Trapping Season

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OFA Officers

Jonathan Coleman
President

Chris Kimble
Vice President

Bart Russell
President-elect

Shane Bullard
Treasurer

Rob Huber
Secretary



OFA is an affiliate of the North American Falconers' Association

OFA is a proud contributor to The Falconry Fund

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OFA Is a proud contributor to Quail Forever

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OFA_2016_Elk_City


OFA 2016 Field Meet

Elk City, OK


It’s a busy time of the year for us at the shop making sure everything is in line, and all the weekly orders are filled.  Trying to get an hour or two afield a few days a week eases the stress level a bit.

This Friday went a little slower than usual.   My husband Phil, and I were headed out to our first Oklahoma Falconers Association meet in the early afternoon and as excited as we were to get on the road, getting all the loose ends tied up was taking longer than usual.   It was also our first time packing two birds, equipment, food, luggage and ourselves all together in the truck and making sure nothing got left behind.  In another life when we were into horseback field trials with our dogs, it was nothing to pack up three horses and thirty some odd dogs and head out for a weekend of fun several states away.  But we are certainly out of practice from those well regimented days, and just getting two birds ready was like packing up an entire bus load of kindergartners for a trip to the zoo!

We made it on the road and a pleasant short trip later, we were in Elk City and found our hotel.  One of the things I love about Oklahoma is how quickly the terrain can change in just a few miles, and how beautiful the area around Elk City really is.  Unloading and getting arranged took no time at all, and we headed down to the little hotel bar to join up with everyone else.

A surprisingly good little band, and a few drinks and bar food that held its own greeted us, along with a good sized crew of falconers reuniting for the first time in a while.  We are newer to the club, but it’s good to be settling in with some faces that are becoming familiar, and we even have a few stories of our own to tell.  Always full of advice, tall stories, and what are probably some outright lies, everyone was gathering and making plans for the next couple of days of activities.

One concern wasn’t the beautiful weather, but some impending strong winds that threatened to make our flying more difficult.  We wanted to make sure to get some hunting in, scout grounds for the NAFA meet, and have a great time looking at the various birds in action that members had brought along.

Daniel Murray and Chris Kimble camped at the lake nearby the hotel and it seemed like a great place to meet the next morning.  At sunrise, a large group of trucks and falconers met up and split into groups to head in various directions.  After hearing about cottontails literally running through the campsite at the lake, Phil and I decided it would be a great place to get our young Harris Hawk on his first game.  The small but beautiful lake was a perfect hunting spot and turned out to be a real gem the entire weekend.  From our vantage point at the campsite, we could see Mitch Wishon and Rob Rainey across the lake working their two young Russian Goshawks along with their dogs.   It was a cool sight to see the big white birds following along and watching the dogs below as they made their way along the shore in the dense brush.

Our own hunt, we had a couple of lucky cottontails slip with a great chase by our bird, but the movement of a hidden waterfowl caught his eye and resulted in a dip in the lake, and a wet pouting bird being extracted from the water.  That ended our hunt until he dried out, so we headed out again to join up with the rest of the hunting group.

Everyone converged again in the booming metropolis of Willow and caravanned to Sandy Sanders WMA to look for Jack Rabbits.  Some of the most beautiful and roughest, toughest country I have walked in a while.  Perfect for Jacks, but bring leather boots and chaps!  The group gamely beat through the thick brush, cactus and thorns and enjoyed not only the weather, but watching birds, dogs and the scenery.  There were only a few birds ready for flying but with everyone pitching in and beating the brush, we found quail and had a flight or two at a jack.  I was so impressed and incredibly grateful to the folks who showed up just to be there and help even if they didn’t bring a bird along.  It was a lot of work and it really showed the camaraderie that exists in the club.

The two Russian Goshawks got some great experience with large groups of humans and lots of commotion.  Our Harris got in some great flying time and the introduction to dogs.   On our way back to Elk City, we stopped and were treated to a spectacular aerial show by Daniel Murray’s Perlin falcon, Stinger, flying at doves in a cut field.  A very game and nimble bird, that was nothing but pure fun!

Walking, talking, and driving tired everyone out, but we all had young birds that needed to see game.  The little rabbit field at the camp site had gotten our attention that morning, so we wanted to head back there with our now dry bird.  Walking through Sandy Sanderson we had made the acquaintance of fellow Harris hawker, Jerel Collins, and after telling him about the little rabbit field by the pond, he wanted to see our bird fly there.  I believe we learned more about hunting rabbits and how to get it done with Jerel in that hour or so than we have since we started falconry.  We really enjoyed his company and seriously had more fun in that little walk than we have ever had.  We were able to put an amazing amount of rabbits out for the bird, with a “HO! HO! HO!” being yelled over and over again.  All three of us were excited, laughing and having a great time.  With every rabbit, the wheels in the head of our young Harris turned just a little more and it didn’t take long for him to figure out the game.  We had several very near misses and he figured out what rabbits were all about.  Even with no successful rabbit kill that evening, the experience was cemented for the bird and for us and we seriously owe Jerel our gratitude just for taking the time to show a couple of amateurs how rabbit hawking is done!  I really look forward to seeing Jerel fly his bird at NAFA.

The group converged once again that evening at what can only be described as superior Mexican fare.  We arrived late enough that we had the place basically to ourselves and proceeded to eat more than really should be humanly possible, but no one retired to the hotel that night on an empty stomach!

Sunday morning brought a beautiful sunrise and an entirely new strategy.  Miles of driving was OK, but we had a little rabbit minefield right at the campground and young birds that needed experienc.  With the entire group converging we all had what can only be described as a phenomenal morning of hard work and fun.  Daniel Murray’s Red Tail, Mitch Wishon and Rob Rainey with their beautiful Goshawks and our Harris Argo all had a run through the fields.  Rabbits ran everywhere and “HO! HO! HO!” rang out every few minutes.  By the end of the morning everyone was exhausted but happy.  We can’t thank everyone enough who worked so hard to get Argo on a rabbit.  He worked hard as well but still couldn’t get that last connection made.  Daniel’s Red Tail bagged his prize with a successful kill, and the goshawks both worked their tails off with some spectacular aerial maneuvers after fleeing rabbits.

By the time all the tired birds, dogs, and falconers packed up to head back towards home, we all agreed  on one thing.......we couldn’t wait until NAFA!!!             


-Phil and Gayla Salvati-



 
 

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