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Falconry Signpost: Licensing

September 11th, 2009

Falconry Signpost: Licensing

Falconry is a journey, through many stages, and while I have made several key first steps, at this time during the journey, none is more important than the falconry permit and license.  The apprentice falconer’s permit signifies and documents the official proclamation:  “Licensed Falconer.”  This single goal has had many challenges and hurdles to overcome , and while in a few years, it may seem so far away from where I’ll be in the future.  The significance today is an important one, a personal one, and if nothing else for the sake of achieving a goal that I set out to accomplish only a few short years ago.

For the folks that know me well, I talk about falconry with a passion that I have not known in previous adventures, nor do I realize the extent of my emotions sometimes.  I talk about falconry like it’s a journey because there are many steps, levels, or stages on the road.  I am just at the beginning.  I know of the many challenges and learning opportunities that will face me in the years to come.  I have not undertaken this journey ill-prepared;  I am well aware of the demands, pitfalls, and great satisfaction that Falconry will provide me and my family for many years to come.  Where will this journey take me? I do not know the destination, but I know deep down inside of me that I was meant to do this, it’s in my blood, it is my destiny.

I recently received my Falconry License from the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife and my first trapping permit from the State of Michigan DNR.  I am very excited to have this stage completed, as it is a milestone in this journey:  the day I officially became a Michigan Falconer.  I am honored and privileged to meet the requirements for the license and I was not without help from many individuals who have been watching me progress throughout the past year.  Most importantly, this dream and journey would not be possible without the loving support of my wife.  I am grateful for her support of my falconry efforts and I look forward to many years of family hawking together with the boys as they grow up and learn to appreciate all that nature has to offer.

This is just one part of the dream, achieved.  Now it’s time to enjoy the rest of it!

-Chris

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Falconry Sponsorship for an Apprentice

September 10th, 2009

The Falconry Sponsorship Agreement

In undertaking the care and responsibility for a wild raptor within the sport of falconry, a sponsor is required to assist apprentice falconers in learning the techniques properly. The sponsor, an experienced falconer who has a few years of falconry experience is an essential aspect of the apprenticeship.  Learning falconry by *doing* is part of the apprenticeship experience, however there is no substitute for a personal trainer who can guide you along the way and show you how to avoid the pitfalls.  There are many aspects to falconry practices and techniques that have been passed down from generation to generation and having a sponsor ensures that these methods are used properly.  Mistakes in the learning stages of an apprenticeship can cause injury to your and/or your bird.  You are never too old to have a mentor, skilled in the practices in the art of falconry to be able to teach you something new.  Humble yourself as an inexperienced falconer and learn from your sponsor while you have their attention and commitment.

Finding a sponsor, someone willing to teach you in the ways of falconry should be easy. Depending on where you live, you may require a little bit of  a distance to drive for assistance, but if you have attended a few Club Meets, educational programs, or gone hunting with a local falconer, then you should be able to make a few contacts within the area that could be potential sponsors.  These contacts are important to your falconry journey as you develop and progress and search out new hunting experiences with different raptors and different prey.

I will put a personal experience disclaimer on the idea that finding a falconry sponsor should be easy.  I have read accounts of other folks in other states where the nearest falconer to someone was four hours away.  That’s not what I’d call an accessible sponsor, but certain situations require accommodations.  By putting in a little “face-time” with the local falconry club several months in advance, I was able to get to know many local falconers and develop relationships with folks who could be potential sponsors for when the time came.

The State and from the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife requires that you have a current falconry sponsorship on record. This is an important requirement for you to meet and it should not be undertaken lightly. This agreement is a binding condition upon entering into a falconry apprenticeship for the benefit of your bird’s health and your falconry training experience. Your sponsor is a wealth of experience and knowledge that cannot be transferred by reading from manuals. There is no substitute for an experienced falconer present in your apprenticeship journey. Below is a general agreement. State language and requirements may vary in your state:

Sponsor Agreement

I, [Sponsor] hereby agree to sponsor the individual named below and to abide by the following:

  1. I live within reasonable distance from my apprentice, which facilitates and aids in the below said duties.
  2. I will actively participate in the training of my apprentice to include, but not limited to the capture, manning, training, and hunting of my apprentice’s bird.
  3. I have discussed, with my apprentice, the State and Federal falconry regulations and the proper sponsor/apprentice procedures.
  4. I will write a letter of withdrawal to the DNR, Wildlife Division, Permit Specialist if circumstances arise which prohibit me from furthering my sponsorship requirements.
  5. I will attempt to give reasonable notice to my apprentice, for the purpose of him or her locating another sponsor, if I decide to withdraw.
  6. After 24 months of active participation with a falconry bird, I will assess my apprentice’s falconry skills and either write a letter to the DNR, Wildlife Division, Permit Specialist recommending advancement to the General Falconry Class, or notify my apprentice of his or her weaknesses and what improvements should be made. When such improvements have been made, I will immediately submit a letter to the DNR, Wildlife Division, Permit Specialist recommending the advancement to the class of General Falconer.

Apprentice Agreement

I, [Apprentice] hereby agree to apprentice under the individual named below and to abide by the following:

  1. I will maintain reasonable contact with my sponsor so that he or she may assess the need to be present during the training of my bird to include, but not limited to the equipment and mew, capture, manning, weight control, hunting, and the health an condition of my bird.
  2. I have discussed the State and Federal falconry regulations with my sponsor and understand that before I can become eligible for General Falconry status:
  3. a) I must acquire a freshly trapped regulatory approved raptor from the wild.

    b) I must have a bird for a total of at least 24 months.

    c) Any time without a bird does not count toward the 24 month accrual.

    d) Any time without a sponsor does not count toward the 24 month accrual.

    e) I must participate in the sport of falconry during the 24 month time period.

  4. I understand that I must have a sponsor the entire time I hold an apprentice permit. If, however, my sponsor withdrawals, I will promptly find another sponsor. At not time will I trap a bird without a current Falconry Sponsorship Agreement on file with the DNR, Wildlife Division, Permit Specialist.
  5. After 24 months of apprenticeship and active participation in the sport of falconry, I understand that my sponsor will make an honest and reasonable judgment of my basic falconry skills and either deny or recommend advancement to the clas of General Falconer.

Additional Conditions(Note: The reverse of this document may also be used. Initial all addendums)

______ Initial Here

[Sponsor name & address] [Sponsor Signature] [Falconry Permit # & State] [Date]

Signed: Sponsor Name and Address

[Apprentice Name & Address][Apprentice Signature] [Falconry Permit # & State] [Date]

Signed: Apprentice Name and Address

[concluding thoughts]

Finding a sponsor may be difficult depending upon where you live. I would first check with your local state falconry club or organization; NAFA has some sponsorship resources as well.  I’ve included a generic Falconry Sponsorship Agreement for download below (local State versions may vary).

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Falconry Equipment Inspection Checklist

August 12th, 2009

Preparing for Inspection

One of the most important steps in getting your falconry license is the inspection by the DNR / WFS. You’ll need to have designed and built your mews according to the requirements and ensured that your facilities are raptor-safe. Have your sponsor look over your mews design plans and talk through different ideas for your particular situation. You may find that your sponsor’s experience is very helpful with planning and design concerns. If you have good relations with other falconers, be sure to invite them out and have them take a peek at it also. Some of the little things that are apparent to the experienced eye can help you out later. It’s good to get a third and fourth opinion on some things in order to ensure the best possible housing for your raptor.

Your equipment list by this time should be narrowed down to just a few things left. You’ll need the big items, of course: perch, leashes, jesses, swivels, anklets, water dish/bowl, glove, etc.. It is a good idea to have your sponsor look over your equipment and make sure that everything is well suited for the raptor you expect to capture. One of the items that is NOT required, but is highly recommended is Telemetry. This is a big $$$ investment into your falconry experience, so you should make sure you have a good idea of your expected participation and use of telemetry. Of course, it goes without saying that the minute you don’t have or use telemetry, you’ll need it. Think of telemetry as an insurance policy: Sure, it’s pricy up front, but if you ever lose your bird, or she flies off after a local resident, you’ll be glad you have it.

Attached below is a basic Equipment and facilities inspection checklist / report that you can use to get yourself started on the required items for licensing.  You can also find many other examples online, such as the one supplied by the California Department of Fish and Game. Falconry Inspection Checklist

UPDATE: 08-27-2009

A Michigan DNR Conservation Officer came to inspect my facility and equipment and passed without issue!  One more step closer today along the journey of falconry.

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