Monday, January 21, 2008


The wind blows and the temperature plummets every year as I make my annual trip to the West Texas town of Abilene. It is strange that we may have short sleeve weather the week before but almost like clockwork the cold comes just in time for the meet. The Texas Hawking Association was again having the yearly gathering of Falconers from Texas and points around the rest of this Nation and a few even from other countries for the twenty seventh year in a row. The meet is held in Abilene because of the central location and large expanses of property with friendly people that have opened their gates to those that have an addiction for flying Hawks and Falcons. Abilene is a game rich mecca that always seems to have plenty of Cottontail and Jackrabbits for the falconers that fly hawks. The many stock ponds in the area shelter numbers of ducks to pursue for those that fly falcons. This year would prove to be an exception as far as the rabbit population, as we would soon find out.

The temperature gauge on my truck read 18 degrees as we loaded up for our first hunt of the day. We nearly always have found a lot of game for the hawks in Abilene but this year many of us could not produce rabbits for the birds. There were plenty of ducks for the falcons to fly even if some of the local ponds were freezing over. Rabbit populations run in cycles and when the population gets too large for the habitat, Mother Nature will correct the problem and there will be a large die off of the population. The population will rebound but it is a 7-10 year cycle. This year was a die off year in this part of Texas. We covered miles taking turns flying the hawks to take one rabbit for three hungry hawks. The one rabbit taken was pursued with reckless abandon and unbelievable vertical stoops ending in a crash to the brush and ground at full force. Four of these fearless dives from the sky were made while we pushed the cottontail from hiding. Each time I thought we would have to scrape Cash, Dustin McCoy’s Red Tailed Hawk, off the ground. On the fifth dive Cash connected and a rabbit was caught. Later the suggestion was made to add an R to Cash’s name and call him CRASH because of the way he hits the ground after prey.

The next day would be even worse as far as seeing prey for the hawks. The miles of walking through the brush and cactus would not produce even one rabbit for the hawks. What many non-falconers don’t understand is that we had a great day. We were out in nature flying one of the most magnificent predators that Mother Nature ever produced, the birds had not gotten hurt and were safely back to the falconers to fly another day. We had made our best effort to produce game and it was not the falconer’s nor the hawk’s fault that game could not be found on this day. What else could you ask for?

The meet headquarters was the Howard Johnson which has a very large area in which the group could get together and share the stories of the day’s hunt. There was an area fenced off outside in which the hawks and falcons could be weathered during the day when they were not flying. We had a great banquet and good food along with being among a fantastic group of people that many of us see only once a year. We always have a raffle and auction to raise funds for the club and this year we had a number of really nice items. Our thanks and appreciation go out to all those that donate items to the raffle. I hope that the members remember these companies and individuals when you need some gear or work in the next year. Awards were presented to those that have taken from their own and their family’s time to do volunteer work for the club. These people along with the club officers make great sacrifices of time and expense to make sure falconry remains a viable sport and that the club functions to represent the membership. My thanks go out to all of the Texas Hawking Association Officers. These dedicated people spend more time that most members would ever imagine so that we can have a good meet and continue our sport. Most of the officers get to practice very little falconry during the meet because of doing all the work so the rest of us have things run smoothly. Most hunters could never imagine what it takes to preserve this traditional way of hunting nor do they recognize the dedication to the raptors that a falconer must have. After all, a hawk or falcon can not be locked away in a gun safe between hunts.

I want to thank those that won awards for their service and work in support of the club and others. In fear that I would leave someone out as my memory gets worse each year I will not list names, you know who you are. I do want to give a hearty thank you to all of you as falconry would surely suffer without your efforts. I also would like to give a special thanks to all the landowners in the Abilene area that open their lands to falconers so that we can fly the birds and continue this great sport. Without your generosity we could not have this meet each year. That being said I do want to name one person of which I am very proud. Dustin McCoy, a good hunting buddy of mine was awarded the “Apprentice of the Year” for his falconry along with his dedication to the sport and his bird. Well done my friend, may your hawks always be fast and hit hard. Wild Ed

Dustin McCoy and Cash

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