RAPTOR SPOTLIGHT

At times, we can get some of our members to brag on their birds....... at times.

Below are some of the stories of a raptor or two that left a mark on some of the OFA falconers.

 

Name?

Bullseye

 

Falconer?

Scott Dylan

 

Species?

Gyr/Peregrine

 

Sex?

Tiercel

 

Hunting weight?

750 grams

 

Seasons Flown?

2007 until 2015

 

Wild trapped, or captive bred?

Captive bred

 

Trapping story, or info about acquisition?

Bred by Steve Sherrod

 

Training?

 

Kite/Balloon

 

Hunting style?

 

Waiting on

 

Preferred habitat?

The open prairie of Oklahoma

 

Typical quarry?

Ducks

 

Favorite quarry to hawk, and why?

Ducks, because there is an abundance of them where I fly

 

How is the season going?

Bullseye is enjoying retirement as a courtship bird.  He is retired, due to an injury.  Currently, I'm flying another tiercel hybrid.

 

Favorite hawking story?

 

Went on a trip north with Mark Waller to fly grouse.  Bullseye came down from a nice pitch, and smoked a sharptail.  It was my first grouse.

 

Name?

My son calls him Stinger, but if you ask my wife, his name is Fred???  I don't know...I typically refer to him as Stinger.

 

Falconer?

Dan Murray

 

Species?

Anatum Peregrine X Richardson's Merlin (Also known as a Perlin)

 

Sex?

Tiercel

 

Hunting weight?

Stinger flies best around 282 grams.  When it is really cold though, I can push his weight up closer to 290 grams.

 

Age?

This spring marked the end of his second season

 

Wild trapped, or captive bred?

Being a hybrid, he was captive bred.  He was made by a gentleman in El Paso Texas named Bill Meeker.

 

Trapping story, or info about acquisition?

Stinger was cooked in an incubator while still in the egg, and then put back under the female merlin after hatching until he was 17 days old.  He was then pulled and imprinted at home by my lovely wife and son, though I did help out a little bit :-).  He was raised with zero food association, and was never alone for the first couple of months of life.  He then went out on tame hack for a month and a half or so.

 

Training?

Utilized a drone to promote pitch, and tossed baggers to enforce good behaviors.

 

Hunting style?

Waiting on

 

Preferred habitat?

I have found that Ag fields tend to create the setups most conducive to his style of hawking.  With the exception of fields plowed down to the dirt, they typically hold a lot of birds, and have cover just tall enough for the birds to hold tight in when he takes off from the fist.  On the flip side though, the cover is generally low and sparse enough that once flushed, the game birds tend to have to fly for it, and are less likely to try and bail out on him.  In the early season, freshly cut hay meadows also provide good hawking, though there is a time limit on those spots, before they get too tall to fly again.

 

Typical quarry?

Snipe, dove, quail, etc, etc.  Little birds....

 

Favorite quarry to hawk, and why?

Dove flights are hands down, my absolute favorite to fly with the perlin.  With the exception of really early on in the season, doves typically arn't intimidated enough by Stinger to try and bail, and will instead utilize their speed and agility to try and out fly him.  Due to him having smaller feet, and the nature of dove's feathers being so loose, he has to hit them/grab them just right, or else he ends up with nothing but a foot full of feathers.  If you have a corn or milo field loaded out with birds, this can lead to some incredible flights lasting for 30 or 40 minutes. These flights are jam packed with stoop, after stoop, after stoop, and will result in him feathering quite a few birds, before finally bringing one to bag. My second favorite quarry would probably be snipe.  They are a lot of fun too!

 

Bird's favorite quarry to hawk?

Stinger does like to chase sparrows, but I try to avoid them like the plague when at all possible.  Sparrows tend to be the slowest birds out there in the field, and they are SUPER ratty.  To have a shot on them before they bail, Stinger has to bring his pitch down quite a bit, which is counter productive to what we are trying to get done out there.  He also won't eat them.  Weight is irrelevant to the situation...if he catches one, he is going to fly to the edge of the field and cache it no matter what.  This typically leads to me crouching down hoping with all of my might that the birds I have marked will hold.  Of course, the birds in the field are not dumb, and once they realize that the bird isn't paying attention or over head anymore, they take that opportunity and get the heck out of dodge.  Stinger then comes back over cranking and ready to go, and I no longer have any birds to flush for him.  It's pretty lame   

 

How is the season going?

It's summer time right now, so the perlin is up for the molt.  That being said, this past season was pretty incredible!  Though I feel he did very well his first year, he really came into his own his second season.  He flew with a lot more confidence, his pitches were generally much higher than his first year, and he pretty much owned the sky :-).  We closed out the season with ninety-five head of game in the bag, which encompassed nine different species.  I was pretty over the moon with him, and I'm really excited to see what he does next year.

 

Favorite hawking story?

I’m not sure if it’s my favorite hawking story with Stinger, but it’s definitely one that will stand out in my mind for a very long time!  I was out driving around the panhandle looking for birds to fly, and was just completely striking out.  All the bird were either in really small groups, near fences or cover, or in setups that didn’t have enough cover for them to hold.  I was getting a little frustrated, when all of a sudden, a huge covey of bobs went running across the road right in front of me.  Now this is the deal…typically, I don’t really like flying quail with Stinger.  The flights definitely aren’t as exciting as dove or snipe, and quail tend to be super ratty under a falcon.  What was unique about that day though, is that the field they ran into was plowed completely down to the dirt, and the cover they ran into was a patch of grass no bigger than my truck!  The nearest cover was an uncut milo field, and to get to it they were going to have to fly over bare dirt AND cross a road.  Freakin game on people!!!

 

Stinger head bobbed for a few seconds, and then was off and climbing.  He knows the game well by this point, and though his initial run out was a little wide, he came back over before the quail blew, and pinned them nicely into their cover.  I let him climb out for a bit, and then started making my way in toward the covey when he was up wind of me.  As I approached the cover, a couple birds got up wide, and started hauling as fast as they could toward the milo.  Stinger rolled over instantly, and came screaming in and caught up right as they were getting to the cover.  I almost started the victory dance right then because it looked like he stroked one pretty solid, but all of a sudden he whipped up hard, and started to climb back out.  I crouched down as far as I could, held my breath while hoping the birds would keep holding, and stayed that way until he came back over head.

 

Once he was back I knew the birds would stay, and I hung out for a minute letting him get up there nice and high.  He did this climb a lot wider than the first one, but knowing how this game was going to play out by now, I waited to rush in until he was dead over head.  The covey exploded all around me, and being in the position that he was this time, I was treated to a tear drop stoop that looked like it was coming straight at my face!  Since he wasn’t as wide as the first slip, he closed in on these birds slightly before they reached the milo this time, dropped below them, and then came up the pipe and bound to a big male bird.  It was a pretty cool flight.

 

I let him chill out for a bit, and then traded him off to a loaded lure.  We sat there together enjoying the morning while he ate, and once he was finished, I hopped him to the fist for a tid bit.  Hooded him up, made my way back to the road, and started walking back toward my truck along the edge of the milo field.  All of a sudden, out of the corner of my eye, I see something shaking violently around in the grass right where the group of quail had put in during the first stoop, and then all movement just stopped.  I walk over, and laying right there at the edge of the milo field, is a dead quail.  Apparently he HAD stroked that first quail, and had hit it pretty darn hard!  Doubles are pretty rare with falcons, and that is one I probably won’t soon forget.  I included below, the hero shot from that flight.

 

Bird's favorite quote?

"I am a dangerous pwedator"

-Stanley-

 

Bird's favorite falconry video?

Snipe Hawking Season 2016/2017

By Eric Witkowski

 

Anything else?

Though I gave little bird hawking from a pitch a shot with the merlin, I wasn't too successful, and ended up just doing ringing flights her.  So that being said, the perlin is the first bird I've really gotten after it with, and it's a total blast!  I would venture to say it's some of the most difficult falconry I have done so far, simply because all of the different kinds of quarry fly in their own unique ways, and slip selection is SO very crucial.  Finding little birds is not too difficult.  Finding little birds in a place that's conducive to a flight is a whole different deal.  I would also guess that I have spent more time and effort on this little guy, than I have with any other bird I’ve flown.  On the flip side though, I would say that I’ve probably had more fun with this bird, than any bird I’ve hawked before.  If this type of hawking is something that interests you, I would highly recommend getting out and going hawking with someone who knows how to do it successfully.  That will give you the opportunity to ask questions, see firsthand what types of setups do and do not work, and see if it’s something you really want to do.

 

Name?

Delta

 

Falconer?

Eric Pribil

 

Species?

Red-Tailed Hawk

 

Sex?

Female

 

Hunting weight?

Her early season weight was around 1250 grams, but she finished the season flying at 1380 grams.

 

Age?

One

 

Wild trapped, or captive bred?

Wild trapped in September of 2016

 

Trapping story, or info about acquisition?

I intended on flying a kestrel and a prairie falcon for the season.  I was out looking for a kestrel with Jere Korthanke one morning, when we drove past a really large red-tail sitting away from the road.  We turned around to get a better look at her, and saw that it was a passage bird.  I couldn't pass up the opportunity to fly a large red-tail, so we set the B.C. and caught her.  I have flown several RTs of varying sizes, but always wanted to fly a large female on jackrabbits...so this was my opportunity!

 

Training?

This bird trained pretty fast.  Her trapped weight was 1335 grams but she was not excessively fat, nor did she have a crop.  That helped when I started working with her.  I focused on getting a good response to the lure so I could free fly her as soon as possible.  I did a lot of weighted jump ups with her to keep her in the best shape I could.  When I am starting a new RT I want to reinforce the habit of staying close to me as we work a field.  I want her to stay near me waiting for game to flush, but I don't want her to be waiting on me to offer her a tidbit or throw the lure.  I was happy with how this bird trained early in the process, and she proved to be a good game hawk throughout the season.

 

Hunting style?

The hunting style for this bird was very typical for a RT, and she regularly took high perches in the field if they were available.  When we hunted jackrabbits in open country without good perches though, she would either ride the fist, or ride on a pole perch if I offered her one. 

 

Preferred habitat?

We hawked in small fields and old farms for cottontails, hardwoods and cottonwood thickets for squirrels, and wide open country for jackrabbits.

 

Typical quarry?

I started this bird on cottontails early in the season.  I also hunted jackrabbits and squirrels throughout the season.

 

Favorite quarry to hawk, and why?

It is difficult to specify if I would rather hawk jackrabbits or squirrels because they are very different styles of flights that are equally exciting.  I do enjoy watching a RT power off the fist after a jack in a long tail chase ending with a hard wingover.  I don't think I will get tired of that.  Sometimes the best flights don't end in a catch.  Jackrabbits have a lot of moves they can pull at the last minute to get away from the bird, and it is fun to watch.

 

Bird's favorite quarry to hawk?

I'm guessing her favorite quarry is fox squirrels because it is less work than catching jackrabbits.  She figured out the game on squirrels by the end of the season, and started working them in the tress and out maneuvered them. 

 

How is the season going?

I'm happy with how this season ended. This bird caught several jackrabbits, a lot of cotton tails and squirrels, and a pheasant.

 

Favorite hawking story?

One of my favorite stories from this season occurred when I was hawking jackrabbits with Dan and Parker Murray, and Jere Korthanke.  We had moved a couple jacks that she had chased but couldn't hang onto.  She had returned to the fist after a miss, and I gave her time to recover before we continued walking.  The group stayed close together as we continued down one side of an irrigation pit.  A jack flushed down hill and the RT left the fist immediately.  She grabbed the jack and rolled a couple times down hill, as the jack tried to get away by pulling her through the brush.  She gained control of the jack, and I got there as quickly as possible.  It is hard to pick one story to tell but we had a great season, and had the opportunity to hawk with a lot of friends and family who had not experienced the excitement of falconry before.

 

Name?

Sooner

 

Falconer?

Oscar Pack

 

Species?

Red-Tailed Hawk

 

Sex?

Female

 

Hunting weight?

40 ounces (1134 grams)

 

Age (Or dates and number of season flown)?

One season as a passage

 

Wild trapped, or captive bred?

Wild trapped

 

Trapping story, or info about acquisition?

In 1971 the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was being adopted, which at that time was referred to as the Mexican Treaty.  It basically banned falconry, in that there was no provision for it.  I guess the mindset was that if nothing said it was alright, then it was illegal.  I had an interest in falconry since my early years.  When I was about eight or nine and a friend of mine brought home a baby hawk, I could not be around it enough!  I helped all I could and it soon was able to fly on a creance, but it was just a string at that time.  I'm not sure what happened to that bird, but one day he just didn't have it anymore.

This experience stayed with me, and I started investigating falconry further.  There was not much available at the time, and falconers were few and far between.  The ones I did meet were very tight lipped, and had nothing encouraging to say about the sport other than stating the difficulties, and were little to no help at all.  I found an add for the book North American Falconry and Hunting Hawks in the back of an outdoor magazine, purchased it, and read it front to rear and back again.

One of the falconers I made contact with, JL Woody of El Reno, was still very tight lipped (believe it or not), but was my only reference.  I tried getting my falconry license through the ODWC, but they were no longer being issued since the treaty.  I wasn't to be denied, so I made traps of all sorts and after a year, finally trapped a passage female red tailed hawk.  After driving what seemed like millions of miles, I ended up catching her about a mile from home on Sooner Road.  In true Okie tradition of starting earlier than the law allowed, I named her Sooner. 

 

Training?

Mostly FL Beebe's technique for goshawks, using a predator call for a whistle, and a welders glove for a gauntlet.  Around five weeks I flew her free.  I would walk through a lightly wooded area near home, she followed well, and came to the glove really good.  I called Woody and told him of my experiences, and he invited me out to El Reno to go hawking and to evaluate us.  I was very cold, low twenties, and we went to the local lake and walked out an area loaded with cottontails.  Sooner was gamey, chased several very hard, and would always return to the fist.  Finally, she caught one off the glove.  I could not have been happier!

 

Hunting style?

Off the fist, and sometimes out of trees.

 

Preferred habitat?

Mostly open prairie.

 

Typical quarry?

We caught mostly cottontails, along with a dozen jacks.

 

Favorite quarry to hawk, and why?

Jackrabbits!  They are fast, strong, and smart runners...the big game of hawking with a RT.

 

Bird's favorite quarry to hawk?

Cottontails

 

 

Favorite hawking story?

Woody and I became close friends, and we spent many hours in the field together with him flying Sam, tiercel harris hawk, and his Cooper's hawk named Tara.  After the treaty was amended to allow falconry, I was inspected by a local game ranger and surprised him that I had already been hawking, and had a bird already (illegally).  I was cited for it, fined twenty five big ones, and appointed care taker of the hawk.  In my experiences, the ODWC has always bent over backwards to be fair.

 

Birds favorite quote?

"Ho, Ho, Ho!!!"

 

Name?

Spike

 

Falconer?

Tim Jessell

 

Species?

Gyr/Peale's bred by Kenny Sterner

 

Sex?

Tiercel

 

Hunting weight?

30.5 - 31.5 oz (879 g)

 

Age?

Hatch 2001, flown hard on game since and still going at 17. He is now being flown on grouse and pheasant by Jonathan Wilde

 

Wild trapped, or captive bred?

Captive bred imprint.  He was pulled at around 18 days old. 

 

Trapping story, or info about acquisition?

Doug Steele had him first. I had an order in w/ Kenny for a brother bird the next year. Doug had some other things going on his life and mentioned to me he might sell him (Spike had been flown one day only in a tame hack). I knew the odds of an imprint being quieter where increased if the imprint changes hands from it’s “eyrie”, also he was young enough to still be “mine” for good or bad, and that he was specimen didn’t hurt. My wife liked the idea of a grown imprint vs all the down and hawk crap from a young one. So, she encouraged me to purchase Spike from Doug. Labor day Spike was mine

 

Training?

 

Remember about no tame hack? Well, he got one (as Oscar put it back in the day):

 

 

My first kite session w/ him, I thought "no problem”. But Spike didn’t like the setup. I foolishly only had a micro transmitter on at the time, and lost the signal twice, as he beelined north. I found him 20 miles from where we started, sitting in the open prairie. This was his 3rd flight ever.  After that, fortunately, he was a machine to the kite, no matter the wind. His first serve was a pigeon he killed from approx. 1000 feet (flying the kite). But immediately after that, he then developed a very wandering eye (this is where his tame hack came in). I would chase him many miles as he blew off the kite. He would never land but just fly. One day chasing him, I saw Spike flying across the middle of Sooner Lake, chasing gulls, wing tip to wing tip. I had to get in front of him/cut him off in all chases. I would swing the lure and he would come right in. This was usually 20 miles. Yes, 20 miles. We’d both be tired, so I’d lick my wounds and go home. One day I had enough, pimped him on the lure when I found him, and took him back to the kite, w/ a “You are eating from the kite today, Bub!”. I lowered it to 800 feet and unhooded him. He was gassed, but he got the bait. From that day forward he stopped his own tame hack, just like that.

 

Hunting style?

 

I apologize for length - but I had this bird for along time ;)

 

 

As we started hawking - I took my time w/ Spike’s kite training, as I was also flying the white warrior hybrid “Cosmo" (hard hitting 28.5 oz demon imprint) - it wasn’t till late Dec. we started getting serious. It wasn’t long before Spike was flying much higher than I even trained him at. His naiveté was an asset. I could fly a pair of mallards on a literal puddle and he would go very, very high. It was impressive. I already knew kiting was a great proactive tool, but I was really cashing in w/ this bird.

 

We then switched to prairie chickens. It wasn’t long before he learned to love them and started catching them - this went on for 14 or 15 seasons. Spike’s style was to take a commanding pitch just upwind (on so-so days, 600-700 feet - on his good days 1000 feet, sometimes higher), and drive through the grouse, right between the shoulder blades (you would see both grouse wings pop up), often killing them on the spot. He wanted nothing to do w/ binding. Spike wanted to drop the hammer and he did (on ducks too).  Yet he never seem to injure himself doing so…… His crazy injuries came other ways. Spike has 9 lives:

 

Visiting family in Indiana over Christmas, I kept Spike in form by throwing bagged pheasants. One day during a quiet snowfall, he wanted to land w/ his quarry on the less snow on the country road (cars were not out due to weather) and he was big and strong enough to do it. I was making my way to him, when I heard a car coming. I started running as fast as I could through the snow, yelling and waving. I watch this bastard line up his Ford Mustang right at Spike and run over him on purpose! I see Spike come tumbling out the backside, literally screaming from pain, as the car drove on. I picked him up and was thinking what an inglorious way for this young bird to go out. After a while though he could stand on the car perch. While driving back, I expected him to fall dead at any moment... he did not. He eventually made a full recovery, w/ no signs of broken bones or anything. One eye was filled w/ blood.

 

Another time I was hawking greater prairie chickens w/ Dr. Dave Eslicker. The chickens flushed prematurely ($#@*!) and Spike went off in hot pursuit. It unfortunately took too long to get to him through the ranch. When we came upon him, I see a gang of redtails. One leaps to the air w/ Spike in her feet. Spike was dropped like a frozen football. Again, looks like he's a goner. I scoop him up and we had back to Dave’s truck. Later, Dave admits that at that point he thinks Spike will be dead before we can even get back to the truck. But miraculously, I see life in his eyes, and say to Dave, “He might make it?”. We get back to Dave’s house and the doc immediately gets an IV going into a vein in Spike’s leg. He also has some steroids he injects, as I recall. Anyway, hawking with a doctor has it’s advantages, needless to say. Spike again survives.  He also survived a anvil stoop from an eagle while on a duck (dodged at the last second), and lived to brag that he did a stare down w/ no less than 5 bald eagles (4 surrounding him, one flapping above him). When I got to him, I could not believe he was not pile of feathers. Spike's also been grabbed in the head twice by redtails, piercing his eye to were it looked like a dried grape, and both times the eye fully healed, as far as I know?  Cue Alice N’ Chain’s “The Rooster”. They come for him, but they can’t kill him.

 

Anyway, back to the hawking. Spike was obviously a “chicken hawk” w/ his size, power, and speed. We took several grouse trips where he did not miss a chance to score - makes for a good trip. He was a treasure to own and fly - but I might be most proud of the ongoing effort to keep his style on ducks up to par. A bird like him can obviously overtake ducks w/out much pitch. He knew and I knew it. We were far from perfect, but w/ enough discipline, Spike stayed in good style into his old age on ducks. He spent his last years often hawking ducks w/ Mitch Wishon and I (the 2 members of the OK Tiercel Peregrine Club) and more than once Mitch would utter, “Old man Spike out flew both our peregrines today”. That was saying something w/ Mitch’s Clyde (passage peregrine) or my “Bolt” or “Blue” (imprint tiercel peales).

 

Preferred habitat?

Nebraska.

 

Typical quarry?

Ducks, grouse, pheasants ( Spike caught some Huns when we went to Alberta, Canada). He was never flown on sage grouse.

 

Favorite quarry to hawk, and why?

My personal favorite is the Hungarian Partridge or Hun (though big Spike was bit overmatched for them). They can thrive among modern agriculture. They don’t fly far when bumped and in Canada they seemed to like to land in the middle of empty harvested wheat (uhh pretty damn good set up). Huns don’t act like pheasants (snakes w/ legs)They seem to be the perfect quarry for the tiercel peregrine - Flights are not as far flung or potentially dangerous as hawking grouse - and when their numbers are good - quality slips are much easier to come by than w/ grouse. It’s a crying shame we don’t have them here.

 

Bird's favorite quarry to hawk?

Grouse. The first huns he saw flushed under him, Spike wouldn’t even stoop (twice) - thought they were meadow larks (which, thankfully, he never showed an interest in in OK - as they can ruin many a flight as we know). 3rd covey he sucked the hun up like candy.

 

Description of the most memorable season?

They tend to run together w/ that many seasons. In his last season w/ me, on Christmas eve afternoon he took a very high pitch, and ended up taking a mallard about half a mile away, out in the middle of the prairie. I got to see the whole big giant stoop. Needless to say, that was a long run to get to him. Great memory and a reminder that Spike still had some “magic” in him.

 

Favorite hawking story?

 

Might be the funniest at least:

 

 

That would be when Matthew Kirkwood and I went out west for early teal season. Matt was flying his young female peregrine. The teal were being teal and flying from pond to pond at the precise moment to avoid capture. I said to Matt, if you want that duck, you better go swimming. He strips down to his tighty whities and goes in. Meanwhile, a gentleman pulls up in his van and asks, “What’s goin’ on?”  I tell him, “We're are chasing ducks w/a falcon (Matt is out of sight)."  He gets out, curious, but quickly it's obvious he just wants to chat. So he’s telling me about something, and from behind the dyke, here comes Kirkwood in now very brown and soaked underwear, sprinting across the dirt road, heading for the other pond - quite the sight. The guy totally “dead pans-it”, never lifts his elbow from leaning on the van, and just slowly turns his head (Jack Benny style), watching Kirkwood disappear behind the other dyke, and proceeds to go back to casually telling his story. Zero reaction.

 

Incredibly damn funny at the absurdity of the sight that was just happening.  He probably went home and told his wife w/ a< “Guess what I saw today?” in a non plussed manor. ;)

 

Bird's favorite quote?

"If you want this duck, dragon(eagle), you gotta come straight through me to get it…"

 

Bird's favorite falconry video?

 

Spike's brothers:

 

"The Boys" Sterner Hybrids Hit Harder #2

 

(Clip taken from Matthew Huston's film Look Up & Wave Your Glove)

 

Anything else?

I think this feature is a great idea. I’ve really enjoyed reading the others. I hope Spike’s adventures have added to it.

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