My Latest Endeavor...

Tom

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Tom do you ever eat the rabbits yourself?
I haven't yet. I'm told the jack rabbits taste terrible, but the cottontails tase good. I've been wanting to try it and probably will soon. Those back legs seem like they would be tasty. Very soft light colored meat there. I'm not much of a cook, and my wife isn't into the rabbit thing, so I'll have to figure it out on my own. I figure some butter, garlic, salt and pepper, ought to do it. I'll probably fry them up in an iron skillet.
 

Tom

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Does this disease affect both cottontails and jacks?
Yes. Both. Initially, I read that it was both, but I was only seeing dead jacks in the fields. In the last couple of weeks, I've found a few cottontails as well. Its a terrible shame. The population was healthy and doing very well after 3 good years of rain in a row. Between this disease and the lack of rain this year, there will be a terrible population crash.

I'm trying to take fewer this year, and also spread the love around a lot by hitting different fields all the time so I don't thin out a population too much in any one place. I'm actually hoping that my hunting might help reduce the spread of this disease by removing infected individuals from the population. It is VERY difficult for my hawks to catch wild rabbits that are healthy and in their own element. They miss 20-30 times for every catch. Sometimes we walk miles and for hours and don't catch anything. I would think that an infected rabbit would be a little slower and a little "off its game" as the disease progressed, which would allow my hawks to have an easier time catching one. That caught rabbit would then be removed from the population and not spreading the disease. I'm not sure what effect, if any, this is having, but I'm hopeful.
 
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Mrs.Jennifer

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I LOVE cooking rabbit. Actually in French cooking it is “lapin.” I have recipes if you are interested...
 

Quixx66

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I LOVE cooking rabbit. Actually in French cooking it is “lapin.” I have recipes if you are interested...
I ended up eating rabbit my trip to France when I was a teenager. Still not sure how my group liked it or not.
 

Yvonne G

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I haven't yet. I'm told the jack rabbits taste terrible, but the cottontails tase good. I've been wanting to try it and probably will soon. Those back legs seem like they would be tasty. Very soft light colored meat there. I'm not much of a cook, and my wife isn't into the rabbit thing, so I'll have to figure it out on my own. I figure some butter, garlic, salt and pepper, ought to do it. I'll probably fry them up in an iron skillet.
Well, heck. . . last night I saw Little Joe and Hoss sitting around a camp fire with a jack run through front to back with a stick, placed over the fire and they said it was the best tasting thing they'd eaten all day!
 
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Chubbs the tegu

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Ive tried rabbit once at a cowrkers bbq..it tasted like greasy chicken ( yeah everything tastes like chicken) lol
 

Tom

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Well, heck. . . last night I saw Little Joe and Hoss sitting around a camp fire with a jack run through front to back with a stick, placed over the fire and they said it was the best tasting thing they'd eaten all day!
Yeah... Its that qualifying statement the gets me... What else had they eaten that day???
 

Tom

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Here is a typical hunting field. It stretches far to the left and right of the pic. Its easy to walk miles in a day.
IMG_2667.jpg

They love to take a perch on anything tall that sticks out of the ground.
IMG_2659.jpg


I finally managed to get a picture of our hunting buddy. This is an exceptionally tame and mild mannered passage female red tailed hawk. She's much bigger than my boys, but she lets them sit right next to her on branches, and lets me get surprisingly close to her. The three of them are frequently airborne with each other. On this day, she let me get about 15 feet from her and never flew away. She was watching me and Rick approach. Rick was on the T-perch and she was looking at him and shifting her gaze back and forth between me and Rick while cocking her head. She goes after the rabbits that we stir up and clearly understands that people walking in the brush brings opportunities for food. She would have made an AMAZING falconry bird for an apprentice. She has hunted with us a half dozen times this year. I don't know what would happen if she caught one and my boys piled in to "help" her as they do with each other, but I proceeded with great caution and vigilance. She never tried to pile in when the boys caught one in her presence. Probably because of my presence. Its been amazing to share her company during this hunting season. She's one of the 5% that survive. Looks like her tolerance and understanding of humans has helped her to thrive and make it through her first winter.
IMG_2675.jpg
 

Tom

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You might have to study the pic for a minute, but this is frequently how I find them on a jack. We walk through these large fields and the rabbits all know we are there. They take cover and hide. If I happen tp walk close enough to one, they frequently bolt. The cottontails bolt for the nearest underground burrow entrance. Its a super fast sprint and the birds literally have two or three seconds to catch up and latch on, or that rabbit is gone. They miss most of the time. Cottontails are hard to catch, but easy to hold on to. Jacks bolt and run to the next county. They don't hide. They will use bushes and trees to try to ditch the hawks and will frequently out maneuver the pursuing birds, but in the end, they run and run and run. Jacks are easier to catch, since they never go underground, but they are very hard to hold onto.

My birds weigh a little more than a pound. The jacks weigh 6-7 pounds. These rabbits bite, kick, jump, flounder, and will dive at full speed into thick branches in an attempt to dislodge the hawks. All rabbits know to run uphill and also into the wind to make things harder for a pursuing bird. Most attempts end in a miss, but not all. This is what I run up to when I catch up to where I saw the birds do their high speed strike into the distant bushes:
IMG_2664.jpg
What usually happens (anything can happen...) is the first bird gets hold of the back end and then they extend their wings and tail in an effort to put the brakes on and stop the fleeing jack rabbit. When one bird is chasing something, the other one can see it clearly from a distance and immediately races to catch up. Harris Hawk teamwork/competition. Since the first bird is on the back end, the only available real estate area is now the front end. The second bird slams into the jack's head and this brings everything to a stop. Usually, the jack dives head first into the nearest bush when they feel the hawk behind them. The second bird somehow knows to come around and hit from the front. When I arrive on the scene after my attempt at sprinting, the above pic is what I see. I immediately reach in and get hold of the jack, usually by the back legs, so it can't kick my birds any more or escape. Then I have to carefully but quickly extricate the struggling mass of jack rabbit and hawks from the brush without hurting the birds who frequently are wrapped around a giant branch with a leg on each side. You can't just yank them because the bird's legs will break before the larger branches do. It can be a challenge at times, and I have to think and act fast to prevent injury to my birds, and also to quickly dispatch the rabbit to end its suffering as quickly as possible.

Once I get everybody out of the bushes and the rabbit is dead, then its time to feed the birds a big reward. I toss pre-measured chunks of food off to each side for the boys, and they leave me with the rabbit. I quickly put the rabbit in my hunting vest and then prepare to catch whichever bird finishes eating first on my baited glove. Then we walk a few feet away and wait for brother to finish eating. When both birds are done eating, we move on. Usually back to the car. Occasionally, they will catch a second rabbit on the way back to the car, and we repeat the process all over again.

I finally get the birds back in their travel boxes, remove their transmitters, and head home where I put them back in their mews for some rest and relaxation for the rest of the day, while I butcher the day's kill and freeze it for later meals.

It may not be for everybody, I'll admit, but I sure enjoy my adventures with these amazing predators.
 

TeamZissou

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This was a few years ago at this point, but I didn't think of it again until recently.

One day, I was running through the neighborhood and came upon a guy sitting on a bench with a falcon on his hand. My first thought was WTF, I've never seen anyone just hanging out on a bench holding a falcon! A first glance it looked like Peregrine, but when I took a closer look and didn't recognize it. After stopping to chat with him, he said that it was a cross between a Gyrfalcon and a Saker, which I had never heard of. Turns out Sakers are from Africa/Eurasia. He apparently just lived somewhere in the neighborhood and was taking his bird out for some fresh air. He'd been doing falconry since he was about 13, and by my estimate was probably in his 60's, which makes sense as the falcon he had seemed to be for an advanced falconer.

He said that the bird was pretty fierce; she would fight with Ravens in the air! I couldn't believe that. It must be something to see, given that Ravens can be huge.

I also didn't know that people would cross breed birds like that. I just think about how devastating it is to see tortoises like the sulcata-radiated hybrid that was posted in an older thread. Is common in falconry to produce such hybrids? Is it viewed differently?

The disappointing thing is that I haven't seen him around in a while. He must have moved.
 

Tom

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This was a few years ago at this point, but I didn't think of it again until recently.

One day, I was running through the neighborhood and came upon a guy sitting on a bench with a falcon on his hand. My first thought was WTF, I've never seen anyone just hanging out on a bench holding a falcon! A first glance it looked like Peregrine, but when I took a closer look and didn't recognize it. After stopping to chat with him, he said that it was a cross between a Gyrfalcon and a Saker, which I had never heard of. Turns out Sakers are from Africa/Eurasia. He apparently just lived somewhere in the neighborhood and was taking his bird out for some fresh air. He'd been doing falconry since he was about 13, and by my estimate was probably in his 60's, which makes sense as the falcon he had seemed to be for an advanced falconer.

He said that the bird was pretty fierce; she would fight with Ravens in the air! I couldn't believe that. It must be something to see, given that Ravens can be huge.

I also didn't know that people would cross breed birds like that. I just think about how devastating it is to see tortoises like the sulcata-radiated hybrid that was posted in an older thread. Is common in falconry to produce such hybrids? Is it viewed differently?

The disappointing thing is that I haven't seen him around in a while. He must have moved.
There aren't all that many falconers in the whole country, so its pretty neat that you got to chat with one. There are only about 2200 licensed practicing falconers in the whole country. Around 230 in CA.

Sounds like he was "manning" his bird. Its a process where you hold your bird on your glove and just spend lots and lots of time sitting, walking and hanging out with them. It desensitizes them to the falconer and the world around them.

Much to my dismay, hybridization is very common in falconry. I don't like it at all, but its standard practice for some things nowadays. People are required to run two telemetry devices when flying or hunting with any hybrid. A safeguard against losing one and having it contaminate the local gene pool. I can understand the goal in some cases, but not my cup of tea. This is usually only done with certain falcons and not hawks or eagles, thankfully.
 

wccmog10

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This was a few years ago at this point, but I didn't think of it again until recently.

One day, I was running through the neighborhood and came upon a guy sitting on a bench with a falcon on his hand. My first thought was WTF, I've never seen anyone just hanging out on a bench holding a falcon! A first glance it looked like Peregrine, but when I took a closer look and didn't recognize it. After stopping to chat with him, he said that it was a cross between a Gyrfalcon and a Saker, which I had never heard of. Turns out Sakers are from Africa/Eurasia. He apparently just lived somewhere in the neighborhood and was taking his bird out for some fresh air. He'd been doing falconry since he was about 13, and by my estimate was probably in his 60's, which makes sense as the falcon he had seemed to be for an advanced falconer.

He said that the bird was pretty fierce; she would fight with Ravens in the air! I couldn't believe that. It must be something to see, given that Ravens can be huge.

I also didn't know that people would cross breed birds like that. I just think about how devastating it is to see tortoises like the sulcata-radiated hybrid that was posted in an older thread. Is common in falconry to produce such hybrids? Is it viewed differently?

The disappointing thing is that I haven't seen him around in a while. He must have moved.
On the forum here we really do not like hybridzation, but in falconry it is usually done with a purpose. Different falcons have different hunting styles. Some are known for waiting on over head and stooping on their prey (peregrine falcon), some are known as tail chasers (prairie falcon). So if you make a prairie/peregrine hybrid you get a bird that will wait on over head, but also pursue the prey in a tail chase after the initial stoop. Then there are other characteristics that come into play as well, such as size and heat tolerance. The gyrfalcon is the largest falcon, which people like, larger birds can take larger quarry. But gyrfalcons live in the tundra/attic north and do not handle the heat well. So you mix that with something like a saker than lives in the desert and now you have a larger falcon that can handle the heat better. Temperament is another big factor when choosing two different species (or subspecies in some cases) to hybridize.
 

Tom

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On the forum here we really do not like hybridzation, but in falconry it is usually done with a purpose. Different falcons have different hunting styles. Some are known for waiting on over head and stooping on their prey (peregrine falcon), some are known as tail chasers (prairie falcon). So if you make a prairie/peregrine hybrid you get a bird that will wait on over head, but also pursue the prey in a tail chase after the initial stoop. Then there are other characteristics that come into play as well, such as size and heat tolerance. The gyrfalcon is the largest falcon, which people like, larger birds can take larger quarry. But gyrfalcons live in the tundra/attic north and do not handle the heat well. So you mix that with something like a saker than lives in the desert and now you have a larger falcon that can handle the heat better. Temperament is another big factor when choosing two different species (or subspecies in some cases) to hybridize.
Excellent explanation and insight. And I still don't like hybridization of any animal.
 

Tom

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Just out of curiosity, is there ever a good reason to hybridize an animal? Domestic cows?
The answer to your question is totally subjective and highly debatable. Who or what defines a "good" reason? Does any perceived good, outweigh the potential bad of the consequences? I think this debate will rage on forever. Excellent points can be made on both sides. Personally, I've never seen a case of a hybrid that was necessary, or a problem solved by hybridization that couldn't have been solved some other way, or multiple other ways.

The performance and health benefits seen in hybrid falcons is undeniable. But that doesn't make it a "good" thing in my mind, and it doesn't mean that falconry couldn't be done without these hybrids. In pet fish, parrots, and reptiles, this hybridization is done strictly for "entertainment" value. Its new and novel and some people will buy that. I find this abhorrent. At least in the falcons, there is a defensible reason to do it, and an obvious health and performance benefit is gained by the practice. I still don't like it, or want to participate in it myself, but I can see why other falconers do.

Just like our tortoises, I think people should select falconry birds that are more closely suited to their environments. I don't keep forest tortoises that require mild temps and high humidity in my climate of extreme temps and low humidity. Simply put, its too hot and dry for Manouria or red foots where I am. Likewise, I don't think someone in Tucson should get a gyrfalcon from the arctic tundra, and I don't think that someone in Northern Alaska should get a Harris' hawk or Aplomado falcon to fly.

These things are just my opinions, and I don't think I will ever run out of people to argue with them.
 
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