by Joe Atkinson
One of the biggest things one can do before the hunting season starts or before a meet such as the GOE is prepare your bird for what it will see in the field. I call that getting “game ready”. Prep work is, I feel, the most important thing a falconer can do and sadly is an issue that is overlooked by many. I like to have our eagles chase the lure as it is pulled at speed behind our Gator. To me this is the most important part of the prep work because it simulates hunting. Not only is your bird conditioning itself physically by flying down a moving target but, and to me this is the key, by walking into the field with your eagle looking for something that is going to run away from it, you are conditioning your eagle’s mind as well. I certainly did not come up with the idea of pulling a lure for an eagle to chase; falconers have been doing this for a long time, using horses, cars, bikes, anything will work. But the beauty of this simple idea still holds true today — get your eagle keen on looking for something that is moving fast, and all the other things will fall into line by themselves
You will be amazed how your eagle will settle down by doing this one simple exercise. There is no need for building a relationship or forced manning. Just go into the field, un-hood your eagle, have the lure take off, your eagle flies it down, walk up and trade off, hood your eagle, and repeat. I do it 3-5 times, depending on the distances they fly. Keep it short and sweet, don’t overdo it.
With each time in the field, I increase the time before the lure takes off. What I am teaching my eagle is that it must learn to be patient on the fist; jacks don’t flush in regular intervals. So, with a new eagle, I’ll walk around some, just like I’m looking for a jack rabbit. Then, on cue, the lure will take off. By increasing the time you look for a slip your eagle will become comfortable on the fist and you will have a fun GOE.