The Phantom of the Forest Part Two

Hotdoglegs, Going Postal

Some 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 give’s her great agility in flight making them perfectly designed to hunt in Woodland for smaller quarry like rabbits and pheasants.
In a previous article I posted on GP I talked about a Hunt, with a fully trained and entered Bird (entered means she has taken/killed a Rabbit or Pheasant etc).

This article is about how you get the Hawk to that stage.

Part 1 is here if you are interested and not read it. Phantom of the Forest (Part One)

Basic Training

Though much of the equipment has been modernized, the basic method of training a hawk for falconry has not changed since the early days. The general philosophy is to condition the hawk to accept the falconer as a partner in the hunting process while maintaining its natural physical condition and hunting instincts. Training is accomplished through careful weight management, positive reinforcement, and repetition.

The first step in training entails a period known as “manning” which happens as soon as the young Hawk leaves the safety of its parents.
It is during this time that the hawk begins to overcome its fear of people, becomes accustomed to me, the falconer, and learns to associate food with the falconer’s glove.
During the first few days of manning, and many hours with the hawk, the hawk overcomes its initial fear of the falconer it begins to accept food rewards that are placed on the falconer’s glove.
At this time, you need to “Dress” the Hawk, which means fitting soft leather anklets and jesses to each leg and fit Two Lahore Bells to each anklet on each leg.
These Bells will help me locate her later when lost or she has caught prey later on when she is flying free and trained.

The “Jesses” help me secure her once she is sitting on the Glove.

Once this occurs, the hawk is encouraged to step up onto the glove for food rewards. As the training progresses, the hawk will be encouraged to hop, jump, and eventually fly increasingly greater distances to the Glove.
In just a couple weeks the hawk will be flying to the falconer on a light line called a creance, which is secured to one anklet on the Birds leg and the other end is secured to the Falconers Glove.

Hotdoglegs, Going Postal

(all pictures are of Jess)

While on the creance, I place her on a post in a quite field, and let her fly ever greater distances back and to from the post to me, while still attached to the creance, all the time using food as the draw, this will associate me with a food source, very important for the developing relationship between me and the Hawk

Hotdoglegs, Going Postal

Once Jess has started to fly 30-40 meters on the creance, Jess is ready to fly completely free to pursue wild game with the falconer
For many falconers this is the most trying time as it is at this stage that the hawk is most likely to fly away and revert to the wild.
She is free for the first time in her short life, I leave her on a Post, nothing is keeping her with me but the relationship and Bond we have built up.
She looks around, scanning her new world, her sharp intelligent eyes picking up every movement.
I move away from her, she watches me intensely, I walk a good distance away, I gently lift my Glove which is laden with Food to beckon her.

Hotdoglegs, Going Postal

It is finally the moment you have waited for, you trained her for, put in all the hard work for, she launches from the Post in a powerful forward Motion, almost missile like, and heads straight for me and smashes into the glove with her thick Talons to take her reward.
We do it over and over again until the food is gone.

Hotdoglegs, Going Postal

This is a massive step, and we are nearly at the stage where she no longer needs intensive training.
The bond between Jess and myself increases with continued hunting and time together. Forging this relationship with a wild raptor is what falconry is all about.

Hotdoglegs, Going Postal

Falconry represents a unique relationship between a human and a wild animal. The falconer’s commitment to the hawk is deep. He (or she) must serve the hawk’s every need in terms of providing food, shelter, exercise, chances to hunt, and health care. The free-flying hawk has many opportunities to simply fly away and return to the wild. However, in most cases the hawk recognises its bond to its human partner and voluntarily returns time after time to the falconer’s glove and the care he provides.

Hotdoglegs, Going Postal

© хотдогlegs 2018

Audio file