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Falconry Part III: Going Hunting
Thu Jun 1, 2006 06:11 (XFF:

Demetri led the class out of the mews quietly, studying the looks on their faces as they passed her; she saw reverence, happiness, contentment—everyone seemed to have enjoyed this portion of the lesson as she thought they might. It was a hard and cold heart that resisted the charms of a cute and fuzzy hatchling. Farouk Gaidin was leaning against the building when they emerged back into the bright light and she gave him a nod, moving toward him. "This is Farouk Gaidin, a Jenn'faile or Master Falconer, here at the White Tower. He was the one who apprenticed me when I showed interest in falconry and should any of you wish to purse this when your studies allow, he will work to find you a falconer in which to apprentice to as well."

He gave her a tight-lipped smile on his thin lips, turning tanned, leathery skin into almost a mask and Demetri smiled at him, knowing the brusque display was only for show. "Learning to become a falconer isn't a process that happens in a few weeks or a few months. It took me five years to become a falconer through learning about each of the birds and their anatomy, how to care for them as healthy and sick birds, how to obtain one from the wild and train it, among the many many things that one learns as an apprentice. It's as difficult a road as anything else you'll learn in your life, but one that's rewarding when you reach your goal."

It sounded sappy, she knew, but gaining the title of Falconer with her other appellations had been rewarding. "Farouk Gaidin, have the horses been prepared?"

"They have." He said, glancing to the small group before going silent again.

Loquacious as ever, she thought with an inward grin, resisting the urge to roll her eyes at him. "All right, the last part of this lesson is something of a reward as well as practical practice—we're going to go hunting with the hawks just outside the gates of the city. This will give you an opportunity to work directly with your hawk, see him or her in action and learn how to bring the hawk back in once the hunting is concluded. For many nobles, this is a pastime of idleness—yet more often than not, the noble relies on their falconer on hand to provide the sport and entertainment and have no true skill at being a falconer.

"Put back on your gloves, if one doesn't fit properly, come back up to this pile of them and find one that fits comfortably to your hand. We have all shapes and sizes to accommodate you. Then I'd like each of you go to one of the boxes," she directed. "Where you'll place the hood over the head of the hawk once it's out and then return to me."

She watched the men and women amble around, some coming back up to the table to get a better fitting glove, while others made their way to the boxes. "You'll find one of two types of hawks in these boxed perches. There is the most common red-tailed hawk—we usually use these with more novice falconers because they have easy temperaments and are incredibly easy to train. They generally have a white breast to them with a reddish color to their back and tail, hence the name. The red-tail is considered a "boradwing" which, not surprisingly, refers to their wing span and size. The other hawk we're using today is a Harris' hawk. If you open a boxed perch and see a bird that looks very much like an eagle, then you have a Harris' hawk. They are basically brown all over with some reddish markings here and there, depending on the bird and its lineage.

"As an aside to the Harris' hawk, they are very familial in temperament, often very social and hunting in packs as opposed to most raptors that often hunt within their territory alone. Now come with me and we'll get mounted and head out."

Demetri led them toward the horses where her own warhorse Gai'vaidal was waiting. Farouk Gaidin was waiting and without saying a word, helped each of the men and women to the saddle, holding their hawk until they were situated and then giving it over again. As they all mounted, she opened a Gateway with threads of Spirit, showing the open, rolling prairie of the lands outside of Tar Valon. Farouk Gaidin was the first to lead through and Demetri indicated the others were to follow after; her Gateway was sufficient for men and women to ride through, only having to bend slightly in order to clear the top; she was last and closed the weave before turning back to the men and women in her class.

"We're going to ride out to that slightly wooded area there." She pointed. "It'll take us about five minutes, so if you're not that comfortable in the saddle, we'll be there shortly. These hawks are the best trained in the White Tower, so they'll be comfortable with the movement of the horse and so long as you keep your nose from close contact, they won't nip at anything out of fear." The smile she gave was friendly, but there was no mistaking that she still spoke the truth, bound as she was by the Oaths.

It took, as promised, roughly five minutes to get to the small copse of trees and Demetri reined them in for a halt. "We'll take the Harris' hawks out first," she instructed. "Due to their social nature, we can bring them out at once and let them hunt together. Depending on what's out here today, these hawks will hunt anything from another bird in the sky such as a swallow, or they may decide to go for something different and larger. Farouk Gaidin, if you would, could you work with me to provide a demonstration on how the hawks will react when they find prey and how to call the bird back?"

The Gaidin nodded, dismounting and pulling out a lure from his belt. Removing the hood from Aditi's head, she saw his liquid black eyes turn to her and then his head swiveled as Farouk began whirling the lure in easy, large arcs. Although Aditi was easily three hands high, he weighed hardly more than a loaf of bread; when he took off, she felt the pressure and force of his flight and then he was rising in the air, wings outspread before he dived, catching the leather lure mid-air and coming to the ground. Wings were spread out as he hunched over his "kill" and Demetri pointed it out. "Notice how once he has his prey captured, he protects it with his wings from any other hawk or predator."

Farouk tossed a piece of meat to the ground and then Demetri was giving a hearty shout, "Aditi, here!" The hawk turning and launched from the ground, landing lightly on her outstretched hand, balancing with one foot. "See how his claw still clutches to the meat? Most hawks have an instinctive 'switch' so to speak so that once they've clutched something, their claw will remain in this position for a few moments. It's a physical precaution that should they catch something such as another bird mid-flight, they'll keep a hold of it. Ah, there he goes, now he's eating his meat."

Once he was finished with his reward, Demetri placed the hood over the head of the hawk and looked to the others. "All right, those of you who have Harris' hawks, go ahead and remove the hoods to your birds, they'll be fine." As she looked at those who removed the hoods to the birds, she told each of them their names so that when the birds were recalled they knew who to shout for. "To make them take flight, simply lift your hand upward smoothly but quickly and that will be their cue to take flight. Keep an eye on your bird—they're trained to stay nearby and hunt in the area we are, so there's no danger of them flying off, once you see that your bird has dived, give the shout and wait for your bird to return. If they don't return, try again, and if that fails, we can recall him or her with a whistle I've brought along."

She looked around. "Don't be appalled if they return with a dead animal—if they do, give them a reward of some of the meat that Farouk Gaidin and I have brought along and take the dead animal before having it perch back up on your hand and hooding it again. If it comes back empty handed, it just means that the prey got away, which often happens as well; still, give the bird a reward of meat and bring it to your hand and hood it."

Turning to those who held red-tails. "Once the Harris' have finished their flights, we'll let out the red-tails one by one, with the same instructions. Now, set your birds to flight!"

OOC: Last and final part! This last part is a minimum 500 words describing your character's ability to set the hawk to flight, watch it fly and dive and get it back. Whether or not you're able to call the hawk back or you need the whistle is up to you, and even if your hawk catches something. I left it open for you to choose the names of your birds just for the fun of it and if you want to have a red-tail you don't have to wait for others to post first, just write it out that your char waited.

This lesson will close and end on June 6, if you need an extension email me, otherwise good luck, have fun with your birds and have fun with your character hunting for the first time with them!

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