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.

Wind-blown coop after successful quail flight
One of the more memorable flights was at a High Plains Falconers Field Trial. The wind was blowing hard and I fully expected the quail to fly upwind. The quail was flushed when we were about 15 feet away. She became distracted somehow and jumped up onto my shoulder when the quail flushed. She then saw the quail as it was heading hard downwind and already about 60 feet away. She took off and flew it down in 75 to 80 yards. I started walking leisurely towards her when someone, I think it was Chad Loyal, yelled "Prairie!". A passage prairie had decided that the quail or the Coop or both belonged to her and she was coming in to make a kill. The Coop ducked her first stoop and stood her ground. The prairie came back in for another pass and this time the Coop let go of the quail which made a break for it. While all of this was transpiring Chad and I were running for all we were worth hoping to get there before this ended badly. Well I was running for all I was worth - I don't know about Chad. Both the Coop and prairie chased the quail. The Coop beat her to it and by then we had arrived, me waiving my arms and yelling at the prairie. Even then she didn't want to give up and nearly made a final attempt with me within 20 feet. She did finally relent but landed a couple hundred yards away, sulking.

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