Falconry is the practice of hunting quarry with trained birds of prey. It is one of the most highly regulated sports in the United States. To become a falconer, one must pass a rigorous exam administered by the DNR, build a mews (a facility to house a bird), obtain required equipment, then have the mews and equipment inspected and approved by the DNR. A prospective falconer must also secure a sponsor, an experienced general or master falconer, for a two year apprenticeship. In West Virginia, and most other states, the only birds an apprentice may fly during their apprenticeship are juvenile Red-Tailed Hawks or American Kestrels obtained from the wild.
I embarked upon my falconry journey at the beginning of 2016 and am currently a licensed apprentice falconer. In September we welcomed She-Ra the juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk to McNemar House. I trained She-Ra to hunt squirrels and rabbits this past fall, and we now have one hunting season under our belts. Right now, she’s in the midst of her first molt, where she loses her feathers and grows new ones, including her first set of red tail feathers. So far she’s lost seven primary flight feathers and two deck feathers. Our next hunting season will commence this fall. If you’re interested in following our adventure, check out the blog, and sign-up for our mailing list for updates.