and really no flights on Friday but it was good to be out with the birds.
Saturday we got an early start and headed to Nara prefecture to a spot where I was told that catching ducks was "guaranteed". It was a small stream running through the MIDDLE OF THE CITY but it had plenty of ducks. There were apartment complexes on both sides, cars passing frequently, walkers and joggers, yet there we were walking down the street with huge birds on our fists scaring the ducks. I can't imagine flying in the same conditions in the States. Funny stuff. Alas, all the birds seemed a bit high. There were some short stabs at flushing ducks but no real pursuit. The spar got her first look at teal and I've sworn an oath that she will take one before the season is out, but no luck that day. So much for guarantees.
Now 99.9% of the time I don't fly on Sundays, but the temptation of a rare field meet with falconers from all over Japan lured me away from my Church responsibilities (much to the chagrin of my loving wife). It is estimated that there are only about 300 falconers in the entire country and even fewer who actually hunt with their birds. I didn't want to miss what could be a once in a lifetime experience...and what an experience it was! There were about 35 falconers, flying mainly goshawks with a few Harris' thrown in the mix, but in Japan fields are in such scarce supply that everyone flies the same field...AT THE SAME TIME! Any pheasant that was unlucky enough to take to the wing was immediately set upon but several hawks! Yet as a credit to their survival skills not a single one was caught. After an initial push by the large group we gradually broke off in to smaller groups to seek out any straglers in remote corners of the field. I got up one rooster and a couple of hens but the Harris' was still too fat and didn't even glance at them. So all in all it was a nice walk in the fields with my bird, hardly a sin!...Right?
After an entire weekend of constant hawking the head count remains at 0 but Wednesday is a national holiday and even though we have plans for a Thanksgiving dinner with some friends, I'm hoping to be able to sneek out in the morning. Freshly caught pheasant for Thanksgiving dinner...? We'll see.


max inclined said...

Hi Isaac, I'm an urban hawker and have flown a gos at ducks with joggers and dogwalkers passing by. I try to go when it's more likely to be empty - chances of PETA-philes are high-ish here. The Japanese are very sentimental people, what's the general public reaction to falconry over there? Long-respected tradition or anachronism?

Anonymous said...

Ah, so! A preasure indeed to read of your walks in field with Harris & and spar. You have very nice way of writing--we like to hearing about differences between Japan hawking and America hawking. Also wife sounds like very nagging person! You not sinner, not one bit. Hawking forever, yeah man!

Mom said...

Hey, Ike! so fun to read about the weekend, and then the morning attempt. Keep at it (as I tell my less-than-perfectly-successful English students)! Thanks--keep writing!

Isaac said...

Hi fallinghawks,
Not much of PETA type presence over here. Most people just wonder what we're up to since hunting in general isn't done much in Japan anymore. We have yet to catch anything in front of people though yet so maybe their reaction will be different when that happens...? Tune in to find out! :) Thanks for reading.