Sunday, November 30, 2008

Black Friday アメチョウは獲物ゲット!


Day 1:I arrived on Sunday afternoon, threw my stuff in the hotel room, grabbed a couple buddies and said, "Let's go kbird hawking!" First stop was the Walmart parking lot. There were a few sparrows under a bush on the far edge of the lot so they offered the first slip. Out the window she went and the sparrows dove into the bush. It was a fairly sparse bush so we could see the sparrows still in there. My friends and I exited the car and surrounded the bush to see if we could get a reflush but they all busted out the top. We (bird included ) piled back into the car and drove around for a bit looking for starlings. We found A TON...but they were all up on wires! We tried throwing some bread out to see if we could get some to come down but they were having none of it so we moved on. A grocery store parking lot provided the next shot at sparrows. There were quite a few people walking around though so we wanted to be discrete. Luckily the sparrows were on the edge of a parking row and there was a parking spot directly across the way. I slipped her, she gave chased but missed and we continued right on in to the parking spot. She landed in a tree right next to our parking spot so I stuck my glove out the window and down she came. First time she'd ever come back through the window! We headed back to the Walmart parking lot and saw some starlings feeding in a fast food parking lot but the slip would've been through the drive through so I pulled into a parking spot facing the starlings and let her go. It was a bad slip and she missed and then was caught by the wind and was suddenly 100+ yards away. She hovered for a bit, drifted a little further downwind, hovered a bit more, and then finally found a light pole to land on. I'll admit, that scared me a bit. I don't know that she'd ever gone that far out. I quickly pulled out the lure though and on the first swing she was already on her way. She landed on the lure, I fed her up and we headed back to the meet hotel to catch some other friends headed out with a gos.


Day 2 (Monday):A GREAT way to really begin the meet. My sponsor's son and I headed out to look for slips and decided to check the truck stops along the frontage road near the freeway. We found a couple that had some really promising looking starling slips and got a couple flights on both starlings and sparrows. I even slipped her at a mixed flock of sparrows, starlings, and pigeons and while she missed all of the above, she scared the crap outta one pigeon that took off and then literally plowed right back into the ground when she saw Dulci coming. Funny stuff. But the last slip of the day was the best. We went back to the most promising truck stop that had some grass islands just loaded with starlings. A group of about 15 starlings mixed with grackles was feeding along one of the islands in a perfect set up. I rolled past, out the window she went and...she grabbed a grackle! I actually don't think it was on purpose. There was a curb around the island and I think she missed a starling, turned around and grabbed the first thing she saw that was against that curb, it just happened to be a grackle. I jumped out of the car and ran over to assist but just as I got there the grackle pecked at her and she let it go. I thought she'd realize what it was and let it go but to my surprise she got up and chased it a hundred yards and put it in under a parked semi!!! What an awesome flight! And the best part is, we got it on film! It's not high quality but it gives you an idea of what happened:


The next two or three days were busy hawking with other folks and while I got at least one slip every day except Thursday because of strong winds, none of them were really great. I dedicated Friday to catching something with the kbird, no hawking with other folks until she caught. Luckily, I didn't have too wait long!


Day 6 (Friday):My sponsor tagged along as we began checking truck stops. In all honesty, I thought Dulci was a tad bit high for the time we were heading out so I was pretty selective with my slips. There were a couple that I could've slipped her at but didn't. Our first slip came at the same truck stop where she'd grabbed the grackle a few days before. There was a good sized group of starlings feeding up against a wall so I told my sponsor to get in position with his car to watch the flush as I pulled around to beep Dulci up. As I was beeping her up a group of about 10 landed about 15 feet in front of me on the opposite site of some concrete dividers. My sponsor was out of position but I couldn't pass up the slip. All I had to do was put the car in drive. Dulci was out as soon as she saw the birds but the dividers messed up her approach and she didn't have a good angle on them. Scared one of 'em bad enough that it almost ran into my car, but it wasn't meant to be. We headed to the other truck stops to check things out but didn't see anything as promising as that first slip so we headed back in that direction. On the way I saw some sparrows feeding on the side of "The Big Texan", the restaurant where NAFEX had it's dinner Monday night. I figured I'd give it a go and for the first time ever slipped her out the passenger side window. It was probably her best flight of the meet! The sparrows got up just ahead of her but she was closing fast. They stayed close to the ground as the kbird and two sparrows went whipping around the corner of the restaurant. I gunned my engine and raced to follow. I found my kbird sitting on top of a fence looking into a tree behind a tall wooden fence in the back of the restaurant. I didn't want her to catch a sparrow back there so I called her back to the fist but wow, what a great flight. My sponsor may have gotten that one on film before they went around the building. I'll post it when it gets sent to me if it's any good.


The next flight sealed the deal. We were back at the truck stop that had been so good to us all week. This time the starlings were in an absolutely perfect position on one of the grassy islands. I did a drive by to check the slip and tried to get my sponsor in position to film. As I pulled up next to him I rolled down my window and said, "They're in a perfect position, she'll get one on this flight. Time to kill a starling!" The birds were about 20 feet out feeding and as soon as she went out the window I knew she'd get one. I even picked the one she'd go for in the split second between when she left my fist and the first birds saw her. The one she hit had it's back toward her as the others took off. She smacked right in to it and came out on top. I immediately hopped out of my car to assist. She kakked at me as I approached but didn't try and go anywhere at all. I scooped both birds up, finished the starling off and let her break in. Lots of smiles and pictures followed.

Unfortunately it doesn't look like my sponsor got the flight on film. He'll send me what he got soon but I'm not too hopeful.

She got both legs, the head, and half of the breast. A fairly good crop for her. She was way over weight the final day of the meet so I didn't get to fly her again.

Overall I couldn't be happier with her performance at the meet. Twice she was blown quite a ways away (100+ yards), once clear across all six lanes of the busy freeway but every time I pulled out the lure she came instantly. She came in and went out of the car window like she's been doing it her whole life when I've never done any sort of training for that. She had some great flights on sparrows, grabbed a grackle, and killed a starling despite the fact that she's never been given any sort of baggie other than two sparrows in my house at the very beginning of training and I got my first NAFA game pin.

May this be the start of an excellent season!

N.A.F.A. Highlights 全国鷹狩り大会

Just a couple of highlights from my recent trip to the NAFA meet in Amarillo, TX. Unfortunately I didn't take that many pictures, too busy hawking!! My kestrel adventures will have their own post.

One of the coolest things I did down there was something I'd been wanting to do since the last NAFA meet. There are a couple of guys from New Mexico that chase jacks with falcons and sighthounds. I went out with them three times and saw jacks taken by all three of the falcons. We'd walk a field until a jack got up and the dogs would go tearing after it. The hood would be popped off the falcon and it would immediately join the chase. The falcon would smack the jack and make it tumble or bind to it and the dogs would run up to help finish it off. The flights were generally a quarter to a half mile long. That is some impressive flying and the type of jack hawking I could really get in to! Someday...


I spent one day with the eagles way down south in Lubbock.


We were taken to the most incredible jack field I've ever seen. There were literally hundreds of jacks! I tried to take some video, it's not really great but if you're patient to the end you can get an idea of just how many there were. Despite the incredible jack numbers, only 2 were put in the bag that day.


And of course there were the Harris hawkers. I saw a few bunnies and a jack get taken by them as well.


And of course these are just the highlights of the pictures I was able to take. I also got to see a longwing flown in waiting on style kill wild game for only the second time in my life, numerous other birds fly and I even found an arrowhead! Overall it was an incredible meet. One intagible highlight was meeting a lot of great people who I've only known through the internet for so long. I didn't get to go hunting with them all but I'll look forward to hunting with them next year. I can't wait!

他の出来事が沢山なったけど写真んはないです。隼がゴイサギを捕るのも見て、 オオタカの狩りにも参加しました。すごく楽しかった。アメリカに来る機会があればお勧めします。又来年を楽しみにしています!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Curse

It seems as if I am cursed with the inability to catch game as a falconer. I aspire to be the kind of falconer who can go out and catch 3 or 4 head of game every time I go out, not because I want to ramp up the head count, but because it means I am a successful falconer. I am embarrassed to admit that, for all the birds I've flown, for all the time and effort I have put in to this sport (and it is A LOT, just ask my wife) I have never been what I would consider a "successful" falconer. It is humbling to admit in a public space, and I imagine a few of my peers will be shocked to learn, that between the 3 RT's, 2 Harris Hawks, the Euro spar, the Euro Kestrel, and now this American Kestrel I have taken maybe 20 head of game.

Now I suppose that I could justify my lack of success. I got my first bird when I was 14 years old. Lack of experience, a sponsor who only flew falcons at pigeons during my time with him, no drivers license etc., could be considered cards stacked against me. Nevertheless, I was out with my RT in the hills above my house when I couldn't drive and went out to the sagebrush as often as possible when I could. I had some good chases in those days but can only remember actually catching one rabbit and it was a pet store bunny that someone had released at the cemetary in the hills above my house. I'd seen my birds chase quite a few jacks and pull feathers on pheasant but one pathetic rabbit was all I ever caught.

Then came a 6 year hiatus. A mission for my church and college in Hawaii prevented me from doing much on the falconry front. It wasn't until I finished college and returned to Japan that I got started flying birds again...but the curse followed me. Again, you could say the odds weren't in my favor. Japan is a hyper-industrialized island and places to fly birds, let alone catch game, are few and far between. Sure, I caught a few pigeons with my sparrowhawk and few miscellaneous fare with the Harris Hawks but at the end of every season I'd never made it to even double digits in the game taken department. This is despite the fact that I was out almost every single day and saw literally hundreds of chases. My Harris Hawks would pull feathers from pheasants, splash into water after ducks, chase sparrows at almost any distance, but rarely would I return home with something in the bag.

And now here I am back in the States where double digits game numbers at the end of a season are almost expected and triple digits are not uncommon yet I have this uneasy feeling that my curse remains. This past weekend Dulcinea made some good chases.

The sparrow bush I mentioned in the last post provided probably two dozen flights over the weekend. I did my best searching for starlings but with 80 degree weather here (in Colorado?!?, in November?!?!) there's just no reason for them to be on the ground so the sparrow bush was my best opportunity for some flights. Again, I could justify my failure to catch something by saying that the bush is probably a difficult slip. It's a thick evergreen bush (pictured below) that the sparrows can dart in and out of quickly enough to evade most attacks:

We came close though. One sparrow darted out of the bush looking over its shoulder for the kestrel and flew smack into the parked car you see in the picture. I heard the smack from the other side of the bush but it wasn't there when I got there and Dulcinea had taken another stand on the lamp post over looking the bush. Another bird flushed straight toward her as she was sitting on top of one of the buildings in the shopping plaza and she went into a 45 degree stoop after it, even following it into the bush! I heard a squeak and thought she may have gotten it but when I ran to the other side she came hopping out of the bush and back onto my fist empty footed. *Sigh*

And so it goes. Lots and lots of chases but no catches. Justification is out the window, I'm doing something wrong or I'm cursed. Next week is the NAFA meet, a national meet where falconers from all over the country converge to fly birds and catch game. I'm doing my best to catch something before I leave on Sunday but even if I don't I have high hopes that the wealth of falconry knowledge at the meet can correct any wrong doings I may have. If I don't catch something there then that's it, I'm cursed. I'll have to resort to witchdoctors or something.

There are those that say, "Falconry is all about the chase, it doesn't matter if I catch something." Well to them I say, "BULLS*IT!" I'm glad to have my own bird and be hawking again but I REALLY want to start catching things!!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Good luck!

Today marks the start of the hawking season in Japan. Good luck to all my friends there, happy hawking!

Kyou kara nihon no ryouki ga hajimarimasu. Minnasama ga yoi ryouki wo sugoshimasu youni inotte imasu. GANBARE!

Monday, November 10, 2008

First Hunt

Saturday was a bust as I didn't get out until sunset. I buzzed through a nearby industrial park looking for a quick slip but ended up playing our lure game in the house. Quite the disappointment.

Douyoubi wa dame deshita. Jikan ga nakutte ie de kunren shita dake desu.

Sunday I was determined to get out but it seems like her metabolism has slowed to a crawl! It was 3:00 before she was ready to go. I had to run to the pet shop to grab some mice before I headed to the industrial park and that took me past the bush of temptation. And boy was it loaded! Sparrows EVERYWHERE! I admit, I gave in. I beeped her up and rolled down my window. She did a few head bobs but didn't go. I thought it might be because I've never flown her out of the car before so I parked next to the bush and got out with her on the fist. Each time I'd kick the bush about 20 sparrows would dart out but after 5 or so kicks with no reaction I figured she wasn't going to go.Not to be discouraged I headed to the industrial park.

Nichiyoubi yatto kari ni dekakemashita. Mazu esa wo kai ni itte sono chikaku ni suzume ga ippai iru shokubutsu ga arimasu. Suzume wa anmari yaritakunakatta kedo (tsukamattara doko ka ni tonde itte shimau younna ki ga suru kara), yuwaku ni makette amecho wo dashimashita. Ji~ to mitta kedo ikanakatta. Kuruma kara dasou to shita kara kana to omotte kuruma wo demashita. Sukai shokubutsu wo kette takusan no suzume ga detta kedo mada ikanakatta desu. Gakkari!

I found 3 starlings sitting on a curb just asking to be whacked but they must of heard my evil laugh as I was turning around and took off before I could make the slip. I wandered around for another hour or so and while there were a good number of starlings on light posts, in trees, and on wires I couldn't find any more on the ground. TONS of bunnies though... Strange when you see more bunnies than starlings!!With the sun quickly disappearing, the siren song of the sparrow bush lured me back.

Are kara chikaku no koen ni itte starling wo mitsukemashita. Kuruma kara dasou to omotte kaiten shitara starling ga tonde itte shimatta. Ato ichi jikan gurai starling wo sagashimashita. Takusan itta kedo ki ka denshin hashira nado ni tomatte imashita. Nakanaka oritte konakatta desu. Usagi ga takusan itta kedo...

As I entered the parking lot I rolled down my window and rolled slowly past the bush. There were a few along the curb and a couple sitting on top of the bush, a head bob or two and she was off! She went for one on top of the bush though and it easily evaded her shot by ducking into the cover. Dulcinea sat on top of the bush looking down when suddenly a few more sparrows came dashing toward the bush and one almost collided with her as it headed for the same pocket the previous sparrow had used to disappear. The kbird shot her foot out and may have connected with some feathers but nothing solid to hold on to. Knowing the sparrows weren't going to come out with a little extra persuasion now I held my fist out the car window and, like she'd been doing it her whole life, she came right in. I quickly parked and walked over to the bush with Dulcinea held high. She knew the sparrows were in the bush though and wanted to be close to the action so she flew down to the bush. So much for the height advantage. I kicked a few times and the sparrows chirped and twittered but didn't want to come out. Unfortunately the kbird couldn't get in from where she was either. Finally after a good deal of shaking and rattling I'd gotten the hold outs to abandon the cover but none of them got chased.

Jya, suzume no tokoro ni modorou to omotte ikimashita. Yukkuri hashite konkai amecho ga ikimashita! Zannen nagara suzume wa shokubutsu no manaka ni haitte torenakatta. Shikashi shokubutsu no ue ni tomatte itta aida hoka no suzume ga shokubutsu ni hairou to shimashita. Ashi wo dashite hane gurai wa attata kamoshirenai kedo shikkari motsu koto ga dekinakatta. Amecho ga iru kara suzume ga zettai denai to wakatta node kuruma wo tomette shokubutsu wo kemashita. Kettemo detta suzume wo oikakenakatta.

With the light fading fast I pulled out the lure and tossed it to the ground. She was on it in a flash but got the dang tidbit off again and took it into the bush! I wasn't too worried as it wasn't too much of a tidbit but she went in quite deep and it took about 20 minutes of me whistling and clicking for her to find her way out. Once she did she hopped right to the fist, I fed her up and we headed home.

Taiyo ga shizumu tokoro datta node lure wo dashimashita. Sugu ni totta kedo lure ni tsuketta niku wo hazushite shokubutsu ni hairimashita! Dette kuru nowa 20pun kakarimashita! Dette kara sugu ni te ni tonde kite nokori no esa wo yatte kaerimashita.

So while we didn't put anything in the bag we at least got a chase and I came home with my bird. I would consider that a success. Onward and upward, we're hunting from here on out!

Kekkyoku nanimo toranakatta kedo suzume wo oikaketta shi taka wo nakushinakatta node seiko to omowarette ii to omoimasu. Kunren ga owatte kore kara kari bakkari desu.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

First free flight

Well the first free flight is in the books.

Hajimete no free flight wa seiko shimashita.

We didn't hunt since I was getting out later than I thought I would and I didn't have time to do much scouting. There was a slight breeze and I forgot my telemetry but I thought, "What the heck, I'll give it a go..." She did fantastic. It would have been slightly less nerve racking had I brought my telemetry along but there really wasn't anything to worry about. I brought her out of the box, readied myself and turned into the wind. She opened her wings, sped off down wind and then turned into it and worked her way over to a perch. There was a lure malfunction so I tried to work that out but as soon as she saw the lure she was on her way. Since she was coming with the wind she was really moving so I tossed the lure to the ground and she pounded it. My worst fear was realized when she was able to get the tidbit off of the lure but she only hopped a foot away and kept eating. She looked for me when she finished and came right back to the glove for another tidbit. I faced the wind again and she opened her wings and hovered over me for a couple seconds before working her way back to her perch.

Kari jyanakutte, tobashita dake desu ga yokatta deshita. Hasshinki wo wasureta kedo "Ma, ii ka?" to omotte hanashimashita. Kaze ga chotto atta node tsubasa wo hirata shunkan ni sugu sujyu meteru hanarette ikimashita. Shikashi touku made ikanakatta. Lure wo dashitara sugu modorimashita. Lure ni tsuketta niku wa hanashite shimatte doko ka tonde itte tabettara saiaku to omotta kedo doko nimo ikazu sono mama tabette kuremashita. Tabe owattara mata te ni tonde kimashita. Mouichidou yaro to omotte kaze ni mukatte mata tobashimashita.

I worked on getting another tidbit on the lure but she must've seen it and came zooming in to grab it before I'd prepared myself. I let her have it and then called her up to the fist again. Just then a girl came running across the field straight at me! Must've been late to class or something because she ran right on by but Dulcinea didn't like that too much. I figured I'd better not push my luck and fed her up.

Konkai lure ni niku wo tsukeyo to omotta aida lure wo mite shimatte tonde kimashita. Anmari kirei na lure flight jyanai kedo tonikaku kimashita node yokatta desu. Sono ato kyu ni jyousei no kata ga boku no hou ni hashitte kimashite amecho ga bikkuri shimashita. Bikkuri shite iru aida tobasu nowa anmari yokunai node nokori no esa wo yarimashita.

So it wasn't a hunt but I'd say it was a successful first free flight. Amazingly no matter how many times I cut a bird loose for the first time I always get the jitters but not having telemetry on the bird made it that much worse. I'll be hunting this weekend for sure.

Dakara kari jyanai kedo hajimete no free flight toshite wa yokatta. Nankai yatte mo hajimete taka wo free ni suru to kinchou shimasu. Konkai hasshinki mo nakutte toku ni kincho shimashita. Shumatsu ni kari shimasu!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Okay, I lied...

The truth is I spent the weekend in Kansas hunting pheasants (with guns) with my father. I took the bird along so my wife wouldn't have to "bird-sit" and couldn't pass up the photo op. :-) All in good fun. Now for the real update:

Shojiki na hanashi ni yoru to jitsu wa otoosan to issho ni Kansas shu ni itte jyu de kiji kari wo yatte kimashita. Okusan ga taka no esa wo yaru no wa kirai node amecho wo motte itte, ikka no shashin wo kiji wo jyu de totte kara satsue shimashita. Jissai ni amecho de kiji wo toru koto ga dekittara sugoi kedo uso wo tsukimashita. Kono ato honto no hanashi wo shimasu:

The day I left to Kansas I took Dulcinea out to my sponsors place to see how she'd do on a bagged sparrow outside. This was to be her first attempt at a sparrow outside and at somewhere around 91g things went less than smoothly. We went to a park near the house, tossed a weighted sparrow on the grass about 50 yards away and I started walking toward it. I had the creance on the bird because I didn't know what she'd do with a sparrow...that was a mistake. She didn't go after the sparrow until we were about 10 feet away and then veered off at the last second. She flew up around the small tree where we'd placed the sparrow tangling the creance in the branches. She wasn't hanging or anything but we knew she'd have trouble coming down. We got it an untangled as we could and then she dropped out of the tree on to my glove when I called. It's been a few days so I don't remember how, but she ended up on the ground shortly after and a big ol hag red-tail flew over us and landed in a big tree next to where we were trying to do the sparrow. That freaked her out pretty bad and she wasn't going to do anything with that red-tail there so we packed up and went to do a quick pigeon flight with my sponsor's praire falcon.

Kansas shu ni iku chokuzen tomodachi no tokoro ni suzume wo tsukamaseyo to omoimashita. 91g de ii kana to omotta kedo dame deshita. Suzume ni ikezu ni ki ni tonde itte shimaimashita. Te wo dashitara sugu modotte kimashita ga sono ato yasei no red-tail ga tonari no ki ni arawaretta. Red-tail ga ittara zettai tobanai to wakatta node tomodachi no Praire hayabusa wo mi ni ikimashita.

We tried the sparrow again in the field where we flew the praire falcon but she was still too freaked out from the RT to do anything and may have been a bit high for the circumstances so I fed her her rations and called it an unsuccessful day.

Praire wo tobashite kara mou ichidou suzume wo yaro to shimashita ga mada mada red-tail wo kowagatte shoshite taijyu ga chotto takakatta node ikenakatta. Esa yari dake ni shite owarimashita.

The next four days were spent in Kansas and I didn't do much with her. She got to eat some tasty pheasant heart and liver though and I got a great hero shot with her on a rooster pheasant (see the post below).

Tsugi no 4paku wa Kansas shu de kiji kari wo yatte imashita node kunren wa nanimo shinakatta. Ikka no shashin dake wo totte, kiji no naizo wo tabesashimashita.

We got back in to our regular routine yesterday and at 91.3g she was as good as I could ask for. She came multiple times while I was trying to get set up but a gentle toss sent her right back to her perch. After quite a few tidbits she was being a bit stubborn and wouldn't come to the glove but as soon as I tossed the lure out she was in the air again.

Kino kara kunren wo tsuzukemashita. 91.3 gram de honto ni yokatta deshita. Sukai yobazu ni tondekimashita. Ippai tabette kara mou ikkai yobou to omotte te ni tonde konakatta kedo lure wo dashitara sugu ni kimashita node yokatta desu.

Today was probably the last day of creance work. I took her down a half gram to 90.8g and she did awesome. There was a stiff breeze blowing and when she came with the wind she was really hauling butt. Again, it was hard to get set up without her coming to me before being called! When I would send her back to her perch she'd catch the wind and go up 20 or 30 feet and buzz over to her perch and then smack the lure when I brought it out. She never tried to go anywhere even with the wind and while there isn't anything to get caught on out in the middle of a soccer field the creance really wasn't necessary.

Kyo wa sen wo tsukeru saigo no hi deshita. Mou chotto taijyu wo herashite 90.8g de tobashitamashita. Kaze ga chotto tsuyokatta node tonde kita toki wa sugoku hayakatta. Kaze ni mukatte tondara su meteru agatte perch ni modorimashita. Doko ni mo ikou to shinakatta node kore kara sen wa iranai to omoimasu.

I'd like to do some baggie starlings with her but don't want to wait too long if I can't get any. Tomorrow I'll use my lunch break to scout an outskirt of campus where I've seen tons of starlings on a billboard and may try and slip her at one if I can find any on the ground. Wish me luck!

Kore kara kari wo shitai to omoimasu ga starling wo sakasenakucha. Ashita kara sagashimasu! Kinchou suru kedo ganbarimasu!!


I had a request for an update...I guess you could say she's doing okay! More later... :-)