A few answers to those burning questions….
What is falcontry and what’s a falconist?
A prefer the term falconatrix, but the appropriate terms are FALCONRY and FALCONER. Falconry is the art of training a bird of prey (hawks, eagles, falcons and yes, even owls) to allow you to participate in and facilitate the hunt.
Does the falcon bring his prey back?
No. For the most part the quarry we encourage our birds to hunt is physically too big to carry. And even if it wasn’t, the end result of the hunt is the reward of food. I suppose you could feasible train your bird to bring his reward to you, but mostly he is just in a hurry to eat.
How do you get your falconry birds?
Many of our birds are bred in captivity. Some are trapped form the wild, but when we do trap birds they must be juvenile and we are limited to species that are allowed to be taken by regulations.
You trap them? Isn’t that just imprisonment?
When you fly them free in the open air most days and they always choose to come back, I would say no, it’s not imprisonment. And although my birds are all captive bred, I would actually prefer wild caught birds. They are able to return to the wild… Read more why we trap and the ethics of it here.
So how do you become a falconer?
You need to pass a test that demonstrates your knowledge of natural history and raptor husbandry requirements, have your equipment and housing for the raptor inspected, apprentice under another falconer for two years, purchase a federal license ($100 a year in CA), a state license ($75 a year in CA), a hunting license and any necessary stamps (Fed duck, state duck, upland game. All = $80 this year). Sound like a lot of work and expense? It is.
I don’t care if I go broke and my forgotten spouse will likely leave me. Where do I sign up??
There is likely a falconry group in your state and that club most likely has an apprentice chair or at least contacts for you to find someone to get you out into the field. You’ll want to hang out with some folks for at least a season to see if if its really the right pursuit for you. In California, that club is the California Hawking Club you can check out their site for more info and how to get started. You can also read more on the North American Falconers Association site.