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Falconry. Anybody here a falconer or an austringer? How much training daily until a raptor is ready to hunt? How time consuming

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  • Falconry. Anybody here a falconer or an austringer? How much training daily until a raptor is ready to hunt? How time consuming

    Falconry. Anybody here a falconer or an austringer? How much training daily until a raptor is ready to hunt? How time consuming is the care of a raptor?

  • #2
    Training raptors is one of the most interesting things you can do. I trained and hunted with 2 giant red-tailed hawks for about 4 years. I guided the International Falconry Association's American field competition for quail and pheasant hunting in South Dakota. This largest of the international meets was composed of the best falcons and hawks in the world.

    Most of the Arab sheiks in the competition spent around $15,000,000 per falcon annually on acquisition of the bird, training teams and transportation of the entourage to world meets (and of course that included flying at least one Rolls Royce with handlers for each bird). They are on the high end of what is required! I'd love to write a book about that experience but suffice it to say, you can make a better hunter with no money at all if you are willing to work at it!

    I spent about 1-2 hours training time per day on average with some partial to full days whenever I had the time in addition to hunting practice and field work. Raptors have a brain about the size of a pea and they are one of the most difficult animals (birds) to train that exist.

    They have to be trained by conditioned response using food as a reward for appropriate behavior. It takes literally hundreds of repetitions for each behavior you train. You need to train in about 20 behaviors before attempting to hunt. There is a limit to how much you can teach in one session because once the bird gets full of treats, they completely fail to respond and you must end the session. You will go for weeks where they have no recollection of what they learned yesterday.

    If you intend to hunt successfully with them, you should expect about a year of training and two to three years will be better. You need to learn to climb and lose any fear you might have of heights because retrieving sulking birds is one of the most common trainer behaviors. And I'm talking getting up to those little tiny limbs in the very top of the tallest trees in your area.

    Falcons are beautiful birds and training them is considered a high art form. But for successfully hunting rabbits, pheasants and quail they can't touch a red-tailed hawk in results. The problem is, falcons will only attack flying game and real wild game won't fly when a falcon is aloft. You carry hawks on your arm where the game can't see them until it is too late. Hawks are scrappers that will dive down into dens, tear through thickets or pull a squirrel out of a hole in atree and they fight until they get their target (regardless of how many feathers get bent in the process). Falcons, on the other hand, will never risk bending a feather.

    After days of hunting, I rarely saw any of the top twenty falcons in the world get a bird because their owners refused to take the bells off of their jesses. All the wild birds heard them aloft and would not fly. I even saw a distant rooster run for cover. When I got up to him, he would not fly because the top bird in the competition was hovering overhead. I picked him up as he played dead and threw him in the air. He refused to open his wings and lay there in a cut bean field without moving. We had to leave him because falcons would not attack anything on the ground. Wild game birds know the difference between a falcon and a hawk and evade accordingly.

    It is great fun but a real committment if you really intend to hunt. If you attempt to hunt without proper training, the birds fly away on the first opportunity. They don't bear you any malice, they are just too dumb to remember that they are supposed to return. The birds are beautiful but so dumb compared to any other animal.

    Because of the difficulty and long hours of training, success is also more rewarding than just about any other type of hunting. When you see that first pheasant nailed after years of training, it is awe inspiring.

    Best of luck if you decide to pursue!

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    • #3
      My cousin Mark is a New Jersey falconer. He told me this funny story when he was hunting with his red Tail hawk. Mark was hunting a field with his hawk on his arm. Mark flushed out a rabbit and he let the hawk go. The hawk flew after the cottontail but the rabbit ran inside the heavy briers. The hawk flew up on a tree limb. There was an apartment complex near by and a tenant there had her small dog inside a cage out on the second floor balcony. Mark saw the hawk start bobbing his head up and down before he took off in attack mode. The hawk went straight for the dog. Mark said the hawk crashed into the cage and the small dog was yelping in fear. The woman there was screaming for help at the top of her lungs. Mark was asking the lady to let him in the house and that it was his hawk. She called the police. A policeman came and went inside the house with my cousin. My cousin got the hawk on his falconer’s glove and put a hood over the hawk’s head. The little dog and the lady were scared but both were alright. Outside Mark was apologizing to the police officer for what just happen. Mark said that he would never hunt near people homes again and was sorry about the dog attack. The policeman said “Screw the damn dog and tell me about your hawk. This is the coolest thing I ever seen!”

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      • #4
        Gary, that reminds me of an incident when I was doing the same thing. I was out in the country and was hunting with one of my 8 pound Red Tails on my arm. I flushed a pheasant that was putting all kinds of evasive maneuvers the pursuing hawk. It was looking back over its shoulder and dodging and darting like crazy. The hawk missed several swoops but stayed on the trail.

        The pheasant was not looking where it was going and dodged right into the side of a lone farmhouse on the prairie at full speed. It made a thunderous crash when it hit and shook the house. The hawk caught it on the rebound and settled right down with it in the farm yard. The farmer came storming out of the house with his shotgun. I ran as fast as I could; yelling for him not to shoot the hawk. When I arrived, he was chuckling and said that was the darndest thing he had ever seen.

        I had several incidents like that and of course the hawks took after many a farm cat. There were no small dogs on the prairie though due to the numerous hawks and eagles that hunted the fields. You never know what your hawk will pursue but it is always interesting!

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        • #5

          Dakotaman, my cousin Mark would stop on the shoulder of the road to pick up road kills such as raccoons, groundhogs, squirrels, opossum, rabbits and other small game. He always had plastic bags in his truck. He took the road kills home and cut them up with a pair of shears for his hawk to eat. I asked him if it were safe because the dead animal could be sick or have a disease. He told me hawks in the wild eat road kills all the time. What's your take on this? Good or Bad? His hawks never did die from it.

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          • #6
            You will never kill a hawk with roadkill but I preferred to feed mine highly nutricious meat. They are as tough as buzzards though. I fed my hawks a special concoction of fresh beef or horse meat mixed with fish and special proteins. I mixed about 100 pounds of this concoction daily for my mink and they die from food poisoning faster than any other animal on the planet.

            My hawks grew to amazing proportions on this food and were extremely healhy, weiging in at about 8 pounds each with 8 foot wing spans. They always drew attention at competitions or public gatherings because they were almost the size of eagles.

            I had one Peregrine falcon die right in front of me though. I was cutting up a cow for my mink and he was watching on a perch beside me. I sliced up the liver in a long one inch square slice to grind it. He jumped down and grabbed a foot long slice and inhaled it. About 3 inches was outside his beak yet after swallowing everything he could. I didn't get too excited over it since I had seen raptors guzzle just about anything all the time. Pretty soon he simply fell off his perch dead. It happened so fast that I could do nothing to save him. Apparently he choked to death without even getting excited.

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            • #7
              Sorry to hear that about your Peregrine Falcon.
              I wonder how many Birds of Prey choke to death in the wild.

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              • #8
                Thanks Gary... I sure felt terrible when that happened. They are beautiful birds! I kind of doubt that too many die of choking in the wild. I actually think that a wild bird will be more careful, having been raised with a wide variety of boney meat.

                My hawks lived on ground meat from the time they were four days old. They had no experience eating larger chunks of meat. I truley think that contributed to his demise. Of course that is another reason that trained raptors don't tear into game they catch. They don't recognize it as food when they eat ground meat from the trainer's hand every day of their life.

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                • #9
                  I don't normally criticize the writings on these sites but I have to say that DakotaMans' stories are so much B.S. and do more harm than good.
                  I have worked with goshawks and falcons for more than 40 years, you can check me out on the North American Falconers Exchange (NAFEX.net).
                  There is no such field meet as he mentions. No such thing as an 8 lb. redtail hawk and as for climbing trees to retrieve your hawk, well that's more fantasy b.s.
                  Falconers or Austringers do not feed their hawks ground meat of any kind. Our birds require very high quality feed, there are no prepared hawk foods other than frozen whole birds.
                  Please don't get your information on training hawks from stories like this. Check out legitimate falconry sites such as NAFEX.net at the very least to cross reference the information.
                  Thank you and sorry to bash DakotaMan

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                  • #10
                    I am a 1st year falconry Apprentice and Dakotaman is living in a fantasy world! Falconry is a very rewarding sport but nothing I have read from your posts amount to much truth. Post your falconry permit before you spew any more B.S.

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                    • #11
                      My permit
                      Attached Files

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