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The Apprentice: Season II

October 22nd, 2010

The Apprentice: Season II

With the Hunting season just beginning, and my hunting hawk at weight, I thought I’d put up a post today about an interview I recently did.

What’s this?  Are you critiquing an old TV show?

No, it’s not a re-visitation to Donald Trump’s catty reality show, it’s the start of another hunting season.

Why do you call it “The Apprentice” then?

Well, it’s because I’m still learning about falconry, I’m still an apprentice falconer under the care and supervision of a fine mentor.  A year into it, this weekend marks the start of another hunting season with my Red-Tailed Hawk, Tahoe.  Specifically my SECOND hunting season with a bird of prey, practicing falconry as an apprentice.

Just another hunter out in the woods. What’s the big deal then?

Most poor study apprentices will have weeded themselves out of the sport by now.  If I’ve made it this far and I’m sure as HELL going to finish what I started. This means that I’m half-way to becoming a ‘General Falconer.’  Falconry credentials only get you so far with mainstream folks and other falconers alike, so it’s more of a private big deal than anything else, official or otherwise. It will be a bigger deal when I start my 20th hunting season with a bird.  I’m in this for the long haul.

So, after a year into your sport you should be an expert by now?

Not quite.  Sure;  I’ve read lots of articles, a few books, and do lots of research on the internet for good tid-bits on making your own equipment and training exercises.  I’ve kept my bird in top condition through her first moult, reconditioned my equipment for the hunting season, but these things don’t make me an expert, by any means.  I plan on being a student of falconry for the rest of my life. I can always learn more from other falconers than from just reading books or blogs.

You mean that the Sport of Falconry passed down from generation to generation?

Yes, but not in a literal sense.  Sure you can read all kinds of books and stuff, but to really understand the sport of falconry and hawking, you need to PRACTICE and experience it for yourself.  No book knowledge is going to give you that.  You can only learn by doing, and since there are so many pitfalls and nuances to birds of prey, it helps to be under the guidance, support, and direction of an experienced falconer.  It helps of they are a good teacher as well.

What do you hope to accomplish in your second season?

Well, I have a high commitment level to the sport and to my bird.  I’m always looking to improve myself, my level of skill, and my practice of the sport.  I think the best way to do that is to go out Hawking with other falconers.  Get a wider range of experience and methodology. I hope to get out with more falconers this year and learn how other folks practice the sport a their level.

But doesn’t everyone practice falconry the same way?

No, no they don’t.  It became very clear to me in my studies of falconry that there is a wide range of species to train and use in the sport of falconry.  Each species of raptor requires their own special adaptations of methodologies that work for that species. Sure the ‘basics’ are the same, but that’s where the fun begins;  trying to figure each bird out, what works best for them. What’s more is that each Falconer has their own way of practicing falconry based on their experience. It’s just like I’ve learned in life;  There may be five different ways to do something, with no ONE way being the BEST way. Often times, the best way is the simplest, the one that works for you.  After many hours of research and time spent at the craft bench, improving my craftsmanship of falconry items, I’ve created a few methods that work for me that are different from the mainstream.  Not revolutionary, mind you, just a ‘best’ way that works for me. I’m still trying to perfect six-stranded braided dacron jesses and 4-strand leashes that are sturdy.  You could say I’m a fanatic about the equipment I make.

So, you are really ‘into’ falconry then, is that it?

What do you mean ‘into’?  If you are referring to my passion about falconry, then the answer is ‘YES’.  I typically get eyeballs-deep into everything that I do, especially when I’m passionate about it.  Falconry seems to be one of those things that really captivates me.  When I was a boy, I read bird books and identification taxonomies for fun.  I *liked* the diversity, but the raptors were always my favorite, especially the owls. When I got older, watching nature in its purest form was exciting, taking pictures of animals in their natural habitat, as it was intended. And now, as a falconer, it’s having that bird sit on your fist as comfortable as sitting on a tree branch that really clinches it.  Some falconers get tired of holding their bird after a while, like it’s no big deal anymore.  Well, it’s not that way for me.  Every time I pick up that bird it’s special; it’s a harmonious bond of a falconer and his bird.

Do you do educational programs for people who request them?

Oh sure, and I love to educate other folks on Raptors, Falconry, and the conservation efforts that are supported by the falconry community. There are a few rules surrounding said educational programs, but I always do them with my sponsor.  Mostly, the best place to catch Michigan Falconers is at public outdoor venues such as OutdooRama, Woods-n-Water, CraneFest, and of course Hawkfest.

What about Hunting Season? Hows that going so far?

Well, the season has started pretty slow. You need to manage the Hawk’s weight so that it’s ready to hunt.  It’s not a one-day thing, or even a one-week thing.  You have to drop slowly and figure out where the response factor turns on. Plus, it’s been warm in October, and it’s really difficult to do much with the leaves on the trees. The falconer can’t see the hawk.  The hawk has trouble seeing the game, and the brush hasn’t been knocked down by the snow yet.  The Snow helps track game; see where it is, or has been.  We’ve been out a handful of times so far with no success, but success can be measured in many ways. It’s a big success to me just to get out in the field and get that Hawk back in the box at the end of the hunt.

Thank you very much for your insightful thoughts on your second year of Falconry.  I’m sure that Tahoe will do very well this year!

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