Sunday, December 04, 2005

Highs and Lows...and Highs

On Saturday morning I headed out once again to Nara with Oguni san and his grey gos and the Harris that I fly. We were inches from catching a duck last week so our hopes were high. Oguni san works nights and makes the drive to Nara on less than 2 hours of sleep each week. I asked him if he was tired and wanted me to drive but he said that the anticipation of catching ducks keeps him awake. I told him that if he was tired on the way back then I'd drive and he said that on the way back we'd be so excited about the ducks we caught that he wouldn't be able to sleep either! So it was in that frame of mind that we arrived at the river.
The gos was up first. There were perhaps a dozen mallards just waking up as he beeped the giant up and made his way to the rivers edge. These ducks remembered us from last week though and flushed before he was in position. Not discouraged at all we loaded the gos back up and headed further down the river. We found what looked to be a good set up with a few mallards and some coot hanging around a shallow bend and so the Harris got it's turn. Two of the mallards flushed as the Harris launched from the fist but the third one just sat there quacking as the Harris dove toward it. Right at the last moment it flushed and the Harris went for a swim. The Harris rowed itself to shore and was called back to the fist and put away to dry while we went to look for more gos slips. The further downstream we went the wider and deeper the water got but there also seemed to be more ducks. We finally decided to give it a go and brought the gos back out. These ducks were a little jumpy too and headed for the horizon before the gos had a chance. We could hear something in the reeds on the shore though and thought we might be able to flush a small type of heron that is legal to take in Japan. They are rather slow fliers and good confidence builders in the early season. We tossed a couple rocks and sure enough, out popped a "Goisagi". The gos took off after it but it quickly dumped back into the reeds and the gos took a stand on a nearby light pole. As Oguni san was calling it back down for another attempt the goi decided to head for a small pond a hundred yards away. We followed it over and were able to flush it again for the gos but it again dove into the trees to avoid the attack. As we made our way over to flush it again the gos dove off its light pole and we heard the goi begin to sqawk. We had it! But as we ran over the goi flapped away and a frustrated gos was too deep in the cover to give chase. We headed back to the river and tried some other long reeds hoping for another goi but instead a rooster pheasant came shooting out! The gos gave chase but the pheasant dumped into cover and managed to avoid the predator.
We decided to try further upstream as the water was a bit shallower and not so wide. Last week the Harris had a terrific shot at some mallards hidden in the low reeds almost invisible to the human eye so we thought we'd try it again. We spotted a hen mallard disturbed by our approach and stalked slowly toward it. The Harris was leaning forward on my fist and watching intently but not the mallard...the Harris took off and I saw some coot scampering into the tall reeds near the shore. About half a dozen mallards erupted but the Harris had chosen its target and crashed into the bush just missing the fleeing coot...but not the water. Soaked again, I too had to get wet this time to retrieve the Harris and trudged back toward the car. As I did, three mallards dropped down in among the reeds and Oguni san pulled out the gos to give them a try. I saw the mallards take off and the gos in hot pursuit, definitely the best chase I've seen the gos give this season, but the ducks managed to keep one wing stroke ahead and lived to see another day. Apparently I was the only one who saw the magnificent chase however as Oguni san fell face first into the water as he attempted to flush the ducks! Covered in swamp mud from head to foot I had to recount the chase for him as we made our way back to the car.
The Harris had another go at some more coot in a different spot and again I thought he had one but they seem to dive into the thick cover just in front of the outstreached talons each time. We ended the day with some great memories but nothing in the bag. Oguni san wasn't quite as excited on the way back to Wakayama and veered slightly off the road once as his eyes were starting to get heavy, but we made it back to Wakayama in one piece and reminded each other that there's always next week as we went our seperate ways. It was still early in the day so I grabbed a pigeon to let Spark chase and sped off to fly her. About 10 minutes from my home, my scooter died though and it took an hour to push back to the shop. No game in the bag, a broken scooter, and failing light dampened my Spirits a bit but a new spark plug fixed the scooter and I decided I had just enough time to head back over to the field I had tried the day before to fly Spark.
The sun had already set as I pulled Spark out of her scooter box and headed into the field. I tossed the pigeon and Spark launched off the fist and flew the pigeon down in about 30 yards. As the last rays of light faded into darkness Spark began to pluck at her prize. Suddenly the near misses and broken scooter were all made right.

1 comment:

Matt Mullenix said...

Hi Issac,

I'm very glad you started a blog and will be checking in regularly, so please keep it going!

If I can make a suggestion from my reading of your entries, it seems to me that both the spar and the HH could use some easier quarry to concentrate on for a while. So few slips and inflequent hunts are hard for ANY hawk to make good on, unless the quarry is the right kind.

The coots and that species of heron ought to be perfect for the Harris, and really a "sure thing" kill provided you are able to find enough of them and keep reflushing. I'd suggest you fly the HH off a T-perch in the reeds, so that he can pick his slips and react fast enough to movement when he sees it. They are not so successful flown off the fist like a gos, especially not when th efalconer chooses the timing of the slip.

For the spar, I know I'd be hunting sparrows. Sounds like you have more of them than pigeons and that the hawk is excited about them. If you don't think carrying is a problem, you might focus on those until she is really clicking.

Success breeds more success!