View Full Version : German Deer Flight - 1978

Martin Hollinshead
04-28-2011, 03:03 AM
It’s 1978 on a bitterly cold Bavarian day. A thermometer would show -20, but painful fingers in a frozen hawking glove would argue for something far more Siberian.
It’s day two of a small yearly get-together, a little tradition encouraged by the hospitality and enthusiasm of a shoot owner always keen to see a bit of hawking. The group are in high spirits; several hares and a rabbit were taken the day before and equally positive hawking is anticipated today.
With the terrain and icy wind offering soaring, it’s decided to allow one of the eagles – a large male – to go aloft, and soon he is a small silhouette holding steady far above the thickly wooded country. Streaming eyes watch him. On this freezing day he’s in high condition and in perfect hunting form, constant adjustment to his outline dealing with the turbulence as he waits and watches.
From this pitch in this deep-winter sky, the dramatic assault anticipated has the group tense with excitement as they begin to beat their way through a young plantation. Time passes and desperate eyes flash between sky and forest. The scene is perfection; all they need now is a target.
Suddenly two female roe deer take off heading for a forest aisle, snow flying as they go. Immediately the eagle switches to full attack mode, locking on to become an arrowhead rocketing away in a descending pursuit. The deer disappear over a rise and the eagle follows, vanishing too. For a moment there is nothing. Then a single distress call from one of the deer and all is quite.
The drama immediately isolates the eagle’s owner in his own world: the group is forgotten; there is just him, his dog – a big black and white Munsterlander – and the need to get after his eagle as swiftly as possible, a big challenge in this type of up-and-down country in deep snow.
He sets off, the fitness he prides himself on soon being summoned as legs fight the snow and grab a swift re-charge with every pause. The deer flushed some way ahead and the flight has gone a surprising distance: Where are they?
It takes a full half hour before the dog, way out there somewhere, alerts him to the kill scene, her excited tones echoing back eerily through the silent forest.
More struggling - that fitness now exhausted – and finally he’s there: eagle and quarry a dark mass, vivid against the snow. There is no need to dispatch the deer, she’s dead already, taken by a devastating injury and blood loss. The eagle’s exhausted and hasn’t altered his hold since bringing the deer down. His owner looks on, slowly recovering and taking in the scene. There will be other deer, many more pursuits, but this early flight will remain one of his most memorable. The anonymous falconer’s name? Today’s renowned eagle devotee Josef Hiebeler.

Flights like this – falconers like Hiebeler – shaped European eagle falconry, gave us today’s vibrant eagle scene. In my new book, Hunting Eagle, I salute this work, looking at some of Europe’s best-known eagle falconry figures. Picking up the eagle story in the early 60s and charting things through to the present day, deer are hunted, fox, hare and rabbit too – there is even an expedition to hawk jackals. Nor is North America neglected. Although focussing mainly on the European scene, I have, with the help of respected US falconers Brian Kellogg and Michael Kuriga, included a chapter on US eagle falconry. Truly, if you are interested in golden eagles I guarantee you will love this book.
The book is available in the US and Canada through NAFEX sponsors Western Sporting and Mike’s Falconry Supplies. For more information please visit their sites or my own:
http://business.virgin.net/fernhill.press/book10.htm (http://business.virgin.net/fernhill.press/book10.htm)

Best wishes,