How-To: Become a Falconer

How-To:  Become a Falconer

I don’t have a better place to put this page right now, even though this isn’t a page on how to make a piece of equipment, this is still a very important process to become a falconer  that I decided that it needed it’s own page and remain a fixture for those of you who wish to know about what it takes to become a falconer.  Falconry is the most highly regulated sport in the United States, so do not expect that these steps can take a short time.  You should anticipate about one to two years from start to finish.  However, if your heart is in the right place, it is a journey of falconry, not a destination, or a title.  It is an experience and a commitment.

The Desire

So you think you have what it takes to become a falconer?  You love raptors and are captivated by their awesome talons and wingspan.  You enjoy the outdoors and you think you can handle another way to experience it.  You love animals and are ready to change your lifestyle to enjoy  hunting with birds of prey and all their demanding needs and requirements.  Well, as long as your desire is strong, and your comittment level high, there is no time like the present to get started.  Here is an outline of the steps:

The Process

1. Contact the Michigan Hawking Club for a falconry packet – READ thoroughly

– You’ll need to send an email to the Public Relations Coordinator in order to get the packet of materials.  A nice packet of information to get you started, contact information, and additional articles that you’ll need to read and consider before undertaking falconry. Alternatively, you can view the public forums on the MHC Website for much of this information.

2. Join the Michigan Hawking Club (recommended, but not required).

– The sooner you start getting your name and face in front of folks in the club, the easier it will be to find  a sponsor when the time comes.   Go take part in the educational expo’s that the club puts on.  Take pictures, talk to folks.

3. Contact DNR to take the Falconry test.

– You’ll need to follow the suggested reading list included in the informational packet from the Club.  What the books lack, the online sample tests more than make up for.  The test is about 100 questions long, and you need to pass with a score of 80% or better.
If you do not pass on the first try, you can take the test again after a 90 day waiting period.  By this time, you’ll have a better idea about what you need to study and brush up on.  Passing this test goes a long way towards gaining credibility in the falconry world, as a message that says you are serious about your consideration of falconry and general knowledge.

4. Hunter’s Safety Certificate and Small Game License

– Contact the DNR for a Hunters Safety Course in your area.  Some can be completed in as little as two weeks, or others may stretch out into 4-6 week courses.  Also, the time of year also affects whether a course is available in your area. The hunter’s safety certificate allows you to purchase a Small Game Hunting license, required for hunting rabbits and squirrels.  OutDoor World and Cabela’s often sponsor hunters safety courses as well.

5. Build Mews and gather equipment.

– This stage is going to take you a lot longer that you think.  It’s not just a matter of making a list and going shopping.  There are many things that you can make yourself, and there are other things that you are just going to have to save up for (telemetry is a good example). Still, some things you may have to wait for, search out a good deal, or work to scrape them together. You’ll need the time to practice your crafts, and perfect your equipment crafting skills so that when it comes time for you to use your newly created stuff, you’ll have confidence in your craftsmanship.  Have your sponsor or other falconers inspect your craftsmanship.  Accept feedback in a positive manner and act on it. There is no substitute for shortcuts or poor craftsmanship with falconry equipment. One bad piece of equipment can injure your bird, injure you, or worse, allow your bird to escape or die.  Depending on your land / acreage situation, you may need to accommodate your mews in a special manner, or adapt it to subdivision or association rules.  Call your local township for rules governing outbuildings in your local neighborhood in order to ensure compliance to neighborhood and township rules. Once you have your plans, make sure you discuss and review them with your sponsor.  Again, another expert level of experience can identify little things that are really important in the welfare of your raptor housing.

6. Find a falconry sponsor, sign sponsor agreement.

– This may sound like a difficult obstacle to overcome, however if you play your cards right, talk to different folks at your local falconry club, then finding a sponsor shouldn’t be an issue at all. The idea is to find someone who lives close to you to aid the beginning falconer, and that has a personality agreeable to yours. Go out hunting with them a few times.  Offer to help with the brush-beating.  Bring some sample falconry crafts with you and get some opinions. When all is said and done, the sponsor is a big influence in the Do’s and Don’ts of falconry, so follow their advice at all times.

7. Contact DNR to schedule Facilities and Equipment inspection.

– From the packet of falconry information, you should be able to find contact information for the DNR Wildlife Permit Specialist.  They specialize in permits for the falconry community and enjoy helping out falconers whenever possible.  The Permit Specialist will assist your request for Equipment and facilities inspection.  Make sure to provide at least 4 weeks of lead time before the permit specialist can get a Conservation Officer out to your facility to inspect your equipment. It is also suggested that if you are interested in trapping for the fall of  *this* year, that you should begin requesting your inspection no later than July.  Once the fall hunting season comes around, the Conservation officers who inspect your mews get very busy. The State has limited resources available, and there are always important things for a C.O. to be doing.  Falconry inspections fall a little lower on the priority list. Make sure you are courteous and friendly to your local neighborhood C.O..  You never know when you just might need a friend like that.

8. Wait

9. File federal falconry permit application, sponsor agreement, application fee, and inspection report with DNR.

– Once you have all your paperwork together, signed, filled out, and your check written, you can mail it in to the DNR Permit Specialist.  You’ll need to have an extra dose of patience now, as it might take a few weeks to get the permits and licenses back from the DNR and the USFWS. Hopefully you are taking care of this well before the trapping season starts so that the waiting won’t seem so urgent.

11. Wait some more

12. Obtain permit in mail, celebrate!  You are now a Licensed Falconer!

– Usually the first thing to come back from the DNR will be the Trapping Permit.  This packet contains a dated raptor capture permit good for *this* season only, and includes some additional legal language from your local State falconry guidelines. You’ll need to save this paperwork, and have your trapping permit with you *at all times* when you are trapping hawks.  Also, the DNR provides you with the proper federal form [3-186a Raptor Capture Report] Another week or three goes by and the USFWS finally sends you your falconry license.  Hooray! You are now a licensed falconer in your State.

13. Go Trapping with your sponsor and trap your first bird!

– One of the responsibilities of the falconry sponsor includes assisting with the trapping of the apprentices’ first raptor. I highly suggest that you take their advice and go trapping with your sponsor or another falconer with trapping experience. There can be a few hazards, techniques, and advice that you can pick up fairly quickly without having to go through all the trial-and-error by yourself.  It is also recommended that if your club participates in bird banding or raptor trapping activities, say around migration time, it would be a good idea to volunteer to help out the bird banding efforts and learn some trapping skills too.

* Special Note: This outline of steps was created by going through the falconry license process in the State of Michigan.  Steps, fees, documentation, or other  procedures may vary in your State.  Check with your local falconry club and/or DNR for details and / or specifics.

Best of luck and enjoy your journey into Falconry!

-Chris

Steps to Becoming a Michigan Falconer / Hawker1. Contact the MHC for a falconry packet – READ thuroughly
– You’ll need to send an email to the Public Relations Coordinator in order to get the packet of materials.  A nice packet of information to get you started, contact information, and additional articles that you’ll need to read and consider before undertaking falconry.

2. Join the Michigan Hawking Club (recommended, but not required).
– The sooner you start getting your name and face in front of folks in the club, the easier it will be to find  a sponsor when the time comes.   Go take part in the educational expo’s that the club puts on.  Take pictures, talk to folks.

3. Contact DNR to take the Falconry test.
– You’ll need to follow the suggested reading list included in the informational packet from the Club.  What the books lack, the online sample tests more than make up for.  The test is about 100 questions long, and you need to pass with a score of %80 or better.
If you do not pass on the first try, you can take the test again after a 90 day waiting period.  By this time, you’ll have a better idea about what you need to study and brush up on.  Passing this test goes a long way towards gaining credibility in the falconry world, as a message that says you are serious about your consideration of falconry and general knowlege.

4. Hunter’s Safety Certificate and Small Game License
– Contact the DNR for a Hunters Safety Course in your area.  Some can be completed in as little as two weeks, or others may stretch out into 4-6 week courses.  Also, the time of year also affects wether a course is available in your area. The hunter’s safety certificate allows you to purchase a Small Game Hunting license, required for hunting rabbits and squirrels.  OutDoor World and Cabela’s often sponsor hunters safety courses as well.

6. Build Mews and gather equipment.
– This stage is going to take you a lot longer that you think.  It’s not just a matter of making a list and going shopping.  There are many things that you can make yourself, and there are other things that you are just going to have to save up for (telemetry is a good example). Still, some things you may have to wait for, search out a good deal, or work to scrape them together. You’ll need the time to practice your crafts, and perfect your equipment crafting skills so that when it comes time for you to use your newly created stuff, you’ll have confidence in your craftsmanship.  Have your sponsor or other falconers inspect your craftsmanship.  Accept feedback in a positive manner and act on it. There is no subsitute for shortcuts or poor craftsmanship with falconry equipment. One bad piece of equipment can injure your bird, injure you, or worse, allow your bird to escape or die.  Depending on your land / acreage situation, you may need to acccomodate your mews in a special manner, or adapt it to subdivision or association rules.  Call your local township for rules governing outbuildings in your local neighborhood in order to ensure compliance to neighborhood and townshiup rules. Once you have your plans, make sure you discuss and review them with your sponsor.  Again, another expert level

7. Find a falconry sponsor, sign sponsor agreement.
– This may sound like a difficult obstacle to overcome, however if you play your cards right, talk to different folks your local falconry club, then finding a sponsor shouldn’t be an issue at all. The idea is to find someone who lives close to you to aid the beginning falconer, and that has a personality agreeable to yours. Go out hunting with them a few times.  Offer to help with the brush-beating.  Bring some sample falconry crafts with you and get some opinions. When all is said and done, the sponsor is a big influence in the Do’s and Don’ts of falconry, so follow their advice at all times.

8. Contact DNR to schedule Facilities and Equipment inspection.
– From the packet of falconry information, you should be able to find contact information for the DNR Wildlife Permit Specialist.  They specialize in permits for the falconry community and enjoy helping out falconers whenever possible.  The Permit Specialist will assist your request for Equipment and facilities inspection.  Make sure to provide at least 4 weeks of lead time before the permit specialist can get a Conservation Officer out to your facility to inspect your equipment. The State has limited resources available, and there are always important things for a C.O. to be doing.  Falconry inspections fall a little lower on the priority list. Make sure you are courteous and friendly to your local neighborhood C.O..  You never know when you just might need a friend like that.

9. Wait
10. File federal falconry permit application, sponsor agreement, application fee, and inspection report with DNR.
– Once you have all your paperwork together, signed, filled out, and your check written, you can mail it in to the DNR Permit Specialist.  You’ll need to have an extra dose of patience now, as it might take a few weeks to get the permits and licenses back from the DNR and the USFWS. Hopefully you are taking care of this well before the trapping season starts so that the waiting won’t seem so urgent.

11. Wait some more
12. Obtain permit in mail, celebrate!  You are now a Licensed Falconer!
– Usually the first thing to come back from the DNR will be the Trapping Permit.  This packet contains a dated raptor capture permit good for *this* season only, and includes some additional leagal language from your local State falconry guidelines. You’ll need to save this paperwork, and have your trapping permit with you *at all times* when you are trapping hawks.  Also, the DNR provides you with the proper federal form [3-186a Raptor Capture Report] Another week or three goes by and the USFWS finally sends you your falconry license.  Hooray! You are now a licensed falconer in your State.

13. Go Trapping with your sponsor and trap your first bird!
– One of the responsibilities of the falconry sponsor includes assisting with the trapping of the apprentices’ first raptor. I highly suggest that you take their advice and go trapping with your sponsor or another falconer with trapping experience. There can be a few hazards, techniques, and advice that you can pick up fairly quickly without having to go through all the trial-and-error by yourself.  It is also recommended that if your club participates in bird banding or raptor trapping activities, say around migration time, it would be a good idea to volunteer to help out the bird banding efforts and learn some trapping skills too.

* Special Note:  This outline of steps was created by going through the falconry license process in the State of Michigan.  Steps, fees, documentation, or other  procedures may vary in your State.  Check with your local falconry club and/or DNR for details and / or specifics.

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