Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Name...

So... "What The Hawk?!"

I choose the name of the blog because it's kind of funny, at least to me.  I also chose it because that's the general attitude I run into when I tell people of my interest in becoming a falconer.  Most people either have no idea what it means to be involved in falconry, or they have several misconceptions.  Some of my most favorite things to hear are:

"So... you're just gonna walk around with a bird on your arm?  Like a pirate?"
"Can you train it to get you a beer?"
"What if it pecks your eyes out?"

The list goes on and on... and on...

No, I won't be just 'walking around' with it on my arm like a pirate;  don't pirates carry parrots on their shoulders anyway?  It won't get me a beer, thought I do admit that would be kind of cool... and there's really very little chance that it will peck my eyes out;  raptors don't really peck at food, their beaks are designed for tearing at flesh - and I really don't intend on allowing that to happen to my eyes.

Merriam-Webster defines falconry as:
"1: the art of training hawks to hunt in cooperation with a person
2: the sport of hunting with hawks"

The dictionary tells me that falconry is an art and a sport, and I believe it!  I also tend to believe long-time falconers when they tell me it consumes your life, thus becoming your lifestyle.

So why?  Why do I want to do this?  Why now?

I've been interested in falconry since I read the book My Side Of The Mountain.  It's been a really long time since I read it (about 25 years), but my shoddy memory tells me it's about a boy who runs away from home to live in the woods.  He finds a hollowed out redwood tree, learns to forage for edible plants, teaches himself to fish, and, most importantly, finds a peregrine falcon to hunt with.  The main theme of that book has been in my brain for a long time, especially the part about the falcon.

Believe it or not, I spent a good majority of my time as a child in Michigan playing outside.  I explored the woods behind my grandmothers house any time I could... making forts out of fallen trees and vines, dragging my brother on 'adventures', and pretending I knew something about wild plants.  (Ok 'woods' might be an exaggeration... it was more like a plot of trees in a suburban neighborhood that was actually quite small, but as a child it seemed like a forest to me!)  I never did run into a peregrine falcon, or at least not that I know of, and even if I had there's NO way my mother would have ever let me keep it!!!  I think I once tried to bring home an injured bird and she made me take it back to where I found it... and I don't think I was even the one to find it...

Anyway, fast forward a couple of decades and here we are.  I hadn't forgotten about falconry, but I guess I just assumed that it was an ancient sport no one actually practiced anymore.  Now that people don't 'have' to hunt for food, why would they, and wouldn't using a gun be a more advantageous method if they did?  I don't know exactly what I was watching (probably some cooking show), but I saw a falconer on television, and decided to google falconry.  Google, of course, didn't exist when I was a child or my obsession may have taken off MUCH earlier than now.  Turns out, people do still practice falconry, though it's still not a very large portion of the North American population.

After a little more research, and finding out what it takes to be a falconer, I admit that I was a bit turned off.  You have to pass an exam, build a building to house the hawk (that has to also pass an inspection), find a general or master falconer willing to donate 2 YEARS of their time to sponsor you, get numerous licenses, trap a wild bird, and then the hawk isn't going to even like you?!?!?  ...  and did I mention most of the hunting season is in the winter?  Who likes to be outside in the winter???

That feeling of 'ugh who would do this?' lasted for about 30 seconds.  I realized really quickly that my passion for this art/sport/lifestyle outweighs all of the things that most people would see as big negatives.  Sure it's a lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of effort, and a lot of other things, but everything about it thrills me :)

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