Thursday, February 7, 2013

Jenna Woginrich: Falconer in Training!

This morning I joined the New York State Falconer's Association as an associate member, and applied to the DEC for the study packet to become an apprentice. What does that mean? It means I will be learning to train, trap, hunt, and live with hawks, something I have wanted to do for a very long time. Falconry has been on my mind a lot lately and the clincher that made me join the club and request the packet was a ride home from Livingston Brook Farm last week. The same folks I see time and time again were off in a field, gauntlets on their arms, working with their hawks. I have no idea who these people are, but I nearly pulled over to talk to them. Point is, they aren't storybook characters or Olympians, these are everyday people just doing something they love. I think my days of driving past things I want are over. If I want something, I fight like hell to make it part of my life.

...And perhaps not surprisingly, falconry is all around Cold Antler. There is an actual British School of Falconry in Manchester, Vermont (about 30 minutes away). I have friends who have friends who do this, know neighbors with Mews and birds they take out. I'm single, I have land, time and space. It costs a total of $40 to take the test and then, well, there isn't much of a cost to it. A licensed falconer traps you a juvenile red tail or kestrel and that is what you learn with. You don't buy giant cages or special gear outside of a leather glove. It's more of a lifestyle commitment than a monetary one. And if anyone can make room for falconry in their life it's the girl training horses and shooting arrows on Tuesday afternoons when she isn't in her office writing.

I think it's time this girl got a hawk. Or, at least try. Anyone surprised in the least?

41 Comments:

OpenID roseandphoenix said...

No! How utterly wonderful. I think the only things you do that I'm not keen on doing one day is . . . uh, maybe sheep. And spring is my favourite season, so I disagreed with your post about April weather. (Though it did make me think of T.S. Eliot's "Wasteland," which begins with precisely the imagery you were using: "April is the cruellest month...") Thanks once again for the inspiration! I cannot wait to hear about this adventure.

I really enjoyed reading about the art of falconry in Frank L. Beebe's "A Falconry Manual." It's a bit old -- an 1992 update of something originally published in the 1970s -- but then again, falconry *is* one of the oldest sports there is. It wasn't until I read it that I realised (in one of those "duh" moments) that many hunting dogs were originally bred for use with falcons, not guns. Now *that* is something on my bucket list.

February 7, 2013 at 12:13 PM  
Blogger jules said...

Not surprised in the least! It sounds like something that fits right in with your burgeoning lifestyle.

Also, expanding your interests puts you out there with more people exposure. One never knows who one will find a connection with...

You go girl!

February 7, 2013 at 12:22 PM  
Blogger Loco Lindy said...

Nope, not surprised in the least! Sounds like fun :)

February 7, 2013 at 12:53 PM  
Blogger missliss40 said...

No, not suprised in the least! Have fun.

February 7, 2013 at 12:55 PM  
Blogger missliss40 said...

No, not suprised in the least! Have fun.

February 7, 2013 at 12:55 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Nope. Not one bit surprised.

My Side of the Mountain is one of my all time favorite books. :-D

February 7, 2013 at 1:00 PM  
Blogger David Shearer said...

Nope. Not the least bit surprised! But how do you manage to stay focused every day? You must be the most talented multi taster I've ever met.

February 7, 2013 at 1:00 PM  
Blogger jim said...

i can understand your interest but not sure where you will get the time-with all thats normally going on in your life where will you find the necessary time for this sport without something else losing out?

February 7, 2013 at 1:47 PM  
Blogger jim said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

February 7, 2013 at 1:48 PM  
Blogger Tiffrz-N-Kidz said...

I think that's wonderful! I knew a lady that had a lovely falcon named Hutch. He was a beautiful creature. She hunted with him for years. He had his own room at her house, even.

February 7, 2013 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger Kira said...

Amazing! I'm so impressed with the active residents of your town. They seem so involved and engaged and interested in unique hobbies!

February 7, 2013 at 2:03 PM  
Blogger John Taylor said...

LOL! Not surprised in the least, but I know you will become great at it as you have done with all your other interests. Looking forwards to reading your posts about it in the future.

Grace and Peace,

John

February 7, 2013 at 2:12 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth from the Berkshires said...

You just never cease to amaze me. I'm more surprised that falconry is so accessible, not surprised that you're the one to sign up. :)

February 7, 2013 at 2:14 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

good for you, Jenna. Just wondering....where would you keep the hawk? Thinking about dogs and cats in the house.

February 7, 2013 at 2:52 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

good for you, Jenna. Just wondering....where would you keep the hawk? Thinking about dogs and cats in the house.

February 7, 2013 at 2:52 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

Wonderful! It's on my list of things to do before it's too late. It also melds well with my SCA pursuits, and yours as well, I'd think. My brother in-law's brother is a falconer and really enjoys it.

Can't wait to hear about this journey!

February 7, 2013 at 3:09 PM  
Blogger Noël McNeil said...

Not one bit. :)

February 7, 2013 at 4:12 PM  
Blogger E said...

How is trapping juvenile birds sustainable/ethical?

February 7, 2013 at 4:39 PM  
Blogger E said...

How is trapping juvenile birds sustainable/ethical?

February 7, 2013 at 4:40 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I have no ethical qualms with trapping and hunting with a hawk. At all.

February 7, 2013 at 4:44 PM  
Blogger Megan, Rudy's mom said...

We're a lot a like, so no I'm not surprised. I love how old school random you can be. This could be the topic of your next book. Wishful thinking!

February 7, 2013 at 4:58 PM  
Blogger Alicia-Marie said...

Nothing surprises me anymore.

February 7, 2013 at 5:11 PM  
Blogger redhorse said...

I'm with Jim and E. It only takes a small mistake to kill a young hawk, and as that is my maiden name I have always felt the strongest bond with that class of birds. They are my family's talisman, I almost feel like they are my relatives. Unless you can truly devote your life to their care--even more than you do with horses--they are so much better off free.

February 7, 2013 at 5:18 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Here is an FAQ for folks concerned about my time and ethics!

http://www.themodernapprentice.com/questions.htm

February 7, 2013 at 5:29 PM  
Blogger Karen from CT said...

Ok-now I am seriously jealous!!!!!!! This is just too cool and I can't wait to hear all about your experience.

February 7, 2013 at 5:52 PM  
Blogger Pamela said...

With your interests in falconry, SCA, archery, Merlin, sheep, beer making, etc., I'd say you were born in the wrong century and wrong country. Are there any Scotsmen in your family tree?

February 7, 2013 at 6:24 PM  
Blogger Dee Anne said...

Not surprised at all! As for those who critique your choices, I assume that you are the best judge of your time. I also know that you respect animals and their relationships with people and the wild. I assume that your passion and judgement are part of this decision! I hope that your dream comes true in the way that makes the most sense to you...

February 7, 2013 at 6:24 PM  
Blogger Pamela said...

Oops, forgot kilts.

February 7, 2013 at 6:24 PM  
Blogger Linzleh said...

Watch the chickens!! Sounds like a fun sport, hawks are amazing. Hey be safe & stay warm (pipes too) with this big storm.

February 7, 2013 at 7:44 PM  
Blogger Fernleaf said...

To reply to E's question about sustainability...

Let me first say that I am not a falconer, although I aspire to be one day. I have been involved with raptor rehab since 2005 here in WA state.

Falconry in the US has fairly strict rules and regulations, most of which are in place for the protection of the birds used in falconry and the health of the wild raptor population. With that in mind apprentice falconers (such as Jenna) are highly restricted in the birds that they may learn with (and always must start under the wing of an experienced falconer.)

The only two species that an apprentice may generally start with are the Red-Tailed Hawk, a large hawk, or an American Kestrel, a very small falcon. Both of these species are extremely widespread, in no danger of extinction, and have adapted very well to living around humans. Red-tails are more robust than kestrels being so much larger, and in my opinion are the better choice for a beginner since there is more leeway when learning their flying weight.

Another thing to note is that you always start with a juvenile bird, this is for several reasons. A younger bird is somewhat easier to work with, but most importantly from a conservation perspective is that you are not depriving the population of a breeding adult animal. More than 50% of juvenile raptors die in their first year, from starvation, injury or sickness. Thus the relatively few birds that are taken into temporary captivity by a falconer have little impact on the wild populations. When treated and trained correctly these young birds gain valuable hunting experience and when they are released back into the wild are much better able to fend for themselves.

February 7, 2013 at 8:32 PM  
Blogger rabbit said...

From knowing adults and youth who practice falconry, and knowing you, I feel confident you'll succeed. It is interesting to me that they trap a juvenile-this I didn't know. I'm also not sure the "rules"/regulations between my home and yours in that regard, but are there breeders? I know the people I know who pursue it have got "older" birds through breeders/keepers (NOT the equivalent of puppy mills), who have been some of their best birds due to the human imprinting feature available vs. having to "break"/tame a wild juvenile, don't get me wrong it can be done its just even more work ;) One other minute factor that catches my attention/bugs me as staff at a wildlife centre-a kestrel? It will bring you nothing bigger than itself. Go big or go home! ;) Also your bird does not need a "room" to itself as some people said others have done-it's great if you have the space, but a small enclosure will not harm a bird. Birds only fly for food, shelter, a mate. If you provide (most ;) ) of those things they don't desire to fly! Birds (sadly) generally don't just fly for fun! Good luck; I can't wait to hear all about it!

February 7, 2013 at 8:44 PM  
Blogger Brenda London said...

interesting hobby. I admire folks who do hawk rescue and rehab, in fact I sent them a huge crow that was injured and too big for me to care for(I have done small birds). But what you have planned is about keeping wildlife caged for sport? I assume you'd have to cage your bird? I had no idea dep allowed this,considering how crazy they get about folks having small empty bird nests even (yup, it's against the law). learn something new everyday I guess.

February 7, 2013 at 8:50 PM  
Blogger Brenda London said...

I have to agree with the folks saying hawks should be living free. Then again I am the great grand daughter of Blackhawk and the hawk was not a pet so I have to admit to bias..but, then again I hate seeing trained bears for the same reason. I would think there would be a hawk fantasy game you could play instead of limiting the life of such a majestic a wild animal. (and I say that knowing the local ones have taken a few of my barn cats).

February 7, 2013 at 8:57 PM  
Blogger Brenda London said...

when you get your bird, perhaps you can have a show-n-tell day for us so we can all learn about falconry? even though I have expressed my views in regard to keeping wild animals as pets I would enjoy learning more about this sport and see the "how-to's" in regards to the care and training of such an awe inspiring bird. Every aspect of keeping animals has its detractors. we race harness horses and I have had a ridiculous number of folks criticize us for the "horrors" behind this industry, proving themselves to be ignorant in what it is we do and how our horses are treated. I would hate to be so judgmental about falconry that I close myself off to learning first hand about the sport. I know you will be a very responsible owner and that is the kind of person who should be handling the big birds. and who knows, I may yet get certified to rehab the large birds.

February 7, 2013 at 9:35 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

I didn't know that this activity existed in the USA. Good for you, it should be an interesting hobby. I can see you riding Merlin, with your falcon!

February 7, 2013 at 10:11 PM  
Blogger KiwiGirl said...

I'll go with Jim on this one, even after reading the FAQ link. Several hours each day for training - big commitment right there, given all the other tasks that your block requires.

February 7, 2013 at 10:41 PM  
Blogger becky said...

not surprised at all you are one badass chick Ms. Jenna

February 7, 2013 at 11:49 PM  
Blogger Martina White said...

This morning I was out trying to spot some bald eagles that have been hanging around Quidi Vidi Lake here in St. John's. I'm pretty sure I saw one soaring over the lake as the ducks and gulls did one of the mass panic lift-offs but I didn't get to see one stooping in amongst them, so can't be 100% sure it was an eagle.

Raptors are exciting birds. I wish you great luck with your training!

February 8, 2013 at 7:59 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Montero said...

I had a harris hawk and enjoyed it immensely, I hope you do too. You can fly them from horseback, but I bet you already know that!! Harrises get used to dogs easily. Some people complain they're 'boring' compared ot other birds, but I found them a great starter, trainable and easier to get the flying weight right.

February 8, 2013 at 8:15 AM  
Blogger Matt and Callie said...


I am an avian ecologist and an apprentice falconer. I understand the reservations some of you have about the sport, but I want to mention that the men and women who are involved in falconry (or hawking, as we call it around here) are deeply concerned with conservation and are some of the most deeply committed animal advocates I have met. Some of the birds used are kept for life, but others are kept for a season and then released. Their lives are not "limited". I understand the reaction that many of you have, that these captive birds are being denied a wild existence, but even as a professional biologist I have never seen anything to make me question the morality of falconry.

February 8, 2013 at 9:53 AM  
Blogger PurrfectPetSitting said...

Oh, I am SO insanely jealous! I have had a strange fascination with hawks since I was a small child. I have drooled over the brochure from the Equinox for years. I truly hope you blog about this, a LOT. I'm very curious how you trap a young hawk and how you house them. Are you concerned about putting your chickens at risk? This is SO incredibly cool Jenna! :) Now I REALLY can't wait to come pick up my pig in the fall!

February 10, 2013 at 10:39 AM  

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