Falconry Apprenticeship and Getting Started

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Falconry is a unique and ancient partnership between human and bird, and provides an unparallelled opportunity to experience nature.  Falconry is not easy or simple; it requires dedication, skill and time. Are you prepared?

Follow these steps to become a falconer:

1. Hunting license requirement

Falconry is the hunting of wild quarry with a trained raptor and in order to hunt with a bird of prey, you must have a hunting license. To get a hunting license, you must take a hunter safety course, also known as the gun hunter safety course. Your local MNR will provide you the details of courses that are offered in your area.

Hunting is the difference between being a falconer and being a “pet-keeper”. Raptors do not make good pets and falconry regulations where put into place to allow for falconry (i.e. hunting), not pet-keeping. If you are fascinated with birds but not interested in hunting with one, we respectfully suggest that you work with  bird species other than raptors.

2. Join the Ontario Hawking Club (OHC)

Falconers use birds of prey to hunt and by joining the OHC you will have the opportunity to meet falconers who are experienced in the sport and who have hunting expertise. We encourage new members to come out to Club events and spend some time hunting with falconers before they go any further. This is the best opportunity to decide if this sport is really what you thought it was going to be before you spend a lot of time and money.

The club has prepared Apprenticeship Guide as a reference and to answer basic questions.

3. Get a Sponsor

Falconry apprentices must be sponsored by a falconer who has been licenced for at least five years. Once you’re an OHC member and have a hunting licence, the Ontario Hawking Club will assist you in finding a qualified sponsor (the province does not help you with this).  Sponsors are experienced falconers who donate their time and expertise to help develop falconry excellence in beginners.

In general, sponsors are looking for apprentices that have done their homework,  are highly motivated and committed to their birds.

4.  Facilities and equipment.

With housing and equipment, the bird’s safety  is the primary concern. The OHC has established  facilities standards that outline housing parameters for various raptor species.  <insert link>. Your hawk house must be large enough so that the hawk will have freedom of movement-generally an 8′ x 8′ x 8′ pen is sufficient for a free-lofted red-tailed hawk.   Captive hawks and falcons must be protected at all times from cats, dogs, and other predators, including humans, as well as extremes of heat and cold, wind, and dampness. They should be provided with a weathering place where they may be kept outdoors in good weather and have an opportunity to bathe. They must have a sheltered perch at night and in bad weather, they must be dry and protected from the wind. While most raptors adjust well to cold weather, some do not. They also suffer in heat and must never be left in the direct rays of the summer sun. You can expect to spend $1,000-$1,500 to construct an adequate pen.

You will also need equipment that includes: grommets, anklets and jesses, a leash, swivel, outdoor perches, an accurate scale  and a bath pan.

5. Apply for your Apprentice Falconry Licence

Apply to the  MNR for an Apprentice Falconry licence. A Falconry Apprenticeship is a 15 month term, which includes two autumn hunting seasons with a falconer who has held a General Falconry licence for at least 5 years. Upon successful completion of your apprenticeship, your sponsor will sign your paperwork and you graduate from an Apprentice to a General falconer.

6. Trap or purchase your bird.

Trapping: After you receive your falconry apprenticeship license, you may apply to trap an immature (passage) red-tailed hawk. There are tremendous advantages to starting with a passage red-tailed hawk including their flying and hunting experience, and as indigenous raptors they are adapted to our climate and quarry. Finally, if you decide that falconry is not for you or you are unable to continue with it for some reason, the bird can be released back to the wild.

If you are unable to trap a bird, a female Harris hawk makes a suitable alternative. They can be purchased  from  breeders.

Other considerations:

  • Time: A falconer must have sufficient time and patience to devote to training and flying a bird. Training a young falcon requires a commitment of several hours a day and if this time is not available — if school, work, business trips, or family interfere — it is far better never to begin.
  • Access to Land: A falconer must have an adequate and reasonably convenient area for hunting.  Automobile traffic, overhead wires, curious passers-by, or other interference can cause a bird to stray or be killed.  The permission of the landowner must always be obtained when flying on private land.