All I can say is that I had the best time at this meet. The hawking was a challenge, but the camaraderie among the falconers was fantastic.

Here are some shots from the meet. I promised myself beforehand to take 100's of pics, and I failed...I took some but not enough to do it justice.

Here are some from Sunday November 20th hawking with Ian and Joel from Colorado. It was damp and snowy and only three rabbits were sighted, Ian's gos had one beautiful flight but the made it to a hole. We got one slip for Joel's redtail but the cover was too tight and holes too close by. These guys are hardcore hawkers and we had a lot of laughs.

Monday the 21st saw the arrival of my goshawk mentor and general falconry guru Steve Layman. After running into Steve in the parking lot of the meet hotel Scott McNeff and I went up to Steve's room to hang out and BS and within an hour about 10 falconers gathered including Geoff Hirshi, Simone Cooke, Rachel Stewart, Sarah, Kirk Anderson, Jeff Redig and others, and for the next two hours we all sat in a semi-circle while Steve held court and we discussed falconry philosophy. Later in the afternoon we did manage to get out hawking to a spot that Geoff Hirshi knew about far out in the country on a high ridge of sage and juniper, the scent of the sage is intoxicating by the way. We got about 5 slips for my gos and she caught one with the assist going to Steve's JRT Joey - it was the culmination of 10 years of talking on the phone to Steve about goshawks to have my bird catch a rabbit that his dog flushed. Others captured that on film, the only pic I took that day was of Steve and Scott and Steve's dogs, and a shot from the ridge where we were hawking - the most beautiful spot I've ever hawked.

Tuesday the 22nd I was in the NAFA board meeting all day until around 3pm, and had just enough time to sneak out with Scott and Pete Rodas to do a little goshawking. Hannah caught her second cottontail of the meet in a nice flight up in the hills east of Jensen, UT, Pete took a bunch of pics so when I get those I'll post them.

Wednesday the 23rd Jeff Redig, Scott McNeff and I were invited to go grouse hawking with Steve Jensen and Steve Tait, also along were a truckload of Brits and Bob Pendergrass and his wife. Before telling the tale of this outing I need to tell you just how great the Steve's are, Steve's Tait and Jensen are the kindest, most generous and funniest guys you could hope to hookup with at a falconry meet, we had more laughs than should be allowed in a single day of hawking. Here's the grouse story: After an hour and 20 minute drive, with breath taking views, we pull into the hawking grounds and pile out of our respective vehicles so the Steve's can fill us in on the strategy to hawk these monsters when someone notices a grouse sitting out in the sage about 120 yards away (see pic). To avoid a flush we gather on the far side of Steve's truck while Steve readied the bird for Bob to cast off, unfortunately the already spooky grouse flushed with the first wing beat of the falcon. After a few minutes on the wing Steve called the hybrid down to the lure. Next we drove 5 miles downwind so that we could run a dog into the wind while we slowly followed in the truck. Steve Tait's young pointer didn't disappoint, he quartered back and forth in front of us, at some point he got birdie and worked hard for another five minutes before coming to a staunch point. Having never seen a dog work like this before was a real treat for me, I couldn't believe how far out the dog scented the grouse and then to watch him work the scent until finally locating the grouse was nearly as exciting as watching the falcon. With the dog on point Steve got his second tiercel hybrid in the air and he went up to 700-800 feet and came over upwind of the point and Steve flushed the grouse. Two got up, the lead bird bird powered out of the county and second bird dumped as the falcon stooped in. The hybrid remounted and just kept going up and up and up, meanwhile the young pointer relocated and pointed, but in his excitement inadvertently flushed the flushed the grouse with the falcon out of position.

The next 30 minutes were spent with the hawking party craning out necks watching the tiercel fade in and out of our vision as he worked the high winds at altitude, it was blowing 25 at ground level. He would do these high altitude stoops with massive throw ups to conserve energy it looked super cool. I had a bunch of common pigeons with me so we eventually tossed one which evaded the initial stoop but died from the subsequent throw up and chase down.

On our way back to the trucks Bob and his wife spotted a whitetail jack siting tight in the sage, they took a bunch of pics of the hare and it flushed and trotted a 100 yards and hunkered down near the trucks. What do a bunch of falconers do when prey presents itself like this? You guessed it, the excitement was too much and I got out my gos to give the jack a try. I was busy getting the gear together and when I touched the Powermax on her back with the magnet I got a false positive, rather than hearing my gosses transmitter I was hearing one from the pointer. Not knowing that my transmitter wasn't on I went in for the slip, the jack slipped when I was about 20 feet away and ran to the right and my gos left the fist and flew to the left, she tipped her wings into the 25 mph breeze and immediately blew downwind and over a hill. We spent the next hour combing the valley trying to hear a transmitter that was never even turned on. I was in a serious state of trying to adjust to the fact that in my haste to impress and go for a huge prize quarry I made the most idiotic error in my falconry career and would pay the price in the loss of a great bird. We were about 5 miles downwind from where I lost her and decided to return to the scene of the crime to look again, when we were about a half mile downwind form the point of loss she flew across the road in front of the truck. You've never seen three guys bail out of a pickup quicker, Scott tossed out the pigeon on a string and Hannah was back on my fist in seconds. We turned on the transmitter and a few minutes later Steve Jensen pulled up in his truck having picked up the signal. Good lesson here for me and everyone else.

We got back to the meet hotel to enjoy the shrimp boil, it was the best! Chris rocks and this tradition is a highlight of every meet.

Thanksgiving day November 24th. A big crew assembled at the meet hotel to get out for goshawking, among them were Ally & Richard from Montana, Larry & April from North Carolina, Geoff & Cameron Hirshi from Washington, Ron Clarke, Jeff Redig and myself. It was cold and there was hoarfrost over everything. Geoff flew his stunning Laingi goshawk Angel first, this bird is colored very different from all of the NA gosses that I've ever seen, she is charcoal black where most are gunmetal blue - stunning bird. She had some good flights on 4 or 5 bunnies but just couldn't seal the deal.

We flew Hannah next, the conditions got worse and were hawking in 20F freezing fog. We only saw one bunnie and it was gone before Hannah had a chance at it. We ended the morning with cheese, smoked salmon and other goodies on the tailgate of my truck.

I got out later in the day to fly Hannah again this time with Mark Williams along to take some pictures. We didn't put a bunnie in the bag that time either, but I did flush one under foot and got a super chase in the wide open, Mark got some really nice high quality action shots, I'll post them when I get them.

Friday the 25th found us in a caravan of 9 vehicles and 20 people. We hit a bunnie spot that Charlie Kaiser and Pam Hessey had found along a ridge of juniper and sage - you just can't find more beautiful places to hawk bunnies than those near Vernal. We flew several birds, Joel from Washington's redtail, Kirk's Harris, Adam Chavez's Fin gos, Tim Browne's tiercel RNSxBarb. No rabbits were taken though we got to see some great flights from all of the birds. Tim's falcon decided it wanted to sight see so he had to chance it into Colorado to get him back. I did fly Hannah late in the afternoon and had some awesome bunnie flights and managed to put her third cottontail of the meet in the bag, big fun!

From left to right: Steve Layman, Ed Pitcher, Charlie Kaiser, Mrs. Pitcher, Andrea from CA, other CA falconer, Joel from WA's wife, dude with the cool hat, Joel from WA, sitting Scott McNeff and Lyn Olifant.

I'll fill in the blanks as folks email photos to me. If you love falconry and think it looks we had fun at the meet and are not a member of NAFA, think about joining and attending a meet. The camaraderie and the wisdom you pick up from the brilliant falconers you are surrounded by is well worth the cost of admission.