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Starting a Journey in Falconry
Why Falconry is a Dying Sport.
Falconry is a dying sport in the United States, with just a few thousand licensed Falconers in the United States. The reason behind this is because Falconry is a tough sport to get started in. You have to almost jump through hoops just get started.
Most states require an aspiring Falconer to have a sponsor and do a period of apprenticeship time. During your apprenticeship you learn how to man, handle, train and care for raptors. However it's not that easy, you have to pass a state issued test before most people eligible to sponsor you will do so.
Finding a sponsor is a pain in the butt, but when you find one hold on to it because they are few and far between. Most falconers don't want to sponsor apprentices because they don't have time, they don't want to deal with being responsible for someone else or they just aren't social.
Some sponsors are ridiculous in their requirements. They start getting you set up with housing and tools for a raptor and then change their mind and you have to start building and buying all over again. They have been in it so long that they don't remember much about the species that an apprentice can have, so they can't get you in the right direction. They are caddy and gossip and just plain try to discourage you to see how much you will take.
So you found a sponsor? What's Next?
So you are one of the lucky ones who has found a sponsor. Let's hope that your sponsor that is reasonable and personable. In many cases it is very tough to find a sponsor as mentioned before. I swear that they feel this is an elite sport, in which it is but it doesn't have to be a dying sport.
What comes after you find a sponsor and get your permit? Well first let me say congratulations, you have made an amazing step. Now that you have a sponsor, you will start build your mews and weathering area. This can be where a lot of sponsors and apprentices will butt heads. Some Falconers feel that your bird will need the Ritz Carlton of enclosures and others will be satisfied with an enclosure that is safe for the bird. You will also start building the stock of equipment you will need, anklets, jesses, leashes, bells, telemetry, perches, giant hoods, hoods for the bird. It gets costly, but it's well worth it when you get your first take. Now you get ready to trap your first bird. With your sponsors help you will trap your first raptor.
Trapping your first hawk.
The thrill, the excitement, the waiting game and the adrenaline rush. It's amazing, you have made it this far you will see what I mean. You will have your patience tried, you will have your heart racing and you will get excited.
Don't worry, you will find your first passage bird to trap. It will happen I promise, when you least expect it you will be driving down the road and find that bird. You will find your passage bird in the darnedest of spots, a busy freeway, a mall parking lot, or even right in your own back yard.
You are out trapping on your first day, you spot that Red Tail Hawk high on a power pole, of course on a busy 4 lane road. You spin around and use the binoculars to spot it and as nature has it you just can't tell if it is a passage bird. So you throw the trap and pull away, you have it's attention, it's looking at the trap. All of a sudden it rouses, slices and drops down off that power pole right at your trap. Your smile grows so big, the excitement is beaming on your face, it's a passage bird.
Wait!! What is that? Oh my goodness it's people walking down the sidewalk, and there goes that beautiful passage Red Tail right back up to the power pole. You spend an hour waiting for him to come back down, and just when you think he's going to drop down again, he drops off the backside and flies away. Yes this just happened to you. Believe me it has happened to me too.
Day two out trapping, you don't go anywhere with out your Bal Chatri trap. You are ready, it's gloomy, and there is a glare but you see a hawk high up in the tree. The roads are quiet and you feel this is it, you are going to trap your bird today. The trap is on the ground, and the bird is looking at it. He drops down and comes right to your trap, he's dancing around it, footing it and finally is caught in a snare. You get up to the trap just to realize that you have trapped a passage Red Shoulder, when you need to trap a passage Red Tail. This is how your day goes, you trap more Red Shoulders, a haggard Red Tail and still not a single passage Red Tail.
Don't Give Up!!!
You have been trapping for a week, and have yet to trap that passage Red Tail that you need. Just when you thought finding a sponsor was hard, no one told you that trapping a passage Red Tail was going to pose a challenge. Just don't give up it will happen.
You see a passage red tail sitting on a sign, you are now sulking because you haven't had any luck but you throw trap anyway. You see it's looking at your trap, you heart starts beating, your wondering what can wrong this time. Well my friend it's your turn, nothing is going to go wrong this bird is yours.
Uh Oh where did the bird go, you were getting so excited you didn't see the bird drop down off the sign. You don't see him, you think he's gone for good, and just as you are about to go pick up the trap boom there he is!!! Oh my goodness, you have a Passage Red Tail at your trap footing at the critters inside, he's dancing all over the trap. You heart is pounding so hard you can hear it, your fingers are crossed, and the adrenaline is pumping and there it is. Your first passage Red Tail is hung on the trap. You pull up with your towel, tape, glove, and hood for your bird.
You have to take a second to calm your shaky hands, before you start removing your bird from the trap. Congratulations you have your bird, a healthy passage Red Tail with a full crop and it's going home with you. It's time to start the manning process.
And the fun begins!
Now it's time to start the manning and training process. You are in for a ride and enjoyable experience. Please check back for the next article in the Falconry series, the manning process.