To hear the word falconry, one thinks of days gone by, days when kings ruled and knights jousted. The truth is, falconry is the oldest sport around. Falconry was a sport when hunting was still a means of survival. Falconry is alive and well today although not many people know it. There are roughly 4000 licensed falconers in the United States today. I am one of about 100 licensed in the state of Michigan. And let me tell you, its not easy getting there. It is more highly regulated than any other sport, probably harder to break into than any other but the rewards are definitely worth the effort.
Five or six years ago I was at a hunting show in Grand Rapids MI and saw a booth manned by the Michigan Hawking Club. The raptors they had on display there were so awesome, I couldn’t tear myself away from the booth. The stories and the pictures were incredible, but most of all the birds they had, they were absolutely gorgeous. I knew right then that I had to get involved somehow with this group.
They gave me some information, web address, phone numbers etc and I began my research. I got on the web site, ordered the information packet, I called some local falconers, from the list included in the packet, who invited me to go hunting with them and their birds to see how the sport worked. My first experience was incredible. To see the raptors working so closely with the handlers and to see them doing what they do in nature, hunting rabbits, was beyond words. We took three that day and I was hooked. I started hunting every chance I got with as many falconers as I could and got to know a couple guys very well. Finally after about two years one of them offered to sponsor me in an apprenticeship for falconry, which by the way is a two year commitment. And so began my journey into the world of falconry.
If you have ever wondered what it would be like to see a wild caught redtail hawk on a tail chase after a cottontail or jack rabbit , to see first hand the moment of impact when that hawk grabs the rabbit and barrel rolls head over talons and holds that rabbit to the ground until the handler approaches to trade a tidbit for the game, I have to tell you , you wont ever forget that moment. I have been walking through the woods with my redtail following, waiting for me to kick up game, jump a rabbit and have my bird soar past me in pursuit, so close that his wings almost brush against the side of my face, only to hit that rabbit within feet of me. I have seen it over and over and I am still in awe.
Falconry is a sport for the individual willing to make a commitment, willing to dedicate as much time as he can and then some. If this is a sport you are interested in, get on the web and look for information on any hawking clubs that might be in your state. The National Falconry Association has a web site packed with information. These are very good places to start. Falconers are a very friendly lot and most are anxious to help introduce newcomers to the sport and at the very least willing to bring someone new along on a hunt to help beat the brush. So go ahead, do some research, make some calls and by all means go experience the thrill of hunting with birds of prey. It will at the very least be something you wont forget.
If after you do your research and still cant find the information you are looking for, feel free to e-mail me at [email protected] and I will do my best to answer any questions you might have.