Introduction to Falconry

Learn more about this ancient type of hunting from master falconers.

| March 27, 2009

Harris Hawk Falconry

The Harris Hawk is just one of many amazing raptors a falconer could raise and train. Falconry is a rewarding, but very demanding activity. Recent changes to the sport's regulations by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service may make it easier for new falconers to take up this ancient and fascinating sport.


Falconry — for those who participate in this ancient form of hunting, it’s not just a hobby or sport: It’s a lifestyle. Patience, dedication and trust are musts in falconry, just like most other sports. But knowledge of husbandry, cliff-climbing and, most importantly, time are some of many additional requirements for this type of hunting.

A falconer trains a bird of prey to fly off, hunt, come back with food and surrender its short-lived freedom. Falconry started as far back as 2,205 B.C. in China as a way of acquiring food. Today, it is the most regulated sport in America and the only one that employs a wild animal. Many hours of a falconer’s day are devoted to training and bonding with the hawk. A falconry apprenticeship alone takes at least two years, and to become a Master falconer requires seven years of training.

To put it modestly, it’s not exactly ping pong.

On Oct. 8, 2008 though, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service eased the regulation of falconry. They made a lot of changes to the regulations of the sport, one of which allows master falconers to possess up to five wild hawks when before they could only own three. In addition, paper records of the acquisition, transfer or loss of hawks will be replaced by electronic ones to save time and money. And these are just a few of the new regulations that went into affect Nov. 7, 2008. Another change they made no longer requires falconers to have a federal permit. Instead, falconry regulations will be made under state, tribal or territorial laws as of Jan. 1, 2014, when the federal permit program will end.

MOTHER EARTH NEWS recently spoke with master falconers Glenn Stewart and Tom Schultz to discuss the new regulations and learn more about the complexities of this unique sport.

Glenn Stewart, Director for the California Hawking Club

How did you become interested in falconry? 

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