A Falconers Dream
Submitted by Don McKnight
Many of you that will be reading this will be exploring the idea of getting into falconry. Wondering how difficult it is to practice or if you need to be some how in possession of some magical talents that are unique to those that practice the sport. Let me say this up front there is NOTHING special about falconry. It is neither rocket science nor brain surgery, nor, contrary to the beliefs of some, is it a sport of kings. Falconry in its history has been practiced by everyone from king to knave as well as being everything from a distraction to the only way of obtaining subsistence.
Basically the only requirement to take up falconry is you have to be smarter than the bird. However this is not to say that you will not be required to fulfill certain obligations both legal and personal. Legally as you probably already know you will be required to pass a hundred question test issued by the local fish and game department. Before you panic let me say it's not what you think. Five simple and easy to read books will cover 99% of what will be on the test. The test itself is a lot like a driving test, like the one you have taken or will shortly. To give you an idea of just how non difficult it is, in the High Plains Falconers there are currently practicing falconers flying their own birds at quarry, aged 12 to 14. They have studied for and passed this test on their own. You have to ask yourself are you smarter than a fifth grader.
On a personal level you will have to part with some cash. A place to keep your bird, called a Mew will run a couple hundred dollars to build plus the time to build it. Equipment like scales, glove, perches etc will probably run anywhere from a hundred to much more depending on how handy you are at making said equipment or just buying it. For the important part, THE BIRD can cost anywhere between FREE to thousands of dollars. As you start, your birds will be free as you will be catching them from the wild. After your first two years (your apprenticeship) You may purchase a bird from a captive breeding project. Pretty much any bird or hybrid you can think of you can find some where for sale. On the other hand you may continue to fly birds taken from the wild that cost nothing. Time is the last thing that will be required plan on spending a minimum of one hour a day every other day to fly the bird and hunt.
During this whole process you will be under the tutelage of a master falconer. Do not confuse this person with some kind of guru or person with super powers to talk with the animals. He/She is merely a person with much experience in training hawks that is there to help you with any problems you may run into. Listen to this person the wealth of knowledge they have can be the difference between success and failure. By the way falconry is an ongoing learning activity. Anyone that says they know all there is to know about falconry is either a fool or a liar. After almost fifty years of doing this I still learn something new every year.
The payoff for all this can be to use just one example "One day the falcon you have trained takes her pitch(altitude) to a point she can not be seen anymore even with binoculars. You know she is there because the radio telemetry signal is strong over head. The pheasant that the dog has been holding on point suddenly flushes from cover. His red and gold plumage shows iridescent in the shining sun as he cackles, mocking you. As he pounds away confident of his escape a smile forms on your face as you know what is about to happen. First you hear a whistling sound as wind rushing at great speed. Then you see it, the pheasant explodes in a shower of feathers and you see the falcon pitch up after the strike and settle on her prize. You hurry to her and take her up in triumph giving her a reward for a job well done and look forward to the sumptuous meal now in your game bag.
I hope this helps you make your decision. Good luck in your endeavors.
Donald F. McKnight
High Plains Falconers