Impromptu Cooper's Hawk
Submitted by Rick Reisdorph
Chapter: III: Hunting
If you've flown a Coop, or observed, or read about them you already know that there seems to be nothing that turns them on like quail. This bird is no exception. From the beginning she showed she would fly quail relentlessly until she caught them. Flights of 75-100 yards were common. She simply wouldn't quit on them. Most flights were characterized by her gaining steadily and the quail dumping just as she was about to close the deal. On a few occasions, if the quail was flushed at my feet she caught them within about 30 feet before they had any thought of dumping into cover. Even if her weight was high she always flew them enthusiastically.
Generally speaking she did very well on the kills. She was a bit skittish at times, especially early on. But she only tried to carry a couple of times and then she didn't try very hard. Of course it helped that the quail were a bit too big to easily carry. Whenever possible it was always better to let her take her time breaking in - and sometimes that took a few minutes. I had read Harry McElroy's suggestion to let the bird eat the head and neck before making in. I agree completely. I didn't always have the luxury to do that (when you fly three birds it seems you are always racing against the clock) but when I did things went smoothly. And when I didn't....sometimes not so smoothly.
Besides quail the only quarry I was able to show her that she showed any interest in was starlings. On one occasion I saw about 50 starlings foraging in a grassy area near a building. I managed to get close enough and she blasted off when she saw them. They instantly disappeared, some of them made themselves invisible, others just boogied. She flew into a tree within 30 feet of some junipers next to the building. I poked my stick into the bushes and she shot out of the tree, seemingly on a collision course with the building. When she reached the building she did an instant 180 degree turn into the junipers and snagged a starling.
I tried her on rabbits on several occasions. On the first such outing she chased rabbits twice but not with any real conviction. Each time she put them into cover but showed no interest when they were re-flushed. As the season progressed her interest in rabbits decreased and she stopped chasing them altogether.