Falconry is one of the world’s oldest sports. Dating back thousands of years, it was one of the original forms of hunting and putting food on the table, and over the centuries, expanded into European culture, where it became known as “The Sport of Kings” due to the popularity it gained with many of the royal families.
By definition, falconry is the art of training a raptor to accept the falconer as a partner in order to hunt and take wild game. In most cases, different species of hawks and falcons are most commonly used in the sport, but other raptors, such as owls and eagles, have been successfully flown by some falconers.
The sport is very rewarding and unique, but it’s definitely not for everyone. There are many strict government regulations to follow and be mindful of, being as it’s the most highly government-regulated sport in the country, and there are severe federal penalties involved if these regulations aren’t followed. A test must also be taken and passed before acquiring a license, then an average of a two year apprenticeship under another falconer must be served, so there is a significant time commitment that comes with the sport. Raptors are also NOT PETS! They require specific housing requirements and must be taken care of and hunted regularly to bring out their utmost potential. In other words, simply keeping a raptor in captivity without hunting it goes against the principles of the sport and is NOT falconry.
For more information on the sport, a state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is usually the best place to obtain the rules, regulations, and other general answers most people have. Most states also have their own falconry organizations and clubs, which are also great resources of information. Regardless, it’s not something anyone should enter into lightly, and in most cases, prospective sponsors require heavy observance over the course of a season before agreeing to take on an apprentice. It’s best to get to know people who practice the sport around you first before pursuing an apprenticeship.
For more information, check out the North American Falconers Association at http://www.n-a-f-a.com, and if residing in Indiana, the Indiana Falconers Association at http://www.indianafalconersassociation.org. Plenty of books, like North American Falconry and Hunting Hawks, are great sources of information as well.