Heckled By ParrotsBlue Sky WritingRebecca K. O'Connor

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Idiot Check

It was daybreak and only two hours before I needed to be at work. I had rolled out of bed at some ungodly hour and even after coffee, falcon weighing and truck loading, hadn’t really woken up until I arrived in the field. I was standing outside of my truck at Whitewater, that strange duck haven carved in the sand and tossed by the wind. And the tyrant wind was coming. There was already a stiff breeze. I knew this place intimately. And with the same intuition that warned me another hour without food would turn my boyfriend into a glowering snapping troll, I knew I had an hour before Whitewater would turn on me, becoming unflyable. If only there was some way to appease the gods of weather, the way you could lay food at the altar of boyfriend. The raft of canvasbacks would have to be approached now or wait for some other morning, unfortunately there was a problem.

I had forgotten my vest at home. I had no license on me, no lure and no food.

If only the coffee had been stronger. If only I had done an idiot check before I left. My ex would always shout “IDIOT CHECK” before we left a hotel room or a friends or on a trip and we would scramble about looking for anything we might have left, laughing at the game of revealing personal stupidity. I still see him sometimes, a best friend now and it’s still one of my favorite games, but it wasn’t one I played that morning. My inner dunce had just sabotaged my daybreak hunt.

Or had it?

I stared at my falcon who was trying to look past his hood into the dawn.  I had a license. I could prove it, later. And I had telemetry with me at least. I wouldn’t lose him. If he caught a canvasback, there would be food. If he caught nothing, I could call him down to one of my boots tied off with parachute cord, clip him up before he realized he had been called down to shoe leather for nothing but a song.

But he would catch the duck, I just knew it.

The falcon was leaning into the possibilites of the morning’s joys, straining for them to come sooner and I lost my mind. I wanted to believe. I wanted to do right by my bird. I wanted… well I wanted instant gratification. Let’s just say my french fries never make it home. I slipped a transmitter into his backback, shoved a wad of parachute cord in my pocket, strapped the receiver across my back so that I wouldn’t feel so naked and released him.

If you’re looking for a disasterous ending, I’m sorry to disappoint. He caught a drake canvasback that we both had for the day’s sweetest meal and I was rewarded for my stupidity. But isn’t that just the way gambling works?

What’s the stupidest thing you ever got away with in the field?


  1. Yay for happy endings!

    I’ve been lucky so far. Closest call I’ve had is showing up at a refuge after going to McDonald’s and spending the cash I needed for my permit for the day. But there are quarters all over my car – I just paid them in change.

  2. Isaac says:

    Flew a Harris in Japan on its first real hunting trip just as a typhoon was blowing in (LOTS of wind). First small bird gets up and away he goes…and goes…and goes. I hadn’t checked the telemetry and my reciever died. Called a buddy up but he couldn’t help me because he was looking for one of HIS birds that he’d also foolishly flown just before the typhoon. Long story short, a couple hours later we recovered his bird and a few hours after that found my bird. Amazingly, he came down to a live quail in the headlights after half an hour or so. *Phew*

  3. Steve Bodio says:

    Not sure of “ever” or even “in the field” but I had a beauty, witnessed, last week. Lauren McGough was visiting and I was demonstrating the bizarre behavior of my “late imprint” (deranged?) G-S tiercel. He alternately courts me and acts like a pet, then bates madly again and again (or screams and mantles when I cut him at all.)

    Because of his unpredictability I take some extra precautions. You may remember my gloves have a swivel clasp on them. I attach one half of the swivel to it, thread the leash through the other, and don’t take the clasp off until the leash is tied to the block.

    So: out we go to the weathering, hawk behaving like a tame imprint. He hops to the block, and I tie off the knot (Lauren is on the other side facing me). Somehow, perhaps because I am talking to her — “You know, he’s not always that easy!”– I miss something. He hops down on the quail and begins to eat, calmly…

    And then I see a look of utter horror on Lauren’s face and see I HAVE TIED MY GLOVE TO THE PERCH, and my crazy hawk is free with a swivel and a fat meal. I didn’t know whether to move quickly or not so I sort of did both — inched to within striking distance and GRABBED. He didn’t even bate!– just mantled a bit.

    After his meal I went to pick him up and he bated six times between the block and his indoor perch. Then roused and “eechupped” at me.

    Forty five years in this pursuit and you– or at least I– can still screw up.