The Um-teenth Annual Field Meet of Ye Olde Houstone Hawkinge Groupe

Matthew Mullenix, 2005

Grand(e?) Tally: 16 sparrows, 3 starlings, 1 snipe, 1 bobwhite quail, 1 cottontail, 1 misc.

Festivities started Saturday morning: Jim Ince, Chuck Redding, Greg Carrier and Matt Mullenix met at EIM, Jim's office in Missouri City (southwest of Houston). We perched Jim's peregrine tiercel Gaucho in the weathering yard, then headed to the industrial park for starling slips with Chuck's new tiercel kestrel and Matt's tiercel HH, Charlie. The kestrel showed interest, but had yet to be entered, so didn't take a slip. Charlie caught one and kindly offered it to his young protege who learned a valuable lesson in the culinary virtues of fresh starling. We finished the morning with a couple more starlings, a sparrow and a cotton rat.

Greg trapped a mother-load of house sparrows and offered several to Chuck after lunch (this was fortunate, because we quickly lost one getting it out of the trap and another somewhere inside Jim's dashboard). Chuck's kestrel showed no hesitation to the baggie and bated only once or twice on the ground before settling to eat: a very good sign. Jim's peregrine flew next, and though made 7-8 great stoops showed obvious impairment from an encounter with an oil slick the day before; we gave him a good (if undignified) scrubbing later in the evening and "let Dawn take grease out of our way." Jim called Gaucho down. On the way out of the field, Matt pointed out the bush from which Charlie caught a rabbit at the last meet, and for grins, the party pulled over and promptly caught it again.

Saturday night's Semi-Annual Game Dinner and Beer Fest was a rousing success. Gaucho and Charlie contributed snipe, dove, quail, rabbit and one tasty sampling of "mystery meat" (MMMMMMMMmmmm, Good!). Chuck confessed that it was the first rabbit he'd eaten, and that he liked it; Matt declined to relate the presence of suspicious oocysts he removed from said rabbit twenty minutes earlier. No one reports illness. Yet.

Sunday morning Matt Reidy joined the hunt from eleven hours away in Arkansas, winning the Non-Existent Prize for Greatest Distance Traveled. His passage female Harris proved exemplary, despite the clumsy and amateurish attempts by Reidy to make excuses for her before the fact. She caught six sparrows faster than her falconer could say, "She'll probably just go sit in a tree, ha ha." Charlie managed some answer to the subtle, perhaps imaginary challenge put forth by the larger hawk, catching four sparrows. We broke for lunch.

Chuck got an unprecedented second "kitchen pass" for an afternoon outing and we entered his kestrel to a second sparrow. This time the kestrel barely flinched and never bated on Chuck's approach - it's a good kestrel in the making, and you heard it here first. While the Harris hawks burned off most of their morning crops, we drove with Jim to a snipe field (soon to be the new parking lot adjacent to the old parking lot). Gaucho flew with much improved snap, mostly free of petroleum and put on a tremendous show. After toying with several birds he picked out a snipe, put it in three times, then snatched it on the wing and settled to eat on the banks of the new housing development drainage canal (adjacent to the older housing development drainage canal). This snipe saved the Semi-Annual Meet from its first peregrine skunking in recorded history. . .Gaucho always gets his bird.

After poking fingers into the breast feathers of their Harris hawks and feeling only small crops remaining, Mullenix and Reidy opted for a second hunt. Reidy unwisely offered Mullenix the first try, and almost immediately afterward, Jim spotted a covey of quail entering a lone brier patch. With Chuck still on the cell phone with his wife ("Just one more hour?") Mullenix's hawk caught one of the quail trying to bust through cover. ("Did you hear that honey!? No--They're happy! They're happy!") Then, in a stroke of pure hubris, falconers continued the hunt and caught two more sparrows with Charlie.

The rain set in just in time for Reidy's turn at bat. But like the champion duo they are, he and hawk took three more sparrows and the Non-Existent Prize For The Most Game Taken By One Hawk On Any Sunday In Houston, Texas. All adjourn (save Chuck, who had to run home) to Ince's house for dry clothes; then on to the gala Awards Banquet at Ninfa's Mexican Cantina, where all in attendance were awarded a margarita.

Tiercel peregrine: 1 snipe
Female Harris: 9 sparrows
Tiercel Harris: 7 sparrows, 3 starlings, 1 quail, 1 rabbit, 1 misc.
Tiercel kestrel: honorable mention

Some photos below:

(L-R) Jim, Chuck and Greg share a laugh at expense of Mullenix

Jim looks up for Gaucho

Gaucho looks down at Jim

Called to the lure

Matt Reidy and his very good female HH

Chuck makes in

Feeds up

Apollo with sparrow

Gaucho with snipe

Jim with smile

Mullenix with Charlie, quail, smile

Hawking crew by hawking wagon

Hawking crew after rain, day's end