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Getting Started in Falconry

March 10, 2013
By Larry Claypool - OVO Editor , Ohio Valley Outdoors

Because falconry has been around for a few years (since 2000 BC) and thousands of people across the globe have studied this craft and legendary sport, it's just not something you sign up for or pay to participate in. It's a long and tough process one must endure to become a 'falconer'.

There's a good reason falconry has always been known as an exclusive venture. Simply, it requires a lot of time and dedication, not to mention a financial commitment for food, shelter, licensing, vet bills, equipment, transportation and more.

Because the rewards - not financial - are great; there are major, constant commitments necessary to own, train and hunt with a wild raptor.

Article Photos

Mick Brown with Zippy, during a recent hunt in Belmont County, OH.

As the Ohio Falconry Association clearly points out on its website, the crucial part of the time needed in falconry is, "the interaction with the bird. These are not exotic pets". Falconers form a close bond with their birds, but the commitment must be constant for the overall well-being of the raptor.

Also, there are a lot of rules and regulations in falconry. There are three classifications of falconers. A new falconer, called an apprentice, must be sponsored by a General or Master falconer. Apprentices must work two years under their sponsor.

As falconry is tightly controlled by state and federal regulations, it assures that only highly motivated and qualified individuals are allowed to possess and train birds of prey. The welfare of both wild raptor populations and hawks in captivity are fundamental concerns. In Ohio, the state requires a falconry permit ($75 fee every three years). The minimum age in Ohio is 16. A federal permit is $100 every three years.

Fact Box

For information about the Ohio Falconry Association, contact them at: Ohio Falconry Association, P.O Box 103, Gail Ave., Bethesda, OH 43719 or email secretary@ohiofalconry.org. Mick Brown can be contacted via email at: mickeyboy9@comcast.net.

Currently there are 75 licensed falconers in Ohio. Mick Brown, president of the Ohio Falconry Association, said the OFA has 45 members, of which 32 are falconers. "Normally you can figure about 50% are practicing falconry," said Brown.

Across the country Brown estimates there are about 3,000 licenses falconers, with maybe half of those actually practicing the sport.

Falconry permits are issued only to those working under the active, recorded sponsorship of a licensed General or Master falconer. Apprentice falconers are beginners working toward General falconer status. General falconers have passed all apprentice qualifications and are authorized to practice falconry using the most common species of hawks. Master falconers have at least five years of falconry experience at the General level, have demonstrated advanced levels of proficiency, and are authorized to use the most demanding species of hawks.

According to the OFA website, "prospective falconers must personally arrange to have a General or Master falconer as his or her apprentice sponsor. Apprentice falconers are not permitted to take the state test, build facilities, or be issued permits without first having the commitment of a sponsor."

Because of the relatively small number of falconers in Ohio, sometimes new apprentices may have to wait months or years for sponsors to become available. Because of the many variables involved in the sponsor/apprentice relationship, sponsors are under no obligation to take on new apprentices.

The OFA also recommends prospective falconers should plan on investing considerable preparation time prior to obtaining a sponsor. "This includes study of books, observation of wild raptors, and accompanying falconers in the field if possible."

And, of course, they recommend prospective falconers become members of OFA.

Early on prospective falconers must take an intensive written test given by the Ohio Division of Wildlife. The test usually takes 1-2 hours to administer and has a $75 fee. It covers all falconry topics; including raptor biology, field identification, natural history, pathology (the prevention and treatment of hawk diseases), falconry history, terms, techniques, and knowledge of raptor protection and falconry laws and regulations. An 80% score is required for passage.

Apprentice falconer Mick Krock, of St. Clairsville, OH, said he was introduced to falconry in college during a seminar. Although he couldn't pursue the sport back then due to lack of time and money, he later sought out a sponsor, which led him to Brown, his current sponsor. With few falconers in Ohio, Krock said he was fortunate that Brown (a master falconry) was available to sponsor him, and live close by. Brown lives in Martins Ferry, OH, about 25 minutes away.

Krock, an Environmental Specialist with the Ohio Department of Transportation, admitted that taking care of his passage red tail hawk, Zuzu, is time-consuming and costly, but he thoroughly enjoys it. "You have to," he says.

Krock said Zuzu is part of his family and that his wife and two young daughters enjoy having the bird around. As the state requires, Krock has a very nice cage area for Zuzu in their back yard.

Brown currently has two apprentices working under his tutelage, which is the maximum allowed. His other apprentice is Rusty Reeves, of Roseville, OH. Reeves also flies with a young red tail hawk, named Athena.

Brown said both Reeves and Krock are doing well working with their respective birds and are dedicated falconers.

For information about the Ohio Falconry Association, contact them at: Ohio Falconry Association, P.O Box 103, Gail Ave., Bethesda, OH 43719 or email secretary@ohiofalconry.org. Mick Brown can be contacted via email at: mickeyboy9@comcast.net.

For detailed information about getting started in falconry in Ohio, visit the OFA website (www.ohiofalconry.org) or contact the Ohio Division of Wildlife, Enforcement Section, 1840 Belcher Dr., Columbus, OH 43224, or call 614-265-6320.

According to OFA, a number of reputable equipment and book suppliers exist and have websites that are helpful. Some of those include: Northwoods Limited (www.northwoodsfalconry.com); Western Sporting Publications (www.westernsporting.com) and Mike's Falconry Supplies (www.mikesfalconry.com).

Information on membership in the North American Falconers Association can be obtained at: www.n-a-f-a.org.

 
 

 

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