Becoming A Falconer

 

DO YOU REALLY WANT TO BE A FALCONER?

Thank you for your inquiry into falconry.  You may have
recently read about this ancient art in a book or
periodical, learned about it through television or radio,
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.

Time

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,
can not 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?

Effort/Ethics

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.

Permits

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.

Money

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 I
recommend meeting a few falconers in person during
one of the biannual South Carolina Falconry Association’s falconry meets.

If you are interested in becoming a Falconer, contact the Apprentice Coordinator Mitch Brantley