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!