Hawking in general made me stand taller. I'm proud that I manned and hunted alongside this amazing animal for such a time. The woman on the other side of falconry–the one who was just toying with the idea and emailing her local DEC office for a beginner's packet–was not a better woman. Hawking has taught me so much. I became more patient, more quiet, and more mature as an animal in my own right. I learned the dedication it takes to put down a gun and pick up a gauntlet on a day of rabbit hunting. And I am damn proud that a healthy, eager, adult male hawk is back in the breeding population. Had we never met, had I never trapped him, he only had a 10% chance of reaching his second year. It worked out for us both. Maybe I'll meet one of his sons or daughter's someday.
The actual release was private. It was just me and him. I asked Miriam, the amazing photographer and good friend, to come along and capture the moment if she could but I told her I would not pose for it. I admitted that a few years ago I would have been tempted to stage a Free Willy moment of release, but I didn't want to do that. I wanted me to walk into an open field and let him choose any of the four directions to fly. He chose North.
Miriam hung back while the release happened, and because of her amazing talent and eye she caught a real moment of freedom. That photo was taken seconds after the last anklet was cut free and he flew without fetters for the first time since trapping day. That is his away flight from me. That is my turning to watch him go.
I will continue with my Apprenticeship in Falconry starting in September with another wild bird. But till then I will be a hawker without a hawk. Which means I can focus even more on the farm and all the new and amazing things coming my way!
Good luck to you, little hawk. Soar on.