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Joe Doggett's Houston Chronicle Article on Falconry

Stories of Mine Published in the THA Magazine

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Cisco - A new RT

12/3/05 - Cisco one minute off the trap. At this point I was thinking, "this is the scruffiest looking redtail I have ever seen." Little did I know. (Picture by Krys Langevin)

Right after capture, a terrified Cisco is subdued by Roger Crandall. Notice the notches in his tail feathers
(Picture by Krys Langevin)

12/18/2005 - An exuberant Randell Kocurek with his freshly caught RT "Neptune" (Picture by Clark Kocurek)

12/29/2005 Cisco up at Covenant Kennels in Montgomery, TX

Background: Bravo took off to parts unknown on the Sunday after Thanksgving. Not a trace seen in spite of a radio broadcast, and notification of THA, TPWD, and some local rehabbers. For about a week, I checked the area where he was lost - it's near my house so I still drive around with an eye open.

Newest Updates at Bottom

12/3/2005 - Cisco Trapped on Roger Crandall's New BC
This important day was originally left off. After being discouraged by the lack of immature birds in SW Houston on Friday afternoon, I called Roger Crandall and drove to Ft Worth. On the way up, I ran out of gasoline, but manged to coast more than a 1/2 mile to a gas station pump. I caught up with Roger and a gang of dirt hawkers flying redtails and Harris' hawks. Jeff Cattoor's Harris hawk, Black Jack, caught a bunny, then we flew Aaron Hegeman's redtail, Veruka, also catching a rabbit. During all of this we caught Cisco, initially named Charger, out in the back of a VFW. One more reason to thank our veterans. We had put my trap out, but it was too close to the building. Roger snuck his trap to a corner of the field and the bird was caught. He weighed 34 ounces (964 grams) a few hours later with hood and jesses. When trapped, he had a full crop, broken and beat up tail feathers, with shock marks and notches in his primaries. (Updated 5/9/2008: He also has a chronic wing injury that causes him to fly a bit lopsided.  Nevertheless he is an efficient squirrel and rabbit hawk, catching over 150 head of game in three seasons in Houston.)   He had a substantial bite wound on the base of the large talon on the left foot. (Note added 8/12/2006: this wound took about five or six months to heal) He attacked a BC trap on an 80 degree afternoon. Amazing. Scars on his feet indicated he has caught squirrels. He'll be a looker when he molts. Obviously a scrappy little RT.

12/17/2005 - I Need a Transmitter
He does not look quite this stressed now. This is exactly two weeks and he is about ready to fly loose. He would not let me walk ten feet from the training perch this morning, and has flown over 60' on the creance. A very tame bird with awful plumage, but he will look great when he molts. Tha
t notch in his tail is not an optical illusion. He tamed down right away, but wouldn't eat on the fist. Jim Ince got him irritated enough and offered a pigeon. He munched down on it and has been rolling along since. Thanks Jim. Trapped with a full crop at 998 grams (questionable weight as he weighed 964 grams just a few hours later) , he was a svelte and responsive 816 grams this morning. If I could get my L.L. XLF3 transmitter, I'd let him fly loose.
12/26/2005 - Cisco Flies Free

This is day 23. He was ready at least a week ago, but I didn't get a transmitter on him until today. I cut his mew jesses short to make field jesses, and put a stretchy hair tie around his neck for the transmitter. He tolerated it OK, but I think I will do a tail mount. He was at 817 this morning, his low was 803 about 4 days ago (Correction nine years later: that should have read 17 days ago). He is responding eagerly, coming without being called so he doesn't get rewarded sometimes. Today he flew about eight or ten times, varying distances to about 150' feet. It's hard to get away from him, but when he flies prematurely, I send him back to the training perch without a reward. He will fly back to the training perch from about 50' and turn around ready to be called. He interprets any kind of a glance toward him as a call. He seems a little lean so I may increase his weight until he shows some delay in reaction. He ate three mice today - two in the park, then I gave him a third on the lure in his weathering yard.
12/26/2005 - Cisco in his weathering enclosure. Taken the same day that he first flew
loose at the baseball park - (notice the fine Chuck Redding designed bow perch)

12/27/2005 - Cisco's First Outing
Yesterday Cisco flew loose at the ball park. Today Jim Ince and I took him out to chase rabbits. First I helped Jim install a tail mount for a transmitter, and then we took Cisco and Gaucho out for a little hunting. Cisco up first - had never been out in the field, at least as a falconry bird. He started off by screaming and bating a little ,and landing on every cow paddy that we passed (that's his quirk, apparently) while Jim was beating the bushes for rabbits. Cisco was obviously trying to impress my sponsor. At some point we let him take off on his own rather than making him stick to the fist. He went to a tree, and launched an attack on a sparrow, which escaped. He followed us around, panhandled briefly, then made a hard attack at a mound in the field. Turns out there was a lark there, which just barely escaped. He actually looked surprised when he came up empty. This guy is a small bird hunter, and serious about it . Neither attack looked like an accident. Too bad there were no quail out there. But Cisco went from goofing around to seriously hunting in about fifteen minutes. While we were beating the brush he was watching intently. After about forty-five minutes we started to eat into Gaucho's flying time. I called Cisco down (instant response), fed him up a little, and walked back to Jim's truck. He spotted Gaucho sitting on the screen perch, showed a little too much interest, so I put him up.

Next it was Gaucho's turn. He put on a good show, putting in a couple of 200 mph stoops on some birds, but came up empty. But watching that peregrine fly is always entertaining.

Bush Park out west - good looking area, no game.

Up in Montgomery with Gregg Barrow - no game but Cisco did roll around in the field. Who knows?

Flew Cisco again, no game. Took Gaucho out, he had some good flights, came up empty - almost got hit by a car.

12/30/2005 - Out looking for non-existent lagomorphs with Jim Ince (Picture: Jim Ince)

12/30/2005 - Good picture by Jim Ince
jim_gaucho_2.jpg12/30/2005 - Jim getting Gaucho ready to attack some game birds (Picture: Chuck Redding) jim_guacho_1.jpg
12/30/2005 - Jim and Gaucho Almost Ready
(Picture: Chuck Redding)

12/31/2005 - My Hawk Survives New Year's Eve
Last year at this time I was trying to act like I was enjoying our neighborhood
New Year's Eve party. In fact I was depressed about having Alex the kestrel chased off by a female sharpie that very morning.
This afternoon I took Cisco out to fly at some rabbits, whatever they are. Matt Reidy told Jim Ince about a field up off Jones Road and West Road, northwest of the house. I got there, stomped around a little bit, and there was catchable stuff in that field. There was also an enormous adult hen RT up on a nearby power transmission tower. I didn't feel comfortable. So I looked around farther out and ended up at Cy-Fair High School. I let Cisco fly to the T-perch - some training. He did fine, learned very fast, and I can end up this year with a hawk - having lost three in the last twelve months, I can only say, "Happy New Year."
1/2/2005 - Cisco Chases Bunnies
Thanks to Matt Reidy, Cisco finally got some flights at rabbits. Earlier this week Jim (Ince) told me that Matt Reidy, down here for a wedding, had found a rabbit field. I talked to Matt and learned that it was near the intersection of Jones and West Roads. Since last Tuesday, I have taken Cisco out every day to chase rabbits and haven't seen one. Twice with Jim, once with Gregg Barrow up in Montgomery, and a couple of times by myself. Five locations, no bunnies. On New Year's Eve, I took Cisco to the same spot where I flew him today, but given that it was the one year anniversary of Alex's untimely disappearance, and the fact that there was an enormous haggard hen RT up on the transmission tower, I decided to go do a little T-perch training instead.

Today I went back. He had about five or six flights at cottontails, one so close that I thought he had him. But all of them good determined flights, no pass overs. This area is a little scrubby field across from some apartments, and some power transmission lines run along the back. 4-wheelers play around near by. Hardly pristine, but lots of bunnies.

Cisco is into the game, follows well, but doesn't like sitting on the T-perch for too long. That's fine with me, since it's hard to move through the brush carrying the hawk on the T-perch. But he will fly to it instantly. At one point today he flew to some smaller power lines, the kind I hate. I whistled him back immediately - he landed on the power pole and turned around so fast that I had no time to get a tidbit ready. So I had him fly from my gloved hand to my un-gloved hand holding a tidbit. The first and last time I do that.

One time today, Cisco took off for a tree. En route, he must have spotted something, because he did a little wing-over and crashed into the underbrush. I worked my way to where he was. I couldn't get to him and he couldn't fly directly to me so he ran serpentine around the little tree/bushes to where he could hop to my fist. It was comical.

Cisco has a number of small scars on his feet, and a healing wound at the base of one of his talons, where something apparently bit him. He's a scrappy little hawk, as I saw today. This is a bird that with a
full crop attacked Roger's trap on a hot afternoon. He has tangled with some creatures during his short life that were not as impressed with him as I am.
1/6/2006 - Cisco Draws Blood
Went out this morning to the "Matt Reidy" field. I put Cisco up in his tree. He flew around, made an attack, then returned to his tree perch. He starts flying, hovering like a kestrel, then lights on some tiny branches, but watching the ground. Suddenly he attacks, a rabbit screams. I run over to where he is, and the eyeball of the bunny is sticking out. Cisco has him by the head, but I wring its neck anyway. First bunny and game caught for the season. I tidbitted him off it. A small cottontail. Into the cooler the bunny goes and I drive to work, with Cisco staying in the hawk box at Baker Hughes. Cisco's a hunting hawk, and a good one. Not just a game catcher but he's active and flies around a lot.
1/7/2006 - My Sponsor Finds a Field and Cisco Strikes Twice at The "Gold Fire" Field
Went out early this morning south of town with Greg Carrier and Jim Ince. Jim called me last night, not knowing that Cisco had scored that morning. Anyway, Jim found a field full of rabbits down near where he flies Gaucho. Cisco did great, lots of long flights, brush crashing, etc. He grabbed one rabbit after a nice flight, but it got loose after screaming for thirty seconds. Then as we were wrapping up, we went over to get my jacket off a fence. Cisco was on the T-perch. He caught a rabbit that was about four or five feet in front of us. Good eyes, these hawks. One minute he was on the pole, the next in the briers with a rabbit caught.

1/7/2006 - While I tickle his chin, Jim attaches the transmitter
(Greg Carrier)

1/7/2006 - Cisco and I with Greg Carrier
(photo: Jim Ince)

Cisco with rabbit - 1/7/2006 (Greg Carrier)

Cisco with his rabbit at Goldfire field (Jim Ince)

1/13/2006 - Travels with Cisco - Day 1 - Another Rabbit Slain
I drove to Abilene with Cisco in the hawk box. This is the weekend of the THA Annual Field Meet. I got to the Whitten Inn and talked to some folks about a rabbit field. Poor Cisco had not been out since last Saturday. The instructions that I got were to "take a right at that porn place, go down the road until it T's, then take a left." Well I did. I weighed Cisco. He was at 830, which is fine. I got him rigged up and wandered around this area by myself. He attacked some rat-like creature that escaped in the cactus, and made a valiant attempt at some doves. He was definitely hunting, but then I heard some falconers yelling not too far away. So I called Cisco down and hooded him, and walked down to where they were. With him on my fist I watched another red tail chase a rabbit or two. I was about to put Cisco up when somebody says, "Is your bird still at weight?" Sure I said. The guy says, "Let's hunt him." So I unhooded him. He immediately spotted something up on the hill,was riveted to it, but I was not ready to release him. He then flew up to a pole on a little hill. We started working the field, so I called him to the T perch. Walking across the field we kick up a bunny. Cisco chases it around a dirt mound, lands, but the rabbit unwisely tries to make a run for it. A wing-over, a crash and a rabbit is screaming. Cisco has his third rabbit in a week.

The meet is fun. Roger and Claudia, Gregg Barrow, Jeff Catoor, John Graham are all up here. I'm updating this log from my hotel room at the Whitten Inn. Tomorrow we go rabbit chasing at 0800. Jeff Catoor's and Roger Crandall's Harris' hawks (Black Jack and Chucky) will be the opening act for Cisco tomorrow.

Cisco maintaining his fighting weight in Abilene

1/14/2005 - Travels with Cisco - Day 2 - Doing All Right
Took him out this morning, a little over weight (850). We hunted with Roger and Jeff's HH's who combined to catch a rabbit. Cisco worked with a dog in a brush pile, had a decent flight a rabbit, then we broke for lunch. After lunch we drove out to a place that had both jacks and cottontails. Jeff's Black Jack flew first, chased some jacks wouldn't close on jacks, but did catch a cottontail on the way back to the car.

I didn't want to fly Cisco high in weight, in breezy conditions, in the open. So we went after cottontails under the trees. He caught a wood rat in some cactus, but a woman in the group approached him and he carried. He didn't fly too far, so I had everyone stay back. He was on the ground and showed no interest in carrying when I approached. He had already broken into the rat, and he swallowed the balance. I let him eat it and did not bother him. Probably a good reinforcement to him that I am not stealing food. So since last Friday he has caught three rabbits and a wood rat. Not bad. He also knows the difference between me and a stranger. He is now fat - a hefty 905 about an hour after he caught the rat. He won't fly tomorrow.
1/15/2006 -
Travels with Cisco - Day 3 - A quiet day
He was at 850 at noon - never got on weight so I went out with RT guru Greg Thomas toward the end of the day. Greg wrote the redtail chapter in North American Hunting Hawks, which I had read and studied. He flew his 21 year old hen RT, out in the same field where Cisco caught a rabbit on Friday. She could not make it to a high pole, possibly a little low, or maybe bored. Nevertheless one of the most impressive looking raptors that I have ever seen. Put her up and flew his intermewed passage RT, Jack. Jack quickly caught a rabbit The THA group went out to the steak house after, and I drank a couple of Wild Turkeys on the rocks. There are still a lot of folks here. Plan to leave in the morning at about 1000.

A picture of Greg and Sandra Thomas, their RT's Jack and (21 year old) Lady, and the pups, Marcel and Maggie. This picture, by Greg Thomas taken in Noblesville, Indiana.

Greg and SandraThomas, with Lady and Jack. Lady caught a black-tail jack the same day (Taken around 1/17/2006 in Abilene TX, by Steve Oleson)

January 16, 2006
Roger Crandall []
Sent: Tuesday, January 17, 2006 2:00 AM
To: Sheldon Nicolle; Murphy, Noel; Ryan Sandstrom;; Laura Culley; Kurt Reineck; Krys Langevin; Jeff Cattoor; Gregg and Soo Barrow; Cody Fields; Aaron Hegeman
Subject: Cisco: A Brutal Killer

Had a great day hawking this afternoon,
Witnessed an amazing flight while out flying with Chuck Redding. Chuck stopped by Fort Worth for an overnight stay on his way back to Houston from Abilene.Thought we'd try and get a bunny slip for his red tail Cisco (trapped in Fort Worth a couple months earlier). We first flew my cast of tiercel harris's. The first time Chucky and Chili have flown together. problems. Aside from the wind making things impossible for them, they did very well together. No crabbing. Got several good flights although they all went straight up wind.

Next was Cisco's turn. We went to the Pepsi field hoping for at least a couple good slips. We approached from the east to give the hawk a straight up-wind shot at the telephone poles. Cisco had other ideas though and flew over to the imbankment near the corn field (not porn field........................Jeff). After messing around for about 15 minutes, he finally made it up to one the telephone poles and started hunting. Within a minute or so, it was clear he saw something across the field. Thought he was going to bail off two or three different times before he finally did. He flew out over the embankment on the far side of the field (and like a giant kestrel) started to hover. Being the closest to the action, I ran over for the flush and just caught the last 15 feet of the stoop. Cisco fell like two pound anvil from 30-40 feet up and pounded that bunny directly into the cottontail rabbit afterlife. It didn't even scream. It made no noise and was dead when Chuck made in. No stretching required. Made my day!


The Three Amigos: Cisco, Chucky, and Chili

Cisco After His Amazing Flight

1/16/2006 continued
The Buzzard Strikes Again (my description of the same incident in Ft Worth)

I left Abilene and drove to Ft Worth. Roger Crandall and I first flew his Harris hawks, Chuckie and Chili, in a cast. They did well together in a windy industrial park. The two had never flown together before. Chased rabbits as a warmup for Cisco (hah!). He weighed in @ 844 just a couple of hours before we took him out today. After flying the Harris's, we then took Cisco to another place by a Pepsi plant. He acted sluggish and landed in small trees with tiny limbs. Roger asked if the bird was in shape. I said yes, I thought so. That question was answered shortly. Cisco finally flew to a light pole while Roger and I beat the brush. He looked intently out over the field, then flew over Roger's head still looking down. Roger flushed the rabbit and Cisco flew back over the middle of the field, hovering and following. Suddenly he dove straight down. I looked straight across and at eye level saw him still accelerating and he must have hit the ground going about 50 mph. Not a sound from the brush. Roger yells, "he's got a rabbit!" I couldn't believe it. What's more, I think the rabbit was already dead when I got to Cisco, only a few feet away. I pulled the head off the body and Cisco ate it. This flight was one for the highlight films.

Later the same day we took Chucky the HH and Jeff's HH, Blackjack to a mall for some roost hawking. They caught some deprecating birds and scared the bejesus out of them, which is the point of the whole exercise.

He put on weight overnight - was @ 871 grams in the morning. No flying on Tuesday. This bird may fly fine @ 840 which is good.

1/18/2006 - Nothing Much

Cisco and I went hunting at Matt's field this morning. As usual he did just great but I did not give him good enough slips. He pursued a lot of rabbits but that place is tough. Too many tiny little trees to deal with. He cannot fly through them. I will try to set him up in the far tree and then drive rabbits to him. That may make a difference. Another place closer to house would be good.

1/21/2006 Cisco and Chuck's Excellent Adventure.
All's well that ends well. The day began with high hopes. Jim Ince called this morning asking if it would be OK if Joe Dogget could join us at the hawking field. I said OK of course. Cisco was at a perfect weight - 850 gms which would put him in the 830 range by the afternoon.

When I got out to the "Gold Fire" field I was ahead of the crowd so I got Cisco ready. Pretty soon the other folks showed up. These consisted of Jim Ince, Chronicle columnist Joe Doggett, Randell and Christopher Kocurek and another fellow named Vernon McGaw. Joe wanted some pictures for an article - Cisco was about as cooperative as he is when being hooded. Turned his head away. At any rate he flew to a tree and Joe asked me to call him down so that Joe could get a picture. Cisco suddenly flies about a 1/4 mile off. It turns out that he was after a haggard RT that was eating something. I followed and somehow get Cisco confused with the haggard which I chased across the tollway. Deja vu. I don't have my cell with me as as it was in the car. So I left everybody behind not wanting to lose sight of Cisco. Meantime Cisco is patiently following me while I am not even aware of it. I am following the electric transmission towers and lines which run east. The haggard bird was eating - that should have been my clue, but I'm not that bright. When I approached he flushed. I heard a bell and the telemetry was telling me that I had the right bird. I ignored the signals being stronger 180 out (where Cisco was). Finally I decided to go back and get my vehicle. Just as I headed back I heard a bell and a peep. There's Cisco looking down curiously from the top of a tall transmission tower. This is probably at least twenty-five minutes after this all started. Out with the lure and down he comes. Randell and Chris were waiting a few hundred yards west, so I caught a ride back to the field. The gang wanted to go fly the peregrine, but I stayed to catch a rabbit. There weren't any.

1/22/2006 – Flights Like This Make Rats Look Like Respectable Quarry

The weather today was horrible. Chilly, which is good, but drizzly and often raining hard, with lightning. The weather made Stephanie wisely bow out – she was going to go with me.

I weighed the bird at about 3:00 pm, he was at 844 grams. I made another new T-perch, and headed out at about 4:15. Drove through thunder and rain to Matt Reidy field. I parked the van in the mud as the rain came down – didn't look promising. Suddenly the rain stopped. I put the telemetry on, switched to field jesses, unhooded him, grabbed the new T-perch and headed out. He didn't feel like flying in the mist. He went to his tree, and I beat the bush. No rabbits. He flew way out to the middle of the field, did a wing-over, and plunged into the brush. Nothing. Some morons in pick up trucks drove onto the area about a hundred and fifty yards off, doing spin-outs and churning up the mud. I was about to hood the bird and leave, when he flies a short way to a tree. He looks over the field, flies straight out, does a beautiful wing-over, and a vertical stoop. A rat. Works for me, works for him. I made in and let him eat. I weighed him at the house – he was at 921. So the rat was a couple of ounces. Nice crop. Not a bad way to end the week, especially after yesterday's trek.

1/26/06 – Transmitter Tracking Exercise

I flew Cisco to the T-perch in the backyard for a couple of mornings this for exercise, 12’ jump ups. Today it was back to business. He was in the mid 840’s in weight. Out to Matt Reidy field for bunny catching before work. I put his transmitter on, but it fell off almost immediately and I didn’t notice. So I beat the bushes for him, saw no rabbits. He flew around and I tried another part of the field that had a stream through it. I will try that area later on. He crashed into the brush a couple of times, probably after birds, or maybe rats, but I flushed no rabbits. I had to go to work, so I called him down, and was walking back to the car when I noticed his transmitter was gone. I put Cisco in the hawk box and started tracking with the receiver. It was frustrating, because I had a pre-conceived notion of where the transmitter was. The receiver said close, but the only close perch was right by the car. I found it hard to believe that he lost it that quickly. There it was, under the tree. And of course while walking over to pick it up I flush a rabbit. All’s well that ends well.


1/27/2006 - Another Rabbit Taken at Matt Reidy Field
He weighed 838 grams when we left the house. Cisco and I went out the field and hunted on the other side of the detention pond. It's more open and should produce better slips at bunnies. Well, we didn't see any rabbits for a while but he and I ganged up on a poor little field mouse that was hiding in a clump of grass. Cisco was footing the mound while I poked with a stick. The mouse made a clean getaway after about five minutes, so we went back to rabbit hunting. At about 1000, Cisco was up in a little tree, when he suddenly launched an attack at a little gulley. A rabbit screamed, and Cisco had him. I yanked its head off and let him eat it. He will be heavy tomorrow. I called Roger Steinsiek this evening to offer the overweight hawk excuse for tomorrow's early morning hunting expedition. Seven quarry total. Five rabbits and two rats.

1/28/2006 - Cisco's an Efficient Rabbit Catcher, Even Fat
This morning I drove Cisco to Pearland where Karen Ritchie of TransTec Machine had kindly offered her property for some rabbit hawking. I had planned to show Roger and his son, Kenny, how an overfed redtail will sit in a tree. Yesterday I let him eat a full rabbit head. Today, just before hunting, I weighed him. 866 grams, the highest weight that he has ever flown loose. No problem. He set to his task, we flushed a 2 lb cottontail, and he caught it. His current tally is now six rabbits and two rats. He had a tremendous perch, one of the easiest setups he has had. All other rabbit flights have been more difficult (except for the drop off the T-perch on rabbit #2). This one he took in the more typical RT manner of a straight line angled drop. What he usually does is fly up, hover like a kestrel for about three seconds, then a wing-over followed by a plunge to the ground. It is great to watch. He has caught game eight out of the last nine outings where I have shown him game.

After his bunny catch he took a nice flight across the field, hovered, did a wing-over, and crashed into the ground. Nothing. I believe he is hunting mice, rats, or small birds when he does this. We moved to another field on the property, and Mr. Tubby followed along nicely. It suddenly occurred to me that tonight is Stephanie's graduation dinner. We have reservations at Michelangelo's, and it might not be the best day to track an overweight hawk all over Galveston County. So I asked the guys (George Ritchie, Roger and Kenny Steinsiek) if they would mind if I called the bird down and call it good. They didn't mind, and were very impressed with Cisco's flying all the way across the field to land on my fist. George also offered his field "anytime". This might be a good venue for March when Matt Mullenix makes his somewhat annual trek to Houston to fly with Jim Ince. He has a new Harris's hawk, having given his long time hunting companion, Charlie, to the Coulsons for their HH breeding project - Hurricane Katrina decimated their birds.

Cisco's 866 grams is only an ounce off his weight just three hours off the the trap (894 grams with a constant reference). What's more he was trapped with a full crop. Cisco's weight is above Gary Brewer's OWWE, IRW, and IFW. Cisco showed no lack of determination, nor any hesitancy to fly back to the fist at the end of the outing.

1/29/2005 A Mighty Cotton Rat Vanquished
Steph and I took Abby (our sheltie) and Cisco to Matt Reidy field. Abby didn't like the underbrush but did OK. It was really warm.- near 80. Cisco caught what might have been a cotton rat. Furry with a moderate length tail. I will check the internet. Not a Norway rat but some other type. Cisco ate the head so it was hard to tell. We hunted for a while - saw a rabbit or two but Cisco chased one and didn't pursue the other - He was in a tree with beak open while I was sweating on the ground. That was it. I called him down and fed the rest of the rat. I hooded him and went to the car with Steph and Abby. I could hardly stand up on the way back. Dehydrated. This is not hawking weather but we didn't get skunked. A good day really.

2/1/2006 A Birthday Rabbit on The Way to Work
865 grams and needed to cast. I took him in the hawk box to give him more time, but he didn't. I can now get a senior discount at Denny's. I passed one while driving up to Matt Reidy field. Nothing special today. Cisco caught a rabbit off the pole with his usual rise and drop pattern. Caught the rabbit in just a few minutes. Made my morning though, and was a good birthday present.

2/3/2005 Cisco Still Can't Catch Mice
857 grams. Out at Matt Reidy before work - 10 minutes into the hunt he missed yet another mouse. He was on the ground trying to catch one on foot when a rabbit ran by. Cisco saw it and hopped to the T-perch then flew to a tree. I thought he was flying to another tree, but about 50 yards out he rises up, hovers and drops. A scream and he has a rabbit by the rump. I ran over - the rabbit was trying to crawl off under a thick vine. Rabbit on one side, the hawk on the other. Cisco had a good grip but couldn't get to the head. Without my showing up I'm not sure what would have happened. This is the first time I have actually helped in the capture. I fed him the head and he took his time. I hooded him and walked back to the car. Then I drove to work, where Cisco spent the day in the hawk box. Another rabbit for the summer molt.

There was a Cooper's hawk flying around - obviously spotted the redtail and decided to check him out. This is the second accipiter that I have seen here.
Out of eight rabbits that Cisco has caught, only two of them were caught with a direct line grab. The second rabbit off the T-perch, and the Pearland rabbit from a tree. All the others caught with Cisco's rise, hover and stoop technique.
2/4/2006 Reidy Field Tapped Out
854 gms. Went out there about 1000. Cisco has taken four rabbits and two rats here and this place is not huge. From an aesthetic standpoint it was a good day. Good flights with hovering and even a little soaring, but no kills. Chased a mouse and had a really nice flight on something in the cover. Put in a nice wing over and a good stoop to the brush. Chased the one remaining rabbit to no avail. I guess I'm finished hunting here. Tomorrow afternoon Gregg Barrow is to come hawking with me - we'll go to Pearland.
2/5/2006 - Pearland - No Great Slips But Good Flights
Gregg Barrow
and I went to the Ritchey's property and stomped around later in the day. The wind was keeping the rabbits from moving much. The only rabbit that Cisco chased was very close to some trees - Gregg filmed the sequence. It's a huge file so if you have a broadband connection, click on this link: Cisco
There was also some interesting flying around at the end of the day, near dusk.
If you have a broadband connection, click on this link: Cisco2
Note: Without broadband these files could take hours to download.
2/10/2006 9th Rabbit, The 2nd From Gold Fire Field, 12th Kill Overall
854 grams. I drove down to the "Gold Fire" field where Cisco caught his second rabbit five weeks ago. This was also the field where I chased a haggard RTfor 30 minutes thinking it was Cisco. Today it was overcast, breezy, about 65F. Heavy rain predicted. He hopped to the T-perch, then took to a tree. I kicked up a rabbit or two on the west side of the fence. He did chase something into the brush early on. I climbed over the fence to the east side of the field, there was plenty of rabbit sign. He chased something, hovering, but didn't commit, then went to a tree. I called him just to give him a tidbit. Then onto the T-perch. Walking back, he took off, and put in the worst flight on a rabbit that I have seen him make. I decided maybe he was too high in weight. Back to the T-perch, he took off again. I thought he was going to fly a long way to a tree. Suddenly he turns left, a wing-over, and down. A rabbit is screaming. His ninth rabbit and the second from this field. I ran over there, and he had been pulled into a grass mound. Just his head sticking out. But he had a rabbit by the butt. I dug around and pulled the two out of there, and he instantly transferred to the rabbit's head. I killed the rabbit, and he broke into it. I tossed a chicken neck nugget ahead of him and he left the rabbit. I could have continued hunting, but decided that there are not that many rabbits in Houston. So I pulled the head off and tossed it to Cisco. He worked on it for a while, picking it clean, eating brains and eyeballs. I fed him the liver and kidneys as well. When he was done, I hooded him and we headed back to the car. He's not bad.
2/12/2006 Cisco Doubles and Neptune Scores at Gold Fire Field - Kills #13 and #14
Today was interesting. I took Randell Kocurek out to the field that Jim Ince found. Cisco had caught a rabbit there on Friday. Randell's bird Neptune, that we trapped in mid December had so far only chased barn owls. He also footed Randell in the side of the head if that counts for anything. Today we took him out and he caught a nice cottontail in a fine manner. Before that we chased another wild RT believing it was Neptune. Until today Randell thought it was comical that I had chased the wrong bird, perhaps twice. Now he has a different attitude about that. Bottom line is that Neptune caught his first rabbit today. While Neptune was feeding up I went back to the car to get Cisco ready. We let him loose - he rode the pole for a minute before taking a stand in a small tree by the fence that runs through the field. He spotted a rabbit which he attacked and missed by five feet. One would have thought he had never caught one before. He launched another attack a few minutes later, bagging rabbit #10. I had to help him as this rabbit managed to get into the grass, although Cisco had a pretty good grip on him. I have a feeling that today, unlike Friday, Cisco would have prevailed but it would have taken a while. While Cisco was eating, I was explaining to Randell why I never go for multiple kills in Houston (shortage of rabbits and all that). Then I put Cisco on the pole and he caught a second rabbit about five minutes later
2/17/2006 I Find A New Field and It's Not That Great
He weighed 867 at 0645. I decided to head over to the Reidy field after work to give it another shot. Cisco spent the day in the box at Baker Hughes. I went to work early and left a little early. I hit some traffic on the Beltway so decided to see if I could find some rabbit fields closer to work. I wandered a little, and ended up on a Milby street off Veterans' Memorial. I found a likely looking field, and walked out into it. I flushed a rabbit and ran back to the VW van to get the bird. It was a small field, but actually had some decent trees in it. We flushed a rabbit and Cisco made an unispired attack on it. I beat around the field, Cisco got some exercise, but the field was not loaded with rabbits. After an hour I gave up. Cisco was not at his best - almost panhandling. I fed him some chicken and put him up. The two rabbits at this field will never get chased by Cisco again.
2/18/2006 A Perfect Outing (kill #15)
Sometimes Cisco is so efficient at catching rabbits that it makes for short hunting trips. Last Sunday he caught two within about fifteen or twenty minutes of field time. Cisco was right at 850 grams when we left the house this afternoon and drove down to the Gold Fire field off S. Main. When I got there, I was hoping that Cisco would not catch a rabbit right off, since that would end the day. It was chilly, overcast and windy. The resident kite dive bombed him in his tree, which he ignored. I tromped around beating the bushes, not finding anything, Cisco was flying around following, occasionally diving into the grass. I had about decided that we would strike out, that the six rabbits taken here had depleted the field. Then I kicked up a rabbit. Cisco and I chased this guy for about twenty minutes when Cisco finally grabbed it as it scurried into a wild rose bush. The rabbit pulled the hawk into the bush, but Cisco had him. I killed the rabbit and let Cisco eat for a bit. Thinking about tomorrow I tossed a mouse tidbit out in front of him, and his greed got the better of him. He left the rabbit which ended up in my field bag. Tonight at 2100 he weighed 915 grams. I hope that he burns it off by tomorrow afternoon.
2/20/2005 Cisco Catches a 50 Pound Rabbit (an email)
854 grams when we went hunting. I had to find a new field today. The Matt Reidy field is pretty well worked over. Cisco has taken five rabbits and two cotton rats from there, and the "Gold Fire" field that Jim found is tapped also. From that field, Cisco has taken five rabbits and Randell Kocurek's friendly little bird, Neptune, took two more. I think Cisco caught the last rabbit on Saturday afternoon. So I found a new field near the house, overlooking the bayou, tall grass, with a line of trees and no power poles. Didn't need my new chaps. I put the bird up and he soared for a minute over the bayou - I got nervous and called him to the T-perch. He chased some mourning doves then flew to the trees. He dove down into the woods, and I yelled "Cisco!" and he came hiking out on foot. He then took a good high perch up in the trees and I flushed a big cottontail. He nailed it, it screamed and dragged him into the thorns. I ran in, killed the rabbit, he fed a little, so I pulled the head off and tossed it a couple of feet way from where he was feeding. He looked at the carcass he was feeding on, looked at the head, and made his usual short sighted decision which meant the rabbit went into my field vest. He fed on the head, and I gave him some organ meat from an earlier rabbit. Major crop. I hooded him and started hiking out of the field. This rabbit felt heavier than most. I got home, and Stephanie was on the phone with her father in Oklahoma. I handed her the field vest. She says, "My God, Daddy, Cisco killed a fifty pound rabbit!" Fifty seemed a little high, I was thinking about half that, so I weighed the remains (headless) on my digital scale. 3.9 pounds without the head. Pretty big bunny for these parts. By the way, I handed the field vest to Kasey. She says"ooooooooo," and runs back to her room. She's just not into it.
2/24/2006 - Cisco Strikes Out - Inserted to Appear "Fair and Balanced"
I took Cisco to the new "DeSoto" field. I flushed a couple of rabbits and Cisco chased them. There is apparently a red-shoulder that wants to nest in the adjoining woods. She came over to drive Cisco off, but was fortunate that she was not caught. He did go after her. Then I had to climb over a difficult barb-wire fence to follow Cisco. Actually he was right there. Tomorrow there may be a group of folks to accompany us as we hunt. I guess we'll go down to Gold Fire. I hope there's a rabbit left.
2/25/2006 - A Tiny Rabbit Caught in The Rain and Wind
855 grams at 0700 this morning. I took Cisco (along with Greg Carrier and his little daughter, Amelia) down to Gold Fire. This was a convenient venue, south of Greg's house in Bellaire. We got there at around 1030, so Cisco was probably just over 850. It was windy, drizzly and cool. Within a minute of getting out of the van, we kicked up a rabbit. Cisco was a little out of position, but gave chase anyway. He followed something across the fence so we followed. Then he he flew back to the tree line and chased back out on the west side again. I went back over the fence and kicked the brush. He took off and caught a very young rabbit, which didn't scream, overwhelmed. This is rabbit #14. Because of the size of this rabbit, I really am done with this field for a while. I'll let the wild RT's clean out the young ones. After we put the bird up, Greg took me to a new field that really looks great.

Amelia, Cisco, and I after Cisco takes the smallest rabbit in Houston
on a wet, chilly, windy Houston day

March's First Bunny (#15), another Mega - A March Hare?

I took the bird to the DeSoto street field right near the house at sunup this morning. Cisco flew across the street, around the area, not following too closely, not paying too much attention. Good exercise is what I figured. He wouldn’t fly over to where he could watch me beating the bushes, being blocked by some limbs, so I yelled at him. That usually works. He flew around to a tree right above me and I managed to flush another good size bunny. Boom. It was screaming even with both his feet on its head. He fed up some, I tidbitted him off, and weighed the remains at the house. Just over 4lb 3 oz. The bird had a large crop, easily 100 gram, so this rabbit was around 4 ½ pounds. I guess Sylvilagus aquaticus, and the biggest rabbit of the year for Cisco. This is the same place where he caught the other large rabbit, on a hill above White Oak Bayou. It usually does not have good slips, as the few rabbits here stay near the heavy trees and undergrowth. Four trips, two big bunnies.

3/11/2006 Ft Worth Texas Outlaw Dirt Hawkers Mini-Meet

I drove to Dallas on Friday, staying over night at Jim and Dana's. The next morning the crew met at 0700 at a Whataburger off Blue Mound Road in Ft Worth. About 15 or 20 of us. The day began with the sad news of the death of Krys Langevan's stellar RT, Goose, electrocuted on an innocuous looking power pole earlier in the week.

We flew Cisco first, at the "Pepsi" field (see 1/16/2006 after Abilene). A great flight where Cisco flew a cottontail down over 120 yards in front of 15 cheering fans. In front of, but not one of us saw the denouement. Minutes earlier Cisco had tried to catch the rabbit in the cover, but missed. See the first two pictures below. Then he hopped to the T perch, and flew to a tall light pole. The rabbit flushed again and Cisco took off from the south side of the field, but the rabbit panicked and ran out into the open. Cisco flew across the field, and the rabbit had no place to hide. The rabbit ran onto an open rise, which it was a good ten feet higher, so we could not see. I was first, but when I got up onto the rise I saw Cisco about a 100 feet off sitting on a rabbit. Rabbit #16 in nine weeks. Plus three cotton rats. Cisco looked very strong, easily flying to the top of the tall light poles.

Going in for the kill at the Pepsi field in Ft Worth (Krys Langevin)

A wingover and a miss (Krys Langevin)

Success! Cisco's Second Rabbit From The Pepsi Field - 3/11/2006 - (Outstanding photos by Krys Langevin)

Cisco launching the attack from the light pole (photo: Ron Holder)

Brief summary of other activities: After Cisco we flew Chris Robin's immature Krider's, Gusto. He had previously caught lizards and sparrows (not bad for a redtail), but no rabbit. Today he caught his first rabbit. Then we flew Roger Crandall's Harris's, Chucky, but could not find any good slips. Then after a Whataburger break we flew Jeff Cattoor's HH, Black Jack, who just seemed to be off. A number of attacks on rabbits, but no kills. Then we flew Aaron Hegeman's RT, Veruka. She was really off, probably weather related - it was warm. She was the bird that caught a rabbit just before we trapped Cisco on 12/3. Then we flew Sheldon Nicolle's female HH who redeemed the reputation of the the Ft Worth Harris's hawks by catching a rabbit in fine fashion. Then it was time to fly Jack Brady's great looking intermewed prairie falcon, Barbee. After taking a nice pitch, she very nearly nabbed a duck right in front of us. Jack caught a duck with her earlier that day. Finally we flew Ryan Sandstrum's peregrine, Daisy. She promptly flew off and had to be chased. Oh well.

3/12/2006 Hangin' It Up For The Season
I had two good swamp rabbit flights today at the DeSoto field, followed by seeing a little baby bunny that I could have had him catch, but made only a half-hearted effort to re-flush. That was it. No pregnant females and fuzzy-wuzzies if I can avoid it. I have decided to call it good for this
year. I fed him 140 grams of rabbit on the lure tonight. I will bring his weight up to about to 980, and exercise him a little on a short creance a couple of times a week. I'm done - let him molt.

Season: 14 Cottontails, 2 Swamp Rabbits, and 3 Cotton Rats. First kill on 1/6/2006, last on 3/11/2006. Nine weeks, averaging 2 head per week.

3/25/2006 - A Lopsided Uberhawk (Cisco) Catches Two More Rabbits
Matthew Mullenix had expressed some interest in seeing Cisco fly. He was coming to Houston to accompany Jim Ince to Jonathan Millican's wedding in
Millican, TX. I had put the bird up for the molt but had a change of heart when the weather got unseasonably cool. Cisco put on some weight, peaking at about 930 grams, but I brought him down a little by Friday. He was at 909 on Friday morning, still very high, but seemed to be reponsive, so I took him to the ballpark to see if he would be safe to fly loose. He was just fine. I told Jim and Matt that he seemed good - we planned an outing for Saturday morning at Gold Fire field, hoping that Randell Kocurek's red-tail, Neptune, had left a rabbit or two. I know that he has not hunted the field in a couple of weeks.

But there was other business first. When Matt got in town, he and I went with Jim to fly Gaucho at some snipe, south of town. As always, a brilliant aerial display, but the peregrine just missed a snipe or two. Great flights though. Afterward, Matt, Jim, Stephanie and I, plus Gregg and Soo Barrow had dinner at Ninfa's in Bellaire. A good time.

3/24/2006 Jim Ince with Gaucho after some late afternoon snipe flights in south Houston (Photo by Matthew Mullenix)

At 0700 today Gregg showed up at my door, and we took Cisco to catch up with Jim and Matt. We drove from Jim's house down to Gold Fire field off S Main. An interesting comment, by Jim I think, about Cisco's looking like he was flying a little lopsided. Matt concurred. This is consistent with Stephanie's observation of Cisco's creance flying, saying that Cisco flew low to the ground. Then in Ft. Worth, just after the Abilene meet and just before Cisco obliterated the rabbit at the Pepsi field, Roger made the comment about whether Cisco was in shape. On another outing, Jim made the comment about Cisco's looking a little low. Well, apparently Cisco has some old injury that makes him fly funny. A thorn that turned into a cyst was what Matt offered. Lopsided or not, he has been very efficient on rabbits, rarely missing when he has a decent slip, and sometimes overcoming bad slips when he had to. Not much we can do about it.

Oh yes. He caught two rabbits on two or three slips today. He'll finish the season with a double. Thanks to Jim, Matt and Gregg for the company. Another point of interest. He weighed 893 grams this morning at 0700. This is an astounding 2 ounces (actually 68 grams) over his weight at his first kill, and within a few grams of his trapped weight. Plus he has had virtually no exercise for nearly two weeks. Nevertheless he put in an outstanding performance in front of two renowned falconers. Cisco is the Uberhawk!

Revised Season: 16 Cottontails, 2 Swamp Rabbits, and 3 Cotton Rats. First kill on 1/6/2006, last on 3/25/2006. Roughly 24 outings with game produced.

3/25/2006 (Picture by Gregg Barrow) The final bunnies for the season

3/25/2006 Cisco and 30 minutes work (Picture by Gregg Barrow)

3/25/2006 Gregg Barrow, Jim Ince, Cisco and I just before the last hunt of the season (Photo: Matt Mullenix)

3/25/2006 Here I am stretching a rabbit while Cisco whistles with irritation (Photo: Matt Mullenix)

Epilogue: This has been a good season. For me, as late middle-aged retread apprentice falconer flying about his eighth bird lifetime, it has been great, even singular. I'd like to thank the following falconer friends. My sponsor, Jim Ince, for coming through in key situations, for his advice, and for sometimes giving up the easy life of a longwinger to beat the brush for Cisco's rabbits. In addition, he located one of my best fields, which I unwisely shared with Randell Kocurek because I thought his bird would only chase barn owls. :-) Mark Reindel, who got me into this goofy sport, last summer helped me to decide to fly a redtail, and doggedly insisted that I hood my birds. Cody Fields for lots of technical advice, a redtailer who knows his redtails. Last, but not least, Roger Crandall, who helped me catch both of my birds this year, Cisco even being caught on his trap. Other falconers constituted a friendly cheering section and more good advice. These would include Randy Kocurek and Matt Mullenix. Finally, my wife, Stephanie who patiently puts up with my obsessive behavior relating to this sport. An honorary falconer.