They come when they’re called. They have a nearly unbreakable emotional blond with their handlers that is developed over many years. They’re incredibly smart and extraordinarily athletic. They work in groups and are generally a varmint’s worst nightmare. And no, I’m not talking about your favorite feline or canine pet. I’m talking about birds of prey. Specifically hawks.
Recently, I joined QC Exclusive for an interesting hunt out at the Fork, in Norwood NC. This time, no shotguns. No dogs. Just a hawks of various breeds all handled by Chip, who is a professional falconer. From the getgo, we all underestimated the intelligence and ability of hawks. I’ve always thought they were cool, but have never been close enough to appreciate them for what they can do. Every square inch of their bodies are made for killing. And yes, we were actually hunting with these birds. Live quail, squirrel and pigeon. All species these hawks would naturally go after. We just told them when and where to hunt.
What was amazing was that the hawks used our group to help them hunt. It was a team effort as much as anything I’ve ever seen. Sitting high above us in a tree, the hawks would wait and watch us move through the forest while we smacked on trees, shook limbs and vines trying to get a squirrel to run. Hunting small agile and fast quail was pretty similar. The hawks patiently waited for us to rustle the quail and make them fly off from their thick underbrush hides. When the quail did dart for new cover, the hawks would fly off and using teamwork, force them into an area where the hawk could then capture and kill their prey.
[As a side note, you would be SHOCKED how often the prey actually escaped. In one photo below which looks like the hawk NEARLY has the quail, the quail actually escaped into the woods and was never to be seen again].
This kind of hunting has been used for hundreds, if not thousands of years. It was remarkable to watch. And exceptionally hard to capture in photos. I am well used to race cars moving at me at a high rate of speed. But take something much much smaller and flying in much more unpredictable patterns proved to be a significant challenge.
The complete story and photos can be found in the January 2013 issue of QC Exclusive magazine.
Thanks to Brett, Chip and the staff of the Fork for their help!