Falconry is an ancient sport in which a raptor and a falconer work together to hunt small game. It is equal parts hunting and art, and requires a significant commitment of time, money and space. Falconers who choose to make and honor this commitment are rewarded with the thrill of partnership with birds of prey.
Find an experienced falconer willing to take you on as an apprentice. Beginning falconers are required by law to complete a two-year apprenticeship. You may not legally begin training your first raptor unless you are apprenticed to a general class or master class falconer.
Trap your first raptor. Apprentice falconers may trap between Oct. 1 and Jan. 31 and may trap either a red-tailed hawk or an American kestrel.
Man your bird. This means getting your newly captured raptor used to human contact. Offer the raptor lots of high-quality food until it will readily feed from your hand and will fly to your glove to feed. Your raptor should receive food only from your fist.
Train your bird on jump-ups. Use a conditioned reinforcer--something like a click or whistle that tells an animal it has performed the correct behavior and that it will receive a food reward--to reinforce your raptor for jumping from a low perch to your fist. Try to teach your raptor to do at least 100 jump-ups each evening.
Train with a lure. Attach a falconry lure to a rope and swing or drag it until your raptor attacks it. Your raptor should return to your fist with the lure to receive a food reward from you.
Make sure your raptor will come to you from a significant distance before flying free at game. Practice until your raptor will fly to you from a distance of 100 yards without hesitation.
Hunt with your raptor. Travel to an area with abundant small game of a type that your raptor can safely capture. If you have done enough practicing with your lure, your raptor will wait until game is flushed, capture the game and return to your fist for a reward.
- Never handle a raptor without a glove. Never handle a newly trapped raptor until you have covered the trap and hooded the bird. Don't try to take a species other than a red-tailed hawk or an American kestrel as your first bird. Keep raptors away from pets and all other animals except for game encountered while hunting.
- Make use of the knowledge of the falconry community at large by joining online and other groups and clubs for falconers. Spend time with your raptor every day and fly her at least four days per week. Research and understand classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Feed your raptor a varied and healthful diet to improve her performance and disposition. Expose your raptor to a number of people during the manning process. Use telemetry to track your bird while hunting.