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...