Jeremy Bradshaw began his falconry pursuit in Gridley, California and has been a falconer for 17 years. His hands-down favorite falconry partner is a merlin and his favorite merlin was a jack named Spike. He is a full-time hoodmaker and passionate craftsman who appreciates and supports artisans in our sport, but notes that the falconer who inspires him most is Randy Fiscus for his unwavering enthusiasm and infectious joy in the field. When Jeremy is not making hoods, snacking on rice cakes (no more M&Ms for the smaller Big Jer) or avoiding washing dishes (do all falconers hate washing dishes?) he’s planning his next adventure traveling west with merlins.
1) So partial disclosure blah blah blah. We have a few mutual friends and the hood I bought from you exponentially raised my expectations for hoods… but I don’t think there’s much more to disclose about how we know each other. So on with it! Every landscape has a quality and a voice that’s unique Alaska’s one with which most falconers are not familiar. You’re now in Moscow, ID, but what is about hunting in Alaska that stands out to you?
I actually did not hunt while I lived in Alaska. I went there to take a break from falconry and seriously consider whether or not I wanted to continue with it at all. I took that time to focus my efforts on making hoods and examine what falconry means to me, where it has taken me, what it has added to my life, what I have sacrificed for it, and how it might fit in my future. I actually have to say that it is this “Five On Falconry” project of yours and the interview with Matt Mullenix that brought some clarity to what I have felt has been a bit of a falconry identity crisis. The reference to falconry as being comparable to a long term relationship is a perspective that I had not considered. It was enlightening for me really, and has allowed me to accept my little philosophical hiccup in better stride. Anyways, I am not in Alaska any longer because I ultimately decided I needed some hawking. Living in a town carved out of the rainforest on an island wasn’t going to work for that!
2) I made a hood once (the-hood-that-shall-never-be-seen) and am no stranger to the attention to both intuition and detail that hood-making requires. As a full-time hood-maker, what has changed in the way you see your falconry and its nuances?
This is the question plaguing me a bit. There are a couple of applications where being a hoodmaker can and has changed falconry for me. As far as my actual falconry I feel like I should have some deep answer about how being a hoodmaker has brought greater insight and depth in my falconry. I just don’t think it is so. I have been a small bird hawker in one form or another for most of my falconry, and dealing with the little guys in this sport required me to refine my attention to the details…gear, weight, food quality, etc. Hood making certainly magnified that attention to detail but didn’t necessarily change the way I see it.
Where hood making has really changed my whole falconry world is in opening up so many new relationships and opportunities. Customers have become friends and travelling to meets to pedal my wares has opened up a whole new sense of community to me. There is an interesting mix of responsibility to my craft and business in how I represent it and then how I maintain it along the hopefully extended relationship with a customer.
It isn’t just about making one hood for someone, it is about becoming their hoodmaker. That is ultimately what I am after. I have a responsibility for what many falconers consider a key element to the successful manning and training of the bird that is their hope for that coming season. I know, probably over-stating the importance of a hood, but when I get overwhelmed with too many orders I keep my head in the game by focusing on how important that one hood is to that one falconer that placed the order.
3) Speaking of full-time hood-making and living what would be considered the dream for many, what does it take to balance a passion like falconry and a business without losing either?
It is funny for me because with the success of my little hood business has come a serious reduction in free time…free time that was part of my hawking time. I struggle to find balance not just for falconry, but for all of my interests, passions, and hobbies. My friends, and maybe even strangers in the periphery know that I have a touch of “Peter Pan Syndrome.” One of the symptoms of my disorder is a constant desire to find more ways to play. I am the first to admit that I have too many hobbies.The struggle is that the level of hood that I strive to make for falconers takes time, careful consideration, passion, and a commitment to the customer and their bird.
I love making hoods and I cannot seem to say “no”. Orders stack up to the point that I don’t get to go outside enough. I have really had to remind myself this summer that the world won’t end if I don’t work on hoods every day. And for this hawking season I will actually be taking a little breather. I have big plans to travel around the west flying a couple of passage female merlins and my tiercel aplomado to the extent that a new travel trailer and truck are in the works as I write. Pretty much the only folks that will be able to order hoods from me this fall and winter are those that have my private cell number –if they can get me to answer it.
4) You and your wife triked (yes, like with adult-style tricycles) down a portion of the Pacific Coast. Then you got married in Las Vegas on your Pugsleys (snow bikes). –And, um, Larry the Cable Guy witnessed, but that’s another interview. I actually see a connection. Falconry is very much about blood, sweat and calories burned, not unlike journeying on a bike. How do the two fit together for you?
The trike trip was actually very much like a falconry season. Each season with a new bird is filled with hope and expectation that then is actualized successfully or not in a series of small victories and failures. We were swimming in anticipation and expectation of our adventure training ourselves like one would train a falcon to meet the goals of the coming season. Like a hawking season some ideas worked and some did not. We learned things that we will apply on future touring trips, just like falconers build on their experiences with each season with an intermewed bird or new bird of the same kind. In the end it was a grand adventure that left us wanting more. That is what I want to feel after each hawking season.
5) Okay, truth be told, I’m still stuck on Larry The Cable Guy. Did you and Stephanie vow to “Git-R-Done”? And will that entail “’til death do you part”?
Larry actually officiated our wedding in Vegas, and surprisingly didn’t say “Git-R-Done” once! I mean come on! A wedding and no “Git-R-Done” from the guy himself. I guess it was just too obvious even for redneck humor. If I am lucky enough to get Steph to stick it out with my “til death do us part” the sky is the limit. She enjoys my crazy ideas way too much and that is all the encouragement I need.
Thanks, Jeremy! This was a great interview. I have to admit, going into my 17th year too there is much relief in discovering many of my peers seem to have had crises of “faith”. And I’m also relieved to hear that we seem to come back to the sport on new refreshed terms. I’m also thrilled that you are there for my falconry hood needs… so about that cell phone number…
Seriously, when Jeremy is off hiatus or if you see him at a meet, buy one of his hoods! You can check out his website here. And keep an eye out for a blog on his next grand adventure. It will be a must for merlin lovers!