When people find out that you are a falconer, they respond in many different ways. You get everything from curiosity to disdain. My favorite response came from a gentleman from a nearby town. It came up in casual conversation that I trained hawks and falcons to allow me to hunt with them. He looked at me incredulously,
“That’s so..” He searched for the right words, “old school.”
He nodded approvingly, and we continued to discuss the ins and out of falconry.
The question I get asked most often is “How did you get started with falconry?” I think the answer to that question is different for every falconer. Some are involved in wildlife rehabilitation, some love hawks. Some are lucky enough to know a falconer with whom they can tag along.
I like to think that people often get to see the birds up close in some educational venue and then get interested. For me it wasn’t like that.
See, I like to write.
I was trying my hand at the great American novel. It never got finished as I was side tracked. The main character in this story hunted with a hawk. It would have been similar to a red tail, had I known enough at the time to make the comparison.
My wife commented that it would be smart to research falconry if I wanted my main character to be true to life (and to this day, I blame her). So I started looking. I found the North Carolina Falconer’s Guild and attended a meet.
There were hawks everywhere and they were amazing. Admittedly, most were red tails. The first one to fly was too fat and unresponsive. We didn’t even get it to fly out of the parking lot before the apprentice who was working with it called it down.
The second set of birds out was a pair of Harris hawks. We wandered through the woods looking for squirrels. We didn’t find any. But the birds, these large intimidating birds, followed us through the woods. I would find myself stopping and watching as they dated from tree to tree. I would lose them when they landed, but the bells would soon give them away.
That was it. I had to become a falconer.
Ten years have passed since then. I’ve had talons through my hand, blunt eye trauma, slips, falls, and multiple briar wounds. But I wouldn't change a thing.