As She-Ra and I made our way to Morgantown for her pre-hunting check-up with veterinarian Dr. Jesse Fallon, I actually got a little teary-eyed thinking about how far we’ve come since January. It was probably just the early morning fog, the chill in the October air, and the Lumineers rocking it out on the car stereo, but the trip to Fairmont to meet up with my sponsor before heading on to Morgantown to meet with Dr. Fallon was one big flashback.
My falconry story isn’t really that fascinating when compared to the stories of other falconers, but it’s a story of faith. I’m about to share something with you that’s extremely personal. You should know that I’m not used to sharing stories that involve my faith. I’m a quiet one and always have been, but here goes. I’ve always loved birds of prey, especially hawks and eagles, but to be honest, I’d never really given falconry much thought until this past January when I discovered that it’s legal in the United States. I had been reading a few articles about Mongolian falconers hunting with Golden Eagles, and I was completely consumed with their lifestyle. That said, I still hadn’t really given it much thought– that is until I discovered a few YouTube videos of falconers in South Carolina hunting squirrels with Red-Tailed Hawks. After doing quite a bit of research on the process of becoming a licensed falconer, I wasn’t sure it was something I wanted to take on. Not only would it be a lot of work, but adding a bird to our family dynamic would completely change our day-to-day routine. I set the notion aside for a couple of weeks but strangely I started seeing falconry references all around me. I figured it was a lot like buying a new car. You know, you hardly see the car you end up buying being driven by others until you actually buy it and start driving around. Then it seems like you see hundreds of them. At any rate, something related to falconry would cross my path nearly every day. Still I didn’t give it much notice.
Then on a morning in late January I heard a Red-Tailed Hawk screaming outside. It was incredibly strange because we don’t have many Red-Tails around here that time of year. Most of them are still down South waiting for it to warm up a bit. The hawk sounded extremely close. I walked outside to find it perched on the top of a dead locust tree just a few feet away from my house. It sat low on a dead limb and stared at me. I said “hello,” expecting it to fly off, but still it just sat there. Then it screamed again, not taking its eyes off of me.
“Okay okay. I get it,” I said out loud.
A few seconds later the Red-Tail took flight and headed into the woods. Now I’m not claiming that my falconry apprenticeship is divinely ordained. I’m just saying that I believe with all my heart that this is what I’m supposed to be doing right now. I had nearly closed the door to the idea of becoming a falconer. I even ignored several other signs writing them off as coincidence, but if a Red-Tailed Hawk stopping by my house to scream at me until I agreed to become a falconer isn’t a sign then I don’t know what is. It made me realize that sometimes we just need to stop and listen. How often have I fallen away from my path because my aspirations were louder than God’s plan for me? I’m sure it’s been more often than I’d like to admit. Thank goodness God whacked me up side the head with a crazy hawk scream. The encounter was so surreal that I was literally afraid to share the story for a long time.
I’ll admit that it’s really hard for me to understand why in the world God wants me to be a falconer. It seems like such an absurd vehicle for His plan, but it could be as simple as this path putting me in touch with someone I’m supposed to help or someone that’s supposed to help me. It could be about strengthening my own relationship with God. I just don’t know, but for whatever reason, I am supposed to be a falconer, and knowing that has kept me going these past ten months even the few times when I felt like giving up.
Becoming a falconer is hard. Passing the test, finding a sponsor who thinks you’ve got what it takes and not letting him/her down, designating and building the mews, passing DNR facility and equipment inspection, getting a bird, training a bird… it’s just hard, but it’s also very rewarding if it’s a lifestyle that you’d like to embrace, and it’s also much easier to do it if you know that it’s the path on which you’re meant to be. I’m thankful that I have that feeling in my heart every day. It keeps me going!
In just one month, She-Ra and I have already established a deep bond. We trust each other, and I love her so very much. I can’t wait to see her bag her first squirrel. Our pre-hunting check-up was our last hurdle, and with an overall clean bill of health and her telemetry transmitter mounted, we are now ready to go! Wish us luck as we head out for our first hunt!