As a teen thinking about falconry, there are many things you need to take into serious consideration. Obviously, you have begun researching falconry and this is a good start. This article will cover 5 main things you should be worried about being a teen coming into falconry.
1) Money- I hate to say it, but money is one part of falconry that will be hard to get your hands on as a teen. Falconry is a very expensive sport, but there are a few ways to safely cut costs. One way to do this is to make your equipment. Many teens these days are extremely lazy, and having retailers sell “apprentice kits” re-enforces the laziness. DON’T BE LAZY! You will save hundreds of dollars by making your own equipment, and not to mention the mental satisfaction. Anklets, leashes, jesses, hoods [not too easy to make, but with proper guidance it can be done], giant hoods, and lures can be made for much less
money than if you purchase them. Not to mention they will be custom made for your bird, not mass produced by a retailer. Another way to cut costs is to use a welders’ glove for a gauntlet [yes I know, some people do not agree with this practice]. Welders’ gloves cost about $15 a pair, and when properly cleaned and equipped, a welders’ glove can be functional as a falconry gauntlet. Hawk food can be another expensive area. If you insist on feeding only the best, you will be paying about $1.35 a quail. On the other hand, it is perfectly acceptable to feed a diet of day-old cockerels and mice/rats, along with what the bird catches [assuming you are starting with a red-tail, a kestrel is a different story]. The cockerels can be as cheap as 5 cents a bird from a chicken farm, and mice will run approximately 25 cents a piece. The mew will probably be the most expensive part of falconry. When building a mew, costs should not really be cut, but they can, as long as the mew comes out strong and safe for the bird. I do not want to suggest any cost cutting methods on mew building, but I'm sure you can find discount lumber and such near your locality. As stated earlier, money is hard to get your hands on as a teen, and if you do not have a job already, you will probably find yourself getting one to pay for equipment.
2) Time- Time is the essence! As a high school student and athlete, I know this well. Most kids get home from high school around 3pm. During the winter, the sun goes down around 5pm, if not earlier. That means training and hunting must happen immediately after school, 5 days a week. If you do become a falconer, you should find yourself being a weekend warrior, hunting the bird on weekends and whenever else possible. If your an athlete, you will have a particular problem with time. You probably will have practice or games 5 or 6 days a week. To solve this, do not trap a bird until after your sports’ season [mid-October if you play fall sports]. If you play winter sports, or spring sports, than you will have to figure out how you will manage hunting the hawk and your sport.
Remember, the bird comes first. Not your sport. Sports’ are not living animals that rely on you, they are merely a game. After your sports season ends, your schedule becomes even more hectic. After you trap, you need to work with the bird everyday after school, and try to hunt as much as possible, which usually only ends up as a few weekdays, Saturday, and Sunday, if you do not have your drivers’ license [more on this later]. If you do have your drivers’ license, you should be able to hunt everyday. The bottom line is, unless you can hunt your bird regularly, you might want to hold off on getting a bird.
3) Parental Support- As a teen falconer, parental support will make or break our falconry experience. If you still live at home, and your parents won’t support your falconry, then you are in trouble. My suggestion is to sit them down, and explain to them what is involved, how you plan on doing everything, present everything you have researched, etc. Make it obvious to them that falconry is not just a passing fad [I will touch on this later too]. If you sit them down, have a mature talk, your chances are much better at success. If you just beg, than you will make it look like a fad, and your chances went from zero to none. If you are unlucky enough to have divorced parents, than you will probably end up in the same situation as I. One parent who supports it, and one who does not. If this is the case, you will have to get to the bird EVERYDAY. You cannot just go over to hunt the bird, you must be there everyday to check for injuries and manage the birds’ weight. Therefore, the non-supporting parent must be willing to lose time with your everyday so you can go to the supporting parents house. This may be harder to get than the initial permission to become a falconer, and I really do not have any advice on how to get that kind of permission. It will all depend on your parents. If you do not have a drivers’ license, your parents must be willing to drive you everywhere you need to be. Driving to the same place everyday gets very boring very fast, so make sure they are up to the task. They must also be willing to get off work early [if they work] to take you and the bird to a hunting spot during weekdays.
4) Commitment- Is falconry for you, or is it just a passing fad? Here are a few ways to find out- A) Research what your getting yourself into. Read everything you can get your hands on, whether it be a book, article, website, or species information. B) Get a falconry information packet from the Department of Natural Resources. It will contain your states falconry laws and regulations. Read them thoroughly. Will you obey all the laws? The falconry community does not need someone entering falconry who will not follow the laws, and will give falconers’ a bad name. C) Get in contact with a state falconry club, and attend a meet, or go on a hunt. Getting invited to a falconry hunt is a big deal. IT is not something falconers are expected to do. If you go on a hunt, listen to what the falconer says. For example, someone may have a bird that freaks out if someone walks behind it. If the falconer tells you not to go to his left side, then stay on his right! Each bird has its own quirks, so listen to what you are told or warned of. If you are told to wear boots, wear boots. Everything has a reason. Attending a state falconry meet is also a big deal. First, the club must approve of your attendance. Once there, heed all advice given to you. Talk to people and listen to stories, DO NOT walk around saying “Will you sponsor me?”. That is the wrong way, and will surely leave you in a negative light. D) Think- Is falconry really for me? Do I like what I’ve read and heard? Do I have the time, funds, and approval? E) The last step of course is to take the test and find a sponsor. By now, you should have gone on many hunts, and know for sure that falconry is for you.
5) Willingness to change lifestyle- Are you willing to change your lifestyle completely, even when few people will understand you? Are you willing to have your friends think you dropped off the face of the earth every winter because you are always hunting your bird? Falconry is not a popular sport, and there are many a people who are against it. There are many groups that are anti-falconry. Are you ready to handle the fact that when you see a rabbit, you will hear a game call and mentally think of it as hawk food, as everyone around you goes “Aw, a cute little bunny!”? Are you a party animal? Well late night parties will be fine, but you have to ok to rock and roll on Saturday and Sunday. Week days after school you have to work with the bird, its no longer party time. Can you handle that? Your life will greatly change if you become a falconer. you will not have time to party with your friends after school. Everything will revolve around the bird.
Final Remarks- Falconry is a great responsibility that will probably take up more of your time, funds, and patience that anything you have ever done before. This article was not meant to discourage, but to reinforce what you have read. Falconry is possible as a teen. I am a 16 year old high school athlete, and student and I have been a falconer since I was 14. Falconry is a great undertaking, and if you can hack it, absolutely worth the time. Just remember to keep your grades up. If you have any questions about falconry or becoming a falconer, feel free to visit my website at: www.apprenticefalconry.com