Falconry - Star Motorcycle Forums: Star Raider, V-Max, V-Star, Road-Star Forum
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post #1 of 32 (permalink) Old 11-04-2016, 08:26 AM Thread Starter
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Falconry

I'd like to make myself open to questions and comments about this sport, since it is somewhat controversial. I had some misgivings myself until I understood how it is done and how it is regulated. I have a thick skin and can take criticism, and maybe I can clear up some misconceptions if there are any. I enjoy sharing about the sport.

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post #2 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-28-2016, 08:02 AM Thread Starter
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Just so you all know that I'm still alive and kickin'...all of my free time in these winter months is spent in the woods, tagging along with this huntress...



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post #3 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-28-2016, 09:04 AM
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Wow! Those are great pictures. The squirrel and rabbit may not agree though. Are these catches for your table? If so, how do you separate the meal from the huntress? I'd be a bit upset if I had a nice fat rabbit and some human took it away from me. Is the bird with the transmitter a Redtail? Ya got my interest.

Do you also include eagles in the falcon category? We are close to the river and have Bald Eagles around here. Great fishermen.

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post #4 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-28-2016, 09:09 AM
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I think it is an awesome sport. Whats the difference between that and hunting dogs? I have no problem with it. I would like to know more about it, how do you train them? Hell how do you get the hawk in the first place? What kind of expenses are involved. Where is it legal to do that? Etc Etc.
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post #5 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-28-2016, 09:21 AM
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My first question is what is the controversy - seriously? I've never really even heard of hunting this way.

Good pics by the way
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post #6 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-28-2016, 10:23 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by commonground View Post
Wow! Those are great pictures. The squirrel and rabbit may not agree though. Are these catches for your table? If so, how do you separate the meal from the huntress? I'd be a bit upset if I had a nice fat rabbit and some human took it away from me. Is the bird with the transmitter a Redtail? Ya got my interest.

Do you also include eagles in the falcon category? We are close to the river and have Bald Eagles around here. Great fishermen.
I have a freezer for her catches, to feed her during the off-season, but you're right!...separating her from the game is tricky! I don't want her to get the impression that I am stealing from her so I have to distract her with a yummy treat of something else. I toss the treat and usually she'll jump after it and I quickly stash the game in my bag.
Yes, she is a Redtail...almost 3 years old.
Falconry includes the use of eagles, owls, hawks, and falcons. Only Golden eagles are legal falconry birds, though, and only for a Master falconer.

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I think it is an awesome sport. Whats the difference between that and hunting dogs? I have no problem with it. I would like to know more about it, how do you train them? Hell how do you get the hawk in the first place? What kind of expenses are involved. Where is it legal to do that? Etc Etc.
The difference is that, in falconry, it's more like I'm the dog...flushing game for her. She's learned to watch me as I whack the brush with my stick, and she will perch up high and wait for something to run out. Although with squirrels the chase usually takes place in the trees.

The training process is all about them learning that they can trust you, and that you have FOOD. That's what keeps them coming back. Usually.

I believe it's legal in all states except Hawaii, but the process of obtaining a permit is arduous. A two-year apprenticeship under a Master falconer is required, and I had to build an enclosure for her to live in ( a "mews") and have it inspected by the state, as well as pass an extensive test, before I could get a permit to trap a wild hawk. And trapping is how an apprentice gets his hawk. There are a couple of methods, which both involve using a live 'bait' animal, but the main thing is that only a juvenile (less than 1 year old) can be taken from the wild...this prevents adults being taken from the breeding population. Identifying a juvenile Redtail is easy...they don't have 'Red' tailfeathers until their first molt, which occurs in the summer following their first birthday.
Expenses...well, I spent about $1,000 building the mews, and much of the equipment can be made, but a few hundred more on equipment, fees and stuff is probably typical. Mews designs are as varied as snowflakes...with are some minimum requirements.
This is the one I built:



The biggest investment is time. It's NOT a weekend hobby. I do something every day, year-round, whether it's just feeding and watering, exercising/training, maintenance and upkeep on the mews and other equipment, and from October through March I try to hunt with her 3-4 days per week for at least an hour but sometimes half a day. It has to be a labor of love, for it to be worth it, and for me it is.

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post #7 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-28-2016, 10:30 AM Thread Starter
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My first question is what is the controversy - seriously? I've never really even heard of hunting this way.

Good pics by the way
Thanks! The controversy that comes up usually involves people who think that it's wrong to have a 'captive' raptor. They don't understand that every time the bird is released, it has the option of not returning. Which happens all the time! Some birds just don't adapt to the lifestyle and they just leave!
Then there's the people who can't stand the thought of furry little critters being killed and eaten. Okay, I'm a softie, too, but let me tell you...these animals have been evading hawks for millions of years and they're VERY good at it! A hawk is skilled and lucky to catch one. And a squirrel is a vicious little animal...hawks die all the time from infected bites, toes bitten off, etc.
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post #8 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-28-2016, 12:21 PM
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All of that is extremely interesting. When you first posted about the raptors I was going to respond and then I forgot. I'm glad that you did a refresh with pictures.

!. Is that a tracking device on her tail?
2. What kind of food is better than a fresh kill for diverting her attention?
3. Is there a perch, platform or box in the mews?
4. Do you use any hand or sound signals for the bird?
5. If you have been out on a hunt an want her to return (time to go home) how do you signal her?
6. Are you limited to one bird or does it depend upon your level of expertise?
7. Do you use a net to capture the young one over live bait.
8. Are the talons sufficient for a kill or does she have to do more to dispatch them?
9. What other animals are prey for them?
10. I don't think that birds depend upon smell, taste, or hearing, sight is the main tool. Is that correct?
11. Are their designated seasons established the Game Commission?

I couldn't help myself. Augie

I'm always working very diligently to discover the obvious.

Last edited by commonground; 12-28-2016 at 04:17 PM.
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post #9 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-29-2016, 11:05 AM Thread Starter
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Haha! I understand, Augie, and I enjoy sharing about this stuff, so here goes;

1. It's a VHF transmitter. We had an incident last year where she got hung up in some heavy brush and I couldn't find her. After about 30 minutes she got loose and flew to me but she had injured herself badly. I made up my mind then, that I wouldn't let that happen again. If she decides to leave, then fair's fair and I wish her well but if she needs help I want to be able to find her.

2. Her favorite treats are these day-old chicks I buy from a chicken hatchery. They are soft and fuzzy...they look like the candy Easter Peeps that kids get...and they have a yolk inside that is, apparently, quite tasty. Most hatcheries euthanize the male chicks as soon as they hatch, for practical and economic reasons, and they are bought by zoos, rehab facilities, and people who keep raptors, reptiles, and such. They are very nutritious and my bird loves them.

3. There is a perch at each end of the mews, so that she can be out in the open or back in the sheltered part. I use closet rods wrapped with sisal rope to provide a rough surface which is good for her feet and talons.
She also has a large pan of water for bathing and drinking, which I empty/scrub/refill daily. If you've ever watched a little bird in a birdbath, flipping water on itself and scooching around...she does the same thing. Cute as can be.

4. The upward swinging motion as I raise the glove will catch her eye from far away. Under normal circumstances I will put a tidbit of venison on the glove and call her name. She has also learned that if she hears the 'emergency-whistle' it means there will be a bigger treat such as a chick. I only use this when I really need to get her to me immediately.

5. We hunt mostly in the afternoon/evening and she kind of knows the drill. If it's getting dark, she hasn't caught anything, and I start heading back, she switches from hunt-mode to follow-mode and will fly from from tree to tree as I walk, coming down for tidbits in between. If she has caught game she will have a full crop and just relax on the glove as I walk back.

6. An apprentice can only have one bird. A General falconer can have two wild-caught birds, and a Master can have up to five. There is not a limit on the number of captive-bred birds but an apprentice cannot use one. There are stringent regulations and specific problems with captive-bred, and imprinted, birds. I prefer wild birds, mainly because they are never 'pets'...they are always capable of going back to the life they were living before they were caught.

7. A net is one method. The 'bow-net' is spring loaded, and activated by pulling a string. A live pigeon is put into a vest, or harness, on another string and when the hawk comes down for it, the net is released. Another method is using a bal-chatri, or BC, which is a small wire cage with a live mouse or gerbil inside. The outside is covered with slipknots made of fishing line. Either way, once the hawk is caught, you've got yourself an angry raptor which must be safely immobilized and examined. Exciting stuff, that. A determination must be made as to the suitability of the bird...age, sex, health, etc...and if it is a keeper then anklets are put on and the process of 'manning' begins. Basically they need to learn that they are safe and are going to be fed. Once that is established they learn very rapidly.

8. The talons are the business end of a hawk. A big Redtail can exert 400 psi. I have personal experience with this and it is very humbling. Still, most falconers carry a sharp awl or icepick so that if a game animal is struggling and not immediately killed, it can be humanely dispatched. The philosophy that most of us adhere to is that the prey animals are as worthy of respect as the predators.

9. My bird has gobbled down mice, voles, frogs, and snakes. They will avoid large animals if there is easier prey but, if a Redtail gets hungry enough, cats, small dogs, chickens, etc., are not out of the question.

10. Sight is definitely the main tool and a hawk's sight is phenomenal. I've seen my bird launch into a tree 600 yards away because of the flick of a squirrel-tail.

11. Falconry is regulated by each state's DNR (In Virginia it's the DGIF...same thing). Until a few years ago, a federal permit was required but that has been delegated to the states. I do still have to report certain events to a federal database, such as the capture, release, loss, or death of a wild bird...but everything else is determined at the state level, including the season. In Virginia the season is from October 1st to March 31st. Interestingly, I also have to obtain a small-game hunting license like any other hunter. Even though I'm not really the hunter. But birds hate filling out paperwork.

So, a couple of other things I will share that were shocking to me;
The numbers vary a little depending on the study, but it is generally agreed that about 80% of wild hawks do not survive their first year of life. It's dangerous out there...vehicles, fences, powerlines, diseases...and there are many other variables such as the availability of game, weather, inherited or learned hunting skills, etc.
A Redtail can live to be 25 years old. The average lifespan of a Redtail in the wild is...get this...2 years.

One thing that some people don't understand about falconry is that a young hawk is being helped through that critical first year. Many falconers work with a bird for 1-3 seasons and then release a strong, healthy, experienced bird back into the wild, and into the breeding population.

Bart
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Last edited by Huntswithhawks; 12-29-2016 at 12:24 PM.
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post #10 of 32 (permalink) Old 12-29-2016, 12:41 PM Thread Starter
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A short clip of her swooping down from a tree across the creek.

This never gets old



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