The last day of the NAFA meet promised to be warm and windy (gusts up to 50 mph), so we left Stekoa in his box and Maxine and Anya in the hotel room. Jess and I had received an invitation for something out of our usual routine, in any case...
Chris Remmenga was hosting Minnesota falconer Chase Delles and his golden eagle, Dexter. Chris, who lives near Kearney, has cultivated excellent relations with local landowners and was confident he could provide Dexter with slips at black-tailed jackrabbits.
[Chase and Dexter.]
[Chris, our guide.]
Chris and Chase were good field marshals, and though some of the non-falconers occasionally struggled to keep a straight, evenly-spaced line, we were soon flushing hares.
[A jackrabbit, having evaded the eagle, runs back toward the line.]
The blacktails, naturally, used the wind to their advantage, and the first several slips were unsuccessful. We soon re-grouped with a view toward producing some cross-wind slips, and shortly thereafter Dexter had his first kill—a cottontail.
The rabbit was a good start, but we had bigger game in mind, and Dexter was more than willing. He's accustomed to taking multiple head in the course of a day; fist response was excellent (Chase called him to the fist dozens of times in the course of the hunt), and eagle and trainer clearly have a comfortable working relationship, as evidenced by Dexter's willingness to feak on Chase's hand.
Open-field hare hawking is decidedly a group effort; we had a field of approximately fifteen people, but I will note for the record that Jessica flushed and called the first jackrabbit taken, and I the third and final one. Dexter was an astonishingly good footer; more blacktails escaped than were taken, but none got away once contact was made.
[Large and in charge.]
This is, to a certain extent, golden eagle country—we noted a wild one working one of the fields we had already covered—but it was a treat to hunt with such a capable and well-mannered eagle. He certainly looked good in the landscape...