On the wing with Cricket and Chase

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In late 2007, while wasting time on the Web, I began searching sites about birds. Being a birder — or bird nerd, as I like to say — this made sense. But for some reason, I started searching for info about falconry, that practice of keeping raptors, or birds of prey, and sometimes hunting with them. That led me to the Washington Falconry Association. I emailed the webmaster.

That communication led to a short e-chat, where I asked if she knew anyone in the Seattle area who could tell me about falconry. She directed me to a woman named Simone. After a short e-communication with her, Simone invited me out with here and Chase, her red-tailed hawk.

We met and, the moment she took Chase out of the large corrugated plastic box she carried him in, I just about fell over: Chase was so beautiful, regal, dynamic. Chase sat on her glove and then flew off into a tree. With long sticks, Simone, another person and I beat blackberry brambles to flush out rabbits. Above us, Chase sat in a tree. And then he dove, straight to the ground, landing on top of a rabbit. Simone — who just happens to be a vegetarian — caught up to him and broke the rabbit’s neck and Chase began to feed.

I couldn’t move. The scene felt so primal. You could see fur and blood as Chase ate. We all just stood and watched. And it may sound strange, even heartless to say, but: I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. Not the gore, but the entire experience: a young woman, with her hawk, out in the suburbs of Seattle, hunting a rabbit. I told myself if I ever got the chance again, I’d do some sort of project with Simone and Chase.

Fast forward to Jan. 2010: Just a few days ago, I went out with Simone and Chase and her newest addition, Cricket, a European goshawk. I took pix and video of the rabbit hunt. I’m turning it into a video profile. When it’s done, I’ll let you know.

But to whet your appetite, here’s a pic of Simone and Cricket. All I’ll say now is the experience was incredible. And I’m gonna do my best, with the vid, to do justice to what happened that day.