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Ringgold senior an avid outdoorsman

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Hunter Homa and his hawk, Sage.

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By Les Harvath
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, 8:57 p.m.

Without intending in the least to be disparaging, Ringgold senior Hunter Homa referred to Sage, his red-tailed hawk, as “not the smartest winged creature in the sky.”

Homa trapped the immature hawk near Erie and is training his new pet to pursue rabbits and squirrels. Once the hawk is trained, Homa will crawl into the brush and “get all cut up by thorns,” he said, chuckling, “and rabbits or squirrels will run out,and Sage will catch the fleeing animal.”

He paused before laughing heartily. “Guess I spoke too soon when I said the hawk was not that intelligent.”

As an apprentice falconer, Homa is permitted to catch only a red-tailed hawk, also identified as an American kestrel (Little Falcon). He added that Falco sparverius is the most common raptor in America, and very common in Pennsylvania.

Noting that a hawk perched on any telephone pole may be trapped quite easily, “We saw the hawk and put a trap under it,” he said, “and drove about 100-150 feet away. We turned around and watched as she entered the trap. I was with my sponsor, who is a falconer, when we saw the hawk. Required by law, you have to have a sponsor/mentor to trap a hawk and/or pursue falconry.”

Adding that it takes two to three weeks for a hawk such as Sage to become a bird of prey, Homa is “taking small steps with her,” he said.

“I keep her tethered as she is perched on my arm,” Homa said. “She already responds to my whistles and comes back to me because I feed her. I've never done this before, and it's exciting and scary at same the time. Seeing her talons up close may be intimidating, but once I began to get comfortable with her everything has gone well.”

Already an accomplished trapper, Rams' boys soccer coach Frank Perez referred to Homa as an avid outdoorsman and one of the best trappers he knows.

“Hunter speaks enthusiastically about trapping and inspires me to be a trapper, as well,” Perez said. “Because of his enthusiasm he is fun to be around. He brings out my youthful spirit.”

An outdoorsman in his own right, Perez sees the same qualities in Homa, a 5-foot, 8- inch, 150-pound midfielder, as he sees in the two-year starter on the soccer pitch.

“Hunter has taken on more of a leadership role this season,” Perez said. “His workouts and his approach to games are excellent. He is a happy and spirited young man, and his fitness is tremendous. He can run all day, has good speed and good soccer skills.”

With several multiple goal games this season, Homa opened the scoring against a strong Mt. Lebanon team with “a huge goal to give us momentum and confidence,” Perez added. Ringgold prevailed, 3-1.

“Hunter has been a big contributor as far as goals go,” Perez said. “He is our second-leading scorer and has stepped up when we needed him to score more. He is having an excellent season.”

From his home in Washington County, where Homa has trapped coyote, fox and raccoons, to Waynesburg in Greene County to Elk County, Homa has added beaver, mink and muskrat to his trapping successes.

“If you build it, they will come!” has become an oft-repeated phrase from the baseball film “Field of Dreams.” Homa's take on that saying is “If you wear it, I may have trapped it.”

Once the animals are trapped, they are dispatched and skinned, after which Homa sells the fur at the Washington County Fair, when the furs are turned into various articles of clothing.

“Trapping these animals helps control the animal populations,” Homa explained, demonstrating his extensive knowledge about the subject. “If they would not be trapped, there would be so many diseases spreading among them. A certain geographic area can only hold so many animals and once there is overpopulation,w diseases may set in and that becomes a much crueler way that the population comes under control.”

With the spring sports season rapidly approaching, Homa, whose first name is more than an appropriate fit, is a member of the Rams track team, competing in the 800-meter individual and 4x800 meter relay. His relay team set a new school record last year.

When Homa isn't trapping or on the soccer field, he finds time to focus on academics. Among other Ringgold classmates, he has a 4.0 grade-point average and a No. 1 class ranking. Penn State-Behrend in Erie is his collegiate destination, where he plans to major in petroleum engineering.

“There are a number of gas wells in this area, and I've watched the workers and researched the industry. That's what I would like to do for a career,” he said. “That career would enable me to stay in the outdoors, which I love.”

Les Harvath is a freelance writer.

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