Few things in the hunting world are as incredible as falconry. Training a wild raptor to fly off, kill something and return to you shows a mastery over nature that’s unparalleled in any sport, not to mention how awesome it looks.
A recent study showed just how complex the tracking and hunting maneuvers are that a falcon performs. Excelling at this 4,000-year-old sport is not easy. To become a falconer requires patience and a fair amount of education.
Every state is different, but most states require you pass a test, take a falconry apprenticeship and acquire the necessary equipment and enclosures before getting a permit to trap a wild bird. The Bureau of Land Management puts tight restrictions on possessing raptors. Check with your state’s falconry association and the North American Falconers Association for regulations in your state.
“The first flight, when you let your bird go after spending so much time training, your heart kind of goes right up in your throat,” said Marten Benatar from The Center for Reconnecting with Nature. “The first time you set one out it’s pretty exciting and then as they progress it becomes more of a lifestyle than a hobby.”
From trapping to training, a certified falconer can potentially have a bird hunting in roughly four weeks as evidenced by a fascinating Youtube video from Marshall Davis. In it Davis demonstrates the steps from trapping a redtailed hawk on the side of the road.
The first thing he does is put a hood over the bird as the darkness calms them down. Next the bird takes its first bites out of his gloved hand, which he associates with a whistle. This will set the groundwork for getting the bird to return through a food response, similar to training a dog.
The bird takes its first flight in a cage and then progresses to longer flights while tethered to a post until Davis has the confidence to let the hawk venture out on its own. He shows how it can roost in a tree and return and then take down a decoy until it finally kills its first rabbit as a captive bird four weeks from the time it was captured.