Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The American Apprentice system

One of the great things about falconry in America is its apprentice system. Historically, brand new falconers have to find an experienced falconer to sponsor and train them in the sport of falconry for two years. This is a great way to introduce new blood into the sport, while ensuring (or at least trying too) that the hawks in the care of the new falconer will be treated well and hunted often.

The best part in my opinion though is that the new apprentice must acquire their first bird by trapping either a first year red tail or a kestrel out of the wild.

This rule forced me, as an apprentice, to learn more about birds than I ever thought I could. I had to learn where they lived, how they hunted, their prey, and how to identify them from a distance.

These skills then aided me in learning about the quarry that I hunt. I wasn’t a hunter before I became a falconer. I went on to research squirrel and rabbit. What was their sign, what was mast? Where would I find a drey (squirrel house)?

It increased my powers of observation. I can tell what type of bird I see on the wing from a long way away, simply by the way it flaps its wings. I can tell a hawk on a branch by its silhouette.

I know where to look.

The need to trap my first raptor has made me more aware of my surroundings, and of three dimensional space, and raptor behavior. If you are a sponsor – help you apprentice learn the natural habits of birds – it will serve them well into the future.

No comments: