Migratory Game Bird Hunting - Extended Falconry Seasons
Your Oklahoma Falconers' Association board members have been hard at work over the past year, championing the cause of falconry in Oklahoma. Today, we are proud to announce that some of the blood, sweat, and tears put into these efforts are beginning to pay off! It is with great pleasure that I would like to announce that the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife has proposed that Oklahoma falconers receive extended hunting seasons for every single migratory game bird in Oklahoma!
Extended falconry seasons will be available beginning this fall, which will result in us being able to utilize the full 107 days of hunting allowed by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. As with the existing extended waterfowl season, there are a few variances during these extended dates compared to the normal hunting season. Those variations, along with the extended season dates can be found in the Falconry Seasons portion of the website.
All the best,
-The OFA Board-
Passage Peregrine Take - Regulation Change
I am please to announce that a large step has been taken, which guarantees Oklahoma falconers' ability to head out every single year, in order to trap passage peregrines in the sooner state! Through diligent cooperation between the Oklahoma Falconers' Association and the ODWC, a regulation change has been in the works that will shore up some loose ends in our system, and bring our regulations more in line with those of the rest of the states in our country. Going into effect in November of 2017, a wording change to the peregrine portion of our regulations will occur, stipulating that no more than 50% of the peregrine permits allocated to Oklahoma, can be filled by nonresident falconers. So what does this mean for us? Well for starters, I want to be very clear that this in no way limits the number of peregrine permits that Oklahoma falconers can fill. If we are given two permits for example, then we can absolutely fill both of them. What this does mean, is that if our friends from another state head on over to enjoy some good times trapping here in Oklahoma, unlike in years past, they no longer have the ability to fill all of the permits. From now on, no matter what, an Oklahoma falconer will have the opportunity to go out and attempt to trap a passage peregrine. Below you will find the red lined version of the new regulations, that were submitted for public comment previously, and should go into effect during the time frame mentioned above.
Over all, it's a pretty straight forward rule change, but believe me when I say that a whole lot of time and effort was involved in making this happen. I want to give a very big THANK YOU to all of our friends at ODWC who continue to make falconry a priority, and for all of the hard work they do on a daily basis on our behalves. I also want to thank David Eslicker for all of the time and effort he spent spear heading this change, as well as Rob Rainey and Rob Huber, who took time out of their busy schedules, in order to attended the meeting with ODWC.
All the best,
-The OFA Board-
OFA 2016 Field Meet
Elk City, OK
It’s a busy time of the year for us at the shop making sure everything is in line, and all the weekly orders are filled. Trying to get an hour or two afield a few days a week eases the stress level a bit.
This Friday went a little slower than usual. My husband Phil, and I were headed out to our first Oklahoma Falconers Association meet in the early afternoon and as excited as we were to get on the road, getting all the loose ends tied up was taking longer than usual. It was also our first time packing two birds, equipment, food, luggage and ourselves all together in the truck and making sure nothing got left behind. In another life when we were into horseback field trials with our dogs, it was nothing to pack up three horses and thirty some odd dogs and head out for a weekend of fun several states away. But we are certainly out of practice from those well regimented days, and just getting two birds ready was like packing up an entire bus load of kindergartners for a trip to the zoo!
We made it on the road and a pleasant short trip later, we were in Elk City and found our hotel. One of the things I love about Oklahoma is how quickly the terrain can change in just a few miles, and how beautiful the area around Elk City really is. Unloading and getting arranged took no time at all, and we headed down to the little hotel bar to join up with everyone else.
A surprisingly good little band, and a few drinks and bar food that held its own greeted us, along with a good sized crew of falconers reuniting for the first time in a while. We are newer to the club, but it’s good to be settling in with some faces that are becoming familiar, and we even have a few stories of our own to tell. Always full of advice, tall stories, and what are probably some outright lies, everyone was gathering and making plans for the next couple of days of activities.
One concern wasn’t the beautiful weather, but some impending strong winds that threatened to make our flying more difficult. We wanted to make sure to get some hunting in, scout grounds for the NAFA meet, and have a great time looking at the various birds in action that members had brought along.
Daniel Murray and Chris Kimble camped at the lake nearby the hotel and it seemed like a great place to meet the next morning. At sunrise, a large group of trucks and falconers met up and split into groups to head in various directions. After hearing about cottontails literally running through the campsite at the lake, Phil and I decided it would be a great place to get our young Harris Hawk on his first game. The small but beautiful lake was a perfect hunting spot and turned out to be a real gem the entire weekend. From our vantage point at the campsite, we could see Mitch Wishon and Rob Rainey across the lake working their two young Russian Goshawks along with their dogs. It was a cool sight to see the big white birds following along and watching the dogs below as they made their way along the shore in the dense brush.
Our own hunt, we had a couple of lucky cottontails slip with a great chase by our bird, but the movement of a hidden waterfowl caught his eye and resulted in a dip in the lake, and a wet pouting bird being extracted from the water. That ended our hunt until he dried out, so we headed out again to join up with the rest of the hunting group.
Everyone converged again in the booming metropolis of Willow and caravanned to Sandy Sanders WMA to look for Jack Rabbits. Some of the most beautiful and roughest, toughest country I have walked in a while. Perfect for Jacks, but bring leather boots and chaps! The group gamely beat through the thick brush, cactus and thorns and enjoyed not only the weather, but watching birds, dogs and the scenery. There were only a few birds ready for flying but with everyone pitching in and beating the brush, we found quail and had a flight or two at a jack. I was so impressed and incredibly grateful to the folks who showed up just to be there and help even if they didn’t bring a bird along. It was a lot of work and it really showed the camaraderie that exists in the club.
The two Russian Goshawks got some great experience with large groups of humans and lots of commotion. Our Harris got in some great flying time and the introduction to dogs. On our way back to Elk City, we stopped and were treated to a spectacular aerial show by Daniel Murray’s Perlin falcon, Stinger, flying at doves in a cut field. A very game and nimble bird, that was nothing but pure fun!
Walking, talking, and driving tired everyone out, but we all had young birds that needed to see game. The little rabbit field at the camp site had gotten our attention that morning, so we wanted to head back there with our now dry bird. Walking through Sandy Sanderson we had made the acquaintance of fellow Harris hawker, Jerel Collins, and after telling him about the little rabbit field by the pond, he wanted to see our bird fly there. I believe we learned more about hunting rabbits and how to get it done with Jerel in that hour or so than we have since we started falconry. We really enjoyed his company and seriously had more fun in that little walk than we have ever had. We were able to put an amazing amount of rabbits out for the bird, with a “HO! HO! HO!” being yelled over and over again. All three of us were excited, laughing and having a great time. With every rabbit, the wheels in the head of our young Harris turned just a little more and it didn’t take long for him to figure out the game. We had several very near misses and he figured out what rabbits were all about. Even with no successful rabbit kill that evening, the experience was cemented for the bird and for us and we seriously owe Jerel our gratitude just for taking the time to show a couple of amateurs how rabbit hawking is done! I really look forward to seeing Jerel fly his bird at NAFA.
The group converged once again that evening at what can only be described as superior Mexican fare. We arrived late enough that we had the place basically to ourselves and proceeded to eat more than really should be humanly possible, but no one retired to the hotel that night on an empty stomach!
Sunday morning brought a beautiful sunrise and an entirely new strategy. Miles of driving was OK, but we had a little rabbit minefield right at the campground and young birds that needed experienc. With the entire group converging we all had what can only be described as a phenomenal morning of hard work and fun. Daniel Murray’s Red Tail, Mitch Wishon and Rob Rainey with their beautiful Goshawks and our Harris Argo all had a run through the fields. Rabbits ran everywhere and “HO! HO! HO!” rang out every few minutes. By the end of the morning everyone was exhausted but happy. We can’t thank everyone enough who worked so hard to get Argo on a rabbit. He worked hard as well but still couldn’t get that last connection made. Daniel’s Red Tail bagged his prize with a successful kill, and the goshawks both worked their tails off with some spectacular aerial maneuvers after fleeing rabbits.
By the time all the tired birds, dogs, and falconers packed up to head back towards home, we all agreed on one thing.......we couldn’t wait until NAFA!!!
-Phil and Gayla Salvati-
2016/2017 OFA/KHA Friends Meet
Though the forecast indicated icy roads and crummy weather, a small group of falconers converged on the tiny town of Guymon Oklahoma in the early part of January, in order to attend the 2016/2017 Oklahoma Falconers Association Field Meet. Those who decided to make the drive were reward with falconry conditions bordering along the lines of perfection, and experienced an incredible weekend with good friends, loads of game, and awesome flights!
There were so many memorable moments from the weekend it would be difficult to mention them all, but some of the ones that stick out the most in my mind were from Mitch's goshawk chasing quail and pheasants. These flights went so far that the only way of seeing the later parts of the slips, were by following the chases through binoculars! The tenacity, and the hawks willingness to stick with the birds over those distances was inspiring, and an absolute treat to watch.
Chris, Gayla, and Stephen's harris hawks pursued cotton tails and quail with endless vigor, and Jerel, Shane, and Parker's red tails were given shots at jack rabbits over the course of the weekend. We chased small birds with the perlin, watched some great dog work from Rob's young vizsla, and our evenings were spent laughing over food and drink, while telling stories and planning our adventures for the next day.
When it was all said and done, everyone who attended put game in the bag, and I think it is safe to say that this OFA meet ended up being one for the record books! Of course, a get together like this is impossible without the generosity of the many landowners, who allowed us to come hunt on their properties. On behalf of the OFA board and all of our members, I wanted to extended our biggest THANK YOU to each and every one of you, for allowing us the opportunity to have such a wonderful adventure!
All the best,
ANNUAL KHC/OFA FRIENDS MEET!
MARCH 3RD - 5TH
If you weren't there, you missed out! Sure...it was ridiculously windy, and we ended up hiding out behind the trucks around the camp fire most of the time, but it was still a blast! As with most of our joint meets, game still went in the bag regardless of the conditions, and two of my favorite flights involved Monty and Chris' GyrXPeregrines, putting the hurtin on some ducks.
This meet though, was all about the friends! There is absolutely no better way to close out a season, than by sitting around with great buddies laughing, telling stories, and hearing about all of the adventures they have had since the last time you saw them. Due to the hawking conditions, that's what the majority of the meet was this year, and you know what? I really, really enjoyed it! Saturday afternoon especially, found the camp site loaded down with falconers of all sorts, and I as I was sitting there listening to all of the different conversations going on, I couldn't help but smile to myself, and think "This is what it's all about!"
This joint "Friends" meet has changed a lot over the years, since it was kicked off for the first time in the early 90s. Though we are no longer sleeping in tee pees like the OGs did, and though the primary game focused on has changed quite a bit, there are a few things that have stood the test of time. To me, the most important of those is the emphasis on friends and fellowship. From the very beginning, when those cats drove up and down the Kansas/Oklahoma boarder searching for a spot midway for everyone to converge on, the whole goal was to get the gang back together. Life happens, people spread out, and time goes by...it just is what it is. They decided that if nothing else though, once a year they were all meeting at Cowley County Fishing Lake for a weekend of good times, and that is just what they did. Though there are a lot of traditions in the Oklahoma falconry community, this is one of my favorites. I'll tell you one thing friends...If I have anything to say about it, this is one tradition that will never die, and I look forward to seeing you all there next year!
All the best,
OFA Workshop - Kestrel Nest Boxes
On the afternoon of April 15th a small group of the OFA members gathered at the secluded estate of Mitch and Jan Wishon to build several nest boxes for American Kestrels. One of the key parts of the OFA mission is conservation. To that effect it was agreed, and voted upon to appropriate a portion of club funds to purchase materials for the nest boxes. The various components of the boxes were gathered by Chris Kimble, and the project came in under budget. While burgers and hotdogs were cooking away on the grill the pattern for the boxes was hotly debated. Finally having agreed upon a design a prototype was built. The pattern used only required one 1”X12”X8’ board per nest box. Click here to see the plans
Having been well fed the crew got to work, and quickly turned 30 boards into 30 nest boxes. The work was done in two short hours. The boxes will be donated to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation for them to station as they see fit. After the work was finished the afternoon gave in to friendly banter and repartee. Hawking stories were told. Plans for future conservation projects were discussed. Plans to attend the NAFA Meet in Kearny, NE were made.
For those not familiar with the decline of the American Kestrel, studies have shown that North American populations have declined nearly 50% overall, and up to 88% in some areas of North America. Below is an excerpt from the American Kestrel Partnership Website. For more information see the website
American Kestrels in decline
Most residents of the Western Hemisphere have seen American Kestrels, even if we can’t pick one out in a birding book. In fact, kestrels have long been appreciated as North America’s most abundant bird of prey: they watch us from ledges as we stop into a city café, or from power lines as we stroll along country highways. They also cram a lot of attitude into about four ounces of bird. Most people familiar with kestrels cannot resist hitting the brakes for a better view when they spot one hovering in midair, waiting for a mouse to make the wrong move.
Unfortunately, this historically common little falcon has become a rare sight in many regions of North America, where populations have been declining for numerous decades. In several areas the declines are relatively steep, such as the Bird Conservation Regisions for the Southern Rocky Mountains/Colorado Plateau, Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain, and New England/Mid-Atlantic, illustrated in the graph at right and based on roadside count data from the USGS Breeding Bird Survey.
Reasons for population declines may include land use, climate change, depredation by Cooper’s Hawks and other birds of prey, competition with European Starlings for nesting cavities, and environmental contaminants such as rodenticides, heavy metals, and brominated flame retardants (used in electronics and textiles). However, researchers do not have sufficient data to understand why these long-term, wide-spread population declines are occurring. Counts like the Breeding Bird Survey indicate there are fewer breeding kestrels, but they cannot determine where the birds are having trouble in their life cycle. Are adults not returning after winter to breed? Are they dying at high rates during breeding, migration, or over-wintering? Are they not breeding as often or failing when they do try to breed? And, critically, how are these demographic processes influenced by land use, environmental contaminants, climate trends, and competing or predatory species?
These questions highlight the need for nestbox monitoring data, which offer demographic insights beyond head counts by giving us a glimpse into the kestrel life cycle. Although there are numerous successful nestbox programs across North America, they are largely localized and isolated from each other in a research context—making it difficult to draw reliable conclusions on a large scale. In response, the American Kestrel Partnership is coordinating an unprecedented, Western Hemispheric nestbox monitoring network and database by supporting existing nestbox programs and helping new programs fledge. Do you see kestrels where you live? Whether your local environment has growing, stable, or declining kestrel populations, we need your observations to advance kestrel demographics and conservation.
To learn more about kestrel population trends in your state or Bird Conservation Region, please visit our webpage on population declines.
OFA PICNIC and BUSINESS MEETING
June found the Oklahoma Falconers association converging on the town of Edmond Oklahoma for another great falconry picnic and business meeting. The weather couldn't have been better, and the turn out was fantastic! For those that showed up bright and early, the day was kicked off with a presentation by longtime OFA member Rob Summers about drones, drone flying, and their utilization when creating high flying game hawks. The presentation began with everyone sitting under the canopy intently listening to topics such as what makes a drone good for falconry, pros and cons of different models and types, typical training techniques, break downs of different parachute styles and the benefits of each design, along with a slew of other topics. Many questions were asked, and in-depth answers and discussion ensued. After the class room portion of his presentation, the drones were broken out, and some members got to try their hands at flying one for the first time. It was apparent that everyone really enjoyed the work shop, and a big thanks goes to Rob for being so well prepared. It was obvious to all that a lot of time and effort had gone into the presentation on his part, and I feel everyone who attended benefitted greatly from all of his hard work and preparation.
After the presentation concluded, it was time for grub, catching up with old friends, and making new ones. I especially enjoyed seeing some faces that I hadn't seen in quite some time, along with a number of pre-apprentices who made the trip to learn all they could about falconry. I like to think that my enthusiasm and passion for this sport has remained as strong as it has since the day I started on this journey, but I must admit that the excitement I could feel coming from some of these new friends was truly inspiring, and lit the fires for me anew in some ways. I have a feeling that, combined the with excellent guidance and mentorship from current OFA members as sponsors, the future of falconry in Oklahoma is looking very bright.
Once everyone had finished stuffing themselves to the brim, it was time to kick back, and getting down to business. I'm not very good at speaking in front of large groups, but I tripped my way through the business meeting the best I could, and I feel a lot of productive topics and issues were discussed. Big thanks go out to everyone who volunteered to help out with tasks in the upcoming year. Whether it was for planning apprentice workshops or our upcoming falconry meets, or for making new OFA gear or planning next year's picnic, it is all greatly appreciated. OFA is it's members, and it is you all that continually makes sure this club remains great!
Once the business meeting ended and everyone rejoiced (since they no longer had to listen to me speak!), it was time for one of my favorite portions of the picnic.....the raffle! As usual, our donors showed up strong again this year, and a special thanks goes out to them all. Links to their sites can be found along the right column of the screen, and I encourage all of you to check them out, spend lots of money, and show them how much we appreciate them supporting our club. I can't leave out all of the great Okie grown donations either, and I appreciate every member who showed up with items for the raffle as well. We raised a good deal of money, and most of this years proceeds will go toward making sure the upcoming NAFA meet is one for the record books!
All good things must come to an end, and the 2016 OFA picnic wrapped up following the raffle. As friends were slipping away though, it was nothing but a sea of smiling faces, and one could hear conversations about epic hawking adventures being planned for the coming season, and all the good times that are ahead.
Thanks again to everyone who showed up, and I look forward to hitting the field with all of you all this coming season
All the best,
OFA Members Apprentice Workshop
Traps and Trapping!
I am planning an apprentice workshop for Saturday, September 3rd, that will cover various aspect of trapping raptors, with a focus on trapping red tailed hawks. We will have lots of pictures and videos, as well as many different styles of traps to discuss. The exact time and location are still yet to be decided, but the intent is to host it somewhere central near Oklahoma City.
Several other members have volunteered their time and assistance with different portions of the presentation as well, and it should be a great time with decades of experience available to be shared. I plan to have snacks and drinks available, and I encourage anyone who would like to attend to RSVP through either e-mail, or a phone call to me. My contact information can be found under the members section of this website in the OFA directory. Also, feel free to contact Dan, and he will make sure and pass the RSVP along to me.
Knowing the number of interested parties ahead of time will help us choose the best venue to accommodate our group. Though we are still a month or so out, we do need to get the details nailed down pretty quickly, so please RSVP as soon as possible.
This event is going to be full of good friends and good times, and I encourage everyone to come. Whether you have been practicing falconry for 30 years, or you plan on trapping your first red tail this season, this is going to be a fun get together, and will be a great chance to meet back up and see friends prior to the beginning of this years upcoming hawking season.
I look forward to seeing everyone there!
All the best,
Just an update on the upcoming OFA Trapping Workshop. Ron Lloyd has managed to secure a class room at the training grounds of Fire Station #5 in Edmond for us to use. We will get started at 11:00 AM on September 3rd. The address is 5300 E. Covell Rd. Edmond, OK. It is located on the south east corner of I-35 and East Covell Road. Exit #143 on I-35.
OFA will be providing a lunch, but we ask that A-M bring desserts, and N-Z bring a side dish. We have been getting a lot of RSVPs, but if you haven't yet and plan on attending, let us know. We need to provide the details to the fire department before the event, so we can have the proper seating ready.
I wanted to remind everyone that these types of workshops are just one of the many benefits of being an OFA member, and while this is geared toward our new comers to the sport, our most seasoned members are also encouraged to attend and participate in the discussion!
Finally, the OFA Hats have arrived! We will have them there and available to purchase.
We look forward to seeing you there!
All the best,