The day after my first free flight with Atlas, I took him over to a nursery owned by my father’s friend with my family and we spent a couple hours beating the brush for some rabbits. Hunting with Red-tails is a lot of fun but very different from hunting with an accipiter or with a falcon. When my sponsor hunts with his Goshawk, he typically walks through the field with his bird on his fist. Since Goshawks are so powerful and are great at having quick bursts of speed, when he flushes a rabbit, his bird is able to take off directly from his fist with incredible power and speed and make a kill. Falcons are trained to circle hundreds of feet above the falconer until he flushes a bird and the falcon stoops at incredible speeds, driving into their prey and knocking it to the ground. With Red-tails, the bird is put up into a tree because they are not as strong as accipiters and need gravity to help them gain speed, but do not need to accelerate to speeds as dramatic as falcon’s. The bird follows the falconer along the tree-line and waits until game is flushed. We ended up flushing a couple rabbits, but Atlas didn’t see them or had no desire to give chase. Towards the end of the trip, I was walking through a field to flush game when I heard Atlas’ bells clanging and I turned around to see him drop straight down out of the tree and crash into the brush. When I got to him, he had his foot around a vole. He swallowed the thing whole in about 2 minutes and that was the end of our hunting trip. I was a little disappointed he didn’t grab a rabbit, but at least he had gotten something.
During the week, it’s hard to go out hunting with him since I’m in school most of the day, but I try and go out a couple weekdays after school behind my house and take a walk with him flying with me to get him some exercise. Weekends are a good opportunity to go hunting. The weekend after his first free flight I took him to a field near the Hayground School in Bridgehampton with my sponsor. It was raining lightly when I left my house, but I didn’t mind too much. By the time I got there, the rain had gotten a bit heavier but we decided to fly Atlas anyway. We flushed one rabbit but he quickly darted under a fence and Atlas grabbed another mouse instead. Never going out in the rain again.