Wednesday, December 6, 2017


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...

Tuesday, December 5, 2017


Jess and I picnicked Thanksgiving afternoon at a prairie dog town south of Kearney. Some of their holes were simply holes; others, the ones used for sentry duty, looked like little Vesuvii on the prairie.

The prairie dogs themselves kept mostly out of sight, but their usual paths of travel were readily discernible in the grass.

These were the only well-beaten paths; in an hour and a half, only one vehicle passed nearby. No complaints from us; we enjoyed the quiet and solitude as much as we enjoyed the afternoon sunshine, and the sausage, cheese, dates, and apple cider that were our Thanksgiving dinner.

Had we had more time, we might have hidden under the only nearby tree, a red cedar, and waited for photos of the town's residents; as it was, there was hawking to be done, so we took our leave and presumably the colony returned to its normal routine under the Nebraska sky. (A sky that from time to time brings golden eagles and ferruginous hawks, so being underground is part of the routine, too, I suppose.)

Monday, December 4, 2017

A week of hawks and dogs

I took some much-needed time off over Thanksgiving week—the occasion was the North American Falconers' Association field meet in Kearney, but as with the last time NAFA was in Nebraska, I actually split my time between Kearney and more familiar fields close to Lincoln. Still, it was good to focus on hawking for an entire week.

Stekoa did well, taking a couple of cottontails in addition to a mouse and, a first for us, a wood rat (a.k.a. pack rat). And the dogs clearly loved the combination of time afield and luxurious accommodations.

Some photos by Jessa by way of illustration:

Anya in the car, atop the cooler.

Maxine in the field, attentive as ever. Not to me, necessarily, but to the possibility that Stekoa might drop something edible.

Stekoa about to launch.

One of the places we hawked, on the south shore of Harlan Lake not far from the Kansas line.

Stekoa finishes off his wood rat.

The lap of luxury: Anya settles for a towel on the washroom floor, while Maxie considers ringing room service for more pillows.