Sunday, August 11, 2013

What Is Falconry?!

I have been writing about this for a while, but never really explained what the reason for acquiring a red tail hawk is! Falconry is hunting, plain and simple. But instead of using a shotgun, riffle, slingshot, pointy stick, bow, or any other man-made weapon - you use a hawk. The hawk is trained to be set free and fly from tree to tree in the forest, above her handler. As the human below walks through the woods in our heavy-footed way that high-sitting hawk can see the rabbits, grouse, pheasants, turkeys, squirrels, and doves below that us people scare off. It takes off to kill it, a fast downward soar called a "flight" and takes the prey with its sharp taloned feet. The human follows the bird, steal its quarry and puts it in a falconer's bag and takes the hawk back on her arm for a possible second hunt.

It is nearly silent, and beautiful, and a partnership between human and animal for a single goal - not unlike working horses, plowing donkeys, and herding sheep dogs. The redtail I trap and train will be a living tool for the hunt, a partner, but not a pet. My hawk will be a wild animal that belongs to the state of New York and the Federal goverment, not me. I am just a "handler" and not an owner, though that doesnt mean a true relationship wont form between us. I can keep the bird here in the mews we are building for a year or five, but eventually she will be returned to nature as a healthy, breeding, wild animal. Red tails can leave humans and do just fine (which is why beginner's start with such hawks. If I mess up the hawk can be free and live its normal, wild life).

If you have any questions just email me, or look at your local Falconry club. There are groups in every state and plenty of handlers who might be thrilled to show you their world, take you on a hawk walk, or show you their mews. It's not a secret society, sport of the wealthy, or animal abuse. It is hunting with a bird of prey and learning stewardship, treamwork, and respect between species. I am so excited for this. What a fall this will be!

P.S. That is Haggis, the Harris Hawk female from the British School of Falconry.