Rusty and the Lure

Last evening, I took Rusty out in the backyard to do some lure-flying. The lure is a leather form vaguely shaped like a bird that is tethered to a leather-wrapped weight. The falconer swings the lure and — if all goes well — the falcon or hawk comes and tries to bind to the lure.

I weighed Rusty, and while she was much heavier than I would take her for a hunting outing, she seemed responsive to the lure, so out we went. We had about a dozen flights, and on about five of those I got her to swoop in, miss the lure on the first pass, but then turn in the air and catch it on the second pass. Diane and I would like to get Rusty to the point where we can reliably get her to actually still turn in the air and hit the lure after two consecutive misses.

The lure helps keep the bird fit, and also is useful in the field for bringing birds back quickly, as might be indicated in circumstances like the falconer spotting a owl in the area. Great horned owls are large predators that don’t mind taking hawks if they are convenient. Earlier this year, there was a point where Rusty was perched on a pole and I noticed a large bird headed our direction. I didn’t have the lure on me (Diane had it), but I did run over toward the pole waving my arms and yelling. Rusty looked at me like, “Crazy human,” but the great-horned owl broke off its approach and headed elsewhere.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

4 thoughts on “Rusty and the Lure

  • 2006/04/09 at 2:45 pm

    I never realized that great horned owls can go after hawks! Just how big are the owls?

  • 2006/04/09 at 3:01 pm

    Check this page on great horned owls, which says that adults weigh between 3 and 4 pounds. Rusty weighs about 2 pounds, so these birds are from about one and a half to two times Rusty’s weight. They are big birds. For comparison, a golden eagle adult may weigh between 7 and 13 pounds. If we see a golden eagle, we don’t let Rusty out, or we immediately try to get her back under our protection. We have skipped hunting spots before on credible reports of golden eagle activity. It’s like seeing shotgun hunters out and about: not worth the risk.

  • 2006/04/09 at 4:28 pm

    Horned owls pack a pretty good wallop, and frequently kill wild red-shouldered hawks here in Calif. They leave my wife’s big female redtail alone, but have had pretty clear designs on her male Harris’s. One extra problem with horned owls is that they begin breeding very early (January), and thus are behaving territorially in the later part of hawking season. Horned owls tend not to bluff, as plenty of folks climbing trees to check nestlings have learned the hard way.

  • 2007/05/15 at 10:05 am

    I am a falconer in Marina CA and am looking for a lure flying video on the web if possible. I think I could buy one, but would like to try for a free one first. Nothing on utube
    Would appreciate any help!

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