The Virginia Falconers’ Association—both as a group and among the individual members—offer “Hawk Talks” at various times during the year. Get into touch with a real person (Leadership) or post a question on our Facebook page for more info about educational outreach.
SO YOU WANNA BE A FALCONER?
Few people thrilling to the magic of a trained hawk in flight realize what demands are placed upon one who aspires to be a falconer. Even fewer would be willing to make the sacrifices: stringent, long-term demands of time, effort, and money.
The media often sensationalize falconry, because the sport can be exciting to watch and carries with it the intrigue of antiquity. But public media frequently are inaccurate in their representation of what it takes to be a falconer.
Of all sports in America, falconry is the only one that utilizes a trained wild creature. Falcons, hawks, eagles, and owls are essential elements of our wildlife. The competent falconer takes care to follow sound conservation principles in the pursuit of the sport. Even though the federal government's environmental assessment states falconry has "no impact" on wild raptor populations, a careless, uninformed individual, attempting to satisfy a passing fancy, can do great harm to one or more birds and cast the shadow of discredit on the sport of falconry itself. Most falconers, therefore, before they will agree to help anyone newly attracted to the sport, will require evidence of a serious, committed interest in falconry.
If your interest is still more than casual, you must be prepared to fulfill the additional requirements of becoming a falconer.
Time and patience devoted solely to training and flying a hawk are among the most important demands. The trained hawk requires a minimum amount of time every day, 365 days a year. A bird in training requires substantially more time.
You must be able to provide food, shelter, equipment, and travel as a falconer. Hawks have very specific requirements for fresh, lean, raw meat. There are also housing and equipment requirements, most of them mandated by law, that require metal, leather, lumber, and the necessary tools. A library of falconry-related books is not required, but most falconers spend considerable amounts of money on books as a source of vital information and enjoyment. You must be able to travel: obtaining a hawk, visiting other falconers, and the training and flying of a hawk will put many miles on a vehicle.
You must have permission to enter adequate and convenient locations in which to fly a hawk. The short-winged hawks are best flown in the woodlots, hedgerows, and briar patches that make up their natural habitat. The falcons, or long-wings, require wide open expanses of land where they may be flown high over the falconer. Areas that are gun-hunted may render an otherwise suitable location unusable because of the potential threat to the hawk.
Because all raptors are protected by federal and state laws, all potential falconers must obtain necessary permits before getting a hawk or practicing falconry. There are other requirements, too (such as rabbit and squirrel hunting licenses, etc.). It is essential for newcomers to realize that the art and practice of hawking may not be learned overnight, nor in a single lesson, but only after hard work and essentially devoting one's life to the subject.
Still interested? Download the .pdf document you’ll find by clicking here (Primer on the VA falconry regulations) and review the reading list at the right. Alternatively, Contact Us.