The Itinerant Hoodmaker - Hood Design
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Hood Design

"Larry Ray's innovative hoods are a combination of Indian, Arab and Dutch Hoods. Many American hoodmakers made their own patterns and hood blocks, the end result was still an American Dutch Hood. Others modified one of the Indian, Anglo-Indian or Slijper hood patterns to produce a better fit and they too are still categorized as an Anglo-Indian hood. Larry's innovative hoods cannot be neatly placed in the several falconry hood categories.
"Traditional Indian and Asian hoods, that have no braces, are easily removed by the hawk or eagle when they are left alone.
"When it comes to fit, Larry's hoods are top notch and his hoods do not pull feathers on the longer hackled Eagles, Hawk-Eagles, Gos Hawks and Red-tails. While traditional Dutch hoods do not pull feathers on falcons, using a Dutch hood or Anglo Indian hood on a Golden Eagle is a bad choice."
                                                - Jack Stoddart

Larry began experimenting with hood design over twenty years ago, when he could not obtain a hood to fit his first Peregrine Falcon. Hoods were purchased from some of the most reputable hood makers of that day, yet none were acceptable to the ultimate customer, his hawk! Some of the problems encountered were with beak openings cutting across the gape or extending too far out over the cere. Leather used was frequently too heavy, causing discomfort and abrasion. Most did not fit the bird's facial contours properly which, after a short period, led to the hawk being able to see below the beak opening at each corner. Meanwhile, traditional bracing would, at times, grab feathers on the nape. Sound familiar? Here's how Larry describes the evolution of his design and how it, in turn, addresses the needs of a hunting hawk:

Beak openings must be cut, and the hood face contoured, to ensure the openings do not contact the soft parts (i.e., yellow portions) of the cere and gape.
More than one hood maker has insisted to me that hawks will wear, without complaint, hoods that cross the gape. Or, that hawks readily accept hoods that extend far out onto the cere. And it is true, sadly, that we have all seen hawks wearing, without apparent objection, hoods that fit improperly in these areas. Some, though, eventually object to such hoods and become increasingly difficult to hood as a result. Also, irritations and sores on cere or gape can occur if the hood continues to contact these areas. Look at the pictures in this site – none of them show hoods that contact the soft portions of the birds' faces. All clear the cere and gape because such clearance is the primary facet of my design, which considers both the bird's facial contour and the pattern for cutting the beak opening.

Notice how well the gape is cleared by the hood preventing any rubbing and allowing comfort and movement.
Photo courtesy of Jayme Perlman

European Goshawk with hood
Here a European Goshawk wears a hood comfortably.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Redig

Casting Ability
I do not ever recommend leaving a bird unattended while hooded if it is known to have ingested casting.
However, there will come a time in any falconer/hawk partnership in which, inadvertently or not, a bird is left with casting in its system. Or, perhaps, a bird might need to regurgitate a bit of food. The beak openings on my hoods, given their clearance of the gape and conformation similar to an Indian hood, will maximize the hawk's ability to cast through it should that need ever arise.

The back closure is just as important as the front. The accordion-style closure prevents feathers from being caught, yet securely encloses the entire head preventing the hood from being easily thrown off.
I have, for the last ten years, gone completely over to Arab Style, or "accordion style" bracing. Such bracing results in far fewer instances of feather grabbing about the nape. Such feather abuse, especially when it occurs with eagles and accipiters, will not be long tolerated and will shortly result in resentment of the hood if allowed to persist.

Hood closure
The back closure of a Larry Ray hood.
Photo courtesy of Dan McCarron and Daryl Peterson

Back closure without the braces inserted
Back closure of a Larry Ray hood without the braces inserted.

My blocks, which I have evolved myself over twenty years, starting with a lump of Plaster of Paris that I carved and sanded myself, are unique.
They were not purchased or otherwise "obtained" from someone else's blocks. They allow proper fit at the upper corner edges of the gape and, thus, prevent sight out of these corners. Pass your hand under the beak and chin of a hawk wearing one of my hoods. The bird will not exhibit any signs of sight here. This will prevent the anxiety and nervousness one sees in birds which see out the lower corners of the beak openings of their hoods. A bird must be comfortable when moving and able to relax when hooded. A bird that is not comfortable can be more stressed. A hood that is comfortable will encourage her to relax and sleep comfortably.

Hood sleep
Goshawk sleeping comfortably hooded.
Photo courtesy of Dan McCarron