Goshawk!!!!

Matt Cashell

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It started when I was told I would be working late the other day. My supervisor told me I wouldn't be needed until noon. That gave me the whole, cool morning to get out and get some excercise. My work out of choice when time is short is to hit a couple of trail loops on the mountain bike. Just outside Hamilton, MT is a nice trail known as Coyote Coulee maintained by local service groups including the local Backcountry Horsemen chapter. Due to the close proximity to town, and excellent tread condition, the trail is popular with hikers, bikers, and horseback riders.

I arrived at the trail shortly after dawn in order to avoid the heat. There wasn't a truck in the lot, and I was excited to have the trail to myself. It didn't take me long to get the shoes on and clipped in. I was spinning up the trail when I noticed a sign with small print and a picture of a raptor. I was followed along the trail the summer before by a large goshawk, and figured the sign was placed by the Forest Service to remind recreaters to keep an eye out for the uncommon birds.

The trail consists of two main loops, and neither are very long. I cranked up the initial climb, which is a good mile of relentless, but moderate incline. I made it to the top, and negotiated a couple of creek crossings before sweeping down the twisty singletrack to the trail juncture with the second loop. A coasting downhill leads to another long, and a little steeper ascent. This is followed by a ripping descent that begs for letting the brakes go. A couple of woo-hoos and I was heading back to the junction with the first loop. I got to the junction and began the technical and steep uphill away from the junction in order to complete the first loop. I was concentrating on keeping tractionin the loose dirt sprinkled with roots when something flip-flapped off the ground in front of me and into the ponderosa pines on the downhill side of the trail. The goshawk! Cool! I look back in to the forest when I noticed two other hawks jumping from branch to branch next to a large nest forty feet up a ponderosa. I realized they were juveniles working on their flying. I continued up the trail when I heard it .... ai, aiy, aiyee, Aiyeee, AIYEEEE, AAIIIYYYEEEEE. It was some sort of demon scream! Then the sound of an F-18 fighter cutting the air came up behind me and BAAAMMM... the giant forest raptor smacked into my helmet, sending me teeteering up the slope.

I somehow unclipped my uphill foot and saved myself a wreck. Thank goodness I was going slow up the steep slope. The bird rocketed back away through the trees, hollering the whole way. I tried to get my wits and continued pedaling up the slope. Then it happened again ... ai, aiy, aiyee, Aiyeee, AIYEEEE, AAIIIYYYEEEEE. I glanced over my shoulder to see the hawk, again locked onto me like a Cruise missile. I could not believe the speed that it banked through the trees as it closed the distance. I jumped off the bike, and picked up a stick swinging it wildly through the air. I went to yell in my best John Wayne voice, "Hey! Stop!" Unfortunately it came out as more of a 8 year old girl's scream. The giant bird flared up feet in front of my face, and I was pretty sure it had a 15 foot wingspan. It swung around in a circle and lit up on a branch at eye level only ten feet from me, staring holes through me with its blood red eyes. I got ahold of my senses and spoke quietly while walking up the hill. I made it to the level area at the top, saddled up, and got the hell out of there.

I made it about a half mile when I met two ladies on horseback coming the other way. I stopped, got off the trail, and let them by.

"You might want to avoid the hill at the junction, the goshawks are pretty aggressive in there right now," I warned.

The second lady slowed down, "Oh yeah, we are going to go around. We heard her coming after something ... or maybe we heard you ..."

"Uhhhhh ... have a nice morning," I murmured as I hauled down the trail. When I made it back to the parking lot, I looked a little closer at the sign, which was clearly warning people that the goshawks were there, and not very happy with intruders.

Woops.
 
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Ryan Avery

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Matt, I would of paid money to see that!! Can you go back and get some video footage? Maybe have your wife hold the camera while you go up and knock on the tree:)
 

Brock A

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That video would go viral for sure!

I had a similar experience with a crow in downtown Seattle last summer while I was walking to work. Took my hat clean off my head and knocked me silly for a second. I though it was someone jumping me until I looked up in the tree and 5' away was crow screaming at me. Regardless, as hard as that crow hit me, It was one tough bird!!
 
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Matt Cashell

Matt Cashell

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[video=youtube;p-_RHRAzUHM]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-_RHRAzUHM[/video]
 

Mike7

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Great story and video. Have an unsuspecting "friend" ride up the trail in front of you while you wear the GoPro?

I had a Cooper's Hawk merely try to land on my head once while I was standing really still glassing, and that nearly scared the crap out of me. I didn't hear a sound, but saw movement out of the corner of my eye, and at the last moment was able to duck to just avoid the speeding demon permanently grabbing my hat for a perch.
 

sk1

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wow thats crazy how they fly through the trees like that, i might sound ignorant but i have never even heard of them
 

HockeyDad

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Littleton, CO
I feel for ya! I was sitting in a tree stand before daylight one morning a long time ago - Had a owl try to scalp me! I dont see how they fly through the trees in daytime, let alone nighttime.

X2 on the gopro!
 

thru-hunter

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Crazy story! Reminds me of an owl that was tormenting a Hill Top ski slope in Anchorage years ago. Not sure why but it started dive bombing people on the head then carting their hats off.
 

sanchomaes

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Lakewood, CO
I do not know how I missed this when it was first posted but it had me laughing! Where was the go pro with all of this going down?!
 
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Matt Cashell

Matt Cashell

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I do not know how I missed this when it was first posted but it had me laughing! Where was the go pro with all of this going down?!
I should pitch it to GoPro for a review! I can see it now "Talon-resistant lens."

I am sure she will be back in there this year ... the witch.
 
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