Thursday, December 02, 2010

Manliest of Man Weeks Part 2: NAFA

My last post ended with Joel and I pulling in to our camp at the North American Falconer's Association annual meet. Most people who attend this meet stay at the official meet hotel but for $80 a night it felt a little too luxurious to a few of us who elected to find a nearby trailer park that would allow us to put up a tent for a mere $5 a night. We were deemed the "Gypsy Hawkers" and even had a banner made for our tent:

As you can see though, this was no ordinary tent, a fellow falconer from Colorado brought his outfitters tent complete with a pot-bellied stove that kept the interior toasty warm despite the cold nights. $15 for our entire stay rather than the $240 it would've cost at the hotel (which I hear wasn't a great experience in and of itself...)? No complaints here! And the whole crew agreed we should do it again next year. Hopefully Gypsy Hawkers will be come an annual tradition.

We headed out early the next morning to get the hawking started. We actually began by meeting up with a fellow kestrel hawker to see if we could catch a starling with her female. As luck would have it, as we pulled into a rather empty looking lot to see if some starlings on a telephone wire would come down, a jackrabbit popped up out of nowhere! We had 4 red-tails with us so one was quickly pulled out of the car and sent on the chase. Despite there being no more than an inch of brown grass mowed to a stubble on this lot jacks began materializing left and right! We'd found a fantastic jack field right in the middle of town! The kestrels were abandoned for the moment while we chased jacks with several birds and eventually caught one with a big female flown by a falconer from Illinois. It was his first jackrabbit ever and he was ecstatic (even though his bird mistakenly grabbed his hand while he was trying to help with the jack...). I know many pictures were taken but I haven't seen any of them floating around on the Net yet. I'll insert them when I find them.

On the way back to the hotel to pick up another red-tail to take back to our awesome field, we found a large group of starlings feeding on the side of the local Walmart. The other kestrel hawker had her chance! She took the slip and her little kestrel nailed it's first starling. Again, pictures were taken but I haven't seen them yet. It was a fantastic start to the first day of the meet for our little group!

The days that followed were filled with more jackhawking with red-tails. I had intended to go out with a few other folks to see birds fly but we were having so much fun chasing stuff with the birds we had we just kept at it. One morning a fantastic photographer, Tasha Leong (who contributed the tent photo as well) came out with us and took these great shots of Joel's red-tail in action:

A narrow miss!

Joel's red-tail actually hit this jack and rolled it a couple times, this photo was just after the rolling stopped and the bird and jack took stock of the situation:

Other shenanigans in the field:
"Look, a mouse!"
"Got it!" (Look closely on my arm...)

Back at camp we threw some of the pheasants Joel and I had gotten into a dutch oven along with anything else we could find lying around and made a sort of pheasant "goulash". Usually when I cook pheasant it dries out quite a bit and is fairly tough, this was delicious!!

As we all crowded around the table to partake of the goulash, a pvc pipe that had been installed as a hose spigot (not very smart since pvc gets rather brittle in freezing temperatures!) was bumped and a water fountain erupted near the table when it broke completely off! We quickly called maintenance but quite the pool was forming as we waited and the water was creeping toward our tent. We tried to shove a towel down the pipe to stop the flow of water but there was too much pressure so we tried to hold it down with a flushing stick we had in the back of Joel's truck. Still too much water pressure, but we were on the right track, we just needed something to hold the pole in now. We decided to use the carrier that attached to an SUV trailer hitch, propped it on the table and balanced it on the pole that was keeping the towel in the broken pipe. It's not nearly as funny in writing as it was in person but we all thought it was a fine bit of redneck engineering! The maintenance folks finally did shut the valve off and the water was kept from our tent.

Despite all our efforts, the jackrabbits eluded us but Joel's bird finally snagged a cottontail on the last day we were at the meet, earning Joel his first ever NAFA game pin.

Overall it was a great time and it was a shame that we had to leave before the official end of the meet (Saturday night I believe) to get home for Thanksgiving. On our way out of Dodge we did stop at that little walk-in with the abandoned farmstead and put one more rooster in the bag before we made the drive back home to Colorado to spend Thanksgiving with our families.

As delicious as the meal was, it was only a brief respite before we were out hunting again. We left the day after Thanksgiving to pursue elk in the Colorado mountains. Part 3 soon...


Anonymous said...

This isn't necessarily a comment on this post but dunno how else to get a hold of you. Just delete the comment.

I'm trying to find out if I can commit to falconry, with kestrels, but dunno what to do about working 8-5 during the winter months. I get home and it's dark. How do you keep the bird active and fed when it's dark? Maybe you have a different work schedule and don't have the problem. Any ideas?

Isaac said...

Hi Anonymous,

I wasn't sure if the email address was or so I just figured I'd respond here to be sure you got it.

It's a cruel trick of nature that the falconry season (and most hunting seasons in general!) takes place during the shortest days of the year. I do work the normal schedule, 8 to 5 and it is often dark when I go to work and dark when I come home. That leaves me the weekends. It is by no means an ideal situation but not practicing falconry is a difficult pill to swallow for me so I make do. I try and make my weekends count and fly whenever I have free time. As a result, I admit, my bird probably isn't in the best shape and I don't put up the numbers like others do but I've got to get my falconry fix somewhere.

I'm sure there are some that would condemn me as a horrible falconer for not being able to fly everyday but whatcha gonna do?

There are various exercises you can do with your bird when you don't have time to fly. Such is life.

Nelly32 said...

I know the wives will remind us about the week we got married, and the weeks our children were born... but this was the best week ever!

Doug said...

Isaac - sounds like you guys had a great time at NAFA. I've never been.

I'm looking forward to part 3.

Albert A Rasch said...


Good to be visiting with you again here. That looks like a whole bunch of fun y'all had, and the pictures are fantastic!

I'll be stopping by more often now, I'm on nights and the winter is settleing in so the Talibannanas are pretty quiet!

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
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