Scott Dinger's young tiercel enjoys a pigeon meal.

Falconry – the Rigors and Rewards

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Scott’s Scoop – Column by Scott Dinger

Falconry is defined as using birds of prey to pursue game. Basically, instead of a firearm, bow, slingshot, or dog, I use a bird of prey. I have been involved in falconry for over two decades. I have flown eagles, falcons, and hawks to hunt turkeys, waterfowl, and upland birds, as well as hares, rabbits, and squirrels. I find spending time with birds of prey in pursuit of game to be the hunting sport that has provided me with the most challenging experiences of my almost 50 years in the field hunting all over the United States.

Falconry is demanding in many ways. Becoming a permitted falconer requires more time and dedication than any other hunting pursuit. The government requires additional testing and permitting over and above typical hunting pursuits. A proficiency exam that tests a persons book smarts, then the requisite inspection of your personal property by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to ensure that the falconer has all the tools and other furnishings to manage and keep a bird of prey for falconry. Additionally, the falconer must find a sponsor. A sponsor is someone already a general or master permitted falconer that is willing to devote the time and effort to teach the apprentice falconer. This devotion is a minimum two-year commitment between sponsor and student. This sponsorship includes helping the student determine what hawk best suits their intended quarry and is based on where they live, available game, and the time they have to put into hunting with a raptor.  

Falconry requires a great amount of time just to get the permit and before ever even having possession of a bird. A suitable chamber to safely house a raptor in captivity and the furnishings used on and for the bird to hunt will quickly add up to a large sum of money. Now, factor in having to care for the bird each day – every single day. This includes keeping the bird at a healthy level of fitness and in a clean environment to reduce the risk of injury and illness in captivity. It’s currently estimated that there are less than 5000 falconers in the USA. Due to the time and costs associated with falconry, very few of the 5000 are hunting actively or in actual possession of a raptor from season to season.

Kaislee handles Maga, Dinger’s one-year-old falcon, under the close supervision of her grandfather.

Teaching people about birds of prey and having the opportunity to mentor aspiring falconers is also a rewarding experience. Lately, I’ve been enjoying spending time with a young tiercel (tiercel is a term meaning a male bird of prey) and including my 8-year-old granddaughter. She has been getting the experience of handling the birds I manage. Although Idaho law does not allow her to become an apprentice until she is 12, she seems to be interested in all things our Creator made for us, especially animals. She helps me with this falcon by assisting with training flights and feeding the raptor on the glove. I have had several apprentice falconers; all but a few have gone on to continue the sport of falconry. I anticipate my granddaughter will continue to show interest and try managing her own bird of prey when she is old enough.

Falconry is for anyone with an interest. It is rigorous in some of the husbandry requirements, but the time spent alongside a raptor and in pursuit of taking game is impossible to describe. I think back to the first time I saw a falcon stoop from the heavens and take game when handled by human effort as one of the most profound moments in my life. Years later, I am still in awe watching these creatures work and how we have learned to work with them for many, many years. The history in falconry is rich. It is even considered a world heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Falconry, in some form or another, has been practiced by people on every continent since recorded time.  

If you are interested in learning more you can contact the Idaho Department of Fish and Game or research falconry apprenticeships online.  You can also reach out to me if you live in North Idaho.