Page Update: 09/23/15 6:29 pm
This section is created so you can have question and answers to some common queries about falconry and apprenticeships.
So you want to be a falconer? Well the first thing you have to ask yourself is are you ready to change your life style? Falconry is an art and a sport. It requires infinite hours, commitment, financial stability, finesse, subtlety, skill and patience.
Falconry is not a hobby; it's a lifestyle. As a falconer you must devote time to your bird(s) each and every day. Many times it means special considerations and arrangements for things such as travel, daily activities, even family vacations.
Falconry is not suitable for everyone. Many people are exposed to falconry in a glamorized setting such as a movie, TV show, or magazine article. Rarely do these show the countless hours you spend training, hunting, or providing for well being of the raptor. These are not simply items that you can put into a pen and forget about until next weekend when you want to go hunting again. Most falconers fly their birds daily during the hunting season, training and care of your raptor. Thus you will have to plan everything else around daily hunting. Unfortunately this is the good side. The other side is animal-rights activists and some environmentalists condemn falconry as "inhumane" and "morally wrong". Even some other hunters condemn falconers, claiming we interfere with "their" hunting or "their" game populations. It is important to understand that scientific research has verified that the use of raptors in the sport of falconry has no detrimental impact on the raptor populations, game populations or on the environment.
A hopeful falconer should begin with knowledge. The beginner should first be consumed with reading all that's available on raptors and falconry. This should include raptor species, species characteristics, nutrition, diseases - ailments and their treatments, prey habitat, prey characteristics, proper husbandry and the legal requirements. They can also at the same time contact and speak with other falconers and ask to accompany them both in training and hunting. This may be the best way to guarantee falconry is "right" for you.
Sponsors are an integral part of the falconry learning process. Although much valuable information can be learned from books there is still the need to learn to "read" the birds reactions. This is where the experience and knowledge of your sponsor is immeasurable.
Sponsors can be a difficult and demanding group. They need to be, first to ensure the future of falconry but more importantly to ensure the health and well being of the apprentices hawk. Many falconers like to take inquiring people afield for as long as a year before agreeing to sponsor them. This is something that is decide on by the individual falconer. Most are trying to see if the person fully understands that what they are getting involved with is a change in lifestyle and not just a sport. This time can be very valuable however. Potential apprentices can learn many points of falconry as well as hawk husbandry and proper hunting areas (sometimes very different than those used for gun hunting) all with out having to pay attention to the needs of a hawk. Such as the training, housing, feeding, hunting places, slips, health, weight control etc, etc, etc. Not only will the potential apprentice be further than most after accompanying falconers in the field for some time, but will also have worked on that all important bond called "communication" with other falconers that may end up being your sponsor.
These sponsors, those that take the time to ensure the commitment of potential apprentices are a true commodity to our sport. They are the ones committed to protecting and promoting the sport of falconry. There are falconers who will merely give you a sponsorship letter the first time they meet you. However ask your self this , "If they show this careless approach to falconry, what approach will they show to you their apprentice?"
Falconers take the sport very seriously. They also get many people calling them asking questions about the sport. Most have just been exposed to it through television, newspaper or magazines. Many have no idea of the dedication that the sport entails. If you are truly interested you should start by not only calling local falconers but you should also be visiting the local library. The library holds many works on falconry, some will be outdated but will still provide some general information on the sport. Remember they are the ones doing what you are interested in so don't rely on them to call you to see if you want to go hunting, call them. Last but certainly not least is if/when you get invited afield show up. This sounds pretty simply but you'd be amazed at the numbers of people who want to be falconers who can't find the time to go hunting. If that's the case then you most likely don't have the time to be a falconer. It's better to realize that early and simply keep the passion burning till you do have the appropriate time to commit to the sport and the raptors.
All falconry applications are returned to your Regional Office who will then send them to your Local WCO for inspection purposes.
Applying for permits
Contact the PA Game Commission for more information, or you may contact us for some help.
Want to impress that falconer who maybe a potential sponsor?
Take the time to find a couple of fields. Get Permission to hunt there then scout the field. Then invite the falconer to the new field. After all you will eventually need to be able to find suitable fields to hawk. This way you will learn how to get a feel for what good spots look like.
Books are a very important part of modern falconry. They convey large amounts of information to us in an easily understandable way. Falconry however is much more than what can be learned from written text. The reactions and body language of the bird which are most important must be experienced for one to fully understand and appreciate the sport. This is probably the most compelling reason for a sponsor. With this in mind. There are still many good books that will aid you in your over all knowledge and in helping you to first prepare for the falconry exam and later your new hawk. The books listed are by no means all of the available books. In fact there are many more books that are as good or better than these listed. However these books will give you a solid foundation in which to enter the sport of falconry.
American Kestrels in Modern Falconry by Matthew Mullenix
Apprentice Study Guide by California Hawking Club
Buteos and Bushytails by Gary Brewer Articles by Gary Brewer
Care and Management of Captive Raptors by L. Arent & M. Martell
Falconry Equipment by B.A. Kimsey & J. Hodge
North American Falconry & Hunting Hawks by Harold Webster & Frank Beebe
Raptor Biomedicine by T. Patrick Redig, J. Cooper, David Remple & D. Bruce
The Falconer's Apprentice by William Oakes
The Red-tailed Hawk by Liam McGranaghan
Understanding the Bird of Prey by Dr. Nick Fox
Required Equipment under Pennsylvania Game Code:
Bath Container - Serves a dual purpose the raptor has access to bath and drink from the container. This in mind it is important to always keep fresh water available for the raptor.
Jesses - These are the thongs that are placed around a trained raptors legs. These serve as a "handle" in which to hold the raptor, as well as tethering the raptor in facility or on perch. There are 2 types of jesses commonly used those being slitted and slit-less. The slitted ones are used for tethering hawks. Slit-less are the kind used while hunting. The lack of slit helps reduce the chances of a jess snagging on something while flying free.
Leash - This is a leash designed to fit in arrangement with the jesses and swivel to tether the hawk.
Scales - The scales are used to help measure the weight loss in trained raptors. Falconry relies on careful weight management. A proper scale is indispensable in assuring the difference between fat, hungry and starving.
Suitable mew or weathering area (Outdoor Perches) - These facilities are quite large when compared to the raptors body size. They are laid out to provide both a healthy exposure to the environment as well as protection from extreme weather. There are many variations of shape and size depending on the species of raptors being housed.
Swivels - The last part of most tethering arrangement. These are strong high quality swivels. They are included between the jess and the leash to keep the raptors from tangling themselves up while they are tethered.
Common Equipment that is not directly named as required by Pennsylvania Game Code:
Bells - These are commonly used in trained raptors to help identify the location of the bird while hunting. They are also valuable indicators of what the raptor may be doing at other times as well.
Gauntlet (glove) - This is the falconers protection. These gloves are to keep from being injured by the raptors talons. Many times they are more a precaution then a necessity with some people not wearing any glove for the smaller raptor species.
Giant Hood - Is a large well ventilated "box" used primarily for the transportation of trained raptors. These provide a comfortable and protected area for the raptor to be house during transport to and from the daily hunting fields.
Hoods - These help provide control. Not only over an overly excited hawk but also of what, where and when a hawk will be exposed to certain things outside of your normal control. For example, during a hunt you find that you are of considerable distance from your car. They only way back is to walk the berm of a road. An unhooded hawk may be frightened by the proximity of the passing cars. Whereas a hooded hawk usually sits quietly on the fist while the cars pass.
Lure - These are generally found in two types. The first being a lure for exercising a trained raptor. This is a lure which is mostly used with falcons. The falcons are stooped at the lure many times providing physical exercise. The lure is finally "given" to the falcon and the raptor receives it's reward. The second being a retrieval lure. This lure is used to retrieve a trained raptor. Some use it as a reward to transfer the hawk to after a successful hunt others use it as a tool for multiple uses during a days hunting.
Perches (bow, ring, block, etc) - These are usually used as temporary perching arrangements. This could be for weathering in the yard or for use inside your home during manning sessions. They provide a safe and comfortable perching arrangement for trained raptors when they aren't in their larger facility.
Telemetry - Is a tracking system based on radio technology. It consists of a transmitter that is attached to a hawk and a receiver that is carried by the falconer. Sometimes during a hunt the hawk will become separated from a falconer. These two items allow the falconer to use the radio signals from the transmitter to guide the direction of the search to where the bird is located.
Pennsylvania Game Commission Information:
The Pennsylvania Game Commission offers information packets on the sport of falconry in Pennsylvania. You can obtain this packet by contacting your regional office or the main headquarters offices. You can use the contact information found at the Pennsylvania Game Commission Website.
BIRDS USED IN FALCONRY
Red Shouldered Hawk
Red Tailed Hawk (Apprentice First Species)
Great Horned Owl
Here are some links that might be helpful to you:
http://www.themodernapprentice.com/ - An Excellent Apprentice Website
http://www.wingmasters.net/falconry_history.htm - Very nice write up on falconry!
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