Falconry For Beginners
How to hunt with falcons? Where is falconry legal? What are they used for? What kind of gear do you need?
There is a saying among sportsmen that the hunt is more satisfying than the kill. It is undoubtedly a statement made by those who choose to hunt with a rifle or a bow. But for those who have chosen the increasingly popular sport of falconry, the thrill is the awesome sight of a falcon diving at 200-miles per hour to attack its prey.
Falconry was once an ancient field sport favored by kings and sultans, but in the United States, it is making a modest comeback. There are currently about 2,000 or so falconers and those numbers are soaring. This sport takes greater skill than tracking a deer or hiding from a duck. Falconers spend years training their birds to respond to commands, hunt prey, and return to their masters. Falcons, and also red-tailed hawks, track down and kill everything from ducks to pheasants to rabbits to squirrels.
This is not simply a sport that one visits a local sporting goods store to purchase a rifle or bow. You can't just go out and buy a falcon; you must first find a master falconer who is willing to be your sponsor. Then, after several years of training, you move up the ranks, first earning the title of apprentice, then general, then master falconer. There are strict state and federal regulations, mostly designed to protect the birds, and multiple levels of exams that must be passed.
Where to hunt?
You can take your falcon just about anywhere except Delaware, Hawaii, and Connecticut, where the sport is still outlawed. When hunting game birds, falcons are generally used; for smaller land animals, red-tailed hawks are
usually the choice. Because of the growing popularity of falconry, several resort areas now offer day or weeklong schools.
When to hunt?
Before you can even start hunting, you must pass a written exam and housing inspection; and then, you can begin training your own bird. This, and caring for the bird, is a daily process. Beyond that, there is no set falconry season.
What kind of gear?
* A bird, of course! Apprentices generally track wild birds and spend a couple of years training them. Masters or generals can buy bred birds.
* Appropriate housing.
* Classic falconers bells - used for alerting you to the whereabouts of your bird when it is off hunting.
* A leather glove - essential for resting the bird on your arm.
* A game bag or sack - to carry home your catch.
* A lure to bring your bird back - a food reward will encourage a properly trained falcon to promptly return.
Falcons are not pets, but rather birds of prey. Their sole purpose is to work and will only return to you if they want too.
For more information, contact:
North American Falconers Association
125 S. Woodstock Drive
Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
or visit their website at www.n-a-f-a.org.