Friday, April 3, 2009

My hunting buddy Taka is starting a new Life

Today was finally the day that I released Taka back into the wild. I have had her since Oct 14th of 08. I trapped her along the highway as she was perched on a utility pole hunting over a field. From that day when we both met our relationship grew into one of trust and admiration. It is a bitter sweet moment for me right now, knowing that when I head to the backyard past the garden to feed the chickens I won't hear her bells as she turns towards the sound of my footsteps, I will miss the inquisitive look she gives me as I enter her mews to feed her each day, I can still hear the soft chirps she lets out when she is feeding from my fist. The beauty of her flight and the power of her glide as she closes in on her prey. Taka was special to me for many reasons; the most notable reason is that several years ago when I started falconry I trapped a similar hawk, who had the same grace and powerful stare that only a red tail hawk could give, her name was cova and cova was an awesome hawk. I trapped Cova on Sept 26 2001, approx two weeks after 911 on Pennsylvania's most popular Hawk mountain, but do to my negligence, cova died and it happened a day before Christmas. It was the saddest day of my life. As I started to learn the art and practice of falconry I developed an ethos that I would follow, and that would be to trap a wild hawk, train her to hunt with me and at the end of the season return the hawk back to the wild in a much better physical state when I trapped her. I failed to do that with Cova, she died of a terrible disease called aspergillosis and it was because her condition was low for to long. When Cova died I vowed that I will never lose another hawk to my negligence again. And so sometime went by and after a few tours of duty I finally found some time to pursue the sport again and on that sunny mid afternoon of Oct 14th of 2008, I found Taka and committed myself to training her effectively and to one day release her back into the wild physically fit and mentally strong to deal with the harsh environment that nature will throw upon her, and here we were today on top of Pine mountain overlooking the valley with the breeze in my face and streaming through her feathers. She is looking at the mountain tops and in an instant she crouches back and leaps forward. Today there would be no whistle to call her back, there would be no fist full of food to entice her to return, because today she is finally free and as she flies of into the mountain side I see her turn her head to look back at me and all I could say is "thank you." "Thank you Taka for giving me another chance to make this right and thank you for gracing me with your presence, for you will truly be missed." Happy Hawking
Oct-14-08 thru Apr-3-09


ChristyACB said...

Wow. That is pretty profound! I've never been very close to one and I can't imagine hunting with one.


When you trap them, do you time it for their mating and nesting cycles? How do you know which ones to get and which ones are mated and the like? I'm very curious.

I sure hope you see her again in the wild. That was very moving.

ATW said...

Christy- Our federal regulations state that we can only trap starting sept 1 of every year. We can only trap immatures and the way you can tell an immature from an adult redtail are the bars on their tails. An adult red tail will have a full red or orange tail and immatures would have bars or black bands and no coloring.

When I trap it's for the hunting season which is the fall and winter. Red tails mate in the spring, it's perfect for them because they produce young when other young animals have just been born and don't have a clue about their surroundings. It makes it easy for the parents to catch a several heads of game and feed the hungry chicks a steady supply of meat and when the young get to flying size they are able to hunt just like mom or probably dad and when they get to big they are literally kicked out of the nest and chased away. that happens around mid to late summer.

So when the goofey falconer guy (me) comes riding along with his trap and gets one. I pretty much have a bird that has already been hunting on their own but is still to naive to figure life out. Immatures are pretty easy to train and Taka was free flying from my fist into the woodline and chasing squirrels 10 days after I trapped her. She was a great hawk with a wonderful personality.

Part of my training was to be able to identify hawks and other birds of prey by sillouete, wing beats and other behavior. I could pretty much look up into the sky and identify the dark mass thats flying around by the shape of its wings and tail and how the flight pattern is. The sexual dimorphism for birds of prey in North America is Size. The females tend to be larger than the males.

Taka will go on and find a mate and her and her mate will stay together forever, they will secure their own hunting grounds and raise young their for the next thirty years. It's an amazing sport.

Kenneth Moore said...

Christy, I second you.


The way you talk about Taka and Cova... It's so... Penetrating? It's just so honest, and true, and damned touching.

I hope Taka does well, and next season, maybe you'll see some of her kiddies. :-D

That's another thing, however, that indoor gardeners can't easily do. Keep a hawk. Worms, however, oh yes, worms I will be getting!

Rosengeranium said...

Moving post! Like Kenneth will I do keep worms - but you can't bond to a worm cluster in the way you bond to a hawk. Good luck with your next apprentice!

Anonymous said...

Nice post -- I think you capture the intensity a falconer feels toward his bird beautifully.

Rachel Dickinson

ATW said...

Kenneth, Rosen and Rachel: thanks for the comments. It takes an unbelievable amount of emotional responsibility and selflessness to return a hawk back into the wild. I really tested my grit the other day. I noticed in the photos I was smiling and I realized at that moment how although very saddened to see her go I was happy to be there at that moment and be the one to let her loose. It's an understatement to say that I am not torn by it all, but going forward it has deepened my passion for the love of falconry and what it means to me. So thanks for sharing this with me. ANd BTW; Do not undersestimate the Power of the Worm!!!

Questa7 said...

What a beautiful and very personal post. I cried reading it...thanks for sharing. I can't imagine your feeling letting her go. What an ecstatic sadness.

ATW said...

Questa- Thanks for the comment. Ecstatic sadness; the perfect discreption.