Society in general now has a very high level of education, but little understanding of nature. The understanding of natural processes is increasingly ignored and it is up to us to counteract this development, because it involves not only falconry and hunting, but nature itself.
Education is where knowledge is transmitted from one generation to the next through teaching, training, or research. Frequently it takes place under the guidance of others, but it may also be self-taught.
This sounds laudable, when everything is in balance, but we know it is not. How we can share information about something of which most people have no idea and know nothing about? How can someone explain the killing part of hunting, when they do not understand it?
If someone does not learn something in his life, then he cannot share it. Due to progressive modernization in the last century, society has lost its respect for nature. This is threatening for us, with increasing impoverishment of traditional values, our very existence as hunters and falconers is at stake.
The general population mostly lives in the city and kids are growing up without any contact with nature. If someone needs something to eat, they go to the supermarket and buy it, without knowing where it comes from. Even rural areas are inhabited by more and more people who come from the city and who have no understanding of country lifestyle. This creates conflicts, because no one actually needs to go hunting or to slaughter an animal to eat it. Everything is plentifully available.
When a teenager is looking at an action thriller and more than 20 people are slaughtered brutally within two hours, no one gets upset about it. However, if a hunter or falconer kills a wild animal, then the parents of these children are outraged. This shows us how dramatic is this development in our society is, when there is no education for natural processes. If we cannot make a change for the future, then our very right to exist will be threatened.
Therefore, in order to preserve falconry, it is important to get active and the first step could be to prepare an educational program for schools. It is important for falconry associations to go out in public and begin engaging young children who have no prejudices, who are curious and open minded.
In some countries falconry shows or “show falconry” have been established. While this does make birds of prey popular, it has nothing in common with “real” falconry: actual hunting. This is a real quandary, because if we are honest, it is the show falconry that is doing bulk of education and taking away from the “hunting falconers”. Most people cannot resist the fascination of birds of prey and typically participants after a show are left feeling excited. However, it is not our goal.
There is a fear that, if we are not careful, falconry will be associated only with show falconry in the eyes of the public. Hunting with birds of prey on game, is omitted and this creates a problem. It is much harder to teach an adult who has no understanding of the interplay of nature, and it is more difficult when children are not exposed to this concept at an early age.
The younger the child, the easier it is for them to accept this is just a part of the natural cycle. By simply explaining we can build an understanding that we only use a natural process in order to catch animals and eat them at the end.
This can create a foundation for understanding the cycle of nature. Death is just a part of life, like birth. The roles in nature are really clear.
What do I need to get into falconry?
In order of importance
- The will to hunt: Falconry or hawking is taking quarry in its natural habitat by means of a trained bird of prey. It is not a way of showing off an unusual pet. If you do not hunt with your hawk you cannot be a falconer
- Suitable territory: Access to land suitable for the kind of falconry you wish to practice. Only experience, you own or your mentor’s can tell you what that is.
- Quarry to hunt: Thousands of hectares of the most beautiful territory are useless if there is no quarry on it.
- An experienced falconer to help: Even the most experienced falconer needs help occasionally. A raw beginner has no chance without someone.
- Time: Hawks and falcons must hunt several times a week, daily even, to keep fit and healthy. Even if you choose not to hunt every day, you still need to spend time with your bird every single day.
- A mews: A place where the hawk or falcon is kept. A roomy shed with nothing else in it as well as a safe grassy area, fenced off against cats and other predators.
- A source of hawk food: Hawks eat only fresh raw meat, complete with fur, feathers and internal organs. You must be able to provide this and know where to buy or catch it.
- A fridge and freezer: Wives and mothers do not like whole dead mice, rabbits, chicks or pigeons in the same fridge as the family food.
- A good set of scales: Hawks have to be weighed every day.
- Beautiful expensive equipment : NO. Nice, but not necessary. Homemade can be better, some things have to be made to measure.
- Money NO. Many falconers spend little or no money
- A hawk NO. The least necessary of all. If you are unable to provide any of items 1-9 you should not even consider keeping a bird of prey. You can still enjoy falconry without one, but as a spectator. You can attend club events or go out with someone else and even assist them by flying their hawks.
The International Association for Falconry wants to interest children and young people around the world and give them an opportunity to gain an insight into the art of falconry. You can learn more about falconry on our website; should you miss something or have questions, do not hesitate to get in touch with us. We will try to answer your questions or to help you.
Below you will find the most important questions asked about falconry.
Who is a falconer?
A falconer is someone who hunts wild game with a trained bird of prey. Falconers can acquire a bird of prey from a breeder or take one from the wild, depending on the laws of each country. After the bird is trained it can be used for hunting.
How I can become a falconer?
Have a look at the “For new falconers” tab on this page. The most important thing of all is for you to find someone to help you.
What is falconry?
Falconry is hunting with a bird of prey – a hawk, falcon, buzzard or eagle. It must be done in the natural environment of the quarry species (that is the bird or animal you wish to hunt). It is a very old and honourable practice passed down the generations and it involves many different stages and specialized equipment and special language. For example:
Manning can be best described to gain the trust of the intended bird you’d like to fly through the training process. A fresh bird is usually afraid and untrained. Through manning, which means you get him used to yourself and the fist/glove, you gain the birds trust so that he basically becomes your friend and hunting partner. It is a step by step process, but once the bird learns that you provide good food and hunting chances, he will gain your trust and fly to you without hesitation.
The lure is used as a dummy to simulate prey such as pheasants, crows or ducks. It is usually a leather corpus in the shape of a bird and the falconer can attach wings of the focused prey. It is mainly used to train falcons and will be swung in the air on a line but is also used to call back goshawks or other hawks. It is important that food is attached to the lure as it serves as a motivator for the bird to “catch” it and to return to it easily.
Falconers can choose between many types of perches for their birds. The most common ones are the following:
A falcon block (block perch) is a round-shaped wooden block with a suitable material on top for the bird to sit on. The wooden part is attached onto a metal pole. To tether the bird, the falconer has to tie the falconers knot onto the free rotating ring at the pole. The block is available in different sizes for falcons and eagles and the bird will happily preen and bath at his new outside seat.
The bow perch is usually used for goshawks and other hawks. It is a bent metal pole in the shape of a very wide U. To make sure the bird can sit comfortable, the upper part will be wrapped around with leather or other suitable material such as manila rope or rubber. Again a ring will run free around the pole in order to tie the bird. It is a great way to weather hawks outside for a while.
Pursuit Hawking with the Falcon
This method is used mainly for crows. The Falcon sits still, hooded until the actual hawking starts. Falconers look for crows by car. Please note that hunting law is different in each country! In Germany, you need a special license and approval from each hunter to hawk in their districts. If you have such an approval, the falconer will drive around on the pathways of the fields in search of crows.
One big group of crows is usually enough but it must be in a suitable range and area. If it seems suitable, the falcon will be unhooded and let go behind a hedge or other hide-away. As soon as the falcon is up in the air, crows will head for cover in order to hide and get away as they know that falcons will only be successful in air space. Here the falconer comes to help: He will try to flush the crows out of the cover. The falcon will wait on and carefully take his chance to catch one.
Hunting with Goshawks and Golden Eagles
Goshawks can be flown without a hood, others than falcons. Golden Eagles are usually flown out of the hood. Nonetheless, both catch their quarry preferably on the ground whereas the goshawk can also catch quarry in a mid-air bind.
To find quarry, falconers use dogs to help pointing where it is or the little helper when it comes to hunting rabbits- the ferret. Hawking is not just simple sitting and waiting till some suitable quarry may pass the falconer’s way- it can be hard work when you have to walk for a whole day across fields, especially when it is muddy.
Once found a hare, pheasant or whatever you intend to hunt, the goshawk bursts off the fist with a fast and u wing beat. Goshawks are fantastic on a short distance as their body is built for short distance acceleration whereas they lack power on long flights.
Once bound to the intended quarry, the falconer comes in to help and to trade off the bird with a reward which is always a small piece of meat as an exchange, or he directly feeds the bird off on the fresh quarry. Other than falcons, goshawks kill their quarry with their u feet and needle-sharp talons- falcons kill with a quick bite through the neck.
Once you flushed a hare, you take off the hood immediately and the eagle knows what’s up- he will follow immediately and try to reach his prey. They can follow on long distances as well and can handle high winds pretty well if used to them due to their large wingspan. As Eagles are too plump to catch pheasants and other birds successfully, Falconers use them to hunt foxes, hares and roe deer.
To hawk that way, a pointer is necessary. The pointer will find and point the prey, usually pheasants, partridges, grouse and ducks. By pointing we say he basically show’s us the prey which is hidden in cover. They have a fantastic nose and can smell the slightest signs of game. If the dog is on point, the falcon will be unhooded and released. He will wait on above the dog and carefully watch its movements.
It is like a symbiosis between dog and falcon- they work together incredibly well. If the falcon is on the right pitch, the dog will get a sign from the falconer to flush the game. Once flushed, the falcon will single one out and burst down in a sharp drop with high speed, trying to bind and catch the quarry. If he was successful, he will end the life of its game with a quick nod to the neck. It will be dead immediately.
Is there a falconry law?
Yes, there are many. Falconry today is practiced in over 80 countries and each one has its own laws. To find out about these you will need to contact someone in your own country. A list of falconry clubs may be found here. Many of the club names have links to their websites if you click on the name. If you cannot find someone please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
What kind of birds are used for falconry?
The goshawk is the most versatile hunter you will find and is flown by many, many falconers all over the world. Its prey consists of nearly anything from small-medium sized birds from crows, ducks and partridge to pheasants, to smaller mammals like rabbits and even hares. In the Middle Ages, they called it the “chef de cuisine” which means the chef of the kitchen.
If its prey notices me, it is almost too late – the goshawk is a very fast hunter and can accelerate easily due to its short, rounded wings and it also hides and hunts in dense bushes and woods. Many hunters also know it as the “Phantom of the woods” as they hardly ever see it. Nonetheless, you will find it in different subspecies all over the world – from North America to Europe, Russia, Japan and Australia!
The Harris Hawk
The Harris lives in Southwest America, Mexico up to Patagonia. It is unique in that it hunts in groups. And so it is a very sociable, relaxed and very curious bird. Falconers love it for its reliability. Its prey consists mainly out of mammals like rabbits, but it sometimes manages to catch birds like crows and pheasants as well. It is not as fast as the goshawk but it is great at soaring as well which gives it other hunting opportunities.
The Peregrine Falcon
Well known as the fastest animal on earth- when it folds my wings, shaped like a teardrop, it can achieve 360 km/h in free fall- any F1 car is slow compared to it! Its preferred prey is exclusively feathered quarry and it needs to hunt from a high pitch.
Once it sees a suitable bird (crows, pheasants, partridge or pigeon) flying beneath, it stoops tries to catch it- one hit with its feet may make it unconscious. This technique is unique and only found among falcons but if it does not hit it the first time, the chance is gone. Second to the goshawk, the peregrine is one of the most used birds in falconry.
The Golden Eagle
The King of the skies! With a wingspan of up to 2,40m, it is an impressive hunter which requires an experienced falconer to hunt with it. It has very powerful feet and the people who hunted first with eagles, the Berkutchi from Kazakhstan and other Asian steppes, even hunt wolves with it! It preys on mammals like hares, foxes, marmots and sometimes even young roe deer or chamois. If you ever see one, please don’t just run to it and try to touch it – it is a very u bird and could harm you if it is not used to anyone else than its falconer!