Thursday, February 16, 2023

Crow Hawking Diaries: Season Recap

The 2022-2023 Beizjagdsaison (hawking season) came to an end yesterday, on February 15th. This was Kaya's first season and our first season with Kaya. She is 10 months old now and scored 22 crows for the season. We are proud of her!

Singing her victory song on a snowy day 
in the Black Forest after her 19th crow

She went from being afraid of us, the first humans with whom she had real contact, to enjoying spending time with us, to developing and showing us her charming personality, to also becoming a skilled crow catcher.

Ok, she's had ups and downs, so "skilled" is somewhat of an exaggeration for now. Sometimes she was just lucky. But she's got potential!

Her score seen more clearly is
Kaya: 21 successful days
Crows: 32 successful days
Remaining crows in the 18 Reviere where we hunt: 1145? (feels like 10,000)

That last number is a guess, but it is important to keep in mind that Kaya might get a crow one day, but there are usually 50-100 more circling in the sky above her who didn't get got. 

There were only a few days in which Kaya caught her crow on her first flight out. More often she'd had an average of 6 flights but no success. So while we went out hawking on 53 days, on each of those days anywhere from 2 to 8 crows escaped unscathed despite our efforts - meaning roughly 200 crows got away. And one goose.

The season ended somewhat abruptly on Wednesday when our friend and driver misjudged where she should turn around on a farm path. 


Br phoned the Jagdpächterin whose territory we were hunting in, sent our coordinates via WhatsApp, and she called back soon after to say a hunter friend of hers would be over within 15 minutes with a Geländewagen to pull us out. That saved us having to call ADAC (the German AAA), which would have taken a long time and cost too much. It might have been fun to see the tow truck guy's face when he arrived and saw our hawks, though.

I gave Kaya a snack while we waited.

The most important thing is that we gave her hunting opportunities as often as we could, and she came out of the season healthy and uninjured - hawking can be dangerous business! - despite one close call with a fence and that goose, or rather that goose's pals.

Her tail in that photo above looks rather shabby, I know. We had to repair two feathers during the season, one broke again, and a third broke a short enough time ago that we decided she could make it to the end of the season. I'm told young birds aren't very careful with their tails while hunting, but she'll learn with time. For now, goodness gracious, bring on the Mauser (molt)!

We'll still train her for a while until she doesn't feel like it anymore, and then she'll start her Mauser. She'll gradually get more food each day without having to work for it until we figure out what a day's serving size should be. Once a week she'll have a detox day of fasting. Sometime in March she'll start dropping feathers one at a time a few days apart and new ones will grow in their place. She should be ready to hunt again in August or September.

So what about that goose? One time out we passed a group of Nilgänse (Egyptian geese) lying in a field. I know how wehrhaft (defensive) geese are, I've seen Hekate repeatedly show us that if we want a Nilgans, we're going to have to catch it ourselves, and I while I don't mind gutting a crow after a successful hunt, I'm not all that interested in geese. But I was encouraged to give her a try, so I sent her out. She definitely got the goose and clung onto it at first while its pals came to its defense, honking wildly and bashing with their wings. I ran toward the commotion, seeing nothing but wings everywhere, and yelled her name, not knowing what else to yell although I was trying to scare away the other geese, and by the time I got to her she'd given up and the gaggle was fleeing. Kaya was standing on the ground a few feet away, looking as if to say, "WTF?!?" Can't say I blame her, but she forgave me when I gave her a juicy tidbit.

These are Nilgänse.
They're an invasive species and don't belong here.

On our last day of hawking, Kaya got two crows for the first time! Not at the same time, but Br and I were able to entice her off the first crow with a distraction wing (a wing from a previously killed crow) so she could continue hunting. I do feel like I witnessed the moment she realized that she was only picking at a wing when she had definitely caught an entire crow. She was sitting on my glove, paused with the wing, looked at me and furrowed her brow. Ok, not really, but that's what it seemed like. 

That's our goal for next season - to be able to get her away from one crow with a reward and then to go on and keep hunting - so I'm glad we ended on that note.

We had a good season and are proud of her and how far she's come. And now she gets to relax and get fed without having to work for her supper, while I get to start on spring cleaning and putting this house back in order.

Until next time...


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