The Phantom of the Forest

Hotdoglegs, Going Postal

Bit of History and description

I have been doing Falconry for the last 16 years and have had various Birds of Prey, mostly English Goshawks and the south American Harris Hawk, The Harris Hawk will be the one you usually handle at Falconry events if you have ever been too one.

My Main Bird is A Female Harris Hawk named “Jess” which I have been flying for 16 years now, she has beautiful burnished conker coloured wings with a white tipped tail and sharp intelligent eyes.
Her compact rounded wings gives her great agility in flight making them perfectly designed to hunt in Woodland for smaller quarry like rabbits and pheasants

All those 16 years have been a pleasure, a sentimental reminder of Days gone by, keeping alive the ancient art of falconry and Heritage.

The Preparation

The average hunt with Jess will go like this: I’ll remove the hooded bird from a transport box with a perch inside it. (the hood allows her to relax and not start hunting before the falconer is ready), I remove her bullet jesses (which secure her to the perch) and replace with thin, removable strips of leather called jesses which dangle from anklets from her legs, these are to hold her securely if need be by myself.

She has a bell securely attached to each anklet on each leg, these are for me to locate her if she catches anything and I have lost sight of her, invaluable piece of Equipment, I have lost count on how many times where I have located her by the bells only.

But Jess doesn’t care about her jesses, bells or any of the equipment, she cares about dinner. Once she is geared up, the hood is removed and the world becomes hers again. She rests on my heavy leather Gauntlet and we head off into the forest and fields off Cheshire, she is alert and focused, her pupils dilate and contract rapidly, focusing intensely on any movement in the thick scrub.

Jess is at her ideal flying weight. Close to what she would maintain if she was in the wild – lean and hungry enough to hunt, there are only a few ounces between a birds flying weight and them being either under or over weight.

Too heavy she will not hunt, to light and she will self-hunt herself and totally ignore you once free, (she will basically act like a wild bird) I have to weigh her every day to get her at the right weight for the day of the Hunt.

Hotdoglegs, Going Postal

The Hunt

She is free to fly now, nothing is keeping her with me but the relationship and Bond we have built up over the past 16 years, when she is ready, she takes off from the Glove for a high branch or waits on in the wind and watches me below her. My job is to scare a rabbit or Pheasant out of the cover. Her job is to catch it, which if successful, I will humanely despatch quickly myself to stop any unnecessary suffering for the Game.

Hotdoglegs, Going Postal

Every time you release a hawk for a hunt, there’s a chance you’ll never see her again. A bird that associates its human partner with food usually flies back to your fist when you call it, but the choice is always the birds.

The stakes in that matter couldn’t be higher in that regard, every hunt could be your last. So you savour it. So you pay attention, I have lost her a couple times, sometimes for hours or overnight, but she is familiar with the Land we fly on and seems to hang around the area until I catch her up again.

Your bird follows above you, through the trees, through the dappled autumn sunlight, graceful and perfect, like a Phantom of the Forest drifting from tree to tree, you hike clumsily with a beaters stick through the thick thorny scrub and hope you will spook a rabbit for that rush you are seeking.

If any game is sent running from cover, poetry happens. The hawk sees its quarry and takes it in a dramatic stoop or slip as we call it, it could be over in seconds or it could be a low level chase for a minute or two as the Rabbit darts, turns sharply in its attempted escape. She may take the game or it might slip away, but regardless, I have caught what I was really hunting for, witnessing the try. It is beautiful and breath-taking, even now after 16 years, it’s like the very first time I witnessed it.

The whole experience when you are out with her lets you forget everything else that is happening in the world, from The Brexit betrayal, the state of the nation and Poofta’s sordid “Tales from the Caravan” to late payments of mortgages, for a while.

I hope I am able to do this for the rest of my life. The entire process – from learning to look for a hawk, obtaining it, and then crafting it into something beautiful is a real achievement and a joy to watch the end product.

Hotdoglegs, Going Postal

This Type of Hunting is not about Quantity, it is about quality and pleasure, if its lots of kills you want, go to a pheasant shoot.

Hope you enjoyed the Article

© хотдогlegs 2018

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