Under the Florida Falconer Regulations for Apprentice:
1. Permittee shall be at least 14 years old. A parent or legal guardian must sign the application of any applicant under 18 years of age and will be held legally responsible for the permittee’s activities.
2. Permittee shall be sponsored by a holder of a valid General or Master falconry permit for the first two years in which an Apprentice falconry permit is held. A letter must be provided, at the time of application from a Master or General falconer with a valid Florida falconry permit who has at least two years of experience at the General falconry level, stating that he or she will assist you, as necessary, in:
a. Learning about the husbandry and training of raptors held for falconry, and
b. Learning about relevant wildlife laws and regulations, and
c. Deciding what species of raptor is appropriate for you to possess while an Apprentice.
3. A sponsor may not have more than three apprentices at any one time.
4. Permittee may take and possess one wild-caught red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus), broad-winged hawk (Buteo platypterus), or Merlin (Falco columbarius).
5. Permittee may not obtain more than one raptor for replacement during any 12-month period.
6. Permittee may fly any captive bred raptor possessed by a General or Master falconer in the presence of the General or Master falconer.
Am I ready to apprentice?
There are some important questions you should ask yourself along the way.
- Are you at least 14 years old? If you are under 18 are you able to transport you and your bird to and from hunting fields? Are your parents willing to be apart of this sport as much as you are, until you have your driver’s license and your own car?
- Are you an outdoors person? Falcon involves spending a lot of time outside, sometimes most of the day, in all sorts of weather. Are you able to handle wading through briars when its 85 degrees out? Are you a hunter? If not, are you willing to learn a hunting sport? Are you okay with the sight of gore, and dispatching prey?
- Do you have the time for falconry? While there are many schools of thought on this, I’ve found falconry takes as little as 30 min a day, up to a full 8-10 hour day depending on the bird, hunting, quarry, driving to fields, etc. Are you able to invest all of your free time during the hunting season to hunt your bird? Are you willing to revolve around your bird’s schedule, not yours?
- Are you willing to care for and train an animal that is mostly detached from you? Raptors are not dogs. The relationship with them is built off of trust, not a willingness to please.
- Are you ok with attracting a lot of attention? Falconry is very cool to people, and you will often have to field questions and ward off nosy people while you’re trying to train your bird, or even when dispatching a kill. Are you able to put on your best PR face and be polite but stand your ground for your bird if your bird is uncomfortable around strangers? Are you able to deal with people who may react to falconry with anger?
- Money. A lot of things in falconry can be made for cheaper than you could purchase them, but this is a lifestyle that can be costly. It’s hard to estimate costs, but starting out you can easily expect to spend around $1000-1500 on equipment, housing and food. Equipment will need to be replaced as it is worn down, and you will likely need to keep a supply of hawk food in your freezer for the days when you come home empty handed.
How to become an apprentice?
Becoming a falconer apprentice is a big step, and a lot of work. First you need to study for, and take the state falconry exam, which must be passed with an 80% or higher. After that you must find a sponsor. Then you must pass an equipment and facility inspection. Once that is done, you will start your two year journey as an apprentice falconer.
You can find more information in the other links on how to get started, study for the test, find a sponsor, and what you need for inspection.