This article is by a close friend of mine and his first year in Falconry. Hope you enjoy it, Wild Ed
I got a late start last year so I'm in my second season but still in my first year. I trapped my passage male red tail in early December of 2006. His name is Cash and what a great first year we had! I would like to thank my sponsor Wild Ed for putting up with the several thousand miles of driving to get this dream even started not to mention the months of questions that led to the driving. Ed was really there to help or answer question everyday at any time I needed him. He came to my house for my inspection as well as invited me on every trapping trip he went on. Trapping was slow last year and birds were hard to find. I drove nearly 4000 miles in my search for a healthy red tail. On December 10th I decided to drive down near Tilden, TX to have a look because my sponsor and I had been down there earlier in the year and I had spotted a few passage birds but I had not yet received my permits. As soon as the sun peeked from beneath the earth I saw a great looking bird high on a power pole. I tossed the bal chatri and the game was started. I parked down the road a little ways to look back and I could not see the hawk anywhere. I could not see the trap either. Soon I realized that the hawk got the trap and pulled it off the shoulder into some tall grass before I even got parked. I made my way back to the area and removed him from the bal chatri. It was clearly a passage red tailed hawk. I examined him closely because I have found several hawks that appear nice but then discovered bullets holes in them, holes in their crops, broken toes and or talons. This hawk looked healthy but had a large amount of lice and subsequently a lot of feathers eaten. His keel felt about 50% and he weighed 940 grams with a hood and sock on. I decided he was the right hawk for me and returned to Central Texas to start what has become the greatest of adventures.
Cash manned very quickly and always seemed to find something around the yard that scared him more than me. The strangest things would send him into a panic. My kids and dogs could run circles around him and he would never lower his foot, but if a car drove down the gravel road and he heard it coming he would go nuts. Not at the vehicle itself but the sound of it. The AC condenser running has the same affect. My sponsor Ed had a solution or sound advice for every stumbling block I hit and almost made this ancient art feel rather simple. He fed on the fist after the third day and was on the creance by the 5th day. On December 30th he flew free for the first time at 849 grams. Ed and I took Cash to a large field for a few last minute creance flights then Ed said, “Cut him Loose". He flew great and followed well. It was the proudest moment in my life since the last of my 3 children’s birth. We did not find any game that day but treated the time as extended training. Within a week Cash was killing squirrels and rabbits almost every outing. Cash will crash any brush from tall weeds to cedar piles and his feathers are still unbroken. I flew Cash on several species of captive bred fully flighted birds with success as well. I had heard of a few people hunting African Guinea Fowl so I had to give that a try as well. I must say that it truly a humbling experience. Every bird is an eager watchdog and any movement at all will cause an alarm to be set off. And if your hawk does get the opportunity to give a chase the most likely ending will be a hawk sitting on the ground with a fistful of tail feathers hoping he has a bird in the pile somewhere only to be disappointed. I will attempt Guinea Fowl again in the future. Cash learned a lot his first season and so did I. He learned that he had to work hard for his meals and that the days of sitting and waiting for food to run to him was over. I learned that weight control and hunger were not the same thing. I'm still working on the details though. Weight is my biggest challenge to this day and as I become more consistent so do my odds of success.
I can honestly say that my hunting days with Cash far exceeded any expectations I had. I have not touched any of my rifles or my many traditional bows since his first free flight. I put Cash up to molt in late March and began a quail, pheasant, chukar, rat, and button quail breeding project. Needless to say Cash ate very well this summer and it shows. Cash has his adult feathers now and only a few of the lice eaten feathers remain. His head has the most of the damaged feathers but I can see a few new feathers growing in so I think he will look stunning this year. I have already lowered his weight and have hunted him 3 times this season. He is flying in the 980 gram range now but still needs to be dropped some. In his first two hunts he got a fox and a ground squirrel but on the third hunt we did not find a single slip. I tossed a cock pheasant at the end of the hunt and Cash nailed it 30 foot in the air with no problems at all.
This looks like it will be a great year for Cash. With the nice rains we have had and some conservative hunting last year the game populations in my area seem to have improved quite a bit. I also put in some time this summer and acquired nearly ten times the hunting land I had last year allowing me to spread out my hunting to conserve game even more this year. I wish everyone a great hunt this year and look forward to seeing you all at the meet this January.