BECOMING A FALCONER
Welcome Future Falconers!
Whether you have recently read about the ancient art of falconry in a book or periodical, learned about it through television or radio, or perhaps saw a movie or even watched a trained hawk in action, we are glad that you have had your interest piqued enough to learn more about the sport. While we encourage those who want to become a falconer in Alabama to do so, we also caution you to consider what it takes before you jump in. Once you have determined to continue your journey, we will be here to answer questions and help in any way we can!
Falconry is not an “overnight” achievement. Finishing your apprenticeship will take at least two years, at which time you will become a general falconer for at least five more year to become a master falconer. Your hawk will requires a time and attention every day that you have it, and a bird in training requires even more. Raptors, unlike a rifle or a bow, cannot be hung on the wall and forgotten until next hunting season. Always consider the time you have to put into the sport before taking it on!
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, will require evidence of a serious, committed interest in falconry before they will agree to help anyone newly attracted to the sport.
Because all raptors are protected by state and federal 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.
There are several costs involved with becoming a falconer, as well as keeping and caring for your hawk. You must be able to cover food, shelter, equipment, veterinary costs, permits and fees, and travel. Although hunting does provide food such as squirrels and rabbits for your raptor, you will need to supplement that with a variety of other food such as mice and day old chicks (which can be purchased frozen). 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). Everything you need can be purchased online, but many things can be made with just a little bit of skill. The falconry community is always willing to pass along that knowledge to help others save some money. 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.