Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving in Texas

My annual hunting trip to the Texas Panhandle is the highlight of my season. It splits the hawking year neatly in two: the building-up period, through late summer and fall, and the slide downward from winter into spring and the summer molt.

Often the weather on the high plain reflects this split. Last week, we spent the first two days hunting in short sleeves (80 degrees), but after Wednesday's cold front we donned parkas to face temperatures in the mid-20s and driving snow.

Through it all, the hawks did their thing. Here are a few snapshots from the week. The falcons flew well at ducks, the Harris hawks at rabbits and the goshawk at, well, everything.

Above: Brian Millsap's excellent tiercel peregrine, Amigo, early in the week. He caught several.

Jimmy Walker's veteran tiercel prairie falcon, Harley--Also accounting for numerous ducks.
Below, Jimmy's young female peregrine on her second duck of the season. Jimmy chats with my father, Ron, and one of the ranch's bovine residents looks on without much interest.

Matt Reidy prepares to fly his tiercel peregrine. This bird has yet to find his stride this season, but will.

The walk down below this pond was like a hike through the Andes. The photo doesn't do it justice. But from below, the slip for Harley is perfect.
The weather turned cold mid-week and knit caps came out of everyone's coat pockets. Here we take a walk alongside some winter wheat in search of cottontails.

At a nearby spot, full of high cover and a few old buildings, we find them.

My hawks, Ernie (below) and Smash (above, held by Matt) catch a few.

Thanksgiving dinner was Texas-style, fried game over an open fire. Wonderful.

By Friday, the weather was abysmal. The hawks troopered on, but after catching exactly as many as they felt obliged to catch, they pulled their legs tight into their breasts and quit. We took the hint.

Below, Matt Reidy makes in to Smash in deteriorating conditions.

A last flight for Brian's tiercel. This redhead died instantly in a passing strike, a viceral sound audible for a hundred yards.

One last shot for Steve and Helen: What but fear winged the birds and jeweled.... ok, enough Jeffers. This is Jimmy Walker's champion gos, Vinnie, on scaled quail. Last catch of the week.


Steve Bodio said...

Great photos Matt-- and that isn't a particularly gloomy Jeffers quote!

Book will be done by Friday or even earlier. Then blogging, and maybe Gos news...

Matt Mullenix said...

Looking forward to news--and pics. Great news onthe book!

Andrew Campbell said...

Matt -- awesome pictures. Really great to see some beautiful birds in action. Sadly, we're now in big game season in NY, so we're being really careful about when and where we take our two canine bird-finding monsters.

best wishes

Raymond said...

I've lurked here for a while,but I had to comment on the wonderful pictures.Bully for you!

Matt Mullenix said...

Andrew and Raymond--many thanks. Some of those are mine, others are by our host Jimmy Walker and my dad, Ron Mullenix. My favorite shot is of Matt Reidy making in to Smash in the snow storm; that one was Jimmy's picture.

PBurns said...

Great pictures and apparently a great time too. As good a Thanksgiving as you can have.


Driftwood said...

Looks like you had a great time and it's also good to see Amigo develop into a fine gamehawk now that he lives where there is real game to be had.

I'm in NE NM now trying to thaw out from a month of snow camping, but alas, it's not much warmer here. May head back to Montana as they have extended the elk season, but part of me is desperate for warmth and sunshine.

Annie, Midnight and Cassie

Anonymous said...

Annie will you be visiting Brian and Susan? Send email privately


mdmnm said...

Beautiful birds!
That redhead must have been quite a catch- those guys can really move!