Field notes from my 2011 hunting log

Greetings from Kansas,

I arrived yesterday with three eagles in my truck, JH, Davis and the female, Washington. Chase has been in the area for the past two days. His eagle, Dexter, is just the slightest bit heavy so has not been too serious about hunting, but will come around quickly.

I left Oregon on Monday with the idea that I could get here on Tuesday in time to fly at least two eagles before the sun set. Chase met me and we drove to some close fields that he had looked at and said they were holding jacks. 

69′, very little wind….

Jackhammer was first up, a little road weary at first but after seeing a couple of flushes he got serious. The field was covered with tumbleweeds, quite thick in places, but towards the middle of the field they thinned out and that was where he focused our hunting. It is fun to hunt in tumbleweeds because you never know which one will produce the slip. With Chase on my right side we worked the field. Jacks were breaking all around. JH, however, remained focused and ignored them. As we moved closer to a group of tumbleweeds a jack exploded from under one running at an angle to our left, nearly straight away. JH came off the fist with power and speed-closed on the jack which tried to use a tumbleweed as a shield. But JH arrived much too fast and had the first jack of our little meet. 

Jackhammer on 1st jack of trip

I chose to fly Washington next. She has been doing well with the conditioning and her reaction to the lure has been spot on, flying it down at over 20 mph. She is molting rather heavily and I hoped this would not affect her flying. The plan is for both Chase and I to hunt her, thus cutting the load of me flying three eagles. We entered a field that had tumbleweeds in it but they were small and should not pose any issues with the eagle. Picking the right field for an inexperienced eagle is everything. Too much cover is not good, too little cover is not good; you need just the right amount to give the young eagle the opportunity for success. There were not loads of jacks in this field and Chase and I walked a long ways only getting a few flushes. Time was starting to become an issue so Chase broke off to fly his male eagle and I continued to hunt Washington. I began working the edge of the field that was boarded by completely plowed ground, not one stick of anything left. The open ground is not the place for a young eagle; that is JH country but not for this female, not yet anyway. But jacks like to sit on the edges of fields giving them options on where they can run. I walked along, working my way back and forth moving slowly through the tumbleweeds so as to not flush the jacks too far away.  Off to my left a jack burst from cover and flashed into the open field moving straight away from me. Washington locked on the running jack and launched on a coarse that was directly parallel to the running jack rabbit. As they both reached the end of the tumbleweed field the jack accelerated across the open dirt road heading out into CRP. Washington banked and came straight down the dirt road, slamming into the large jack sideways with a whole lot of attitude. She was quite pleased with herself after making her first kill. I was just as happy to see the light come on in her eyes, realizing that this is what she was made to do. All the preparation that went into getting her ready for this moment paid off. I traded her off to a nice chunk of quail and put a satisfied eagle back in the truck.

Washington with her first
Washington with her first

Next was Davis’ turn. Last year he took 4 jacks all in good style so I am hopeful he’ll do as well this trip. Time was running short, as the sun was going down fast. I never like flying late in the afternoon for this very reason… I hate racing the sun! But with no other choice I headed into the field, looking for another slip. At first Davis was showing affects of the travel. He wanted to chase everything he saw, meadow larks, sparrows, you name it, he wanted to fly it. I hunted the edge of a field just like with Washington and it was not long before a jack broke out and ran to the open field. Davis launched in perfect timing and closed as the jack went into a zig zag pattern of short turns with Davis matching him turn for turn. With the last turn Davis reached out and almost hooked the fleeing jack rabbit. As the light faded into darkness and with Davis still hunting I reluctantly put his hood on and called it a day.

Davis after a great flight
Davis after a great flight

I drove out of the field thinking not bad for the first three hours — two out of three eagles scored. So tomorrow is another day in Kansas…. more to come…….
 Greetings once again from Kansas,

Today brought stunning weather conditions, the wind has dropped down from yesterday’s gusts of 60mph to a delightful 10mph.

We started the day early, skipping breakfast, heading directly to the fields. First up was Simon with his very nice Finnish female goshawk who is more than holding her own with the large Kansas black tails. We entered a field that was mostly short tumbleweeds and worked in a line to see her take two jacks, giving her some wonderful memories on the trip back to Canada.

Washington was up next. We reentered the short tumbleweed field, moving slowly, looking for closer slips. Young eagles want to fly at any and all jacks they see but that is a waste of time. They do not have the condition to fly down speedy jacks on long slips and will quickly get frustrated and give up. They need close slips and walking slowly in the field is the best way to produce these closer slips. Washington was very focused. She was dialed in, hunting along with us. Both Chase and I have been flying her and she has handled this nicely. We cut the field into sections with Chase hunting up one side and back the other, then we would trade off with me taking over. I gotta say, hunting three eagles is not easy so having Chase to share the load is a great help. We were moving slowly, no more than ten feet apart, when a jack jumped up and ran not more than 15 feet in front of me. Washington came off the glove perfectly. As she launched I was giving her forward momentum and she went up high using the little wind available. She quickly got over the jack, doing a very nice wing-over, and had her second kill of the trip.

Chase wanted to fly Dexter later in the day so Davis was next up. I chose to hunt the same field that we were just hunting as there was still plenty of unhunted ground remaining. Davis has been showing signs of coming on as a very nice eagle; he is quick and will nearly always give you a good effort on all slips. We had walked a long ways almost reaching the end of the field when a jack jetted out of its form and ran straight away from us. Davis reacted instantly and closed on the jack as it pinned its ears and went into high gear. As Davis arrived the jack went around a tumbleweed and Davis pitched up some 20 feet in the air. Looking over his shoulder he spotted the running jack and stooped straight down and nailed it. I traded him off and continued to hunt, took about 20 steps more when right under my feet a jack exploded and Davis’ reaction was so fast that it left us asking the age old question ‘how can a bird as big as an eagle move that fast?!’ Davis caught that jack 15 feet from where we were standing, very nice explosive flight.

Next up was Jackhammer (JH). After driving 1/2 mile down the road we walked into the field with JH who was showing all the signs of having a big day. The field was old wheat with small and large tumbleweeds growing in groups all over the field, and jacks love to hide under the tumbleweeds. Again we divided the field into workable sections so we could fly more eagles and keep track of where we had hunted. We no sooner walked into the field when a jack popped up, running into the wind going north. JH was off and in a flash closed on the jack as it ran on the mostly open ground. JH came in low and scooped up the running rabbit, taking it some 7-8 feet in the air. JH went on to catch three more jacks bringing the days total to 7 jacks taken by my team.

With time running short Chase broke off to go and fly Dexter while I continued to hunt JH. Dexter was successful and caught his second jack of the trip.

A look in the back of my truck
A look in the back of my truck

Jackhammer: male golden eagle  8.6 lbs
Davis: male golden eagle     8.4 lbs
Washington: female golden eagle  10 lbs