A hawk in action with falconer Adam Hein.

I recently spent an afternoon with a bloodthirsty killer. Doyle is a 15-year-old Harris’s Hawk with a three-foot wing span, a scarily-intense gaze and powerful talons that belie the fact that he weighs just a pound-and-a-half. 

Doyle kills his prey—be it bird, squirrel, mouse, rat, mole, rabbit, shrew or snake—by crushing it with his muscular feet and razor-sharp claws. He is as deadly accurate as a hunter wielding a rifle, but he’s way more fascinating to watch.

I meet Doyle during a falconry hunt in South Carolina’s Low Country, as we navigate through a rugged…

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