Falconry with Birds of Prey
Falconry is thee oldest sport known to mankind. Falconry is legal in most states. A state and U.S. Fish and Wildlife federal permit are required to practice the sport. It is a rewarding sport for those who wish to pursue it.
The inspiration you feel as you release a hawk off your fist into the field. As you run the dogs to flush the rabbit, the hawk is intensely watching you and the dogs' body language. Knowing that the sign will be given that a rabbit has been found and there is about to be a chase that she will give her all to catch the prey. Ah, but look at that, it is a vole that is moving in the grass. Getting a good look with a few tilts and turns of the head, and she's off.... She flies nonchalantly into the grass to quickly swallow a vole. You hear the bells and look towards your hawk to only see her catching and eating the prey. And of course at that moment the dogs spot a rabbit, but that was the second vole that she got. Her hunt is done and no rabbits in the bag. Welcome to falconry.
Not every hunt is successful. In the wild a hawk will be successful 1 out of 10 tries. Now as a falconer's partner, the odds are better because she has us as her "dogs" and best odds when dogs are added to the crew. Many are against the take of wild raptors for falconry but there are many benefits to the birds. 80% of raptors do not make it through the first winter. Out of that 20%, 60% of them will not make it through the second winter. Many falconers will trap a bird that is underweight and will take that bird and help her improve her hunting skills before releasing her back in the wild. Another detail that one should keep in mind is that these birds are flown free. They chose to come back to the fist. They can and have chosen to not come back and stay in the wild. Falconers will fly the birds with equipment that can be eventually removed by the hawk if she chooses to not come back. The partnership between the hawk and human is what makes such an amazing wild creature return to your fist at the end of the hunt. She has learned and understands that you help her life be easier by increasing successful hunts and if not successful in the field, she will be fed at home.
So how does one get started in falconry. I recommend joining your state clubs and the North American Falconry Association. Go to the meets and get out into the field to make sure the sport is for you. Research what your cost and time that you will have to commit. This sport may cost minimal $1,000 and more to just get started. This is even before you get a bird. The cost of feeding a hawk is about $2-$3 a day. Don't forget the medical bills that may acquire. In Michigan, you are required by law to trap your birds as an apprentice. This means that you maybe unlucky and not able to trap a hawk no matter how hard you tried. Now if all this does not discourage you, it is time to acquire falconry books to study for the state test that you are required to get an 80% to pass. You should be contacting falconers in your area for a prospective sponsor while studying. Any other information from here will be provided by your sponsor. They are there to teach and help you in the beginning of your falconry years. Listen and learn from them.
I am willing to help with any questions one may have on falconry, e-mail me at APico@raptorcenter.org