BECOMING A FALCONER
You may have recently read about this ancient art in a book or periodical, learned about it through television or radio, or perhaps a movie or may have even seen a trained hawk in action. Whatever the case, you were obviously impressed enough to want to learn more about the sport of falconry, and we appreciate your interest. Few people thrilling at the brief, intense magic of a
trained hawk in flight realize the intense demands placed upon one whom aspires to become a falconer. Even fewer are willing to make the necessary sacrifices.
Falconry is not an “overnight” achievement. Becoming a Master falconer takes at least seven years; Finishing your apprenticeship alone will take at least two years. Your hawk requires a significant amount of time, every day, 365 days a year, and a bird in training requires substantially more time. Raptors, unlike a rifle or a bow, cannot be hung on the wall and forgotten until next hunting season. Although you may be all right with this time commitment, is your spouse? Your children? Your employer?
Of all sports in America, falconry is the only one that utilizes a trained wild creature. Falcons, hawks, eagles and owls are essential elements of our wildlife. The competent falconer takes care to follow sound conservation principles in the pursuit of the sport. Even though the federal government’s environmental assessment states falconry has no impact on wild raptor populations, a careless, uninformed individual, attempting to satisfy a passing fancy, can do great harm to one or more birds and cast the shadow of discredit on the sport of falconry itself. Most falconers, therefore, before they will agree to help anyone newly attracted to the sport, will require evidence of a serious, committed interest in falconry. They just don’t have time for anything else.
Because all raptors are protected by state, federal and international law, all potential falconers must obtain necessary permits before obtaining a hawk or practicing falconry. This can take quite awhile, since it includes taking a written falconry exam and getting the
appropriate signatures. In some states, hunter education courses are required before you can get your hunting license. If you can’t keep your paperwork straight, even in quintuplicate (five copies), don’t consider falconry.
Most people immediately think of the cost of acquiring a hawk, but the price of the bird is only the beginning. You must be able to cover food, shelter, equipment, veterinary cost, permits and fees, and travel. To keep it healthy you must feed your raptor only fresh raw meat, preferably the exact same whole bird/mammal diet they would catch on their own in the wild. Housing and
equipment requirements are mandated by state and federal law; they require not only buying raw materials, but skill in working with these materials (and you will be inspected before you are permitted to acquire a hawk). Most falconers also spend considerable amounts of money on books as a source of vital information and enjoyment. You will have to pay permit and license fees as well. Travel adds up fast, too! Obtaining a hawk, visiting other falconers, training and
hunting can put literally thousands of miles on your vehicle.
Access to Land
You must have written permission to hunting lands – not just one lot of woods near your home. You need various locations near your home, your work and all the areas in between. There must be appropriate game at these locations. Your raptor must be hunted often; if not daily,
then every other day. Anything less than this regimen will lead to poor health, fitness and performance. Also, keep in mind that other types of hunting in an area may render the hunting area unusable. Before releasing your bird into an area you must make sure the area is
safe for your raptor. Are there gun hunters in the area? Power lines? Transformers? Mobs of crows? Larger wild raptors? Feral cats or dogs? The above considerations are just the tip of the
iceberg when giving thought as to making the sport of falconry a major part of your life. For more information, we recommend meeting a few falconers in person during one of the annual Alabama Hawking Association’s falconry meets.