I’m here, now what?
An often overlooked part of the aspiring and new falconers career is once you are in the field what exactly are you supposed to do, what should you wear, should I talk or stay quiet, etc. It’s often an overwhelming experience the first few times trying to absorb the information, terminology, what you should and shouldn’t be doing. Hopefully this page helps you a little bit in being prepared on your first hunts.
We will cover attire, things to bring, places to stand, what you should and shouldn’t do, etc. A lot of this will be picked up on after a few times in the field as well.
What should I wear and bring with?
First and foremost, as with anything in falconry when you are with someone else and their bird always communicate with them. Ask what kind of terrain you will be in, etc. A good example is I often hunt dairy farms for starlings and pigeons and have had people come out in “hiking shoes” and then come to find out they need to cross 6-8″ deep manure. Another fine example is hunting bramble patches you will need some type of abrasion and thorn resistant attire. But don’t worry, at some point you’ll wear something funny and some good natured ribbing will occur, it’s just the nature of falconry. In fact, my first hunt I wore my camo hunting clothes… I still pay for that to this day!
An example list of attire:
- Comfortable shoes fitting for the hunt
- Eye protection
- Brush pants or chaps
- Jeans that can get muddy and bloody
- Stick to beat brush
- Cold weather gear appropriate for the hunt, remember if you’re dirt hawking you’re going to be hiking and pushing and can easily overdress so bring multiples if needed
- Water bottle – an easily forgotten thing you’ll thank me for
- Thick skin..cause the new guys always get a little verbal abuse 😉
If you want to bring a camera make sure you ask for permission first. As surprising as this sounds some birds, especially imprints, do not do well with foreign objects they are not used to in the field.
The first and foremost important rule: Always listen to the falconer. I know this sounds obvious, but if asked to stand somewhere specific just listen and do as requested. Falconers spend a lot of time with their birds and know their behaviors. Often they are trying to set something up, avoid an issue, or just get a worked up bird calmed down.
Other key aspects:
- It’s standard procedure to never stand to the glove hand of the falconer (ie if the bird is on the left hand the falconer will have no one on their left side)
- Most falconers prefer that no one is ever behind the bird if it is flown from the glove (if the falconer is carrying a goshawk or walking a red tail to the field don’t walk behind the falconer unless permitted.) The birds can get nervous in this situation.
- If dirt hawking, get dirty. No one likes the tag along that stands on the side lines and waits to see something happen. If you want to be a falconer you better get used to getting in the thick of it.
- Unless otherwise requested talking and general socialization is part of a hunt, there’s no need to be silent unless the hunt specifics require it and you’re requested to stay quiet for a bit.
- Unless you have direct authority you never approach the bird. Often the falconer will permit you to come in to see after they have secured, dispatched a kill and tethered the bird up. Make sure you have approval before moving in on the bird at any time – Often as you know the falconers and birds an unspoken trust will happen and approach will be permitted
- Don’t be afraid to help, if you see something going on you think you can help out with speak up. Falconers tend to be outspoken and if you don’t get in there and say “Want me to get that for you?” will often miss out on great opportunities to experience it in the fullest.
- Understand ahead of time that a wild animals life may be lost during the hunt. That is the very core of falconry. You may be asked to field gut, dispatch, handle or otherwise assist. Know that if that may be to much for you that falconry may not be a good fit. It is important to respect the quarry, but understand that it is the very act of it’s sacrifice that makes nature tick.
- And the staple, have fun. We take the birds care and life of the quarry seriously, but we are all out to have a good time in the field.
A few last minute notes
Many falconers work very hard to find their fields, or to gain permission to access those fields. Along with common sense things like being polite to land owners, and not littering, it is important to keep in mind that you will need to find your own spots. Falconry is a small community and falconers talk. Marking that falconer’s field with the intent to tell other falconers about it, or to hunt your own bird there without permission is a great way to never get invited out hawking again. Please be polite and respect other people’s hunting fields and the hard work they put in to find those fields.
Also, if some of the information above sounds familiar, it was copied with permission from the Pennsylvania Falconry and Hawk Trust webpage: here.