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Posts Tagged ‘philosophy’

Another Quote

April 1st, 2011

Falconry…the sport of throwing pointy, angry feathered things at small animals for fun.

Best Falconry “Oops” lines heard out in the field.  Insert your own @#&*?! explicatives where applicable.

  • I forgot my Falconry glove.
  • I forgot the transmitter / receiver / telemetry.
  • I forgot to turn the transmitter ON!
  • I forgot the lure.
  • She’s never done that before.!?!

 

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Quote of the Day

March 28th, 2011

Falconry is not a hobby or an amusement: it is a rage. You eat it and drink it, sleep it and think it. You tremble to write of it, even in recollection. It is, as King James the First remarked, an extreme stirrer of passions.”

T.H. White


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Head Count or Outdoor Adventures?

February 26th, 2010

Head Count or Outdoor Adventures?

The hunting season for eastern cottontail rabbits is coming to an end soon, and so will hunting together outdoors with Tahoe.  I’ll get to experience the molt for the summer and watch my raptor transform her feathers into the beautiful adult plumage that red-tails are famous for.  I was chatting with a friend of mine about my hunting adventures and my success rate as a first time apprentice with a first year bird. Our conversation turned to head count and various ways of measuring success.  Head count is one way of measuring success if you are into keeping score.  There are also various levels upon which to achieve success and be excited about hunting and raptor performance.  Did your bird end up back on your fist at the end of the hunt? If so, you should count your lucky stars and call it a good day. Does she follow you across the field and position herself in a tree in anticipation of flushing game? If your bird caught two mice and missed one rabbit, is that a good day? Or do you lament the fact that your bird missed the ‘big prize’?   Game is game, and I’m pretty sure that the hawk enjoys catching her own snack out in the woods on a hunt, regardless of it being a mouse, vole, squirrel, or rabbit.

People who tend to find themselves on the opposing viewpoint of hunting and outdoor adventures usually don’t understand why people persue outdoor recreational activities. People don’t go fishing to catch fish. If sportsmen were in it only for filling their creel pouches, they’d call it ‘catching’ instead of fishing.  Going out Hunting and practicing Falconry with Tahoe are ways to get closer to witnessing the natural predator-prey relationship in nature and experiencing the outdoors.  I don’t do it for the sole purpose of killing rabbits or catching as many squirrels as I can chase around the woods.  It’s about the being in the outdoors and enjoying the fresh air, the wind, the sunlight, the trees, the forest, and all the little things that nature has to offer that you can’t see any other way.

So with the hunting adventures for this season winding down, I’m certainly not looking forward to hanging up the wetland boots and falconer’s gauntlet until next October.  As a first year apprentice, I *am* thankful that I have learned invaluable knowledge in my first year, and have a good game hawk that can only improve as the years continue to keep us together. I have also enjoyed many walks through the wilderness this winter, even if it is just a few miles from the house and I have a fantastic hunting partner who flies through the trees while I walk in the woods.

What do you think?  Please leave your comments!

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The Falncory Journey

September 15th, 2009

My Long Road to Falconry

The road to becoming a licensed falconer is a long one, indeed, covering many years of interest, research, training, and field lessons.  It is not something that someone just wakes up one day and decides to do.  It takes a deep level of commitment to the bird, the sport, and the care-taking of a wild animal of such beauty in order to undertake the falconry lifestyle. My long road to falconry began when I was 8 years old.  For those folks who know me, they might be thinking, “Really, that long?” surprised that such a high level of interest has only appeared in the last two years, but the answer is “Yes, that long.”  Let me tell you where my fascination with raptors began and explain the long journey that took 30 years to start.

When I was eight years old, my family traveled to northern Michigan on the weekends for camping, trips to the cottage, and hunting expeditions.  As a local Michigan phenomenon, this is “Going Up North” for the weekend, and I-75 gets it’s share of weekend warrior traffic on Sunday afternoons from folks returning home from the weekend.  We did this often and the family cabin was a small place that was not much more than a small kitchen with a bedroom on it.  There was not much to do, other than the outdoor adventures and activities which we traveled so far to enjoy without the constant daily pressure of suburban life.  There were books on the shelf, some old editions of reader’s digest, and some bird books.  These were great, full-color photo bird books from the Audobon Society that my grandfather had for many years, and they were just the thing for a young, wildlife enthusiast to read while passing the time.  On the cover of the first volume, there was a Cooper’s Hawk chasing down a robin for a meal.  I was always fascinated with this pictorial of the predator-prey relationship and here it was in full color. I could only *hope* to witness this activity in the woods someday and it always kept me interested on hikes, waiting to see what we could see in the wilderness. The raptors had captivated me and I longed to learn more and be a witness to their natural history.

When I was ten years old, our family took a trip to out west, traveling by van and camper on the back roads, through the mountains all the way to the coast of Oregon. We would camp along the way, making stops at scenic spots such as Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone National Park, Dinosaur National Monument, and Crater Lake National Park.  This was a trip I would treasure for years, and I still long to go back and see some of the same things, with a renewed sense of appreciation for the natural beauty of our great country.  With many long hours of traveling in the car between states and stops, there was much time to pass.  Sure, you can pass the time with a Rubick’s Cube, or scribbles in a Mad-Libs book, but I found fascination with reading Bird Books. Traveling out west, you could see many types of birds that Michigan didn’t have, and the diversity of birds *fascinated* me. So it was a personal challenge to find and identify as many different types of birds as possible. I read the bird books, I watched out the window as we passed by mile-after-mile of scenic countryside, looking for new birds to identify.  The raptors remained elusive, always staying out of common viewing areas.

When I was twelve years old, I started learning about migrations and bird populations that were local.  Within a two-hours drive, Point Peelee National Park in Ontario, Canada is a treasure for bird-watchers who seek to watch multiple species of warblers and other passerines.  My father and I would continue this tradition for many springs to come, always increasing our life-list of birds with each year.  If you were were an avid bird watcher, and paying special attention to the off-the-beaten-path areas of the park, it was a great achievement to view over one hundred different species of birds in a single day! I carried my National Geographic “Birds of North America” guide everywhere we went.  I read about birds at school during quiet time while others were reading Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. I perused the pages and noted field marks, common ranges, and read the descriptions over and over in order to commit as much to memory as I could. Yet, the raptors still called to me, each time as we drove down the highway, always counting the red-tailed hawks watching for prey, perched on expressway billboards.

When I was in high school, I wanted to fly. I became consumed with flying and studying things that flew through the air. I wanted to do anything and everything that was connected to flying:  Air shows at Selfridge ANG, model jet-fighters, kites, and rockets. I did a lot of hobby work in a small workshop basement gluing GIJOE guys to rockets and parachutes and then sending them into flight.  I started identifying aircraft that flew over the house, and started dreaming that I wanted to be a pilot.  Not just any pilot: A top-gun, air-force academy fighter pilot!  I dreamed big and soon did everything I could to figure out what I needed to do to become an air-force fighter pilot.  Some dreams come, and some dreams go…. and this one faded away quickly, as research revealed health requirements that I could not overcome. The dream would have to give way to a reality that I had to accept as is, unable to change my genes. So it was, that my love for the outdoors and woods became a focus, enjoying nature walks through the woods, hunting expeditions, and of course, fishing. I still kept that bird book close, and brushed up whenever a new bird caught my eye.  The raptors now whispered to me, although the sound was quiet, I still listened when the moments were presented to me.

I decided that the outdoors would be my passion, going to the Michigan State University for Fisheries and Wildlife studies.  Most of the graduates out of this program became Park Rangers, Conservation Officers, or Wildlife Biologists. I joined a university club for the program, learning as much as I could through partners and internships with University Affiliates. One affiliate, the Michigan United Conservation Club was a great experience that provided an “a-Ha” moment in my quest and love for raptors.  Our club participated in with the M.U.C.C was helping them with their “Birds of Prey” exhibit. They needed speakers to talk to folks at the booth about the raptors on display and I volunteered to be a speaker and the chance to work with raptors.  The OutdoorRama that they have every year has become a great exposition of outdoors and wildlife exhibits.  This was my first introduction to raptors in a up-close and personal way.  I fell in love with feathers and talons that day! The raptors were speaking to me again, if only a little louder this time.

Another dream of becoming a Park Ranger or Wildlife Biologist gave way to reality, as the jobs with the National Park Service were far and few between, scattered across the country, and the pay scale was dismal for a first year gradutate. Raptors would have to wait for another time, a time where the vision was clearer, the time was available, and my life a little more stable. Fifteen years would pass before the raptors spoke to me again in a way that made sense.

A good weekend doesn’t pass without a lot of activity, games, fun and adventure.  I try to take time out on Sunday nights to relax, enjoy a little educational television, and watch “Nature” on the PBS station on Sunday Nights.  In February of 2007, Nature was on with an episode titled: “Raptor Force.”  I settled in to watch it.  I was not disappointed.  I was watching a combination of technical gadgetry applied to the ancient sport of falconry! A group of falconers were doing research on hawks and falcons, learning how they navigate during ‘stoops’.  The challenge to these falconers was putting miniature cameras and radios on falcons and hawks in order to record the raptor’s perspective on video. Getting the weight down to a manageable level for the birds was a challenge, but once they figured it out, the pictures and movies they recorded were terrific! What an exciting concept from the technical side of things, as I am deeply involved with technology as a profession and a hobby interest.  But then it had occurred to me: I could do this! Well, perhaps not the camera/technology part, but I could learn how to fly raptors like those guys. I could become a falconer!  The raptors were calling loud and clear, and the voices were profound and articulate!

A little research on the internet proved to be highly fruitful, as there was a falconry club in Michigan, and they had regular club events where people could learn about and see raptors. I was lured back to the M.U.C.C. OutdoorRama, now hosted at the RockFinancial Showplace in Novi, at a time when it was close to my workplace. The Michigan Hawking Club had a booth at OutdoorRama, and I waited a few weeks until the show was on. I showed up after work on a Thursday, all excited to submit my membership application at the booth. With my interest level so high, I probably seemed overly eager to learn and participate with the club.  I met some nice folks and talked to them excitedly about falconry, learned a little about their birds, and was able to get up close and personal with raptors. Little did I know at the time, that one of the club members in the booth that night, Sue, would later become my sponsor and provide me with the special instructions and guidance on the path to becoming an apprentice falconer.  “Uh-Hooo!” said Bigfoot, the Eurasian Eagle-Owl, now sitting on my arm as comfortable as he was sitting on his perch. I looked at him with increasing trepidation, as never before had I seen a raptor this big, this close, let alone have him sit on my arm talking to me. This raptor was literally speaking directly to me, calling me to the exciting sport of falconry.  I was instantly hooked on falconry from that moment on and I vowed to become a falconer/hawker.

To some folks, my pursuit of falconry may seem to be a detour, a pursuit of folly; To me, it is just a manifestation of a dream long in the making, dating back to the days of my childhood aspirations of learning about birds.  It is a dream that took many years to come to understand, to find what it was that my heart desired, what my true passion is: to gain a unique and personal understanding of a wild animal in the natural world;  a way to participate in the predator-prey relationship with raptors that I highly respect and admire;  an intimate way of getting close to the natural world of animals that I have longed to be close to since the early days of my youth; it is all of these things and more. The journey thus far has been an exciting one, there are many roads ahead of me, and the journey is certain to be an educational one! I look forward to the next lesson that falconry has to teach me.  I do not know where this road will take me, but I know I’ll enjoy every minute of it!

“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.”  – Greg Anderson

-Chris

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