By Katherine Grand
When I first started practicing falconry I had never even hunted so the learning curve was often painful. I have learned so much in my 7 years practicing falconry and I look forward to many more lessons yet to come. The following are just a couple lessons I’ve learned while practicing the ancient art of falconry.
Lesson #1, Always wear a hat
When out in the field hunting with falconry birds, people often end up being used as perches. Although the hawks are not treating your head like prey, hawks and falcons will still end up scratching your head with needle sharp talons as they try to gain traction on slippery scalps. Also any smart ass falconers in the field with you may decide to purse their lips and squeak like a screaming mouse which will make any hawk clamp down on whatever is beneath their feet, namely you. This is also a good reason to never hold a hawk barehanded as falconers love these types of jokes. My dog Lucky played this trick on me yesterday by whining while Aurora my current red-tailed hawk was perched on my head. My red-tail Apollo was much more polite and would perch on my shoulder like a pirate’s parrot instead. Yaarrr that be much more comfortable
Aurora also enjoys smacking me in the head with her feet as she flies by me if she thinks I am not flushing enough game or calling her frequently enough to the fist for tidbits. A good ball cap makes the difference between that being mildly annoying and expletive eliciting pain. Aurora also decided this season that my ponytail periodically looks like a squirrel. This generally happens on evenings when the weather prevents me from taking her out hunting and I do some backyard training. I usually keep my hair in a braid and she hangs from my ponytail until I push her off. So far my Prois caps have prevented stray talons from ending up anywhere with nerve endings. I also learned this season never to handle her while wearing my faux fur trimmed hooded down jacket that my Mom bought me for Christmas. You may use your imagination on that one. Needless to say falconry is not the sport for those with a low pain threshold or fear of talon acupuncture. Last but not least hats are great for keeping mutes (AKA raptor poop) out of your hair. Hawks and eagles projectile poop which is called slicing while falcons mute straight down. Slicing is the reason I have been banned from bringing my hawks on work trips. While hunting with my first red-tailed hawk Artemis using a T perch he muted and it landed directly on my hat. I watched it drip off the front of my bill like a giant brown and white glob of snot but luckily it wasn’t sliding down my face. T Perches are used in flat areas with no or few natural perches to give your hawk a height advantage and added acceleration on prey. They also put hawks in a great position to mute on you and your friends in the field. Here is my friend and fellow Colorado falconer Chuck Butler explaining more about T perches (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ojpp5_iyv34).
Lesson#2 Aiming your bird
If being pooped on by birds is lucky then I am one of the luckiest girls on the planet. As a falconer one of the first things I learned was a hawk’s body language when it’s about to mute . When you are indoors initially manning (acclimating your new hawk to people and pets) if you have any carpeting or furniture you don’t want pooped on you get very quick at aiming your bird for them to launch a flying hawk shit in the most cleanable direction possible. Sometimes you can’t redirect them quickly enough. On my wedding day when I was holding my goshawk Hades during our ceremony I was able to point him away from myself and my maid of honor. He muted into one of the large bouquets instead. I have accidentally pointed Aurora at my dog Lucky but he was still easier to clean than our area rug. I did receive an angry and insulted look from Lucky when it happened. He is a poop connoisseur and much prefers being covered in coyote and fox poop than hawk. This is yet another reason not to piss off a falconer. We are crack shots with a muting hawk. Don’t believe a falconer when they tell you that you being in the line of fire was an accident if they are holding the hawk.
Stay tuned for more incredibly serious and very important Falconry Files, Lessons for the Field.
Falconry is the most highly regulated form of hunting. It requires an extensive licensing process and it is a huge commitment. Most falconers describe falconry as a lifestyle rather than a hobby. Please DO NOT attempt falconry without a license. Please visit http://n-a-f-a.com/AboutFalconry.htm to learn more about falconry.