Falconry is a heavily regulated sport requiring permits, a hunting licence and inspection through Saskatchewan Fish and Game Officers.
Through experienced Members, the SFC proudly offers a program where the beginning Falconer can learn with the help of a Mentor the vital knowledge he needs to be a successful falconer and the necessary regulations to follow.
The process of completing a successful apprenticeship has no strictly defined time limit, but is widely recognized throughout North America and by the SFC that it will require a minimum of two years to achieve the necessary standards and show the dedication that the sport requires.
Before getting too involved the would-be apprentice needs to consider seriously whether they have the time and money that the sport requires from the individual. Getting a hawk is one thing, looking after it 365 days a year, tending to its every need, feeding it, paying for veterinary treatment, providing the necessary housing and equipment all take time and money.
Have you passed the Hunter Safety Course? If not you will need to take the course before you can apply for a Hunting Permit.
Gather as much information as you can from as many different sources before you begin. There are many excellent books out there to be read, videos to watch, forums to join and falconers to talk to. All this will help you form a realistic idea of what to expect as you embark on this grand journey. Many of the “How to...” books contain further reading and equipment lists. Visiting the Falconry Suppliers on the internet and viewing what they have to offer will put sense to words like jesses, anklets and creance as well as give you an idea of what things cost. Some suppliers offer beginners kits which will contain basic equipment for that first hawk as seen below in the picture. If you are convinced you would like to pursue the sport of falconry now is the time to complete the application form for the SFC and send it off with your money!.
Many falconers like to make their own equipment this is great BUT make sure that what you are making is good enough for the task at hand. A badly made anklet around a hawks leg can cause injury leading to infection and possibly death. So whatever you make must be of the right standard to avoid disaster. Hawks are physically fragile, unlike mammals, their immune system is extremely weak particularly during the first year of life.
The most important thing you need to acquire after your initial research is an experienced Mentor to help you through your apprenticeship. That Mentor will be giving up a lot of valuable time to help you so it is imperative that you act on his advice. He is not Mentoring you for any other reason than he wants you to succeed. He will help you make a decision about what hawk you should keep in your first few seasons taking into consideration where you live and what quarry is available to hunt. The Club can help you find a Mentor.
A few items needed to get started
Look carefully at the land that you are hoping to fly your bird over and make sure that permission to hunt there will be available to you. Respect other peoples hunting grounds if someone has been hunting there for years already they may not be too pleased to find themselves sharing it with someone else.
The next thing to consider is the facilities which you will need to build or have built to house your hawks. If you are building from scratch it is better to build bigger now than later. Each species of hawk has its own peculiar requirements but a dedicated building or “mews” is to be preferred. Hawks like a clean dust free environment to sleep or go to when the weather is bad and they need a safe place to “weather” outside protected from predators and shelter from extreme weather. Again there are lots of books out there that can help you with a design for a Mews and so will your Mentor. You need to create an environment in which your hawk will thrive, not just survive. The other consideration is where will you house your hawk during the closed season? A well constructed “Skylight Seclusion Aviary” is preferred by many falconers for the annual down time.
Once you have all these things in place: your choice of Hawk, your equipment (furniture), your facilities constructed, and have acquired a basic level of knowledge to the satisfaction of your mentor then you can think about applying for a Falconry permit. Once you have your permit you can acquire your hawk - you then move into the next stage.
Handling and Basic Training
So now you have obtained your Falconry Apprentice Permit, you have all your equipment, a supply of food and a willing Sponsor to help you through the next few weeks.
In consultation with your sponsor, get a healthy, first year, non-imprinted, untrained bird. The reason for these recommendations is to ensure you get the most out of your apprenticeship. Very little is learned by working with a bird that is a human imprint or a bird that has been manned by someone else.
The same applies to a bird that is not healthy. Discuss the potential bird with your sponsor beforehand.
Manning starts from the moment you get the bird and is an ongoing process. Socialization is another term synonymous with manning and is associated with the initial period of time where you get the bird comfortable with its new surroundings and with you. Discuss techniques in detail with your sponsor. This can sometimes be a difficult stage that will test your resolve, but don’t give up or get discouraged! Listen to your sponsor’s advice, that’s what they are there for. During this period you may need to re-read sections of books that talk about manning techniques. If you plan to hunt with dogs this is also the time to introduce your bird to your dog(s).
Once your bird is comfortable with you and you are starting to understand weight control, it is time to prepare for free flight. The early training is the interim step between manning and free flight where you take your bird outside and fly her on a creance. It is a good idea to have your sponsor oversee this exercise several times. He or she will provide crucial feedback about your handling techniques as well as interpreting the bird’s response to you.
Often to a novice, it seems the bird is responding well and therefore must be “keen”, but the sponsor, having had many years of experience is able to recognize that the bird may not be as keen as it appears. This is not much of an issue when flying the bird on creance, but it can make the difference between keeping and losing your bird when the time for free flight arrives.
Once the basic training is complete of the hawk and falconer, they will be ready for their first free flights. This will lead into the Sport itself – that of hunting wild quarry with a trained hawk in its natural environment. This can be a very exciting time for the falconer to see his bird free and pursuing game right before his eyes.
Aided in safe return of our birds is that of modern telemetry and GPS systems to track the speed, height and pitch their birds reach on an outing. The safety and return of our birds in of utmost importance and the advancement of technology has made this possible.