July 31, 2008
My plan was to go up to an area where I have found jack rabbits as well as sage grouse, so the location will remain a secret. It is a beautiful place with lots of wildlife. Someday I will put an eagle up over sage grouse but not on this day, as I am sure the grouse are off somewhere on higher ground. As I drove in along the BLM road, three jacks trotted across the road in front of me. That’s a good sign. The valley is long and probably miles wide with hills all around, some bigger than others but the ones to the north are the largest. I thought that by getting as close to the larger hills as I could Widow would have a good chance at finding some air.
The road did not take me as close to the hill as I had remembered so I parked and launched Widow from the truck, not wishing to carry her the great distance to the hill she could fly over there. Widow flew off the tail gate of my truck, landed on a big rock and started to preen. She is in a full blown molt with several new feathers just peaking out, most on her tail. I am fearful that she might drop the deck feather that has the tail mount on it for the transmitter, so I watched her closely. She tried a couple of test flights looking for air but found none and returned to the rock. Then she just launched and flew directly to the hillside, landing about half way up, and ran the remaining way to the top where she jumped up on a sage bush. The air was rather dead and it took Widow a good 25 minutes before she flew out and found some air. Once airborne, she climbed quickly and was soon joined by another eagle. With Widow up very high in the air I released the dogs and in no time they were flushing jacks. I could hardly see Widow she was so high, and she never dipped a wing at any rabbit; whether she did not see them, I don’t know. I think she needs to be more dialed in to me and the dogs, looking for the flush. After months of soaring I don’t think she is paying attention to what’s happening on the ground. So, like a young falcon that needs some fine tuning, I am going to start launching more pheasants under her via the bird launcher. I will plant the launcher out in the field, let the dogs lock up on point, and when Widow is over it, fire off the pheasant. Another thing is that Widow may well be much too high, so I’ll watch that and get her to lower her pitch if necessary.
Widow kept going higher and higher until, even in a clear blue sky with binoculars, I could no longer see her. I tracked her for the next two and a half hours. She was in the air a grand total of four hours and when she came in there was another eagle following close behind. I know she never touched the ground the entire time. I found her at the end of the valley.. she never really left, just was too high up