DONORS:
Mike and Karen Yates, Richard “Rocky” Montgomery, Peter Devers, Brian
McDonald, Bill Barbour, Virginia Falconers Association, Bob Collins, and
Alaskan Admirers of Johnny McCabe
J
ohnny always searched for something
big according to his mother, Mrs. Andree
McCabe. Johnny was a big thinker with
a spirit of adventure. He dreamed of flying
falcons for a living. His father was a journalist
at Catholic University and had met Andree in
France during WWI. After the war, Johnny’s
parents settled in the Washington, D.C.
and soon had three children, two girls and
Johnny. Johnny had a biology degree from
Catholic University but worked at the Library
of Congress so that his work schedule would
allow time for his falcons. He was an Army
veteran, serving in Europe in the late 1940s.
He loved to paint, draw, and listen to good
music.
Johnny’s main love was falcons – and he
trained them well. He loved being outdoors
with his birds. He started falconry early in
life with his first kestrel in 1943. His initial
falconry mentor was John Hamlet who went
on to author several well known books on
birds of prey and the wilderness. Through
Hamlet, Johnny met future lifelong falconer
friends Al Nye, Jim Fox, Halter Cunningham,
Brian McDonald, Sig Sigwald, and best friend
Steve Gatti. With their help, he discovered
larger falcons. He caught small birds on the
east coast with his peregrines, mostly passage
birds. He recorded his flights in a handwritten
journal “The Mighty McCabe, illustrated by
his good friend Steve Gatti’s brother, David,
who was only 14 years old at the time! His
friends were among an eventual “whos who
of east coast falconry. They trapped and flew
eyess anatums and passage tundra peregrines.
They lived falconry. Johnny was a gamehawker
during a time when success was a challenge.
His tiercel peregrines excelled at snipe and
other small birds.
Johnny
excelled
with his
hands,
not only
with his
painting,
but also
making
his
own equipment. He proudly bought a
WWII combat-tested surplus Jeep – and put
the vehicle to his own test. Johnny, Brian
McDonald, and Steve Gatti took the jeep
on a memorable trip to Cape Hatteras in
the mid-1950s to trap wintering peregrines.
They traveled over 70 miles along the coast,
in the sand, in a whiteout blizzard at 10mph.
They were hard-core trappers looking for
peregrines!
Johnny is perhaps best known for his solo
trip to Alaska for gyrfalcons in the mid-
1950s. Despite a harsh, lonely environment,
he achieved success with a white gyrkin.
He published a small book detailing his
experiences in “Luring the King of Winter.
John Henry McCabe died at a young age and
was greatly missed by his many loyal friends all
their lives.
John with a peregrine falcon,
commonly called the duck hawk.
This bird was caputured on
Assateague Island, Maryland, in
October, 1954.
Hawking with friends at Seneca Bottoms, Virginia in 1951.
Drawing by David Gatti featured in Johnny’s
handwritten journal recording bird flights.
The Life of John Henry Pierre McCabe
John with his gyrfalcon. The coat is an
Alaskan parka, made by Eskimos.
Drawing, left, by Johnny. He
loved to paint and draw.
Johnny accomplished pursuing his love
of falconry and art during his short life.