Falconry is one of the world's oldest sports.
Its roots can be traced back to ancient Persia nearly 4,000 years ago.
Falconry has been considered the sport of kings as it was practiced primarily
by royalty. The golden age of falconry happened during the middle ages
on the isle of Britain, although evidence of the sport can be tracked as
far east as China and Japan. Today falconry still exists, but there are
a limited number of falconers (about 4,000 in the US). Modern technology
has given us better equipment, but the practices and training methods of
ancient times are still greatly used.
The sport of "falconry" refers to hunting
with trained birds of prey (not just falcons). Although today you see many
captive raised birds, traditionally falconry birds were all wild caught.
Even today, in order to keep alive the traditions of the sport, an apprentice
falconer's bird must be taken from the wild.
The first bird must either be a kestrel
or juvenile red tail hawk. Although some people might have moral reservations
about taking a bird like this from the wild, it is important to note that,
like all predators, birds of prey have an exceedingly high mortality rate.
Two thirds of them will not survive their first winter. Birds trapped for
falconry have a MUCH higher survival rate.
It is amazing to me that a wild animal
can develop such a close working relationship with humans in such a relatively
short amount of time. My first red tail hawk "Dasan" was eating food from
my hand within 24 hours of being trapped.
Within 6 weeks, Dasan was able to be released
and free flown. Although he could easily head for the horizon and be gone
forever, birds like this learn that they have a much better chance of getting
their next meal if a particular person is around. Dasan has also learned
that if he watches me closely and follows me through the woods or a field,
I might just kick up a rabbit or squirrel. At that point he can do
what he does best, follow his natural hunting instincts.
Conservation and hunting may appear to
be polar opposites, but here are a few interesting facts to keep in mind:
Hunters, as a group, put more money into
conservation projects worldwide than any other group ($10 billion annualy).
While many groups like to talk about conservation, no one puts in nearly
as much monetary support as hunters.
Much of the wild areas in this country
are purchased and set aside by hunters (land that might otherwise become
another strip mall).
Falconer's in particular are responsible
for helping bring back species from near extinction. Both the peregrine
falcon and the American bald eagle were taken off the endangered species
list as the result of captive breeding and release by falconers.
To be a falconer in the United States you must
attain both state and federal licensure and
apprentice under either a general or master
class falconer for a minimum of two years.
Slow-motion video of Dasan the red-tail hawk flying.
Red tail hawk flying through the woods.
African Martial Eagle (bird of war).
Dasan's first experience in snow.
Dasan sitting in the tree above me waiting to see if I kick up a rabbit.
Celebrating the 4th of July.
Redtail hawks are not only relentless hunters, they quickly learn that whatever they can catch, you will dispatch.
This incredible relationship made Storm confident enough to catch a full grown fox!
After taking a few photos of the epic capture, we were able to release the fox unharmed, save for a newly gained fear of birds.
African Crested Eagle.
This is an egyptian sarcophagus containing the remains of a mummified of a falcon. This amazing artifact is
approximately 2500 years old and belongs in the private collection of a gentleman I met in Tennessee.
Dasan the RedTail
His First Squirrel
"Dasan" is a red tailed hawk, Buteo jamaicensis. His name, pronounced
"DAH-shan", comes from the Pomo native American tribe in California. The
name means "ruler of the bird clan".