Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Falconry
Thank you for your inquiry into falconry. The Great Lakes Falconers Association members are always pleased to introduce raptor enthusiasts to this ancient field sport. Such an introduction can hardly be accomplished in a few pages, but perhaps we can answer a few of the more frequently asked questions.
What is falconry? Falconry is a hunting sport in which wild game is pursued by a falconer using a trained raptor; the bird is the hunter and the falconer is the trainer/observer. In practice, however, falconry is a lifestyle in which hunting is secondary to raptor conservation and husbandry. In any case, falconry is not a hobby or a pet keeping activity.
What does it take to be involved in falconry? The answer, in short, is DEDICATION, TIME and PATIENCE. Unlike bow or gun hunting, in which the hunting implement can be put away in the closet at the end of the hunting season, a raptor in one's care is a 365 day per year responsibility. Falconry birds must be flown often and their health and periodic medical needs must be attended to. At times disappointments are frequent and successes are few.
How can I obtain a hawk? No person may obtain or possess a raptor, or attempt to do so, without first being licensed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Once licensed, apprentice falconers generally capture their birds from the wild, and general and master class falconers can either capture wild birds or purchase captive-bred raptors.
What sorts of regulations govern falconry? Falconry is one of the most highly regulated field sports. Raptors are protected by lengthy sets of state and federal laws and regulations one must comply with. Since falconry is a form of hunting, one must also be familiar with and abide by nearly all of the same hunting laws and regulations that apply to gun and bow. Falconry is a relatively obscure sport, therefore, any disregard for the laws and regulations casts discredit on not just the individual falconer, but on the falconry community and the sport as a whole. Illegal activities with migratory birds may also constitute a felony which can result in significant fines, legal fees, loss of one’s falconry license, the confiscation of one’s bird(s) and possible jail time. Copies of the regulations are available from IDNR, Law Enforcement, Falconry Programs, One Natural Resources Way, Springfield, IL 62702-1271 (217/782-6431), or they may be obtained online at http://www.ilga.gov/commission/jcar/admincode/017/01701590sections.html.
What will it cost? Falconry can be costly. Permits, facilities, furniture, food and veterinary bills are just a part of the expense. To fulfill the basic requirements, one might start off spending as much as $2000: $200 for books; $200 for a five-year falconry license; $50 for an annual capture permit; $50 for annual hunting licenses and stamps; $200 for hawk furniture; $200 for a year's supply of hawk food (assuming you quickly catch on to the sport and are able to supplement with hawk-caught game); and $1200 for permanent and traveling hawk facilities. The actual costs may be less, depending on your resourcefulness and ability to scrounge materials and construct your own facilities and equipment. Sooner or later you also will be investing another $600 to $1000 in radio telemetry equipment with which to track down your hawk.
How do I get started? To begin with, you must be at least 14 years of age and score at least 80% on a 100 question multiple-choice test administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). The test covers: the laws and regulations; raptor identification, physiology, behavior, ecology, health care, diseases and facilities; and falconry equipment, terminology and techniques. You should therefore start by studying the regulations and books on raptors and falconry. A list of useful books can be found on the reverse page.
What's next? Join GLFA, befriend licensed falconers and contact IDNR for a falconry license application. Complete the application forms and include plans for your future hawk facilities. On the license application, you will notice a space for "sponsor information". In order for you to complete the application you will need to obtain a sponsor (a currently licensed general or master class falconer) who will take you on as an apprentice and assist you in falconry for at least 2 years. After the sponsor signs and you submit your application, you will need to arrange to take the exam. Once you have passed the exam, you should begin constructing facilities and acquiring equipment in accordance with the standards outlined in the regulations and the recommendations of your sponsor. You must then make an appointment to have your facilities and equipment inspected by IDNR. Providing you pass the inspection and pay your license fee, you will then become an apprentice class falconer and should now apply for a capture permit to trap a raptor of a species allowable by the regulations and your sponsor. After two successful years as an apprentice, you may be on your own as a general class falconer. You may be upgraded to a master class falconer after five years as a general.
Who will be my sponsor? It is not always easy to find a falconer who is willing to take on a virtual stranger as an apprentice. Patience, as in all aspects of falconry, is required. It is suggested you attend GLFA functions and make friends with falconers local enough to your area to allow easy contact. Falconry functions are listed in GLFA's newsletter, which goes out to all club members, and on the website http://www.greatlakesfalconers.org.
How long will all this take? You will not become an apprentice falconer overnight. The length of time depends on your determination, dedication and ability to obtain a sponsor. Expect to spend six months to a year or more studying and preparing the way to your first bird.
Can I get involved with raptors without being a falconer? Absolutely! If you do not have the time, resources or devotion for falconry, you instead might want to join other raptor oriented organizations. You also might consider volunteering at a local wildlife rehabilitation organization or a nature center that handles raptors. Birding organizations will also have some members more keenly interested in hawks and hawk migration.
What does GLFA do? GLFA is a 50 year old hawking club dedicated to the welfare and preservation of raptors and falconry and to the perpetuation and maintenance of high standards in the sport. We are an associate member of the American Falconry Conservancy and the North American Falconers Association who in turn are members of other national and international falconry and wildlife organizations. We are involved in and support public education, research, avian medicine and various conservation programs and issues concerning raptors and wildlife. We also hold hawking outings, game dinners, picnics, meetings and fund raising events. Raffle and extra funds generally are donated to raptor research and conservation projects.
Can I be a GLFA member without being a falconer? Yes. Simply fill out the membership application and mail it in with membership dues. You can also join online by visiting the GLFA website. Unlicensed members are entitled to all club privileges except voting.
Books on Falconry and Raptors:
- The Art and Practice of Hawking, E. B. Mitchell, CT Branford Co., Newton, Mass.
- The California Hawking Club Apprentice Study Guide, F. Holderman, (Privately printed) California Hawking Club, P.O. Box 786, Sacramento, CA 95812.
- Hawks, William S. Clark & Brian K. Wheeler, Peterson Field Guide Series, Houghton Mifflin Co.
- A Hawk for the Bush, Jack Mavrogordato, CW Daniels Co. Ltd., Essex, Eng.
- Life Histories of North American Birds of Prey (Two Volumes), Arthur C. Bent, Dover Publication Inc., New York, NY.
- North American Falconry and Hunting Hawks, Frank L. Beebe and H. Webster, Buy it here.
- Observations on Modern Falconry, R. Stevens, Peregrine Press, College Station, Texas.