August 2, 2008
With a bagged pheasant in the truck and both dogs, Maggie and Thistle, and Widow of course, I drove out into the BLM. I have found a place that is down from where I have been flying her on the big mountain. The road works its way back into the canyons and finally ends up on top of the hills in a huge open area of grassland. I thought Id fly her over the grass thinking that she would have a better chance at the pheasant, regardless of which way it flew. Not that I am worried about whether she could catch it or not, I just want a very positive experience for her. Surprisingly, a strong north wind blew in and I wondered if she would go up today or just hang around on the hillside. Actually, I felt she would try and go up but the wind would make it difficult.
Widow flew alongside of the hill and disappeared on the other side, flying downwind. I waited for a good 20 minutes and did not see her. I did, however, have a faint signal that told me she was way downwind to the south. I then drove up on top of the mountain she had flown around so I could get a better view of the valley below. The signal was gaining in strength, telling me she was in the air but where? I scanned the sky with my binoculars and still could not locate her, but I knew she was up over me somewhere. I decided to get the dogs and my hawking vest and start walking out into the field, thinking this would bring her closer. So, with my receiver in hand, I walked out into the grass. Not all that far from the truck the signal changed and was the same strength in all directions, 360. That meant Widow was straight over me and very high up. I kept looking and, like a shark, Widow appeared out of the blue sky, still ridiculously high but at least I could see her now. My exact words were holy shit! as I saw her position and pitch. I immediately reached for the pheasant, launched it, and yelled. Widow did one of those moves that eagles can do where they seem like they don’t see anything and suddenly they are on it, not quite a wingover but similar, with the end result being a streaking eagle looking to eat something.
The pheasant flew in a big wide circle, 15 feet or so off the ground, and went out a long ways with Widow in a full stoop but still very high up. The pheasant landed,
started to run, and then froze. Both dogs locked on point on the hiding pheasant and Widow was still coming! The scene was unfolding right in front of me. I hollered whoa to the dogs and checked to see where Widow was. She was still coming. I waited a moment and then sent the dogs in to reflush the pheasant. Maggie got there first and found the pheasant which took to the air in a flash. The pheasant flew in a half circle from my right to left, across in front of me, and then went in a straight line away from me. Widow, having been checking her speed, thinking she was going to catch the pheasant on the ground, hit the afterburners and came right over my head, closing on the pheasant quickly, and slammed into the bird, driving it to the ground in a cloud of dust and feathers. Both Maggie and Thistle came running up, doing what they have been taught to do — get close to my bird and sit down waiting for me to get there. Their presence at the scene of the kill has kept many an eagle away from my falcons. Now, instead, I need to be worried for my dogs with the eagle!