Hunting Snowshoe Hares in Alaska!

– By Mike Radford

It all began back when I met this Falconer by the name of Don Hunley in my garage.  He was there for another reason and that was to pick up his honey bees. Which I sell.   My neighbor lady was there and she recognized him as “That Falconer Guy”. Evidently, he had done a show and tell about hawks. I asked him if I could go hunting with him?  He said; “sure thing”!

Before we go out, Don tells me; I got one rule.  I will tell you where and when to meet me. If you are not there at the correct time…you will be standing in the parking lot by yourself, I don’t wait on anyone.

I understood.  Not only a short time to hunt in the Alaskan Winter. Four hours of useful daylight but the cardinal rule in Falconry is;  Don’t be late!

Now I know why he was so eager to have someone along.  It’s nice to have someone watch the Hawk while you walk through the tight trees.  What’s tight?  Ha-ha, you can barely move with snowshoes on through the trees without getting caught several times.  You fall then have to get back up in deep snow.  I was hooked in a short time.

No one gets it he said over and over again.  I’m thinking; What are you talking about? He’s talking about what he goes thru to get one of these “White Ghosts” of the Boreal Forest.

Don had a Five-Year-old “Made” Imprint Female Northern Goshawk named “Phoenix.” Also, a dog named “Trapper”. Trapper was one of the only hunting terriers I’ve ever seen that actually hunted. The hawk and Trapper are gone now but what a Team!!  Together they killed hundreds of Hares and a truckload of Ducks.

We hunted all winter together whenever we could both get together.  I learned tons. Don always told me what he was doing as he did it. Also, passing on the wisdom of why he did what he did.  We hunted on snowshoes for Snow Shoes. It was a peak year back then in 2008. Phoenix would get one to three rabbits a day.

Fast forward I left Alaska and then returned to Alaska with a Hawk of my own about 8 years later. Don was instrumental in prodding me along to get a Sponsor and get underway with Falconry. I came back for a two-week hunt. I got one the first day and four the next day and then my Hawk died.  I think she hit something hard as she was a hard-hitting bird.  Her name was Ruby.

My first season with her as an Apprentice Falconer in Washington with the aid of Rohn the Jagd/Beagle 50-50 we got 55 rabbits in Western Washington briar patches and eastern Washington Sage Brush and down in Oregon.

Sue Hennamen helped a lot. We both had the same dogs.  We ran rabbits all winter everywhere in a couple of States.

I say this all the time.  If you want to be a successful falconer, hunt with dogs. Don added one more bit of knowledge.  Don’t train a dog and a Hawk at the same time in the field.  Do your homework.  Get the dog first train it in obedience.  A true HUNTING DOG doesn’t need “trained” to hunt. It needs to come, sit, and well; that’s about it. My dogs know when I call them I have something fun in line for them.  I can point to the line they will come over with their noses on the ground.

We later moved back to Alaska for good.  But before that after Ruby the Retail died, I got another Red Tail named “Lucky “and we did well with Three Jagdgeles. One mine and the other two his sisters Dixie and Jasmin.  The Girls were not mine. They were Justin and Bethany Rondeau’s dogs. Rohn’s littermates.  We got 30 cottontails that year.

Lucky got hurt two times.  Once she hurt her head above her eye and was set out for two weeks and the second time she got hit by a truck.  Out for six weeks.  “Lucky” Ended the season with a cottontail on a long flight.  Pretty good I thought for a bird that got hurt pretty bad. What’s a long flight? Lucky and my other birds fly far and long many times for rabbits and hares.  100 to 300 yards. Sometimes she will fall out of a tree but mostly it’s long flights.

I did a lot of rehab with Lucky.  Which was a name change.  Well, because she was lucky to be alive.  She pulled lots of rope and Vertical Jumps. Slowly building her up again.  She had six weeks off.

Fast forward to moving up here to Alaska.  I got three dogs and an RTH now.  I built the mews all the while getting the hawk ready for the 2019/20 season.

The birds have to adapt.  They will.  But you have to have them in shape and strong.  When they are really strong they really perform. As my Sponsor Steve Layman would say, the stronger they are the more fearless they are. It took me a while to understand but I did what he said.  I did my homework.

I train Miss Lucky all Summer.  Not so much physical training.  But just being around her. The pulling rope and VJ’s came as the season neared. We did this continuously while hunting and making the transition to SSH’s (Snowshoe Hares).

I would make the five and a half hour drive up to Delta, AK.  to try and trap a Harlins. I took the team. We hunted and scouted areas all over the place. Lucky got several swoops and Scuds at these SSH’s getting the timing dialed in.  Learning the moves. It isn’t an easy transition for a Lower 48 Hawk. We covered some ground out in the Boreal Forest. Without the dogs, there was no way to get one of these fast movers as they moved the rabbits in a circle back to me.

New territory with new quarry and predators.  When you go to a new area, the Hawks will look it over before they commit to any ground contact. Both my birds were no exception.

The hunting areas are so thick that without the dogs, it would have been just walking around in the woods.  The hunting was in a dense forest, no breaks, with thick brush. The brush is tight inter-woven willows.  Bears can make it thru so can rabbits and good dogs.

These hares run big.  350 yards one way before the dogs would turn them.  Now imagine flying an RTH high up in the trees.  The rabbits move 70 yards in front of you as soon as you set foot in the brush.  There’s the occasional one the Hawk sees right below it and falls out of the tree to hit or miss.  Not much excitement there really.  But having a Hawk that follows the dogs…man it doesn’t get any better for me.  I see long flights.  I’m talking about 100 to 300-yard flights. Sometimes the chase is for longer distances when the dogs are pushing hard.

When you have a hawk that follows dogs as Lucky does and Ruby did, that is a lot of bushwhacking.  If you don’t follow in some way you can lose sight of the hawk. Then when she hits a Hare, and it goes to screaming.  That’s a dinner call to the predators. We have Coyotes, Eagles, Foxes, Wolverines, Lynx, and bears that can come in and kill the Hawk.  You better follow.  You better be really good with telemetry.  Like Brad Felger told me.  “If it takes you 30 minutes to find your hawk you may only find a pile of feathers”.

Now following this team in the wrong way will mess up the rabbit running so you have to consider that.  Rabbits as do Hares typically run a left-hand counter-clockwise circle pattern 95% of the time. The pattern isn’t always a perfect circle. The Hare will run then circle way out there and then make its way back to its territory.

I let the dogs run and the Hawk fly.  It is in my opinion the best Hawking there is.  As Steve Layman would say, “Natural History right before your eyes”. The interaction of the Hawk using the dogs. It goes way back in time.

In fact, many times the Local Wild Goshawks would come in and sit near my RTH. One time the Goshawk dove on the same rabbit the dogs were pushing at the same time the RTH did.

Some of my hawking buddies can’t believe how far the team will go.  Hawk with my team you’ll see some country and get in shape.  Time and again I have seen the Hawk position herself so the Hare runs right under her.  That’s not by chance.  She will have flown all over the forest following the dogs. Mostly catching up with them and getting out in front when the time is right.

She hunts the “Ripples”.  What’s that mean?  Throw a rock in the water.  You see ripples. The Hares are in front of the dogs and to the sides.  Not just one hare but other hares.

That’s why you have dogs. To move hares and rabbits. These dog’s noses go to the ground. If they sight chase it’s mostly a jumped rabbit.  That is out of sight soon.  Nose to the ground, hence the beagle part of the cross.

That idea of getting a hound was one of Steve’s requirements. I’ll sponsor you if you get a dog; He said.  I was already looking for one when I called him.  He turned me on to Master Falconer Justin Rondeau.  Another apprentice of Steve’s some 15 years before.  Justin Rondeau is the person that turned Steve on to these dogs. The 50-50 Jagd/Beagle.

I had no idea what I was getting. Boy am I happy. The dogs are equipped with GPS tracking training collars also.  That’s a great tool.

Many of the days we hawked were truly spectacular.  Snowcapped Mountains, rising up 6,500-10,000 feet above Sea level. Cold in the mornings and warm during the day.  The days were still long and the SSH’s were everywhere.

The Dogs, Rohn, Dixie, and Jasmin were in Dog Heaven.  They would average 9.5 miles a day in the brush.  Running several rabbits many times two at once.  The Hawk positioned high up in the Black Spruce watching waiting or flowing the dogs and calculating the attack.

I very rarely call my bird down.  I let her hunt.  I only call the dogs over when I have a line on the rabbit.  They come running when I call.  Why?  Because they know when I call, I have the fresh scent of a hare I’ve seen.

Part of the training is, I don’t lie to the dogs. I wonder what they think when I call them over to work and area and there’s a rabbit in there. The hawk is always repositioning over or near the dogs. If I call the dogs over to a new area overcomes the hawk. The hawks see everything from above.  Many times, hitting other hares and not the one the dogs were working on. I saw rabbits coming by me, pause, then keep going as the dogs got near.

I saw so many rabbits hauling ass through the brush as I’ve never seen before.  Many chases with the dogs in hot pursuit and the hawk hitting the hare right in front of the bark.  These hares will take 15’ leaps.  I’ve seen it.  Many people will think yayaya right.  Buts it’s been documented.  Jackrabbits which are hares also do the same.

Looking at the brush in new areas, you’d say to yourself… Are there hares in that mess of brush?  Just like the briar patches in Western Washington…We’ll find out shortly when I loose the hounds.

I knew back in Western Washington the bunnies would hang in the briars. Here in Alaska, they hang in what I came to call “Rabbit Brush.”  Some up here call it “Soap Brush.” It’s the thigh-high impenetrable brush.  I have seen Lucky hit that stuff and literally bounce back up.  Look at me and remount.

Here in Alaska, the hares are in the forest also. The Rabbit Brush is the thick cover in the forest undergrowth.

Like I mentioned before, the hares would run a straight line so far, you’d think it was March in Washington breeding season. When the Males run out of the county. I’m talking 250 to 300 yards straight away. I’ve had them run further but no one would believe it.

It was a big transition for Me and the Hawk.

If a dog lit up on a Hare many times it was a hundred yards away.  These Hares Start moving out as soon as the truck stops.  You got to have everything ready to go when you get out of the truck.  When that engine shuts off the Hawk is turned loose in one minute.
I would stop prior to the area and lite up the telemetry on the hawk or turn it on before I left the house.  Then get the GPS collars going on the Dogs.  So, when I get to the hunting area, I would let the Hawk out and she would settle in a high-up tree to scope things out.  When she was really cranked up she would scream at me from the treetops. As if to say; Get those dogs going! Now!

Then out comes the ground team.  “Lose the Tornadoes.”  The ground team would move out in a tight but loose formation into the brush. Their noses on the ground tails wagging. The Beagle Nose is a real plus and these crosses know how to use it. Shortly the dogs would lite-up. Then it’s game on!  The hawk would immediately chase the dogs. I wish I could see what she was seeing from her vantage.

When those dogs start barking you could see the excitement in the Hawk increase. She knew that the game is on.

I would go for several days even weeks without weighing her.  We flew every day.  I watch how she acts in the mews.  I watch how she looks around when we get to an area to hunt.  I look at her looking around and thinking…yes! I know this area.  (They do know the area).  The hares also know you’re there.  I’ll say it again. Be ready to go when you get on site.  That is true anywhere you hunt.

I have seen many times the hawk flies off one way when I release her.  The dogs would go the other way. I’m standing there and the dogs lite-up. Overcomes the Hawk. Flapping wings fast and hard thru the forest.

I have often heard from other Falconers, Is that normal? What? I would ask. The Hawk flying away like that in the opposite direction from the dogs. Nothing is normal. I might like for her to go over to that tree but she goes where she wants. Then overcomes the Hawk at the sound of the dogs on the scent. Followed by the scream of the quarry. Sometimes I think it’s what the Hawks do. She will go the other way and hide. Coming in hard when the dogs lit up with their music. The dogs distracting the Hare and the Hawk comes in from above in a surprise attack.

As the season wore on the snow came, the days got shorter and colder. Then the snow came almost every day. I love the snow.  Tracks!!!

Tracks in the snow everywhere!  Short days,  not much time to hunt.  Let’s get this done. The dogs did great in the snow until it got over one foot deep. They still tracked Hares which most dogs would give up. If you have dogs that run Hares or Jacks it makes them all the better on Cottontails.

We got one or a couple of hares most times. But don’t think every time I go out my hawk will kill something.  She did most of the time. But many times, the “Team” got skunked. Some would say; Ahhh to bad. Not really. Skunks are hard if you think about it the right way. The areas are tough and it also means the quarry is getting smarter. The hawk has to get better so does the ground team.  Which they did.

Lucky kept pulling the rope.  Many will say; you can stop pulling rope or VJ’s with the Hawk after you get them in shape in the fall.

But here’s what I know. The better shape the hawks are in the better they perform.  Here’s another thought, if you want an “ordinary” performance, well just fly the bird.  If you want an extraordinary performance do the extraordinary.  The other way, pretty soon the hawk levels out on strength and performance. The flight you see is only an average of all flights.  Give the bird this extra training and with this extra training, they will never gas out or quit. They will have a big engine to feed and work hard.  Because they can. If you work them out every day they will get Hares and rabbits further out.

Think about it this way, the hawk is in a tree, she sees a rabbit far away, say 300 yards, the rabbit is loping along near cover happily ahead of the dogs, she knows she can get it. So off she goes and at the last minute the hare sees her inbound and puts on the wheels and the hawk isn’t out of gas.  She has her own wheels to pursue. She nails it.  But what if she didn’t get it? What if the rabbit makes it to cover?  She just remounts and waits for the dogs.  Not out of breath or gassed out but ready to go again.

It’s easier to hunt than it is to pull rope or do VJ.  Which are hunts also. These hares keep going, their life depends on it. You better have a Hawk on weight and in shape for a day of hawking in the North country. Thanks, Steve Layman.

When the snow is 8-9 inches it’s doable on foot.  Snowshoes not really needed.  But 15” to two feet of snow it’s all snowshoes from then on.

 I have two sets of snowshoes.  One is 36” metal, Tubbs.  I also have some wooden 56” Tubbs.  Those long ones are for the real deep snow.  The 36” Tubbs I have are the biggest metal ones made. They say when you are buying them go by your weight.  Nope. Get the biggest ones they make. One thing to mention about the metal ones is they don’t break down.  I have seen the wood ones’ mesh webbing break.

If you are thinking that snowshoeing sounds like fun.  Think again. Walking around on snowshoes is not in any way fun. I do it because the bird is on weight and ready to hunt and that is what this all about.  The Bird…

This also took some different clothing.  No briars up here but the snow and wet will kill you.  “Cotton Kills,” we say.  For Pants, I wear Summit Skins.  An innovative material that is lightweight and sheds the snow plus it is lined.  One time I did have to put polypropylene long-johns on. The temps were pretty cold. That was when it was right near zero Farenheight.  I wear two layers of Poly long-sleeved shirts.  One lite and one medium weight.  I may sweat but it wicks away quickly.  Keeping me dry and warm.  The coat is just a small outer shell. One thing you don’t want to do is get soaked with cotton from sweat.  Also, have really good boots.  I use Sorrel Pack boots. I also use a pair of Cabelas insulated muck boots I got for 75 bucks on sale.  They are good when the temps are about 20 to 30 F.  The muck boots weigh 3 pounds each and the Sorrels maybe a little more.  The Snowshoes are about two pounds each.  You will get in shape for sure.  No gym membership required.

The socks are “Smartwool” socks.   I also take spare clothes.

Here’s a tip.  If you can, walk back to the truck in your previous tracks, do it.

Here’s why, when you disturb the snow, it melts from the friction and then sets up harder. Making it an easier walk back on hard-packed snow.

I said the dogs averaged about 9 .5 miles a day.  Many times, the Crazy Jagdgeles went 16 miles. More than not.

The next day out the hunts were just as intense.  I would quit at about 9 miles with a Hare.  I think I would average about half what they would run.  3-5 miles.

When the snow came and it was one foot deep they were able to make about 6-7 miles a day.

So here we are driving 2 hours every day to hunt.  112 miles one way. Then two hours back.  I had some other areas.  One area was really hard. The distance was one hour ten minutes.  I went there 6 times before I got a Hare. That’s correct. I went to an area 6 times before the Team got one. That’s six skunks. That was a Trophy Hare.

Ya see I always hunted hard areas.  It’s really more rewarding. Steve Layman would say, hunt this area down in Washington State.  I’d say; I did!  It’s all overgrown. Then he’d say you need more dogs if you are going to hunt that area.  The next season I got two more dogs. Problem solved…well almost.  These rabbits ran these dogs ragged.  I had to up their food intake by a lot and I was also feeding them pork and beef fat.  Along with raw chicken thighs.  The skin on and bone-in. I fed them a mix of super high protein and fat kibble. 32% protein and 25% fat.

That’s some hot food. The Mushers feed their dogs the same feed.  In fact, they go one higher.

Remember it’s not only hard running its cold.

Another place was one and a half hours away.  Good numbers of Hares.  I always got a Hare there.  But I saw a lot more than we got. Remember… Skunks are good!

Our skunks…well, it’s not for the fact the Hawk didn’t hit the ground or make lots of swoops. Sometimes she would scud out 8 to 15 times before connecting. Sometimes not getting anything at all.

The forest I was hunting was so thick I lost my bird at least five times a hunt.  Telemetry was my friend.  I’d hear the dog’s way over there and I knew the bird was in that general area.  But I could not find her.  I’d have a line on her and then she would launch…I’d listen for the scream…nothing. A Scud!  But off I would go.  Then I’d see her remount and then follow the dogs.  Off I’d go again.  I got so turned around one time I almost got lost.  It was getting late.  Darkness comes early in November at 4:30. I see her launch again and the loud scream of the Hare and boy was it pissed.  It took me what seemed like an eternity to get there.  The dogs were quiet. A good sign.  They will hang around her most of the time.  There she is! (telemetry exercise).   There she is in a creek tangled up in the brush with a pissed off Hare in her talons.  I get over there thru the devil’s club to dispatch the rabbit.  Oh, wait! It’s already dead!

Many times, Lucky hit the Big Hares so hard it broke their backs. When I skinned them, I would see the bruised areas where she connected.

I hooked up the dogs and let her eat.  After gathering everything up, I had finally stopped sweating.  The walkout was about a mile.

I took the dogs out in deep snow to see how they would do.  Ha-ha, they soon figured out where the Hares were.  They were under the snow in what we call “Rabbit Condos”.  Rabbit Condos are bent over willows with the weight of the snow.  If you can imagine: not much snow under the bent over willow branches.  A rabbit heaven.  Away from predators and food to eat.  They eat the willow bark.

If the dogs did bust one out it would go a few yards and dive under the snow again.   If the Hawk got a shot… she had to be fast.

The Hawk’s decision is this. Do I expend the energy, hit the ground and miss, get wet, or wait for the dogs and attack again?  I saw it all.  This bird knows what she can get or not. Indicated by the scud to kill ratio going down.

If the Hare made a mistake and tried to get out of the area away from the ground team the Hawk had a great chance.  She would usually show some great flying and get a Hare.  Many flights were a hundred yards away or more.  This hunting is not the typical Hawk falling out of a tree in the 45-degree cone.

The SSH’s are great fast runners on top of the snow.  Huge back feet.  Where the dogs punch thru the snow, hares float on top.

I stopped taking the dogs in the deep snow.  Then when it was obvious the RTH would have a hard time I hawked in snow less than a foot deep.  But man was it cold in those areas.

People will tell Ya; that they hawk in minus temps but they won’t do it for long.  Think about it for a minute. You got an uninsulated Hawk Glove. You got a warm hand and a cold one.  Then your Hawk will just sit in a tree.  Nothing moves at those temps.  I’ve lived up here all my life.  7 degrees is doable.  If it’s overcast skies it’s dang cold cause no sun. The Hares sit tight.  If the Sun is out it’s really doable. The Hares seem to come out and sun themselves.  I like mid-teens to mid-twenties.  The animals move and the dogs have a better time of it.

Here’s something I had to deal with is the abrasion of the snow in between the dog’s toes. When I saw the blood on the truck seats I didn’t hunt them for a couple of days.  I got “Dog Booties” for them and I found this salve Dog Mushers use to put on their feet. That healed them up quickly.

One other thing is when it’s super cold like below zero the scent is on the ground not in the air. Making it harder for the dogs to track the Hare.  But they did it pretty well.  All I needed them to do was move rabbits.

Then there’s the fact the dogs get ice chucks on them.  When they are done you had to rub the ice off the dogs. If you don’t, they get really cold because they are wet. Their fur is such that it dry’s quick. But they get really cold before they dry off. I always had a towel with me to dry them off.  My hands get cold and so on.  But after about 30 minutes they warm up.

 I went to hawking with snow machine gloves on both hands. Does the hawk go thru them?  Yep, she could easily, but I don’t call her down much. When she comes down, it’s a kill or time to go. When it is getting dark and she’s hungry and done. She will now go over to the truck and wait for me to make it back.  Or just follow me to the truck.

People might ask, Why three dogs?  I just smile and say, that’s all I have.

Well, one would do they almost argue.  Ya, but it isn’t as fun. They jump rabbits all over the place.  That’s why you got to relax and sit back and enjoy the show.  Cause it is a Show.  A Three Ring Circus.  (Coined by Don Hunley).

The Hawk works the whole area.   Remember the hawk sees everything.  Yes, other hares get jumped out but they don’t go far when the snow gets deep.  It’s not their nature.  They are white and think no one can see them.

They get distracted by the Hounds from Hell and make mistakes.

I’ve seen one Hare the dogs are running cross a dirt trail, and the Hawk nails one right in front of me going the other way at a right angle to the other one crossing the trail.

Hawking in Alaska isn’t for the faint of heart.  I knew that going in.  It’s fun in the beginning and it gets more challenging the deeper into winter you go. Less sun, I mean 5 hours of useful daylight. You are getting ready to go in the dark and coming home in the dark. It’s colder and the roads to the hawking areas are covered with snow and ice.

I went “outside” in January to hunt Washington. When I did the temps plunged to -25 to -35 in Anchorage.  It would warm up to -15 during the day. Nothing moves at those temps.  In Fairbanks, it’s even colder.

Next year it will be the same up here.  There are still good numbers in some areas. But like one Falconer said,  If you have dogs and the numbers are low you still have a chance.  In some areas, I hunt maybe a drive of five hours so I’ll stay for several days. Then, as the weather gets colder and the day’s shorter so I’ll migrate with three dogs and two birds to the Lower Latitudes.

Can you imagine trapping a Harlins, flying it in the winter then putting it on a plane, and the next thing it knows it’s migrated to the lower 48 in three hours.

Harlins don’t stay up here.  They migrate out.  Like I said: It’s tough up here.  Animals are smart.  Right? They get the hell out.

I wanted to mention.  When I came out in January there was a transition for the bird.  She had the SSH’s down. Plus it was much warmer.  She then had to change upon Cotton Tails. These are fast little guys in January. These are the smart ones with the moves.  We had a few skunks then she got them dialed in.

Remember I like skunks too.  I like lots of Scuds.  Swoops are great when she climbs back up to the top of trees.  I like “Kestrels” hovering to a wing over hit.   I also think “Batman’s” floating out of a treetop to a tuck and dive or to a pull up is really cool.  These maneuvers are strong.  Watching your bird do them over and over is great fun. Then throw in the dogs.  Just one dog will increase your fun and numbers.  But if you want to bust bunnies and hares out of deep cover more dogs are required.

When my Sponsor Steve Layman was training me, I would call him at the end of the day… every day.   I would say; I got one! He’d say that’s GREAT!  Then after five or six bunnies, he’d ask; How may Scuds?  I’d ask; what’s a SCUD?  he explained, that’s how many times did she hit the ground and came up empty? (a SCUD is a term coined by Seth Layman in 1990 during the Iraq War of the Russian Missiles that were inaccurate.) He counted scuds of his RTH. He did this to describe to his Dad how hard the hunting was. He renamed his bird Scud.  The harder the area the more Scuds.

Then it got real fun every night.  She had 13 scuds and a kill I’d say and 7 swoops.  He’d ask; Swoops?  I said; Ya Swoops!  Red Tails Swoop.  Falcons Stoop.  He’d then ask; How many Batman’s?  I’d ask; Batman’s?  He says; Ya, does she ever float out of a tree quiet like Batman in the movies does off a tall building. Wings pulled in floating quietly down.  Oh Ya! Then it was, I found another area!  Then it became finding a new area was really fun.

Then I said I didn’t get one today.  Ha-ha, he’d laugh.  That’s GREAT! He said.  You got a Skunk!  That’s great!  Then it would start. How many Batman’s? Swoops? Scuds?  How long did you hunt?  Six hours.  He’d say you hunted that bird six hours?

How far did the dog run? That was after I got a GPS collar. 9 miles I’d say.

So, hunting hard areas for me is more fun.   Get an easy area and well it sure would be fun too.  But I like hard areas.

Or go to Alaska and dive into Hare Hunting Extreme.

I hunted ducks with the Goshawk. Mr. Twitch. A Passage Tiercel Goshawk. It was so dang cold I would start to freeze shortly after getting out of the truck.  Then every time that little guy hit a duck he would ride it back to the water like a surfboard.

I got wet every time he hit a duck. We hunt in waders but they are not insulated enough. Now I take a change of clothes everywhere I go.

I almost got Twitch on Cottontails in Washington. I had to return to the Frozen North unexpectedly. We ran out of time in the Lower 48.  Next year he’ll be a Duck Hawk and a Bunny hawk.

Oh, I lost him one night in town.  Ha-ha, it was so cold I couldn’t take it anymore looking for him. Try finding a scared Goshawk at night in a wooded lot with two feet of snow with just Street shoes on. I came back the next morning.  Threw out the lure with a Red Lite on it as we trained with. Out of the trees, he comes crashing in and hits that lure like a logging chain from ten thousand feet. Looking up at me like; I’ve been waiting for you all night!  He was happy and so was I.

Make sure you train your bird to come to a lighted lure.

Oh, one other thing I changed my telemetry batteries more often because of the cold.

Come to Alaska and Hawk with me and the other guys.  Fairbanks season is one month.  I have a better time in Anchorage.  But the drives are far.  There are only five of us, Hawking, in Anchorage. Tim Sell on Geese with his Siberian Female, Don Hunley with his two Goshawks a Finn Female, and his Imprint Tiercel NGH. Me with my RTH and Passage Tiercel NGH and Tyler Dent with his Harlins that got 21 hares this last season.  Layne Crow with his Harlins and a Female Goshawk.

Don and Tim are getting one of the pups that were just born. They are 75/25 Beagle/Jagd. This will be perfect timing. The dogs will be running Hares in the Fall.

Special thanks go out to Don Hunley for helping me learn to hunt Ducks and sharing your spots, Tim Sell for all your help, and of course Steve Layman for helping me with the Gos hawk. Flying a Passage Tiercel Goshawk is fun.  But Dirt or (Snow Hawking) an RTH is really fun.

I Think I got skunked about 25 times. I never got a March Hare. I hawked 15 days in March.  The scuds went from 10-13 for a Hare to 3-4. The dogs ran 495 miles X 3. Anchorage to Fairbanks is 359 miles.  We drove about 6000 miles easily.  Plus took a plane ride with the whole team to Washington and back. That’s three dogs and two Hawks.  Maybe next year I’ll have a GPS on the bird and I’ll have an average of miles she flies. I walked about three miles per hawking trip for 165 miles. In total crap areas. Got soaking wet three times.

I can’t wait until next year. I hope this paints a picture in your mind of how much fun I had. Finding new areas, killing Hares in those areas, and going on to find more areas.

Like Layman says, In Dirt Hawking, most of the fun is finding new areas.  It’s the unknown for You, the hawk, and the dogs.

This summer I will be out scouting new areas.

– Mike Radford Nov 2020