A funny thing happened today. After yesterday's blizzard—the forecast was for about an inch, but we got six inches or so, with winds gusting around 45 miles per hour—today was glorious: pleasantly warm, sunny, and dead calm. Perfect hawking weather. As I fed Stekoa on the fist in the back yard this afternoon, basking in sunshine with my boots in the snow, it occurred to me that, with daylight saving time having just begun, I could easily have gone hawking after work. But I didn't—and I was surprisingly okay with it.
Technically, the hawking season goes through the end of the month, but we usually end early so as not to interfere unduly with the rabbits' breeding season. Wise hunters don't like to impact next season's production any more than farmers want to eat their seed corn. But there was more to it than that...it was simply enough.
Our flying time this season was severely limited by my work schedule, not much more than weekends really, but despite that I consider it a very successful year. Stekoa was both stylish and efficient, a six-times intermewed gamehawk in his prime. Thanks to several factors—a decent rabbit population after several below-average years, more careful weight management, and perhaps a more judicious selection of hawking grounds—Stekoa caught fewer mice than ever before, reflecting a keener focus on rabbits. From the NAFA meet in November through the end of January, I don't remember coming home without at least one rabbit in the bag—taking game is not my definition of success, but it is a pretty good indicator. And even when he didn't score, he always showed good sport.
What I now believe was our last hunt of the season, on Saturday, is a case in point. In the field were Jessica, Ellie, Pat and Shea Stull, and Shea's friend Rachel. [Photo by Pat above.] Just a day before the blizzard swept through, the temperature was in the 60s, and I was a bit concerned that Stekoa might opt to sit in a treetop and sunbathe rather than hunt with us; instead, he followed as brilliantly as ever. We flushed half a dozen rabbits—rabbits that, having survived into March, must be considered the most difficult of the season—and got good flights on all of them. Nothing brought to bag, but I was exhilarated. The hunt was followed by a sociable dinner back at the Stull's house (thanks, Trisia!), and when the snow and wind came overnight, I was content to sit the day out, and to contemplate a long series of days off.
A good hawking season behind me, a spring and summer's worth of fishing, garden projects, perhaps some travel ahead of me...I'm contented, and I find it wise not to underestimate the significance of contentment.