Monday, March 02, 2009

Harris Hawks

Doug over at Harris' Hawk Blog recently wrote this post extolling the virtues of the Harris Hawk. I started to comment on the post but it got a little long so I migrated back here to finish my thoughts. Here goes:

They're too easy!

Now before I'm crucified by the Harris Hawkers for writing that I want to make it very clear that I've never understood that knock on Harris Hawks. I flew a couple of Harris Hawks in Japan and compared to the other birds I flew there (Eurasian sparrowhawk, Eurasian kestrel) they were a dream come true! Easy to work with and as gamey as you could ask for. I actually caught more game with those birds than I have with anything else I've flown...but for some reason I'm not all that interested in going back.

Wha...? Given my incompetence at catching game, why would I not want to go back to a Harris Hawk? Honestly, I don't know.

I guess its like bait fishing vs. fly fishing.

There's nothing challenging about catching game with a Harris. (I wonder what kind of comments that will inspire...) An at weight (or even fat) bird with plenty of game pretty much guarantees something will go in the bag.

Throw bait in where there's plenty of fish, be it trout, bass, panfish, catfish, or anything else, and you'll go home to a fish dinner.

And well, everybody's done it.

The falcons and accipiters though, if you catch game regularly with those then you've done something right. There's a certain "finesse" required in the training, in the setup for game, and in the maintenence.

It's like landing a big brown trout on lightweight gear. I guess some like the challenge.

Having said that, there's nothing wrong with bait fishing and if someone invites me worm dunking I'm more than happy to go. I'm not above just going out and having fun. Most of the folks I hawk with these days fly Harris Hawks at industrial park bunnies and we have a blast.

But on my own time I'd rather fly fish. I catch less, probably complain more, and come home frustrated more often than not but someday, someday I'll figure it out and all the blood, sweat, and tears will be worth it. That's my hope anyway.

And if I don't? Well, there will always be someone dunking worms and catching bucket loads of stuff. I'm sure they won't mind if I tag along.


Doug said...

It's all about having fun.

Harris' hawks are still pretty new for me, and I am exploring what they are capable of. I still don't think I've scratched the surface.


Isaac said...

Doug, I agree! As long as you're having fun it doesn't matter what you fly.

I think most people are still just scratching the surface with their Harris'. Were at the NAFA meet in TX last year when the Coulsen's did a presentation on Harris'? Some guy in Europe catches Roe deer with them!!

They are certainly an incredible bird. Like I said, I have no idea why I'm not really interested in flying another one.

Anonymous said...

Watch this film on Falconry at JFK airport

Isaac said...

Cool video, thanks! Ron Rollins is a pretty popular hood maker but I never knew he did abatement work too.

Matt Mullenix said...


My opinion of the Harris is that they are best appreciated by those falconers who have tried everything and finally convinced themselves there's no finer hawk. :-)

Evidently you still need convincing! Just keep flying every sort of hawk you can think of, catching every sort of game there is, and when you are ready, the Harris will still be there for you. He won't hold it against you that it took you so long to come to your senses.

Now that I'm in that place, I appreciate all the other hawks even more. They are great, but they are not Harris hawks.

Seriously, I think what holds most falconers back from giving their heart to the Harris is that they want to stuff it into the wrong mold. HHs are not "normal" hawks in any sense. They are something else altogether. If you can get your mind around that, you can start to see what they have to offer. Comparing them to anything else is worse than apples to oranages. It's more like apples and oceans. Both are nice. But they are not of any same kind.

Isaac said...

Hey Matt,

I had a feeling that post would inspire a comment from you!

You're probably right, I just need to work through all the other birds before I go back to the Harris. :-) I've got a couple in mind I'd like to try so it might be awhile but I'm sure I'll fly another one someday.

JimT said...

If Falconry is an art, to train accipiters must be considered a practice in high form of the art. When properly done they can do what no other hawks can do so well. They are much better looking too. :)

Carolyn Edwards said...

I enjoyed your blog.
I had my first experience with a Harris Hawk at the weekend. It was awesome! Now I find myself cruising faconry blogs. I think I'm hooked... :-)