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Sport: Kalaf s Hajjel

3 minute read

The thousand-foot cliffs of the Final Mountains rising out of barren foothills of Superior, Ariz, looked good to crag-browed Mannheim Kalaf in 1916. They reminded him of his native Syria. He settled down there and went to work in the copper mine. He liked his new home and work. But something was missing. No hajjel. Arizona, fine state though it is, had no hajjeL

The hajjel (pronounced haghl) is a tough game bird common in Syria. It looks like an American bobwhite without its topknot and is about four times larger. As a boy Kalaf used to hunt the hajjel and he still has great affection for the bird. Says he: “By golly, this hajjel she is tough one. In Syria she roost on high bluffs and nothing can get him. She make hawk or eagle run like hell.”

Last year Mannheim Kalaf, now the head of a family and the proprietor of a Superior grocery store, decided that 25 years without hajjel was plenty. Brooding brought action: he wrote the U.S. Consul in Beirut, Syria. The consul gave him encouragement but no hajjel. Then Western Cartridge Co. heard about his quest, got hold of 30 hajjel and sent them to a surprised but grateful Mannheim Kalaf. He turned 26 loose in the hills, kept four cocks for training. (One of these warriors has licked the tail feathers off every rooster in Superior.)

In Syria, says Mannheim Kalaf, men take out a trained hajjel cock and stake it near a hunting blind. The bird will strut around challenging every hajjel within hearing distance. Soon a covey comes up, the leader ready for battle. Then the hunter blazes away at the covey with both barrels, picks up the dead birds and goes home. “They never wait to shoot again because the hajjel is smart—you can’t fool him twice in one day.”

During the 1941 fall hunting season, Kalaf asked all quail hunters, but none had seen these strange birds. Then last week his young son Stanley rushed into the house with big news—back in the hills he had seen a hajjel hen with a large brood of chicks. Kalaf went out to check for himself, and there they were “chuk-chirrring” around as if they owned the Pinal Mountains—a development which may well come about, if the agile hajjel is as tough as Kalaf thinks.

He may not have an old-fashioned hajjel hunt for some time, but Mannheim Kalaf is content.

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