Falconry, an ancient sport dating back thousands of years, has been called the Sport of Kings. Casey Everett’s passion for falconry started humbly while observing manned hawks hunting squirrels during a homeschooling field trip. In a captivating exploration of this fascinating sport, Everett delves into the tight-knit falconry culture. He discusses selecting different bird species based on their personalities and hunting styles, as well as the processes of capturing, conditioning, and training falcons. Beyond hunting, Everett also highlights the diverse applications of falcons. This conversation intrigued me so much that my wife interrupted, mouthing the words “heck no!” Only she didn’t say heck.

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Duck Hunting in the Way of the Kings

Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere. Man, if I got a story for you all today, you ain’t going to believe. Now, look, old school is cool, am I right? And we got this sub gauge revolution sweeping the country. Everybody’s just kind of stepping back into the way they hunted. But today’s guest, Mr. Casey Everett from New Jersey, the duck hunts the way of the kings. I mean, he’s going way back, thousands of years into how he interacts with ducks and other wildlife with his hunting. And the story just will blow your mind. Casey, how the heck are you, man?

Casey Everett: I’m doing good. I’m doing good. I’m happy to be on the podcast with you. I feel honored to be here with you.

Ramsey Russell: Well, I’m happy. And Lord bless the algorithm. So much can be negative can be said about social media this day and age. But you got to admit, it throws people into your orbit that need to be in your orbit. And I guess that’s how I stumbled across somewhere on my feed one day, a suggested post was one of yours. And I think I went through your entire feed watching what you do and how you hunt. And it’s enthralling to see how you approach duck hunting, especially in this modern era. Man, I thought I was doing something good going out with a 28 gauge. Hell, no, man. You don’t even use decoys.

Casey Everett: Yeah, the Hawk will catch the decoy. That’s the problem.

Ramsey Russell: You’re into Falconry, and you were telling me the other day you’ve been doing this since childhood. How did you get into Falconry? How did this even start?

Casey Everett: Okay. Yeah, it’s one of those things. And in the Falconry community, our small community, it’s one of those things where they say that, as corny as it may sound, they say that there aren’t Falconers that are made, there are only Falconers that are born, and you’re born, and it’s just something that you’re going to do, and it’s just a matter on how you fall into it. And my story really just fits that narrative perfectly because I literally grew up loving animals, hunting with a bow. A friend of ours taught me and my brother how to use a bow and hunt, and we fell in love with that as younger kids. And I always loved the outdoors and I always loved animals, and I’d always bring baby animals home and keep them and then let them go and stuff like that. And then one day-

Ramsey Russell: What kind of animals were you catching at a kid? Turtles? Snakes?

Casey Everett: Yeah. Any kind of a reptile was my obsession. I loved reptiles. So any reptile that I could get my hands on, if I saw a snake, it was like, you might as well have taken $100 bill and throw it in the wind, because I was doing anything I could to try to catch it and get there to it. I didn’t even know if it was poisonous. I would try to catch it. Turtles. I’d jump in the water, catch snapping turtles. Anything to do with nature was just little rabbits and a bird. One time we had a pet squirrel that fell out of a tree during a hurricane. I raised that and trained it, inadvertently trained it to come out of the trees and take nuts from me and my siblings until it just one day disappeared. Who knows what happened to it?

Ramsey Russell: I bet go ahead.

Casey Everett: Somebody’s dinner, I would imagine. So, basically, I was really involved in nature, and anything to do with the outdoors was just an obsession of mine. So we were home schooled. My mother homeschooled us. So she would take us into the woods and we would do biology class when I was twelve, thirteen years old, eleven years old, we would do biology class in the woods, and she would take us and sit us on a log and we’d collect leaves and we’d have to do the sketch of the leaf. And describe what tree it was from and how it grows and the fruits and whatever the case may be. She would have us write articles. And one day we were on our walk and a redtail Hawk flew over our head and landed right above us and was right there. You could see it clear as day. And if you’ve ever seen a redtail Hawk in person, they’re pretty impressive. Pretty impressive animals to see up close. There’s something about them. You just can’t take your eyes off of them. And we were just staring at, and my mom goes, you know, listen, I read because she’s always reading all these magazines and stuff like that to find different things that she could teach us or add into some sort of a lesson. And she said, you know, I read this article that you can become a Falconer. You can have a Hawk and you can hunt with it and you can train it to hunt with you, essentially. And I thought that that was like something out of a movie or something out of a fiction novel or something like that. Basically, when I heard that, I was intrigued and I was like, there’s no way that can be real. So we did more research, this and that, and we looked into it. And my mom, we looked online. I wasn’t allowed to use the computer. We didn’t even have cable in my house. My house was very home schooly, no Internet connect, none of that stuff. But we did have one computer that had an Internet connection and we looked up online, Falconry. And there was really nothing back then. In 2005, 2006, actually, it was probably early. It was probably 2004 when I first started looking into it. And sure enough, Falcon is a real thing. It’s been practiced throughout the world for between 3000, 5000 years, give or take, depending on who you talk to and the different ancient artifacts that they have found. So there’s a rich heritage to it and it’s a real thing. And sure enough, it’s still practiced to this day. You just need all kinds of crazy licenses and paperwork. So we looked into that and then the first thing that the state said to my mother and I on the phone was that you need to go on a hunt and you need to experience what it’s like to go on a hunt. So it was like, okay, how the heck you find a Falconer? And I don’t even think there was Facebook back then or any of that stuff. So there’s like, how do you find. So they gave us a list of a few Falconers that lived in our area and we called a few, didn’t get a call back. And then somebody actually answered the phone that lived within driving distance and they were willing to take us on a hunt. Well, let me back up, because that was after we went through all the steps. The craziest part of the story is my next door neighbor’s landscaper. My neighbor, he was crazy. We lived in a residential neighborhood, and he would shoot squirrels out of his window with an air rifle. This is like a very. We weren’t wealthy people by any means, but it was kind of like a snooty neighborhood, for lack of a better word. And we had the smallest house on the block, and we were the crazy kids in the neighborhood, running around animals and skateboards. My neighbor would shoot squirrels with his air rifle out of the window. And just nobody really cared because it was the neighbor. I don’t want to say his name to get him doxed, but he was that guy. And nobody cared because he was a cool guy on the block and whatever. But we always knew forever. This was just know, the neighborhood knew. Mr. So and so shoots the squirrels, and he gives them to his landscaper, who feeds them to his birds. So that was like the whole thing. And it was like, okay, so then we’re starting to put two and two together. So me and my mom saw him out smoking his cigar like he always does. And anybody who lived in that neighborhood knows that when he’s outside, he’s smoking a cigar. So we went over, we started talking to him, and we said, my mom’s like this Falconry, and we’re bringing up Falcony and this whole thing, my son’s interested in it. Does your landscaper, is that what he does? And he goes, yeah, you know, I think that’s what he does. I think he uses his Hawks for hunting. And the extra squirrels that I shoot for him, he feeds them to his birds as extra food for his birds that he doesn’t have to pay for or whatever the case may be. So, long story short, we got his number, called him. He was out of state, so he couldn’t sponsor me because you need to get a sponsor. But he was willing to take us to his house. He invited us to the house to show us his redtail Hawk. And he had two Harris Hawks, which are from South America, and they range up into the southern United States, and they hunt in groups. So we had a male and a female, and we went to his house and he released them into his yard. And as I stated earlier, I was a young kid that had pet birds and a bird that would hit a window by the bird feeder. I’d pick it up and try to nurse it back to life and then let it go. But anybody who knows, if you had a bird that’s not trained, if you let it go, it’s gone. Like if it gets out of your house or out of your hands or it’s gone. So he literally opens the door and they just fly out past him and fly all the way up into a giant tree and just sit there. And in my head I’m like, dude, you just lost your birds. Like, how the heck are you going to get them back? And I’m like staring at him, staring at the birds, and he’s all nonchalant, like putting his glove on, putting his hunting vest on, and we ended up walking. He had a wood plot, a little area of wooded area right by his house. And my mom went with me because she’s a good mom and I’m twelve years old, so she’s not going to let some random guy take me in the woods obviously. He’s a nice guy, but I’m literally still friends with him to this day. All those years that I’m still friends with, he’s a great guy. My mom’s like tripping and falling and I’m just like walking behind this gentleman. And as we’re walking, I’m hearing the bells on the bird’s legs just jingling over our heads and I’m looking up and they’re just following us through the woods. I’m like, what the- I’m like, this is the most amazing thing that I’ve ever seen. And he starts pulling vines and kicking bushes and sticking his stick inside of logs and shaking it and kind of yelling and making noise and tapping the side of trees. And I’m like, is this guy doing some kind of like a magic spelling? Then all of a sudden a squirrel makes a break for it. And these two birds, like two wolves hunting together, chase this squirrel and then miss. And the squirrel does a little juke maneuver as they do. And the one bird landed right next to me on a log, like right next to me and looked at me with this just, what do you have? It was kind of like he was asking me like, are you going to help or not? And then just took off. I still remember that moment to this day. And that was the moment that I’m like, I’m going to do this for the rest of my life. And whatever I have to do, I’m going to do. Because this is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. In my life.

Ramsey Russell: Hell, Casey, after that story, I want a Hawk or two. I ain’t going to lie to you.

Casey Everett: Yeah

Ramsey Russell: I know you went out and caught animals and all that good stuff, but at that time in your life, had you actually hunted? Were you a hunter? Had you gone out and dove hunted, squirrel hunted, done anything like that? Or was that, like, your first hunting introduction?

Casey Everett: I didn’t grow up in a hunting household. My dad worked 12-13 hours a day driving a bus. My mom was a nurse, so my father didn’t hunt. And at that point, I didn’t really have any knowledge of hunting. I didn’t even really know anything about it. It really wasn’t even in my mind. I just knew that the birds wanted to catch things, so I wanted to help the bird catch things. So that was kind of like the whole thing. But then during that process, like I said, me and my older brother got into bow hunting because we would shovel snow and help with landscaping for a friend of ours, a family friend’s dad who has a very successful landscaping company, and he would always tell us, if you guys want to come in and just make a couple of bucks and help snuffle show, I’ll pay you cash, whatever. And I just remember the one year we finished a long shift shoveling snow and listening to music and having fun. For us, it was just, like, fun to be out there. But he always paid us. And I remember he always would ask me, I think he asked me three times in a row, I can either give you your pay or I can give you this PSE bow. And I remember I was like, yeah, I’ll just take the pay. And I did it twice. I think I took the pay. And then the last time, it may have been around the time that I went on and had this experience, because I went on the experience in the woods with that gentleman sometime in, I believe it was, like, November, the leaves were just falling off the trees, and then it snowed, and we cut. And then he said that to us, and I said, I’ll take the bow. So he gave me a beautiful bow. It was actually a really nice bow. And then he took us to the archery shop, and we got it fitted with sights and everything like that, and an old school whisker biscuit, which I don’t know if anybody uses those anymore.

Ramsey Russell: I know guys who are using steel.

Casey Everett: Yeah. And I started practicing, and then I started getting into bow hunting kind of around the same time. So, to answer your question, I wasn’t really into hunting. I just knew that I love being in nature, and I. And I love being in the outdoors. And being a hunter is really, like, the ultimate being part of nature, being in that, inside of that ecosystem, you’re part of it. You’re harvesting like the other birds are, or like the other animals and predators are. You’re kind of part of it. I was like, you know what?

Ramsey Russell: A couple of wide eyed little boys go out, follow this man into the woods. He’s got a pair of Harris Hawks that hunt in a pack. Never heard of such. I can’t imagine a ride home, you all wearing your mom out to get a Hawk. She’s probably wondering the whole time, what in the world have I gotten into? Yeah, I can’t imagine that conversation for the next week and a half. You all wearing her out to get a bird. It’s got to be. You got to have one.

Casey Everett: Oh, yeah. You’re not lying. I couldn’t sleep at night. It was all I talked about, all I could think of. I was begging my mom for books, for movies, for DVDs. And Falconry in Europe is actually, I mean, America, we’re just babies in the Falconry history. We have roughly a 100 years of history of Falconry in this country. That’s it. Only 100, which sounds like a lot, but it was practiced illegally and practiced more of a pet seeping hobby for people up until around the 70s ish.

Ramsey Russell: Really?

The Beginning of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

The Federal Fish and Wildlife created the Migratory Bird Treaty act, which added protections to all migratory birds, and birds of prey are migratory.

Casey Everett: Yeah. And people would, you know, people you could buy. You could buy golden eagles from the back of a magazine for $50. It’s bizarre. You could go to a pet store, and there’d be American kestrels or Cooper’s Hawks in cages just, like, for sale for, like, $10, $5 here, and you just buy it and take it home. There was no regulations. There was no nothing. So during that time there was Falconry being practiced, and it’s hard to kind of narrow down who was the individuals that were practicing. We do have a very good list of people that were very serious into it, and those people are now either passed on or they’re very big names in our sport. There was no regulations. And then, obviously, as we all know, because migratory birds fall under the same category, the Federal Fish and Wildlife created the Migratory Bird Treaty act, which added protections to all migratory birds, and birds of prey are migratory. So then they fell under this protection, and now you couldn’t have them as pets. You couldn’t sell them for monetary gains. You had to get a license, and the license was a Falconry license to possess them and use them for hunting. So the government came to the Falconers and said, we don’t know what the heck this is, really. We don’t know anything. You guys have been doing it for 40 years. You’ve been doing it for 30 years before we even thought of this idea. Tell us what to do. So Falconers got together, and NAFA, the National Falconer Association, they helped the federal government come up with regulations. So traditionally, hundred, three hundred, four hundred and a thousand years ago, there was an apprenticeship. The apprentice would sleep in the chamber with the birds of prey, and they would learn and they would listen. And in the old books, they would say that an apprentice could hear the tinkle of the bells on the bird’s leg in pitch darkness and know exactly what that bird is doing, whether it’s scratching, it’s preening, whether it’s sick. That apprentice would know that sound of the bell so well that it could know exactly what that bird was doing. So this is all the heritage from other countries that we are adopting at that time in America. So they said, you have to have an apprentice program where people are forced to come under the authority of somebody who has been practicing Falconry for at least two or more years so that they can teach the new person for a period of two years before they can become just a Falconer, where you can basically fly any bird you want. So there’s an apprenticeship program that you have to go through.

Ramsey Russell: Where did, where did Falconry originate? I’ve heard it’s called the King of Sports, and I think in Merry Old England or something. At one time, common folks weren’t allowed to practice this, but then I’ve heard it goes back thousands of years. And I know, for example, I know that the Arab Emirate, Middle east is humongous, big on Falconry. I never forget going through the Doha airport one time and on a big, long conveyor belt because it’s such a massive airport. And going the other way, come to guy with a sheikh with a Hawk on his arm. I’m like, God, dog look at that. And by the time I get on the bus, half the bus is full of them. And by the time I get on the plane, the whole back of the plane is full of sheikhs with their Falcons. And I’m like, man, this is huge. And they were going to hunt same place I was, but they were going to hunt with their Hawks. Do you know what, the origins of the sport itself, how far it goes back? Who started, who decided, I can catch this wild bird and hunt with him?

Origins of Wild Bird Ownership & Hunting

So the bird that I fly is extremely versatile and can catch almost any head of game that you can imagine, basically, within reason.

Casey Everett: Okay, so that’s a great question. I’m not a historian. I do have a rough outline of what we know, and depending on who you talk to or what source you read, we believe that it was originated in China or in Asia, somewhere in Asia. And then during trading with other countries, whether it was gunpowder or whatever, they would trade, I think it was maybe silk that they would trade at that time. They brought their birds with them and kind of know when you’re working a deal. I’m a business owner, so when I’m going to a customer, I try to find a commonality with a customer, potential customer, and try to make a connection and have a good conversation and see what that customer really needs before I just sell them. So it was kind of probably something along those lines where it came from China or from an asian country and then went into Europe, and then from Europe, it kind of spread. And then it became like this. I don’t want to say fancy thing, but it became like, it’s a cool thing to do. And then in the ancient books that we have, there’s all different rules. So certain people can fly this bird. Certain people are not allowed to fly this bird. A peasant can only fly this bird, but a queen can only fly this bird. So there was all these kind of different things that were created during that time period that the sport started to grow and it started to spread, and then it spread to the Arab countries and to the Middle east. And basically the way that my sponsors are actually Syrian. And it’s funny because when they finally sponsored me back to the original story, and I was reading all these books as a kid, so I was like, awesome. At least I got sponsors from the, you know, from the original people. You know, I’m making a joke. And. But basically they say it was originated in China, but then the Arabs and the Europeans made it famous, basically because it’s been practiced in those countries for a long time. And I actually think in China, it’s actually illegal to be a Falconer, if I’m not mistaken, which is a funny little thing, because one of the companies that sells our radio telemetry and gps systems, they said that it’s illegal to be a Falconer in some of these countries, but yet they are one of the largest consumers of their products.

Ramsey Russell: Wow.

Casey Everett: So it’s like they’re flying these birds, and we know that they’re flying them because I see them on Facebook, but they block out their faces so that the government can’t find them.

Ramsey Russell: Like, know thousands of years ago. I read somewhere that makes perfect sense that somewhere in Asia, it originated but somewhere along the way, getting ready for this interview, I read that Genghis Khan over in Mongolia, right across the wall of China from China, that he had hundreds of Hawks and Falcons. Hundreds of them.

Casey Everett: Oh yeah

Ramsey Russell: each bird had a caretaker, and it makes sense, know, in that part of the world on the asian steppe, the cover is ankle deep and you can see clear out to the horizon. And it’d be very difficult to. But I mean, if you go out with your caravan and you’ve got hundreds of Falcons out ahead of you flying, you can probably scrape up a lot of lot to feed a family, feed a tribe. So that’s interesting. It’s just interesting to me. But this is, granted, it’s thousands of years old, isn’t it? Thousands of years practicing.

Casey Everett: Yes, it’s thousands of years old. And I don’t know all the details in between, but I do know that the people throughout Europe and Asia and the other countries that adopted Falconry, it was not a hobby. It was not for fun. It was a means to put food on the table, and it was a means to feed their families and different things like that. And just a little fun, little note on that same exact subject. The birds that I fly, the GosHawk, G-O-S-H-A-W-K Goshawk, they are circumpolar. They’re found throughout the whole entire world at a certain latitude, and there’s different variations. And one of the variations that I have, that I fly, I’ve flown many different variations and subspecies. The one that I fly now is a subspecies from Russia, Siberia, and she’s white, obviously, to blend in, into that environment. But those birds were known as the cook’s Hawk or the innkeeper’s Hawk, because with this bird, you can go out in the morning and you can catch two pheasant, you can catch a rabbit, and you can catch two ducks and a squirrel, and then you can take it back to your inn and you can prepare it and serve it to your guests at the inn. So the bird that I fly is extremely versatile and can catch almost any head of game that you can imagine, basically, within reason.

Ramsey Russell: How long after you went out and witnessed that first hunt? How long after that before you had your own bird?

Casey Everett: It’s a good question. So I witnessed that hunt, and he was from New York state, I was from New Jersey, so he couldn’t sponsor me. So he said, I’m sorry, I can’t sponsor you, but I know where you live. I manage your neighbor’s lawn, and I know two brothers that live kind of close to you, and I believe we had their number already from the state because the state gave us their number and said that, I think they’re within driving distance. You could try calling them, see if it works. And he said, no, they’re great Falconers and you should try giving them a call. So I kind of skipped that whole part in the initial intro. And so we called them and they said, reluctantly, yes, we’ll take you on a hunt. Meet us at this address at this time. Dress like this and we’ll see you there. So me and my mom, we met them and we went on a real hunt. And this was a little bit more than a spectator hunt. My sponsor, Phil Aliyah, he’s a D1 wrestler, and he’s all about hard work. And we beat the brush to flush rabbits and squirrels. So he saif, get in there and help us. You know, you’re going to help us, or not?. So I jumped in the fragmites and I don’t know, there’s listeners all over the country, I would imagine, but in New Jersey we have what’s called fragmites, and they’re like this invasive grass that grows like eight to twelve feet high with little tails on the end and they grow like super tight, like grass with very brittle stems that you can push through. So I just started charging through there trying to help with the hunt in any way I could, basically trying to prove to them. Basically I was doing anything that I could to try to prove to them that this is something that I have to do. And whatever I have to do, I’m going to do it. So they took us on a hunt, and it was with a red tail Hawk. And of course, we caught probably two rabbits that day, if I remember correctly. I didn’t see it because I was deep inside the brush when the rabbit busted the cover and the bird came down and nailed it. I didn’t even see it. And, you know, listen, that’s why I run the dog that I have, because I got tired of missing the whole hunt. Because when you’re beating the brush and working the cover trying to get a rabbit or a squirrel to move, sometimes you don’t even see it. You just hear the squeal or you go, where’s the bird? And you listen for the bells or check the gps and, oh, she’s over there. And you walk over and sure enough, she’s on a rabbit or she’s on a squirrel. So I don’t even think I saw the hunt, but I saw how serious these gentlemen took it and I saw how intense they took it. They didn’t agree to spot to me for a while, actually. I think I was too young at the time, so I offered. This is just a little message. There’s probably no Falconers listening, but this was just a message to some of the younger Falconers nowadays, where the barrier to entry is so low and social media makes it so easy to find out about Falconry. I was desperate to do this. This was something that I had a compulsion to do and that I still have a compulsion to this day to do. And I said, I will clean your birds chambers. I will cut up food for them, I will mow your lawn, I will wash your car. I’ll do whatever I have to do to make your life easier so that you can sponsor me. Any other Falconer can attest to this, and myself as well. I get messages almost every day from people that say, I want to be a Falconer, I want to have a bird, I want to do this. But there are so many steps that are required to do it that most people don’t follow through with it. But I was determined to follow through with it. And my mother saw my passion for it and she said, maybe I can use this for his schooling. So she’s chatting with Phil and his brother Paul, and it turns out Phil’s a math teacher and he’s extremely smart, and I suck at math. So Phil became my math tutor. He was my math tutor for many years and go to his house once or twice a week for math, and it was an incredible experience. I would go to his house for math lessons and we’d be learning about grams and subtraction and multiplication, and he would have a bird of prey. And sometimes it would seem like there was a different one every time I was there. And we put it on the scale some days, and he would make up an equation based off of the bird’s weight. And if the temperature is this low and the bird is burning this many calories over this period of time, how much weight? And so it was just like a fun experience.

Ramsey Russell: Sure.

Casey Everett: And by the time I turned, I think it was thirteen. You have to be thirteen to become a Falconer, if I’m not mistaken. It may be fourteen, but I believe it was thirteen. I took my test, I passed my test. I built my facility in my yard. And reluctantly, Phil agreed to sponsor me and signed all the paperwork that he would take responsibility for me. And then it was up to me. So her said, well, yeah, we’ll go out and trap your first bird, because that’s part of the sport, believe it or not, is trapping a wild bird you can’t purchase. In some states you can, but in most states in the United States, you have to trap your first bird, and it’s either a redtail Hawk or an American kestrel. And the way they come up with those birds for an apprentice to fly is based off of, obviously, the availability of those species and the ability to train them, the difficulty, et cetera.

Falconry Sport & Training

Ramsey Russell: I’ve seen those two birds mentioned as being relatively easy, having good temperaments and personalities, and lending themselves to training more easily than others.

Casey Everett: Correct. Some of them just, I mean, they just like, it’s especially with American kestrels and some of the smaller species that have to eat like twice a day or sometimes three times a day, depending on how cold it is and the temperatures. I mean, you can trap a wild American kestrel in the afternoon and that evening, be sitting in a darkened room, and that bird is already eating off of your glove, sitting and eating in your presence. And some of them, just like you said, they just lend themselves to the sport so naturally. And all the birds lend themselves to the sport so naturally. That’s why it’s such a beautiful sport, because it doesn’t take that much effort to make the whole process happen. It’s a natural behavior that happens in the wild. Falconry is a natural occurring thing. Go ahead.

Ramsey Russell: Well, see, you all had to go out and catch your first bird. And when we talked the other day, you’ve got a white leucistic because it’s from Siberia, this guy’s Hawk. And I assume it was raised in captivity of captivity origins. And I assumed, knowing absolutely no better, that in America, all the birds were raised in captivity, that if I had a Hawk, a Goshawk like yours, that I would get it when it was young and I would fly it for the remainder of its life. And you shocked me when you talked about how what you’re fixing to talk about going out with Phil and catching your first bird. And I had no idea whatsoever that this was a huge part of Falconry. So you and Phil go out and you catch your first bird, which was what, a red tail Hawk?

Casey Everett: Correct.

Ramsey Russell: How did you catch that bird?

Road Trapping: A Common Method in American Falconry

And if all goes according to plan, the bird comes down out of the tree, starts trying to grab the rat or mouse, and ends up getting its feet tangled in the nooses.

Casey Everett: Okay, so there are many different ways, like you hinted to earlier in our conversation, that there’s many different techniques to trapping birds. And the beautiful part is that different countries have their own traditional techniques versus other techniques. And one of the most common ways that we do trapping in America is we use a trap that is essentially a wire mesh cage with a low top, roughly three to five inches high with a dome with a weight on the bottom. And it’s all wire, like picture, like hardware cloth or like chicken wire, but finer, like roughly one half an inch diameter. So you could fit a rat in it that it won’t get out. And you tie, not to give up too much of the techniques that are sacred, but essentially, you tie fishing line nooses. You tie nooses all over the top of it, and you put a rat inside of it or some sort of a bait animal, whether it’s a sparrow, a starling, whatever. And you drive around, and we call it road trapping. We call it, and you drive around and you look for a juvenile redtail Hawk because that’s all you’re allowed to trap. You’re not allowed to trap the adults because they’re breeding birds that are adding to the population, so you’re not allowed to interfere with them, but the juvenile birds, you’re allowed to trap. So you drive around, spot a bird, get your eyes on it with binoculars, find out if it’s a juvenile, and see if you’re picky and you want a female or you want a male. You can base your decision off of that. The females are larger than the males, and essentially you drive slowly by it, and you gently drop the trap out of the side of the car while you’re rolling and continue driving, and then park and watch from a distance away. And if all goes according to plan, the bird comes down out of the tree, starts trying to grab the rat or mouse, and ends up getting its feet tangled in the nooses. And then you run over and catch it, and you put what’s called a hood, which blocks out the eyes. And a lot of people call it the helmet. That’s what I get a lot of when people see pictures of it. It’s a device that’s made out of leather. It’s a traditional device that basically is like a little hat that goes over their head with drawstrings in the back that blocks out their sight. And once you block out their sight, they’re no longer afraid because birds of prey are extremely visually stimulated. Not much noise bothers them, really-

Ramsey Russell: If they can’t see you, you don’t exist in their world, so they calm down.

Casey Everett: Correct. So that’s exactly what it is. They just calm down. And then you pick them up, you put equipment on their ankles, you take them home, and then you start the process of manning. Manning is the process of accustoming the bird to your behavior, getting the bird to tolerate your presence with them. So you put the anklets, which go around the ankles of the bird, you put the jesses, which go through the anklets, and then you tie it into a swivel. There’s a lot of swivels involved in Falconry because the birds can obviously get tangled. So there’s a lot of swivels. And then it goes to a leash. You tie the leash off to your glove. I’m obviously just speeding through it, like everything’s super smooth, but I’m just trying to streamline it for the conversation. And traditionally, you go into a candle lit room where it’s very dark and the bird can almost not even see anything. And you put a piece of meat or a bloody carcass of whatever that species likes to feed on. So usually with redtails, I would put a squirrel carcass with the chest cavity open, nice and bloody, on my glove. And then I sit and take the hood off very carefully and very slowly, and just freeze. And don’t make direct eye contact with the bird, usually. Sometimes the bird will try to fly away, which is called bating, B-A-T-I-N-G, bating. And the Bird is trying to get away from you and it obviously can’t. And then sometimes hangs upside down because they don’t know what’s going on. And then you gently lift them back under the glove. And then they very quickly learn to bate to the end of the jesses that are attached to the anklets, and then turn around and land back on the glove. And then obviously, you don’t want them to bate. You don’t want them to feel any kind of fear. You kind of want them to just sit and just take in what’s going on and become accustomed to it. So ideally, the bird bends down its head and begins to eat. And in the bird of prey world, bending down your head in front of a potential predator is a no no. You’re exposing the back of your neck, you’re exposing your spinal cord. You don’t do that. So when the bird finally bends its head down and starts eating, that’s like check mark number one. Okay, we did it. Bird’s eating.

Ramsey Russell: He no longer recognizes you as a threat.

Casey Everett: Well, no, the bird is still going to recognize you as a threat for quite a while, so that’s going to happen. But the bird, it gets to a certain point. So basically, this kind of drags out, and each bird is different, which is amazing. Each bird has its own personality, so sometimes it drags out for, like, two days, and the bird is not starving to death. These birds will eat a meal and not eat for sometimes a week. It depends on how much they eat. So if the bird is a hungry bird, if you trap it and it’s hungry and it really wants to eat, and you take the hood off of its head and it looks down, and there’s a bloody carcass right there, some of them just bend right down and start eating. And that’s like, you’re like, goal. You’re like, this is awesome. So you let the bird eat, and then each day, you just allow what I do personally, there’s many different techniques which would bore your listeners to get into every single technique because there are quite a few techniques that you can use, but basically, the traditional way is you just let them eat, and then you sit them on a perch, take the hood off their head, and then the food is not on the glove. The food is on the glove, but the bird is not on the glove. So the bird sees the food on the glove and says, hey, that’s my food. You’ve been letting me eat that for a few days. Give me that food. So you hold it out with the leash, and the bird is on a perch, and then eventually the bird is reaching out, trying to grab it. And then the Goal is to get the bird to hop to the glove or step up to the glove. And then basically, it’s just a matter of increasing the distance that the bird is coming from the perch to the glove in your home while simultaneously adding more light to the situation. So the bird sees you more clearly and becomes more accustomed to your presence and your appearance, and then that continues to grow and build, and then to the point where you’re doing it outside in your yard in front of all your neighbors who think you’re crazy. And then, obviously, after the bird is coming a significant distance to your glove, for. For a recall, you would then remove the leash and what we call the creons, which is an extra long leash basically tied to a weight or an item that can be dragged so the bird can’t fly away. And sometimes that happens. You take the bird outside, and you put it on the perch, and you hold out your glove with food on it, and the bird flies past you. And then the weight is not heavy enough where it would hurt the bird, but not light enough where the bird can fly away. And then the bird comes to a slow stop in the yard, and you walk over and very gently pick the bird up, and you either try again or you put it away and try another day. And simultaneously, while this whole process is starting from day one, you are weighing the bird on a scale. And we use mail scales, like for weighing mail at a post office, or whatever the case may be, an office. And we put a perch, we retrofit a perch onto a scale with epoxy, or whatever the case may be. Traditionally, they would use weighted scales with different weighted lead weights and stuff like that that are itemized. Some guys still do that out of the tradition because they think it’s fun for me. I got stuff to do. I have a wife. I don’t have time for that. I just put it on the digital scale, and you’re weighing the bird. So if you start at a certain weight, you trap the bird off the trap, you put it on the scale, you weigh it. That’s x amount of weight. Okay. That’s our starting. That’s our baseline that we’re going to work from. And if the bird is hungry, then that weight might actually go up. During the training. If the bird is very fat, like obese when you catch it, which is actually extremely common, they’re very obese and very fat, and they’re healthy and happy. Sometimes you have to kind of work with them over a course of time until they come down to a lower weight, where they are more incentivized to come to the food. They’re not starving. We’re never starving our birds. That is never happening. That’s a very large misnomer in Falconry, is that we starve their bird to get them to do what we want. That is counterintuitive, because the bird is essentially an athlete. So to starve an athlete to get it down, like, think about a wrestler. If the wrestler is going to starve himself to make weight for a competition, he’s going to have no energy to beat his opponent. So what’s the point of that? You want to bring the weight down very slowly while building the muscle during the process so that the bird has enough strength, but yet is incentivized enough to do what you’re asking the bird to do. So there’s never any starving or anything like that that goes on. It’s counterintuitive to the whole sport and the whole premise of Falconry. So the weight is coming down. So, for example, if the bird is at 1200 grams and it’s flying all the way across a football field on the Koreans, the long leash to my glove for food, I am instantly, with no hesitation at that point, I am taking the leash off the jess is out putting a transmitter on that bird, putting bells on that bird, and I’m literally letting the bird go. And it’s a very nerve wracking moment for Falconers in that moment. And the bird is released and now you’re sitting there with no leash, no nothing, and all you have is your glove and food and your dog, which was hopefully introduced to the bird over this time. And now you’re either going to call the bird back to the glove to reinforce that flying free is okay and everything’s all right, or you’re going to go right into hunting and hopefully you start working the cover and produce a slip. S-L-I-P, is what we call a chance at quarry. So that’s a chance for the bird to catch something-

Ramsey Russell: After all this, it could take you a month and a half to train this bird. It could. And you got to get his weight right, Know that he’s healthy, know that he’s strong, know that he’s a strong athlete. Have you ever, over the course of these years, turned a Hawk loose? He’s ready. I’m ready to go hunt slip. You ever turn him loose and say, see you and just take off?

Casey Everett: That’s a good question. For me, personally, I have never had a bird just take off on me. I’ve had them take off on me throughout the hunting season where I got out of work, I had a day off of work and I said, the bird’s a little too heavy. She’s not really in the mood to hunt. She’s not hungry or incentivized. So I’m going to go anyway. And I’ve had the bird kind of go up into thermals and kind of take a sword. I’m like, oh, my God, what did I just do? I’ve had that happen, but I’ve never had a bird. Just like on day one, the first free flight, just take off. But I have heard stories of that happening, so it definitely happens. But that’s why God invented the radio telemetry and GPS system so that we can track them down and then hopefully coax them out of the tree to bring them back home and say, okay, let’s try this another day at a different weight or slightly more incentivized to chase.

Ramsey Russell: How long did it take you to get to the point you were ready to walk out the door and go hunting with your first redtail Hawk? How much time did you have invested in that manning process?

Casey Everett: So with that bird, it was my first bird, and me and my brother trapped it together. My sponsor wasn’t there. I was like, I’m going. I have the permit in my hand. I didn’t even have a driver’s license at the time. My brother was four years older than me. He had his driver’s license, and we went and we trapped the first bird and started the process. And when it’s your first bird, you’re, like, really scared to screw it up. So I think I kind of overdid it. You can overdo it with the training. Meaning that bird was probably ready to fly free two weeks before I actually did it. Yeah, because I was just so paranoid that this bird is going to take off for me. I’m going to look like a fool, and I’m going to ruin this opportunity that I’ve been dreaming about for however many years leading up to this. And I’m probably thirteen, fourteen years old at this time, and I believe that one probably took like, two and a half months or something like that, which is a relatively long period of time in the grand scheme of training a redtail Hawk or an American kestrel. Some of the other birds can take longer due to their behavior and their mannerisms. But a redtail Hawk, realistically, throughout the years I’ve gotten them from trapping them to flying them free within less than a month. I’ve had that happen on numerous occasions.

A Unique Duck Hunting Method: Hawk & Falcon Hunters

I was scared, I was nervous, but I knew the bird would come back to me because we did one free flight already.

Ramsey Russell: Tell me about your first hunt. I want to hear about your first hunt first, and then I want to jump into hunting with these Hawks. Tell me about your first hunt. Now, this ain’t somebody’s bird. This is your bird. He’s overtrained and he’s ready to roll. Your chest is probably sticking out ten foot tall. You’re probably proud as can be carrying this Hawk out in the woods. Tell me about that hunt.

Casey Everett: You would think that I’d be proud, and I would be wanting people to know about it, but I was always taught by my sponsors to keep my mouth shut about it. Don’t let anybody know what I’m doing. Be discreet. Don’t do anything too flashy. My chest wasn’t puffed out. I was scared, I was nervous, but I knew the bird would come back to me because we did one free flight already. So we went. So I went across the street. I rode my bicycle with the bird on the glove, and I’m steering the bicycle with the glove on with the bird, and I drove across the street. Yeah, literally. People are like, I hear stuff nowadays from Falconers nowadays, like the younger generation where they’re like, oh, I don’t have it. I would ride my bike with my bird like a crazy person to my fields or my wood lot to hunt squirrels. And I drove across it, rode down the street, got there, put my bike in the woods, tried to hide it so nobody would steal it. Took the hood off my bird’s head, released the ankles and jesses and not the ankles, the jesses and the leash. And I let the bird go. Now, like I said, my dad drove a bus. My mom was a nurse. We didn’t really have expendable income for me to be buying radio telemetry equipment for my bird to be tracked through the woods. My mom was a little bit tapped out after she had to pay for the facility in my yard, in my mom and dad’s yard that would house my bird. That was kind of like the last straw for her. $1,200 for a custom built shed at that time was a lot of money for my parents.

Ramsey Russell: What in the world did I get myself into? I guarantee she asked.

Casey Everett: Yeah, exactly. So I get there. I released the bird into the woods. I was training the bird in the area, so she knew the area. And there was no telemetry, no radio, just a pair of bells. I had some meat in my bag and a pair of boots and a sweater. And I start pulling vines, like I see my sponsors do and other Falconers that I flew with or been around. And bird flies up, bird does this. We flush a squirrel. He starts chasing. I’m running this way, pulling vines, trying to track the squirrel. The bird pulls up, goes all the way up high in the top of a big, mature oak tree, like, super high. And I’m pulling and I’m working. I’m working, and then all of a sudden, I’m pulling, and I’m trying to find the squirrel. I’m looking for the bird. I don’t hear bells. I don’t see anything. And the bird’s gone. And this is a true story, and this was a story I’ll never forget. And I have the scars to never forget it. And I’m looking for this bird. I’m walking all over, and it’s a woodlock. It’s in a neighborhood. It’s basically like a park with, like, a little pond in the middle. And there’s nobody there. It’s freezing cold. Nobody would be there except for some crazy person with an obsession with flying birds. So I’m there walking around, pulling vines. I’m trying to find my bird. Then I start panicking. I start having, like, not an anxiety attack, but I’m starting to like, oh, my Gosh, this bird’s gone. She took up. So I’m running around the woods, and I don’t even think I had a cell phone at the time. We weren’t really allowed to have cell phones. I don’t even think I had a cell phone. And I’m running around the woods trying to find this bird, and all of a sudden I hear, like, and I’m talking, like a half an hour. I’m, like, freaking out trying to find, it’s like two degrees outside. And I’m sweating trying to find this bird. And I am going through this wood lot. All of a sudden, I hear a tinkle of bells. And I go, oh, my God. And I start, and I freeze. I listen, I hear another tinkle of bells, and I track down the sound. And sure enough, the bird is already on a squirrel. And it’s, like, halfway done eating the squirrel that it caught. And I was, like, ecstatic. I didn’t see anything. I didn’t even know the bird caught anything. I didn’t even know what happened. And I initially, immediately, a lot of Falconers, we reach in and we try to see if the bird needs help because squirrels will bite and damage the bird’s feet and stuff like that. So we reach in and sometimes, have you seen of my videos? Sometimes when she catches a squirrel, I reach in and try to grab to make sure I can pin the head down so it’s not biting her. And I remember I reached in with my bare hand to a wild redtail Hawk that’s never caught anything in front of me before. And we have a tentative relationship at this point, a toleration. And I reach in with my bare hand, ice cold fingers, and this bird takes both feet and grabs my hand with both feet in the freezing cold. And the talons just sink right in. Like, just plunge right in. And I just remember looking down and seeing the black talons stuck in my hand and then just seeing the blood. It’s just starting to trickle out. And then I remember I froze and I didn’t know what to do. And then I think I took my foot and I pushed the squirrel carcass and wiggled it to try to make it look like it was, like maybe getting away or something. And then she immediately jumped back on it. And I just remember the pain in my hands and the blood just dripping down to the tips of my fingers, and I was, like, in pain, but I was the most excited and the most happy that I’ve ever been in my life. You know what I mean? I did it. We always say in Falconry, you’re not a real Falconer until you catch something with your bird. So I became a real Falconer that day, and that was the first, if not one of the first hunts or if that was the only really first hunt I can remember where we actually caught something, and that was a special moment for me, and I think I still got some holes in my hands that you can see to this day.

Ramsey Russell: And what became of that Hawk? How long did you keep that Hawk?

Casey Everett: Okay, so that Hawk, you can’t help. It’s basically a reptile with wings, and they’re not very emotional, and they don’t want to be touched and played with. They’re not like a chicken or anything like that. So as much as you can become emotionally attached to a bird, I was a little bit emotionally attached to this bird. So, basically, I flew it the whole season. Just so the listeners know these are not just hippies with birds. I asked my sponsor how many head of game he caught his first season. I think he said 80 something. And then me having brothers, I’m competitive, and I said, I got to try to beat that. And I think I caught 80 something head in my first year with that red tail and kept it. So you can keep the bird, and you can let it molt out its feathers into adult feathers. And I think I fed it too much and did too much association with the food throughout the summer and the following season. In September, when the squirrel and rabbit season opened back up in Jersey, the bird was, like, semi imprinted on me, and you don’t really want a redtail Hawk imprinted on you because they’re very aggressive towards other birds of prey, and they’re just aggressive birds to begin with, and they’re very big and dangerous, and that bird ended up starting attacking me. My dog has scars on her face from that bird grabbing the dog. It actually hit my friend Matt in the back of his head. He was wearing a hood that had, like, fur on it, and she grabbed his head. So we ended up feeding that bird up, meaning you fatten it up very fat, and then you release it back in the wild, and we ended up releasing that bird, I think, like midway through the second season.

Ramsey Russell: What about nowadays? You’ve owned several Hawk since. You’ve owned a bunch of Hawk, since you’ve got a Goshawk, that captive rear to understand you keep year round. But do you still go out and catch wild birds? Because you were telling me the other day that a lot of guys will go out, yourself included, and this just blows my mind. You’ll go out, preseason, the season, catch a Hawk, man it for about a month and a half or however long it takes, get its weight right, go out and hunt with it, small game rabbits and ducks and squirrels, and then turn it loose. That just blows my mind. That’s what happens to most of those birds these guys are catching, is they just turn them loose. And I asked you, I said, man, isn’t that kind of like leaving your dog out in the woods? I think I would get attached to them. Do you name these birds?

Casey Everett: Yeah, that’s a good question, and it’s a good observation. I never named the birds. It’s so funny because any old timer duck hunters out there, I’m sure you see things from when you were young to the way they are now, and you’re kind of like, I can’t believe these new guys. When I was young, we didn’t name the birds. They were a tool for hunting, and I never named any bird until recently. But, yeah, sometimes you do get emotionally attached, and a lot of people do get emotionally attached. Even to this day, I’ve flown quite a few birds, wild birds, along with domestically bred birds. Even though they’re not domestic, they’re still completely wild. And this past season, I flew a redtail Hawk just for the fun of it. And when I released it, it was kind of like, kind of not really a way to put words on it. It’s like a very strange feeling. It’s like you took the bird out of the wild. 80% of those birds die before they reach their first year of life-

Ramsey Russell: Wait a minute. 80% of those birds die in the wild? That’s what you mean, right? Not in captivity.

Casey Everett: Not in captivity, no, 80% in the wild. So when you trap a bird, it’s almost like to the anti-Falconry, there’s not really much anti Falcon, to be honest with you. There’s just ignorance. But t- people who don’t understand it, and to the common misnomers of it, it seems like you’re kind of like, oh, you’re trapping this poor thing. 80% of them are going to die. So realistically. You trapping a bird from the wild, you’re kind of like just hitting the lottery. It gets veterinary care. It gets a warm place to sleep. It gets free food, even if it doesn’t hunt or perform properly. And then it can learn all these different techniques. So when the bird is finally released, it’s like it has all these experiences. It has no consequences for its lack of hunting skill, and it gets to learn the hunting skill without starving to death, crawling around on the ground, getting picked off by a coyote. So when you release it, you kind of are like, I hope this bird does well. And it’s like a joyful, satisfying moment where the bird is released and it flies away and it’s very fat. So as we discussed in the beginning of the conversation, there’s no motivation. So if I tried to get the bird back, it wouldn’t come back. It doesn’t have any need for you, and if the bird would come back, then you didn’t have it. Don’t have it fat enough to be released. And I like to get my birds. There’s different opinions, but I like to get my bird very fat so that it has many, many days before it has any desire to really hunt again so that it can acclimate back to the wild.

Ramsey Russell: And you were telling me that there has been research that because of their interaction with you, their health levels are going up because they’re fed regularly and everything else, they’re not exposed to the elements or the dangers, like power lines and things of that nature during your process, but released, they have actually picked up a lot of skill set that will help them in the wild, maybe survive better than wild birds. Is that right?

Falconry’s Impact and Contributions

There is no studies, but just the logic of it. The bird learns these skills with no consequences and veterinary care and whatever the case may be to survive those situations.

Casey Everett: So there’s no real scientific study that was done with peer research, but there is anecdotal evidence. And even just the logic of it makes sense that the bird learns skills. And, I mean, I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve seen a redtail Hawk. One of mine, the rabbit’s running, and the bird comes down and just does the wrong maneuver. It just zigs when it should have zagged and just hits the ground and just misses by a mile. And it’s five degrees outside, it’s freezing cold, the wind is whipping. If that bird didn’t eat that rabbit, there’s a good chance that it’s not going to have enough strength in the morning to chase and hunt anything, and it’s probably going to die. So you get to see this stuff firsthand, and the bird learns that lesson. I zagged when I should have zigged. And now it can learn these things. So just from a logical standpoint and anecdotal, we have many Falconers that have stories of, I released this bird and it’s thriving. I found where it nests now, and it’s raising young and it’s doing. The logic of it makes perfect sense. And there’s anecdotal evidence that they do better in the wild once you release them back because of the skills that they’ve acquired with Falconers, can’t prove that. We haven’t proved that scientifically. So there may be people who say there’s no studies, so that’s true. There is no studies, but just the logic of it. The bird learns these skills with no consequences and veterinary care and whatever the case may be to survive those situations. There was a Falconer two years ago, she had a red tail Hawk that got like, five different diseases. It was like she hit the lottery, it got, like, cancer in its eye. It got all this stuff, and she paid. I don’t even know. Anyway, she paid all this money to have it. A wild bird that’s going to go back in the line, she paid all this money to have it fixed by these vets and surgery and all this stuff, and then she hunted with it and then let it go, and then she still keeps track of it, and she posts pictures of it every now and then, and it’s incredible. You know what I mean? That bird would have been completely dead. Guaranteed that that bird would have been dead.

Ramsey Russell: Different kind of relationship. Talk about this first. Here’s a question I want to get into. Now you have your Goshawk. Do you still catch wild birds to supplement her hunting?

Casey Everett: No. So if anybody runs dogs out there, a goth Hawk is a belgian malimois of the bird world. It requires your full-time attention, and it is an athletic freak, and you have to be on top of your game when working with it, and it’s not for a beginner to work with. So that’s just pretty much the easiest-

Ramsey Russell: I read they’re temperamental. I’ve read they’re not the fastest, but they’re very agile. They can bob and weave and dart and go through the timber and do all kinds of maneuvers, like F-14 tomcat barrel rolling, I’m guessing.

Casey Everett: Yeah. So that’s the thing. I would argue that they are the fastest. Because of pound for pound, if a golden eagle weighed the same as a Goshawk, I think the Gosawk would smoke the golden eagle, a Peregrine Falcon, is obviously the fastest because they go up to very high pitches and then they stoop down, pumping towards the earth at full speed, reaching 200 miles an hour plus and then smashing a duck to kill it or whatever. The avian prey that they’re going after. But from level flight, from a point of standing perfectly still, the Gosawk and the way that they’re designed, I can flush ducks off of a stream. Like the video I just posted, that duck was going full speed through those trees, and my bird just came from out of nowhere and just T bombed it out of the sky and just nailed it. So there’s not many birds of prey that can pull off that maneuver. But yeah, in terms of the fastest bird in the world is obviously the Peregrine Falcon. But they’re kind of using gravity and physics and technique to reach those speeds, they’re not pumping their wings to reach those speeds. They’re-

Ramsey Russell: I remember seeing a video one time. It was just some nice nature footage, a bunch of mallards sitting on ice, sitting there praining themselves and carrying on and doing what they do when they’re just loafing on ice. And about this time, the one duck you’re looking at, because he’s center screen, he just went from a mower sitting there praying in his chest to flopping with a broken neck. And you’re like, what in the heck happened? And about this time, (fumbas) Hawk coming landed on him. And then they slowed it down in slow motion, and it was so fast, you could not see the bird hit unless they slowed it down. Looked, one of these Falcons came through and just boom, clobbered him and he came back.

Casey Everett: That video never gets old. To me, that video is the perfect-

Ramsey Russell: Kind of Falcon was that.

Casey Everett: I believe that was a prairie Falcon. And prairie Falcons are one of the hardest hitting birds that you can possibly imagine. They hit like a Mac truck. They put all their force into it. They throw reckless abandonment. They just full force. Boom. And the way that a Falcon flies, just for the listeners to understand. A Hawk that you would see on the side of the road or my Goshawk. They chase after things and grab them with their feet, hold them down and essentially begin to eat them while they’re still alive. Kind of like, kind of how a wolf would grab something or a grizzly bear would grab something and begin to eat it. But a cat, a mountain lion, wants to grab it by the throat and then subdue it and then eat it. It’s the exact same thing. A Falcon wants to, they don’t want to tussle with anything, so they use technique. They want to completely incapacitate their prey before they engage with it. Some of the birds will engage with it and obviously kill it. And the Falcons have a tooth in their, not a tooth, but it’s part of their beak that they use to sever the spinal column to finally finish it off. But ideally, they hit it out of the sky, break its neck, kill it, and then it falls to the ground and they land on it and start eating it, which is a beautiful thing. While Hawks and eagles and stuff like that, they grab things with their feet, squeeze them, while they basically begin to eat them. So there is a difference. But the prairie Falcon in that video, if anybody wants to see that video, look up. Just look up on Google. Like duck gets decapitated by Falcon. It is amazing. It’s one of the most amazing. And that’s a wild bird, too. That’s a bird in the wild. It’s incredible.

All About the Goshawk

But walk me through an average hunt with your Goshawk, how do you duck hunt with this bird?

Ramsey Russell: So let’s talk about you and your Goshawk.

Casey Everett: Let’s do it.

Ramsey Russell: One of the videos you recently posted, I’m like, golly. It starts exactly like every flooded hunt I watch on Instagram, a duck comes breaking through the trees, fixing to come in, and out of nowhere comes this white Goshawk and just, wham. Clobbers it, and they go the water, and it blows my mind. That Hawk, that female Goshawk you’ve got, the water doesn’t bother her. She just kind of flaps her wings and gets closer to shore. You pick them up. I can’t believe that. But walk me through an average hunt with your Goshawk, how do you duck hunt with this bird? And how many sets are you going to day? How many ducks are you going to try? How long are you going, how hard are you all hunting?

Casey Everett: Great questions. I will argue right off the bat that nobody hunts harder than me. And as a Falconer, I would say that we hunt harder than guys with guns because we’re at a disadvantage. We have a physical creature that is capturing the prey for us and the bird to win. So, basically, the way I describe it to people, because there are Falconers throughout the country that they don’t understand duck hunting. Duck hunting is a whole different world of itself. For even Falconers, it’s a different world. And I was lucky that, like I said, my sponsors, they take it extremely seriously, and they taught me from a young age how to set these slips, like we discussed the chance at quarry, how to set them up, how to position yourself from the shore, how to use cover and use tree branches and use the actual topography of the earth to sneak in and flush those ducks off of that water so that you can get the best chance for your bird to catch it. So basically, this is the way I describe it to people, is I have a circuit that I run. It’s a circuit, and if I’m not lazy, but the most efficient way is basically you’re driving around and you’re basically doing spot and stalk. So I’m driving around, I’m stopping on a bridge, I’m pulling over. I’m getting out with my binoculars. I’m looking all the way down this way. I’m looking all the way down that way, and then there’s nothing at that spot. I’m going to another spot. And I have spots that I have waypoints that are traditional. I don’t know. Listen, this is a fascinating subject, and maybe you or somebody listeners talk more about this, but there are spots where I’ve gone to for years and years, and they just congregate at this one bend at the river right under this bank, and they just are there. And I guess they’re feeding on something or there’s something that accumulates it that they’re feeding on. So I have these spots in these waypoints in my GPS that I know that there’s ducks at. And I have hundreds of these spots all over northern New Jersey.

Ramsey Russell: Right now there’s duck hunters nearby thinking, I need to call this guy and get them spots, but go ahead.

Casey Everett: Yeah, well, some of the spots, you can’t shoot a gun, a checkbook. No, I’m just kidding. But, yeah, I have some really good spots, and they congregate, and I basically drive around with the bird in the back of my truck in its box. So there’s a box that we house them in called a giant hood. So it’s basically like we talked about earlier in the conversation, the hood that goes over the head. The giant hood is basically a rectangle box that’s just the width, slightly larger of the bird’s wings, and it’s completely dark inside. And the bird is trained to sit in that box calmly. So the bird sits in that box while I’m driving around all over the earth trying to find a good situation that we can catch some ducks. And usually in the morning I decide, or whatever day it is or after work, I say, I want to catch ducks today. And I drive around, I fill my tank up, and I say, we’re catching ducks today. And I drive around looking for ducks. So I check the waypoints. And, for example, if I look down with my binoculars and I see, okay, we got a group of black ducks. For whatever reason, they’re tucked right in this spot. Perfect. I usually set, and I always forget to do this, and it screws me up, and it almost never works out unless I do this. I try to find a physical landmark above them on the bank where they are, so that when I loop all the way around, like a horseshoe and I try to sneak in on them, I know exactly or at least where they were 20 minutes ago when I started walking, where they are. And essentially, it’s jump shooting, so I’m sneaking up-

Ramsey Russell: But she’s on your arm at this time. As you’re sneaking up, she’s on your arm. When do you cast her off?

Casey Everett: I don’t cast her off. So I sneak up with her on the glove. And the problem is, this is a predator. This is a bird. Like I said earlier, this is kind of like a reptile with wings, where if they see the ducks, they’re going for them. So I try to hold her down slightly lower, out of sight, and I try to get my eyes on the ducks first, or if I know they’re there and I can hear them, I just sneak right up over the bank. And this is the issue. We can get into the topics, and I’m sure your listeners understand, like ducks that are habituated to people or wild ducks or different species of ducks and the way that they flush and et cetera. But if they are, let’s say, for example, black ducks and they’re migratory, oh, it’s going to be beautiful. I’m going to peek my head up. All I have to do is show myself to them, and they’re panic stricken. Boom, right out of the water, trying to get the hell away from me. And then by the time they notice that there’s this giant white thing freaking coming right after them.

Ramsey Russell: Wait a minute, she’s on your arm. You peek up, you show yourself, the black duck explode from water. And in that instance, she knows what’s happening. Boom, she sees the duck.

Casey Everett: She’s gone.

Ramsey Russell: She’s off and gone.

Casey Everett: Oh, yeah, she’s gone. She’s zero to 40 miles an hour.

Ramsey Russell: She fast does she fly top end. And what’s her short end? I’m guessing you’re twenty, thirty  yards from these ducks. When you show yourself, how quickly does she accelerate towards them?

Casey Everett: I’ve never timed it with the gps. It’s funny, because the gps technology, she’s going from zero to 40 miles an hour in literally like a second, two seconds.

Ramsey Russell: Three wing beats, four wing beats.

Casey Everett: She’s going pop-pop-pop with her wings and she’s already across the stream, 60ft in the air, and she’s bound to them, falling to the ground with them. That’s how fast. Yeah. So that’s why I fly Goshawks, because they’re harder to deal with. It takes more skill to fly them. But it’s just if you want to catch stuff, that’s the bird that you’re going to catch stuff with, and you’re going to catch everything under the sun with it. So that’s a typical slip. That’s a typical duck hunt for me. Now, there are Sundays where it’s a Saturday –

Ramsey Russell: On that timber hunt, I looked at, you were standing filming, and the duck was kind of coming over the trees or coming into the opening, and this duck, it looked like she may have been sitting on a limb somewhere and just come off the limb.

Casey Everett: Yeah. It wasn’t on a limb. It was a drake. It was a Drake mallard and it was not on a limb. And it’s funny because on instagram you can only show 15 seconds of whatever the thing is you’re trying to show, otherwise the algorithm suppresses it. So that hunt, this is a swamp that’s created by beavers, and it’s in some places over your head someplace chest height. And during the migration, there are hundreds of ducks there. Hundreds. That bird, my bird, was chasing hundreds of ducks through the trees for like ten minutes before that clip, and they all were waiting for their chance to blow out and get out of there. I had waiters on and I’m moving through the water trying to stimulate them to move. This was purposeful. So this is the second style of hunting that-

Ramsey Russell: Because when Hawks in the air, those birds do not want to fly. No, they know. They’re damned if you do, damned if they don’t. Here comes somebody, but there’s a Hawk in the air that’s going to eat me.

Casey Everett: Exactly. And you got to put the fear of God in them with the damned if they don’t, because I got to put my waders on, I got to get in there and I got to start yelling and splashing the water and moving towards them because they don’t want to get off the water. So that hunt is a separate style. And I don’t know anybody, to be honest with you, I’m not like a pioneer or whatever. I don’t know anybody else that does this because it’s a little bit of a pain in the ass-

Ramsey Russell: Was that you that posted a video? I think it was somebody posted a video. They turned their Hawk loose and I would guess they were wood ducks. They looked like wood ducks in that film to me. And rather than keep flying. Those birds started just peeling off the flock and hitting the water, diving, trying to get away from that Hawk. Was that you?

Casey Everett: I posted one, I think, three days ago. And, yeah, that was the typical. That happens, like, every day. So if I’m going duck hunting, that’s going to happen four or five times a day where you flush the ducks. And they’re so smart, they don’t get up and fly over the trees, they get up and fly over the water, and then when they get pressured from the Hawk, they jump back in and dive. And that’s like the standard technique. And each bird is amazing because each different species of duck will have a different tendency to do that, or not. And mallards seem to be the best at it. They are just so good at getting back over water and then diving and smacking the water. Black ducks, it’s beautiful because they get panic stricken. They just want to get the hell out of there. And by doing so, they open up themselves for attack and they fly out over something. There’s no cover for them where they sky out. And they try to get up in the trees and outfly my bird and you’re not out flying my bird and catch them. Diving ducks, obviously, mergansers, different diving species, are a pain in the neck. They don’t get off the water. They fly like an inch off the water and you can never get them off the water without physically diving in the water after them. So each species is different in the way that they fly and hunt. So for me, duck hunting is the most fun Falconry that I can do because there’s so many duck. I would say duck hunting and squirrel hunting are the two most exciting styles of Falconry for me, because they’re so dimensional and there’s so many different techniques that you have to do, otherwise you’re not going to catch anything. And the squirrel is just going to out maneuver you, or the duck is just going to put back in and not get off the water or just completely. They’ll wait for your bird to move to another limb and they’ll sneak out the back where they’ll fly all the way down the river, 2ft off the waters, the water full speed, all the way down, out of sight, like where they know that if the bird tries to get them, they’re going to just put back into the water. So it makes it impossible to catch them unless you have the entire day to try to catch them. They put back in. So the video that you’re referring to, it was flooded timber. It’s basically like a 400 yard by 200 yard, giant wooded, flooded out timber. And that hunt, that’s a fun hunt for me, and it’s fun, and it’s a pain in the neck. And that hunt particularly, was a little bit of a pain in the neck. And I basically take the bird out of the box at the street, and I throw the bird up in the trees, and then I basically start moving ahead of the bird outside of the swamp, on the edge of the swamp. And then I try to get myself on the opposite side of the ducks, right. So I’m 400 yards away from my bird, and she’s back where the car is. It usually never works like that. She usually starts chasing them the minute she sees them. And then I start working towards her, clapping my hands and screaming and yelling. And you have migratory waterfowl that obviously is terrified. There’s a human in their space. So they start blowing out left and right. I’m talking hundreds, I’m talking mergansers, I’m talking wigeon, wood ducks, black ducks. I mean, it’s a beautiful sight to see. And then you just see my bird, white, this white bird just whipping through the trees, trying to find one that’s not paying attention. And basically, that hunt lasted, like, almost 30 minutes until the sun was basically, essentially going down. And that one mallard, I don’t know what it was thinking, but it was like, I’m going to try to get back to my friends and just started flying through the trees, like, midway up, almost to the canopy, and my bird was like, oh, you messed up. And she just comes from the side and just T bombed her right out of the sky. And I edited it because I say a naughty word when she, you know what I mean? Oh, my God. And she just comes down into the water, and this is just in the water. And then I made my way over the logs. And it’s treacherous because you step over a log and you’re either going up to your waist or you’re going up over your head. So it takes a minute to work through there. And it’s not the most fun style, but I don’t know any other Falconer that does it that way. But I found tremendous success that way. And I do that on occasion when I know I have some time and I’m not worried about getting wet.

Ramsey Russell: See, I see where you can’t use decoys out on the water or mojos because it’ll distract the bird, or she might think it’s a duck. But I’m just sitting here imagining flooded timber in Arkansas or Oklahoma or somewhere flooded timber, and we’re all huddled back. We can call to the ducks and get them to come into the opening. Just pour into the opening like somebody shaking pepper down into it. And watching that bird jump off your wrist and go clobber one God Dog. That would be amazing.

Casey Everett: We could easily do that. We could easily do that. And there’s been some thought about putting, like, a cable system in that situation where when the ducks start committing to coming in, you can pull the cable and all the decoys will go under the water and then take the bird, and then as they’re coming through the trees, letting the bird go from a blind or a tree stand on the side of the water. Whatever the case may be, you could do it.

Ramsey Russell: For what you’re trying to do. You really wouldn’t even need decoys now, if there’s seven or eight of us trying to shoot our limit of mallards, yeah, decoys help. But really and truly, traditionally, historically, decoys weren’t a big thing down the deep south, because you were in the timber and you splashed the water with your boots and call to them, and enough ducks would break through, you could get shots at them. I mean, you could probably pull that off as a Falconry stunt. I just think it’d be a wild. I have got to lay eyes and accompany somebody doing this. This is the wildest thing I’ve ever heard of. It’s got me thinking by doing up my Benelli and getting a Hawk, maybe naming it Benelli instead.

Casey Everett: That’s a good name actually.

Ramsey Russell: One of the coolest things in waterfowl. First, I’m asking this, how much does that Goshawk weigh? I know you’re going to say grams, but tell me in pounds.

Casey Everett: I’d have to do some sort of- Maybe one of your listeners could do it quickly. So that bird that I have that I was flying this season, she flew at just shy of, like, 1150 grams.

Ramsey Russell: I can do the math. Yeah, that’s her flight weight is 1150 pounds.

Casey Everett: That’s her flight weight? Yes.

Ramsey Russell: Let’s see. I can do it real quick. Fat thumb. It’s 453 grams per pound. How much does she weigh?

Casey Everett: 1150.

Ramsey Russell: Oh, wow. Okay, so she’s about the weight of a mallard duck.

Casey Everett: Roughly. Yeah, roughly two and a half pounds.

Ramsey Russell: So that’s pretty fair. I’d say a wild mallard would be two and a half, three pounds, maybe a little bit more. Some of them pretty fair fight for her. Black duck may be just to edge her out just a little bit. But there’s a video, and I could not believe this. This two and a half pound Goshawk will tackle and go after a full grown New Jersey Canada goose. I guess she goes for the head.

Casey Everett: Yeah, the head is what we call the off button. So the bird learns that. And I actually have a video that I’ve been waiting to post, and it’s a beautiful video of me on my lunch break in a swamp, in a pond, a disgusting pond in the forest. And I pushed the mallet. It looked like it was all drakes. There may have been one hen in there, but as you know, towards the end of the season, the drake start harassing the hens, and I push them off. My bird comes out of the tree, hits it midair, brings it into the water, and it just looks like they’re fighting. But if I explain what’s going on, the duck is trying to drag the Hawk into the water to drown it. And the Hawk is trying to gain control of the head to get back to shore. And you see this moment where it’s like a stalemate, where it’s not really a stalemate because there’s activity be. But if you know what you’re looking at, you see my bird is trying to get a good grip, and the duck is trying to get a good grip on the ground or the water to pull my bird, and my bird is trying to find that head to grab it. And then you see her, it’s like, literally she just makes contact with the head, spins in the water, and just starts swimming back to shore and pulls it up out of the water. So the ducks are very well aware of birds of prey, and they have all kinds of evasive maneuvers that they use to get out of the way of an avian predator. And most wild birds don’t want to get wet, because usually in the wild, getting wet is a death sentence. If it’s five degrees, it’s ten degrees, it’s 20 degrees outside, and you get wet, you have problems, you’re dead. So most birds of prey don’t commit to getting wet. But when, like we said earlier, when I raise a bird from a chick and I take it out into the fields and I train it to chase ducks, and it learns that if it hits the water and grabs a duck, I’m going to come and help it, or if it swims to shore, I’m going to help it. Then it loses all fear of that whole scenario and then just becomes essentially just a killing machine with no fear of any repercussions. And it doesn’t matter because I’m not releasing the bird anyway.

Ramsey Russell: It comes back to the truck, to a heated cab, or to a heated home, and it dries out and it’s good to go. Wow. Another aspect that you hunt is not just waterfowl, which I find very interesting, but I love this little dog, ginger you got. You know, we got a Frankie dog Dachshund around here that’s the queen of the couch, and her belly drags her ground. But you got a real Dachshund that’s also a part of your hunting arsenal. When you go out with your Goshawk, you’ve got a ginger dog that roots them out and gets these rabbits and stuff and squirrels, too, getting them going, don’t you?

Casey Everett: Oh, yeah. The dog is a luxury. The dog is a complete luxury. And when you’re rabbit hunting and you have to physically get into the brush and you have to start working the cover physically. And any guy out there that’s been rabbit hunting with shotguns and there’s no dogs involved, usually somebody’s getting in the brush and getting dirty, bleeding, falling down, trying to get those rabbits to get out of that cover so that the other people in the group can shoot them. So the dog is the flusher, the dog’s desire, and anybody who’s run dogs and even retrieving dogs for waterfowl, that’s what they want to do. It’s bred into them to do that. So this dog that I have is from a very distinguished line, and she’s bred by Teddy Moritz, and she has done, I think she was in an article in field and stream magazine, and she breeds these dogs for the purpose of rabbit hunting, and that’s all the dog wants to do. So she’s going down holes, she’s going into thick cover. She actually, believe it or not, this is my sixth Dachshund over the years, and this is the only one that I’ve had that will actively tree squirrels and signal when there’s a hot scent on a squirrel. And if I work that tree, eight times out of ten, 80 percent of the time there’s a squirrel tucked up in there somewhere that just ran up there and she alerted me to it. I start pulling some vines, throwing some sticks, and that squirrel shows themselves and the hunt is on. So the dog is invaluable, and it just makes my life so much easier.

Ramsey Russell: One interesting thing you mentioned earlier, some of the areas you hunt, you’re in New Jersey, but some of the areas you hunt, waterfowl, would not be accessible to me, a shotgunner, because it’s inside a city zone. It reminded me of a story I heard in Saskatchewan last week, right after I talked to you. Somebody was telling me they’ve got a buddy that has some Hawks, and they’ve started using it in industrial or residential areas to eradicate bird problems. And I’m thinking residential geese, that I can’t go out and hunt, but I can scare off or going into warehouses and getting rid of starlings and sparrows and things of that nature. Your sport really does lend itself to a broader landscape than just conventional hunting, doesn’t it?

Casey Everett: It does. And yes, that whole market, and especially nowadays, know going green and being natural and non lethal and all these buzzwords that are used companies, corporate, multi million dollar companies like Amazon and Home Depot, when they get sparrows or different kind of starlings and pigeons that are roosting. Or in some cases in the country, I’m friends with somebody from out west, and I don’t know where they are in the country, but there are hundreds of crows that come out of the surrounding area at night and roost in the trees over these restaurants in the city, and they defecate all over the people that are eating and trying to shop and enjoy the nightlife. And it’s becoming a huge problem for the people that are there. And obviously we can argue it’s their land first and all this stuff, and we can whatever. But the point of the matter is that there’s birds there, so they don’t want to set traps or just shoot them, because obviously they’re there. So they employ what’s called abatement. And abatement is the use of birds of prey to, ideally, non lethal. They chase and move all of the birds away from the area. So, for example, my good friend, east coast Falcons, Eric Swanson, he has a business in New Jersey, and he services point pleasant, a boardwalk. And there are seagulls, obviously, all over the boardwalk, trying to eat hot dogs and fries and everything else. So what he does is he has a crew of guys that take their birds and walk up and down the boardwalk with their Hawks, flying them free flying throughout the crowd, throughout the beachgoers, sometimes on the beach, and they’re basically intimidating, which is not really ideal. Sometimes physically engaging with the seagulls to remove them from the area, to make it more of a pleasant experience for the beachgoers so that they’re not obviously being defecated on and having their food stolen by very clever seabirds. So it is a whole secondary form of Falconry, although Falconry, in the purest sense of the word, is the hunting and catching of game with a wild bird of prey. So they’re not actually practicing Falconry, but they’re using Falconry techniques to solve a problem while playing on the bird’s natural abilities and the offensive bird’s natural abilities. So it’s kind of going back and forth. And listen, it’s something that most people won’t see or even notice. And I’ve actually helped my buddy Eric with this project, and it’s something to see where there’s hundreds of seagulls all over the boardwalk. And you take this big GyrFalcon, and you release it, and it flies like a bullet down the boardwalk over these people’s heads, unsuspecting. And you just see the seagulls just flying full speed out to sea. Like, I’m out of here. And it’s literally like watching Moses part the Red Sea, and you just see the seagulls just, I’m out of here. Okay, I get it. And then it’s just like, feasting quiet for, like, ten minutes, and then you got to keep working it. And it really does make a difference. And it’s becoming a larger and larger market, and people are kind of catching on. And I’m not sure if there’s, like, incentives from the government for being non lethal and stuff like that, but a lot of companies are going that direction rather than putting out these fake owls and scarecrows that don’t really work anyway.

Hunting Hawks & Falcons

And I’ve flown a Peregrine Falcon, I have flown a Gyr Falcon, not with much success. The long winging, we call it long winging is Falcons, large Falcons. 

Ramsey Russell: Talk about the different types real quickly. Talk about the different types of Hawks and Falcons that you have owned during your career and, like, the advantages and disadvantages. Like, for example, we started off talking about the redtail Hawk. And I understand from reading just a little bit to be dangerous, that they’ve got personalities and that some of them will even recognize their name. If you did name them, you might could holler at them, they’ll come and land on you. You said the Goshawk is a very difficult, temperamental apex predator to change. But have you owned a lot of different species? And what are the advantages and disadvantages of some of these different types of birds that are used in America primarily, but also around the world?

Casey Everett: Okay, that’s a great question. I’ve flown quite a few redtail Hawks, and like we discussed earlier, each one of them is different, and they have their own personality. And some of them gear more towards this direction, other of them gear more towards that direction. And I’ve had some that, start out well and then develop bad habits, which is either on my part or just the way the bird is. And then I’ve had others, like the longest one that I had, I had her for eight years, and she was a monster. So just for the listeners, the Goshawk that I fly, that catches geese and everything else flies at 1100, 1300 grams. This bird was 1550 grams. Every hunt out, it was a tank. And that bird was just an incredible bird. And she would basically, I would open up the door, and she would fly out, and she would see the dogs on the ground, and she would just start following the dogs. I’d go sit on a log and hang out and just hang out and wait. And the dogs would work the cover and the bird would follow the dogs, and the dogs would flush the game, and the bird would catch the game, and I’d walk over and trade the bird off, pick up the game, put it in my bag, and continue on and catch more.

Ramsey Russell: Are all the birds you’ve raised female?

Casey Everett: No, I’ve had a few different male birds. Male birds present different weaknesses and different pros. There’s different things that you can accomplish with each bird. So a female bird is, on average, one third larger than a male bird. So the males are slightly smaller, which makes them slightly faster, but then adds different things to their behavioral, the way they act and the way that they think mentally, that they’re lower on the food chain. So tercel is what we call a male bird of prey. And they are, on average, a little bit more high strung and a little bit more flighty and a little bit more spazzy. But at the same time, they’re more gamey, because during the nesting process, the female usually sits on the eggs, and the tercel like every good man, to provide for the female and the young. So he’s killing and catching and killing and catching all day long. So if you can tap into that natural ability of a male bird of prey, you can conquer the world. But they are a little bit more high thumb. Have I have dealt with redtails, redtail Hawks. I have dealt with Cooper’s Hawks for a brief period of time. They’re not my favorite to fly. And I’ve flown a Peregrine Falcon, I have flown a Gyr Falcon, not with much success. The long winging, we call it long winging is Falcons, large Falcons. They require a lot of space to move. They require hundreds and hundreds of yards of open cover, open terrain to maneuver themselves and then chase. So I don’t live in an area where that’s very practical.

Ramsey Russell: That would be maybe a bird better suited for out West pheasant hunting or something like prairie chickens or something like that.

Casey Everett: Yeah, 100%. So where I live, where it’s very wooded, it’s not very practical because you’re flushing ducks and they’re flying in the trees. And a Falcon is not going to feel comfortable whipping seventy, eighty, hundred miles an hour through the trees chasing a duck. It’s going to kill itself. So it’s not practical. So I found that Goshawks really suit what I try to do, and I try to catch as much game as possible. I’ve also flown merlin Falcons, which are micro birds of prey, which are very small. So in terms of grams, this is a bird that flies at 185 grams. So it’s very tiny. Very tiny. But they are very tenacious and they will catch pigeons that are twice the size of them. They’ll patch starlings and they’re a pursuit style birds. So basically, just a quick synopsis of their flight style is, in my, the way I fly them, people out west have the space and they can fly them different ways. That’s the beauty of Falconry, is that the bird will fill a niche. If you provide a niche for the bird to fill, the bird of prey is going to fill the niche. That’s the beauty about it. So I would basically go to a golf course in an open park, get the sparrows to jump from one bush to the next bush to the next bush until it’s at the edge of the field. And then I would signal to the bird with my lure, which I’m swinging, which is the signal that we trained to the bird to come to me. So as the bird is on its way to me to get the lure I kick the bush, all the sparrows or starlings fly out of the bush, and then the merlin instinctively says, I don’t want that lure, I want one of those. And then, boom, just catches it. And then that was the flight style that we implemented for that type of bird. So I’ve flown a decent amount of different birds.

Ramsey Russell: Are there any species you’d like to fly, like an owl or an eagle?

Casey Everett: Owls. There’s a lot of people that have flown owls with success, I will say that. But it’s like swimming upstream. They are surprise oriented. They are not oriented for you to flush a rabbit and then them pursue it and chase it. They want to sit quietly in a tree and watch a prey species going about its daily business and then fall on it dead silent and grab it and crush it to death. So owls are not really suited for the technical term of Falconry, although some people have trained them with success to catch all kinds of things. A great horned Owl, which is a very common owl species, that bird is extremely powerful. That bird, just so that your listeners know, there have been sightings of these birds flying out into the middle of a lake, grabbing a drake mallard, flying straight up out of the water with it, and flying back to shore with it and subduing it and killing it and eating it. That’s how powerful those birds are.

Ramsey Russell: I heard house cats, too.

Casey Everett: Yeah, they love house cat. They’ll kill house cats. On the meat eater podcast, there was a biologist that came on. He did a survey, it was a wild turkey survey, and he took a giant wood lot, a big plot of woods, and they trapped and collared all the various species of raccoons, skunks, possums, even foxes. And there was a nesting pair of great horned owls there. And the turkeys, obviously, because that was part of the study, the great horned owl, the pair of great horned owl between the male and the female, he said that they killed every single meso predator and turkey in that wood lot. And he went in to check the collar, because obviously, if the collar is sitting dormant for a period of time, it gives off a signal that says mortality, meaning it’s dead, it’s not moving. And they would go in and look, and it was very clearly an owl kill, and that’s a scientist data that he gathered. So owls are extremely capable, but they’re just geared mentally in a different way that doesn’t really suit the run and gun type of Falcon like I described earlier in the conversation.

Ramsey Russell: I ask about eagles because I’ve seen pictures, I’ve heard of talked about. It’s fascinating. It’s in a different part of Mongolia than where we’ve hunted in the past. But there’s a tradition where. And look, you go to Mongolia, and I will forget they had this collection of wolf robes. I don’t mean pimp daddy coats, like you’d wear them. I’m talking. This was a wolf hide that you kind of put on like a bathrobe and took a belt and cinched it up. And it better be cold because you’re fixing to break a sweat if it ain’t. And bye bye. It’s extremely warm, but it gets extremely cold in Mongolia. And they were going out, and you see it. It’s a practice over there where they train golden eagles and they go out and they wolf hunt with golden eagles. Now, I’m just going to tell you right now, that is bad. Know, you might be a badass, but until you wear a wolf robe that your golden eagle caught, you ain’t really man.

Casey Everett: I can agree with that statement. So a friend of ours in the community, her name is Lauren McGow. She is very famous because of this. And she went and lived with those hunters, and they gave her a bird to fly for the period of time that she was there. And she was able to immerse herself in the culture and the hunting style of that situation. And they do catch wolves, and the wolves are slightly smaller than the North American wolves that we have here, the same size or slightly larger than a coyote. But she immersed herself in that culture. And that’s one of the most beautiful things about Falconry is that even for myself, who’s been in this field for so long, Falconers are sometimes viewed as hippies with Hawks and Falcons. And they wear trendy clothing and kind of like, I catch stuff here and there. The Falconers that I know, I literally catch so many ducks in the season that I can’t catch anymore until I eat what’s in my freezer, because I would be breaking the law with my possession limit. Some of us catch so much game that we are significantly filling our freezers and providing for our families real wild game for us to eat. So it’s not just a hobby, it’s a real means of providing food. And in all these cultures around the world, they are practicing it in different ways. And each culture in the world has its own unique set of traditions and set of styles, and the birds that they fly, and it’s fascinating. And you could talk for days and days about each country and their tradition and the way that they do it and it’s fascinating.

Ramsey Russell: Casey, I really, really appreciate you coming on to visiting with us today and telling us about the king of sports, about Falconry, modern day. It’s one of the most fascinating rabbit holes I’ve crawled down in a very long time. And I’m hoping that somebody listening will say, hey, Ramsey, to get that guy down here to south and let’s go duck hunting. We got a great timber hole. I would love to see this Goshawk you got. Fly off her perch and catch some mallards coming in. I just think that would be utterly amazing. Do you ever worry that your bird’s going to become injured? I don’t know. If you ever been hit by a Canada goose wing, it’s still flopping around, but it’ll leave a mark. It hits you just right. Do you ever worry about that? Are these birds just so techniqued that they’re expecting to know how to handle these birds?

Casey Everett: Yeah. Okay. That’s a great question. And I have lost quite a few birds over the years. That’s a good way to wrap this up, is that these birds, like we discussed earlier in the conversation, that 80% of them do die in their first year. So just because I paid money for a specialty breeder that imported birds from another country and raised them and trained them and breeds them, and then I can have the opportunity to fly one, such as the one I have from Russia that’s white and beautiful. 80% of them are still going to die. So stuff still not necessarily the same rate, but things still happen. So I have lost a fairly decent amount of birds over the years due to various things. I lost a bird that was chasing a rabbit and the rabbit flew underneath some sort of a guard tower. And the bird thought she could fly through the guard tower and come out the other side and loop around. And she didn’t realize that the guard tower was glass. And she hit it going like around fifty, sixty miles an hour and was dead on impact and actually flew. I didn’t even know where she was. She hit it so hard she bounced off like ten feet and landed in some sort of pile of junk. I didn’t know where she was. I had one that last year. I raised it from a chick. Beautiful bird. Just a gorgeous bird. And it was a bird from Russia as well. And that bird was a male. And we hunted, we caught squirrels, rabbits, we caught woodcock. And then it just landed on the wrong power line on the wrong day and got cooked until one of its legs blew off and it fell down and landed on the ground. So these things happen. And we’ve also had Falconers that have been flying their birds, and their bird flew in the wrong direction and was actually shot by hunters. And it happens. And that’s why I’m happy and I’m honored to be on your podcast and listen and be able to have the chance to speak to so many waterfowl hunters. And I know I’m a waterfowl hunter. I have friends that are waterfowl hunters. I’m immersed in hunting culture. Nobody hunts harder than I do, and my brother and the guys that I associate with. So I know the culture and sometimes not everybody, and I’m not generalizing, but some people think that birds of prey are stealing their game and they have to shoot them, and that’s what’s going on. And that is just not true and just the logic of it and the science doesn’t back that up. A bird of prey, like we discussed with the weight and the motivation early in the conversation, a bird of prey, if it eats a full grown duck, that bird has no desire to hunt or eat for a week or at least a week or more. It’s not really interested in eating. So the birds of prey are not really the issue. And like me and you discussed in another conversation that we had, sometimes it’s the meso predators, it’s the raccoons, the possums, the skunks, the things that are getting into the nest. And those are the animals that we really need to control more. And you brought up a good point about how the coyotes control those numbers. So shooting coyotes is not really necessary, because I’m a deer hunter as well. So I don’t like coyotes because they eat fawns. But the coyotes control the measle predators, which eat the duck eggs.

Ramsey Russell: There’s a lot of turkey eggs documented that. Yes, a coyote will eat. Catch a hand. Yes, they’ll eat his eggs. They’re very opportunistic, but their primary quarry is small game, to include the skunks and opossums and the raccoons and the red foxes, because they’re the dominant predator now in the landscape, they keep those mesopredators in check. And, I mean, it’s like I’m at the point right now, if you want more ducks, especially in a prairie pothole, if you want more ducks. Don’t kill coyotes. And I’ve never been one to shoot. I’ve just never understood shooting predators. I personally just enjoy if I’m deer hunting. We got a lot of marsh Hawks that fly around. I enjoy watching them hunt the area. We’ve got redtail Hawks I’ve seen right across the wood lot, across. What is the Hawk with the dark Hawk with the red shoulder? Maybe a red shouldered Hawk –

Casey Everett: Red shoulder Hawk. Yeah. They eat amphibians-

Ramsey Russell: Well, this one had a squirrel hemmed up and was hunting him pretty hard up in the woods. And of course, we got the Mississippi kite to fly over. I’m a live and let live kind of guy, go out and shoot my ducks. And so I hope people aren’t shooting those birds. I can understand if you got an old timey poultry house, you might need to chase them off or do something, but I don’t understand just going out and shooting non target species.

Casey Everett: I agree with you.

Ramsey Russell: Since we’ve been talking, my wife’s heard me talk, and she opened the doors and shook her head and uttered and mouthed the word, no, she won’t even let me have chickens till I retire and get off the road as much as I am because she knows she’ll have to take care of them. But she’s heard this conversation. She’s thinking, oh, my Gosh, fixing to get a Hawk. But I do want to hunt with you. I thank you very much for coming on and tell us and sharing this amazing sport with us. This is crazy. I mean, in the age of cool duck hunters, you might be cool, but you ain’t cool because you didn’t catch the Hawk and train the Hawk and hunt ducks with the Hawk, that you didn’t turn loose after the season. Now that’s a cool form of duck hunting, Casey. Your Instagram page is NJ_ Falconry. Is that the best way for the listener to connect with you?

Casey Everett: Yeah, if anybody’s interested, yeah, just follow me. Watch my videos. My goal, like I said earlier, is just to present Falconry in a respectful, honorable way, in the way that it should be practiced. There’s a lot of people out there that keep these birds. They go through the process. They get a Falconry license, and they keep their birds as pets. They’re not pets. They want to kill and they want to hunt. So that I give the birds those opportunities, and I just want my Instagram page to present birds of prey, of what they’re capable of doing, which is amazing things. And, yeah, if you want to reach, that’s where I’m at, Instagram nj_falconry. And that’s it.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah, folks, thank you all for listening to this episode of Duck Season Somewhere with Casey Everett, nj_falconry. What an amazing sport. This podcast would not exist without you, our avid listeners, please like and share. If you have not already, please offer a comment on Spotify or Apple. Thank you all for listening to this episode of Duck Season Somewhere, we’ll see you next time.



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