One of the things I learned how to do in my first year was make jesses for my bird. The Modern Apprentice defines a jess this way: “traditionally, these are leather strips which go through the anklets so the falconer can hold the bird or attach the leash. Modern jesses are of many types of material including parachute cord and various braids.”
I made leather ones, but I didn’t really like them. I worried they were too bulky when we were chasing squirrels, and they weren’t easy to pull through the eyelet. And, I just thought they were ugly. So I made jesses out of parachute cord. I thought they looked better, and I thought they were easier to use.
Last month, I decided I wanted to try Bullet Jesses. One reason for that is that I’ve been flying my bird on squirrels without any jesses on. Now, that’s a whole ‘nother debate with a lot of opinions but I’ve decided I like it. I don’t ever wonder if my bird missed a squirrel because of the jesses, and I’ve had zero control problems. Bullet Jesses allow you to easily remove the jess from the anklet without messing with the leash at all. Everything happens up at the anklet.
Here’s me snuggling with my jessless bird out in the field. Thorin loves this special time we have together:
So I ordered The Original Bullet Jesses. I’ve seen a few other jesses that have the same design and are cheaper, but I went for the original because they just looked like they were better quality.
When I got them in the mail, my first thought was, “these look really cool!” These do not look like they were made in a garage with pieces picked up from Home Depot. Maybe they were, I don’t know, but they don’t look like it.
I immediately went to put them on Thorin and see what he thought. I got the jesses for a 1/4 inch grommet, and they fit just right. I had been attaching my bells through the grommet as well with little zip ties, but I couldn’t do that with the Bullet Jesses. There wasn’t room for them to fit through. So I finally buckled down and moved the bells to separate bands (I’d been meaning to for a while, but in the season all you want to do is hunt).
[Thorin likes the new look. He’s hoping to attract the ladies with these sweet kicks]
You have to loosen the tightening device to allow the tubes to slip away from the bullets before you can slip the bullet through the grommet. (Check out the pictures below). I was a little clumsy at this the first few times I did it, but after four or five times I got used to it. It is also a little awkward tightening the tubes back up to the bullet and keeping the loop for the leash even because both tubes are on one string. Imagine you’re trying to straighten out the string in your hoodie- you keep pulling up the hood and the string doesn’t go up evenly, it goes up just one side. That’s kind of what these jesses do. In fact, as I was messing with it I accidentally pulled the tightening device right off the string. That’s something I’ll have to watch out for in the field. I’m still working that out, but the payoff definitely comes when you’re hunting.
It’s a piece of cake to get Thorin out of his giant hood, and have these jesses off in no time. I don’t have to mess with the leash, or with trying to handle two seperate jesses and a leash while also managing my bird and looking at the woods we’re going to hunt. If you fly without jesses, these are an absolute dream.
After flying with these for about a week, I’ve gotten putting them on down to just a few seconds. The only real concern I had was partially my fault. I didn’t screw the tightener back up and left it loose when I took the jesses off. Then, when I got the jesses back out to put them on Thorin, the screw had fallen out. In an unbelievable moment, I found the tiny little screw in the middle of the dirt and grass. I won’t make that mistake again!
Putting them on has been more difficult for me than taking them off, if only because you have to push the tubes back up to the bullet. It’s still much simpler than sliding each jess back on, then attaching the jesses to the leash. Especially since I’m often doing it with a bird that just finished eating from whatever he caught, and he’s got his dander up a bit. (“Hey, are you doing something with food down there? I better grab it and see! Oh sorry, that was just your hand? My bad.”)
In short, I love the practicality of these jesses. My only concern is that I wonder how long the string will last that these jesses are built on. It seems very small.
Summation: If you fly without jesses, make your life easier and grab these!
[UPDATE: Two months in and I still love these Jesses. They’ve held up very well!]