2015 OFA MEET
As so often happens, the months have passed me by much faster than I would like and faster than my memory can keep up. Still, even though this past seasons OFA field meet is a blur of fun and fond memories, I’d like to take a moment to share some of the details with you.
In early January, a group of local falconers gathered in the Oklahoma panhandle in the town of Guymon. I recall the drive up that Friday afternoon well, while only a few hours from my home in western Oklahoma I remember how quickly the temperature dropped as we headed northwest, and the anticipation of seeing old friends and hawking in a game rich area. I was accompanied by my first year apprentice, Jerel Collins and his ever impressive passage redtail “crimson”. This for us, was one of many such trips to the area over the past several months, but it was the first that would include a fresh snow!
We arrived at the hotel and got our gear situated and met up with some of the other early arrivals. And even thought the snow was beginning to make travel a bit interesting, we headed out to a nearby property along with Shane Bullard a pre-apprentice from OKC as well as seasoned veterans Daniel Murray and Eric Pribil. Where, in spite of the light yet persistent snow, we flew Jerel’s passage redtail and trudged our way to his first successful triple on cottontails. And so the meet officially began for us!
The hotel bar became the hub of operations for us that first evening, as more and more falconers drifted in to plan our adventures for the following morning, or try to steal Daniel’s title as champion of the pool tournament!
Saturday morning it seemed that our meet was destined to be great, as we awoke to a nice covering of snow across a seemingly endless and windless landscape. I recall the enjoyment of watching Ryan VanZant’s female hybrid on pheasant. Ryan’s birds always fly with authority, and even though every jack, cottontail and prairie falcon in the area tried to foul our plans, we all still enjoyed watching her fly. Another treat was Rob Rainey’s Aplomado, which we flew on quail. His bird is incredibly fun to watch, and I’m confident that had it not been so bitterly cold, we would have truly seen some feathers fly, but alas, Rob’s successes came later in the day while I was not present to watch. Then there was Steven Olner’s and Greg Stipp’s Harris hawks flown on cottontails, where again the extreme cold kept us from enjoying them for very long, but they still managed some great flights and catches as the day grew warmer. My other apprentice Barry Bond, showed up in time to put in a great attempt on Jacks with his passage female redtail. And Jerel went on to take another triple on cottontail with his bird. Daniel Murray’s peregrine/merlin was a joy to watch and I certainly gained a new appreciation for the craftiness of quail after watching his bird fly them.
We had many chances over the course of the first day to hawk as a large group, which I was grateful for. I love how the falconers here in Oklahoma can fall into such a seamless operation in a matter of minutes and orchestrate some amazing opportunities! Game was present in abundance and the weather cooperated well. I know there were other groups out and about, and I hate the idea of leaving anyone out, and had I not neglected to write this until March, I may have recalled the details better!
Although, there is one individual I cannot leave out, and that is Chris Hitch. Chris is a local landowner that graciously opened up his land to us and personally beat the brush with our group. His generosity undoubtedly made the meet the success that it was!
We had to leave out fairly early on Sunday, but did get to witness some more longwing action in the early morning, and squeezed in one last flight with Jerel’s bird to take his 7th rabbit of the meet.
As is typically the case, the Oklahoma panhandle provided a quality of falconry that leaves you tired, yet eager to return. We saw numerous species of local raptors, and met some wonderful local people. The Oklahoma Falconers Association will no doubt return to the area again.
2013 OFA MEET
2013 OFA Field Meet
Sign marking the entrance to the Riddle Ranch and the campsite of the 2013 OFA Field Meet
The Oklahoma Falconers’ Association kicked off its 40th anniversary with a fantastic field meet in the tall grass prairie of Osage County. On the third weekend of February, we braved the cold weather and camped at Dr. Ken Riddle’s picturesque ranch alongside Bird Creek. There were a good number of members in attendance and we were also visited by Chad Parkey, the grandson of Fred Q. Casler, the first Oklahoma falconer. Chad, an avid hunter himself, had a great time reliving falconry experiences of old with his grandfather, and witnessing modern day classical duck hawking with passage falcons. He commented in an email the next day that, “ I believe there is a fine line between obsession and commitment and clearly you and the group have crossed that line, to the point that you are absolutely committed and obsessed, or obsessed and should be committed. All joking aside I really do appreciate what you and the association have done and continue to do to insure that the sport and the birds thrive. Your enthusiasm and love of the sport would have made Fred Q very proud!”
The weather could not have been better for flying longwings and a number of ducks were taken throughout the weekend by the falcons flown. Those flying red-tails had slips at cottontails, and surprisingly also had the opportunity of a few jack rabbit flushes, which is almost unheard of in this part of the state. A highlight of the weekend was first year apprentice, Langston Edwards, trying to dig a cottontail out of a hole with his bare hands, when suddenly, the bunny leaped out and ran up and off his chest just before getting caught by his Red-tail. We all had a great time hawking in the open skies of the prairie landscape, and agreed that it was a great way for us to finish up the season.
2013 OFA PICNIC
The Oklahoma Falconers Association’s 40th annual picnic was held on June 8 at Mohawk Park, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Making sure the car was packed with equipment, food, and a camera, Greg Stipp, Lauren McGough and I left Oklahoma City to head to the eastern side of the state at 8:30am.. The sun was shining and there was a cool breeze. The day couldn’t have been more perfect and we were anticipating a great get-together. When we arrived falconers had already gathered and were engaged in lively conversation recounting stories from the February field meet and the successes of the past hunting season.
Our OFA Board had decided to do something different this year by scheduling mini- workshops during the morning activities. These demonstrations were well attended and included Imping Techniques by Ken Riddle, Hood Making by Rob Huber, Making and Using Tail Envelopes by Mitch Wishon, Aggression Management in Eagles by Lauren McGough, Falconry Ethics by Mark Waller, Operant Conditioning by Ryan VanZant, and Reflections of a First Year Apprentice by Langston Edwards. All seemed to enjoy the presentations and several falconers were overheard saying the workshops were “worth the drive” or “worth the price of admission.” It was agreed that we will conduct more in-depth workshops at scheduled events in the future on a variety of subjects of interest.
Later during our business meeting we discussed our donation of $250 to the North American Grouse Partnership to be used on prairie grouse projects in Oklahoma. The conservation of Greater and Lesser Prairie-Chickens is an important issue for Oklahoma falconers and that concern also extends to grouse populations across North America. Our members again agreed to donate an additional $250 which will be more than doubled with matching funds. Our business meeting concluded with our existing officers stepping down , and our new officers, President, Dr. Ken Riddle, President-elect, Dr. Perry White, Vice President, Rob Huber, Treasurer, Stephen Olner, and Secretary Redd Rawlings being congratulated on their new positions at the helm of our club.
Finally we enjoyed the fruits of Rob Huber’s hard work through his procurement of the raffle items. These included books, hoods, telemetry equipment, gift certificates, a rodent breeding cage, leashes, hats, posters, and even a beagle puppy. As so often is the case, three of our members (Jonathan Coleman, Daniel Murray, and Mitch Wishon) walked away with over half the items! The raffle was a great success, with a little over $900 added to the OFA treasury. We would like to thank our commercial donors for their generosity; American Falconry, Davidson’s Falconry Supplies, Marshall Radio Telemetry, The Sutton Avian Research Center, Western Sporting, Northwoods Falconry, Pineo Falconry, Mikes Falconry Supply, Mike Dupuy Hawk Food, and all of the club members who donated items as well. We really have some talented individuals in the Sooner State who hand craft all sorts of quality falconry items.
At the end of the day, with the sun still bright and the breeze allowing us continued relief from the humidity, we all said our goodbyes to friends, both old and new. We then departed looking forward to the upcoming trapping season, future workshops, and hunting in the fall. It might have been along drive home, but for the excitement of what the upcoming season will hold.