I love raptors so, when I got a chance to write about how to become a falconer, I thought, “This is going to be great!” And I also thought, “Maybe I’ll become a falconer.”
Then I started doing some research, and becoming a falconer is hard…
What is Falconry?
In contrast, falconry in North America didn’t get much attention until the 1920s. And it wasn’t until the 1960s that falconry became relatively popular.
Today, falconry is found around the world. In North America, more than 2,000 members belong to the North American Falconers Association (NAFA).
See also: Talons VS Claws: What’s the Difference?
What You Need to Become a Falconer
Falconry is not a hobby, casual sport, or something you do for kicks. Falconry is about serious dedication. The commitment to falconry is up there with the commitment to have and raise children.
If you want to know how to become a falconer, the first thing you should do is decide whether you’ve got what it takes. At a minimum, to become a falconer you need plenty of time, patience, and money.
According to the experts, in addition to the minimum of seven years it takes to become a master falconer:
Your hawk requires a significant amount of time, every day, 365 days a year, and a bird in training requires substantially more time. Raptors, unlike a rifle or a bow, cannot be hung on the wall and forgotten until the next hunting trip. You might be oaky [sic] with this time commitment, but is your spouse okay with it? Your kids? Your career?
To invest all this time also requires a vast amount of patience. Becoming a falconer isn’t just about training a wild animal to return to you after a hunt and give up its prey. It’s also about training yourself.
To become a falconer means taking a lot of baby steps and learning a host of topics and skills you may not initially think are relevant.
You may have all the time and patience any falconer would ever need. But money is an entirely different requirement.
If (and that’s a big “if”) you can buy one, there’s the cost of your bird, which, despite the name of the sport, doesn’t have to be a falcon. It could be a hawk, owl, or golden eagle.
Then there’s the cost of food, shelter, equipment, veterinary costs, permits, licenses, travel, and mandated inspections.
Books and other resources about birds of prey and falconry are vital so, they’re on the list too. As are courses and tests in safety and hunting that some states require in addition to a falconry license.
As a future falconer, you’re looking at thousands of dollars over the lifetime of your bird.
Time. Patience. Money. Falconry is sounding more and more like parenting, isn’t it?
Becoming a Falconer
To become a falconer is a long and detailed process that moves you through the ranks of apprentice falconer, general falconer, and master falconer. Below are the highlights, but if you want the full story, then click here.
The journey to falconer begins when you are at least 14 years old. As an apprentice, you will need to find a sponsor who has a minimum of two years’ experience. This person will guide you during your first two years of learning and training.
With the help of your sponsor, you’ll get the required state and federal falconry permits. A hunting license may also be required. Your sponsor will also help you complete the mandatory training and prepare for the written test.
Next comes building a place for your bird to live.
Yes, I said “build.”
Amazon doesn’t carry “mews.”
Your mew will need to meet strict standards because an officer from your state’s Fish and Wildlife Department will conduct an inspection. These folks are also going to make sure your mew is built to code and that you’ve got all the equipment you need.
Only after you accomplished all this can you trap a bird.
Yes, I said “trap.”
Many sponsors require their apprentice to capture their first bird.
And besides, Amazon doesn’t carry raptors either.
There are two requirements to be a general falconry. First, you must have two years of experience. Second, you must be at least 18 years old.
Once you become a general falconer, the law allows for two raptors. And your raptors can also be something other than a kestrel or red-tail.
Master falconer is the highest level, and it becomes your designation after seven years of experience. As a master falconer you can have up to three birds at one time, and the range of bird types from which you can select is wider.
If you’d like to know more about the history of falconry, the regulations and laws that govern the sport, or more about how to become a falconer, then check out the NAFA website. These folks are the go-to people for everything you need to know about falconry.