Survival Falconry: A Neglected Ancient Skillset

my family survival Survival Falconry: A Neglected Ancient Skillset

This is a guest post and entry in our non-fiction writing contest  by  Chet R

Falconry is strictly regulated by the federal and state government agencies, namely the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and state wildlife agencies. Any attempts to develop skills outlined,discussed in this article, at this time, should be done in accordance with Federal and State laws.

The notion of using a bird of prey to provide sustenance is hardly a new idea, however it is overlooked in the modern survivalist skill set. Since falconry’s recorded known inception, some 3000 years ago, falconry has been a method to utilize a bird of prey to hunt; which defines what falconry is. According to Merriam-Webster falconry is “theart of training hawks to hunt in cooperation with a human”. While there are excellent educational resources for modern falconry, to date there is not a comprehensive guide to quick and dirty falconry skills and knowledge that could be deployed in the event of an apocalypse – perhaps suggesting the term Survival Falconry.

The purpose of this article is to present information so the individual can weigh the pros and cons of developing the skills needed to employ falconry in a survival situation. This article is presented with a couple assumptions that need to be taken into account because if/when any apocalyptic event it is impossible to accurately predict what conditions will be following such event. For the purpose of this article we will assume that the regulations of falconry are not present, the established market system has collapsed – creating a food shortage and an environment in which wildlife populations are still supported by the environment to allow for birds of prey and game species to be present.

In terms of modern history,falconry has been known as the Sport of Kings – practiced exclusively by royalty and aristocrats of the middle to later span of the history of falconry. However before that it was practiced by common folk with a knack and desire to endeavor in such activities. Falconry is not as difficult and time-consuming as some would lead you to believe. The previously mentioned educational resources are written for modern times, not following some catastrophe.

Perhaps the first logical question that one can ask is will there be a need to employ falconry in a postapocalyptic world. Fundamentally,falconry presents the practitioner with the ability to obtain game that may otherwise not be available by tradition game hunting or trapping. One mentality common to many individuals is that firearms will enable them to take on all obstacles. Being blunt unfortunately there will always be someone who has deadlier, more firearms or similar resources.

I’ve came to the conclusion that there will be people who are better trained, have more suited diverse skill sets and/or better networks of like-minded individuals than me. That being said there will betimes when I will want to hunt game where I don’t want the loud report of a firearm, the evidence of my existence to betray my activities. The sound of a firearm being discharged unfortunately communications to anyone within hearing distance that 1) a human being is present and 2) that human being is armed and a potential threat to security.

There are times when a discrete approach may be more conducive to hunting than hunting or trapping. It is possible to capture game with minimal evidence beyond the path of the human and perhaps fur or feather of a capture. Another benefit is hunting by falconry can be productive. Oftentimes bird of prey deployed for hunting see game that the average hunter will never see due to the raptor’s superior eye sight and vantage point. Survival Falconry hunting will not full stores of food but it could be a source of fresh protein.

There may be disadvantages towards Survival Falconry. There are several considerations that must be considered prior to obtaining a bird for falconry. First and foremost there is a moderate amount of specialized equipment required for falconry. Specifically, housing, a scale, bait traps,bird traps, perch, anklets, jesses, leash, hood, creance, lure and glove. However once these items have been obtained or made they can easily be maintained or replaced as they become worn or new items are required.

In order to manufacture falconry equipment anyone contemplating should also learn basic and rude blacksmithing skills (welding) and leather working (tanning and leather fabricating) skills to assist them in creating falconry equipment. The property prepared Survival Falconer will have the knowledge, resources and skills necessary to replace equipment as necessary. There is a turn-around period of around 30 days give or take 7 days – between acquiring a bird of prey (a first year “passage” bird) and deployment in falconry.

During the training time a supply of fresh game meat is necessary to “man the bird” (make it used to the presence of humans and train it). There is also the challenge of catching a bird. There are stationary and mobile methods of capturing birds. When the bird is not able to be flown it still needs to have a source of fresh game meat (which would need to be a standard part of their diet – no prepared meat or non-game species).

Stationary methods require a little more preparation in terms of equipment and could require travel to a location likely to provide the opportunity to trap a raptor. A mobile trapping method may consume precious fuel but may provide for a greater opportunity to choose specific raptors in which to attempt to capture. All trapping involves the use of fresh bait animals which can be domestic or (better) wild species caught for the purpose of trapping raptors. The best success would be to secure a “passage” bird of prey. The term passage in reference to birds of prey are seasonal usually hatchlings from May or June and available to capture for best effectiveness in the autumn.

Survival Falconry can be a useful and potentially effective skill set to any person interested in developing the knowledge and skill needed to explore this avenue. In order to be successful in application Survival Falconry requires some dedication and prior planning before jumping into with two feet. However as long as game populations allow for game to be obtained for both you and the trained bird of prey Survival Falconry remains a viable option in survival situations.

This is an entry in our non-fiction writing contest where you could win:

First Prize) Winner will receive a Nomad – 1 Person Standard Survival Package courtesy of Shepherd Survival Supply, a One Month Food Pack courtesy of Augason Farms, a $150 gift certificate for Remington Ammo courtesy of LuckyGunner.com and a EcoZoom’s Versa Stove courtesy of EcoZoom stoves. A total prize value of over $875.

Second Prize) Winner will receive two (2) Rothco Sure Paks With Heater courtesy of Camping Survival, a Wise Food Vegetable bucket courtesy of LPC Survival and a Wonder Junior hand grain mill courtesy of Kitchen Kneads. A total prize value of over $509.

Third Prize) Winner will receive 3 – 27 Variety of Non Hybrid, Heirloom Non GMO Survival Seeds, 2 – Fruit Pack of Non Hybrid, Heirloom Non GMO Survival Seeds and 2- First Aid Kit with Sutures in a Waterproof Resealable Bag courtesy of Be Prepared Now. A total prize value of over $215.

Contest ends on March 30 2012.

Comments

  1. Falconry has always interested me, but I probably won’t be tsking this up.

  2. An interesting idea, but I studied Falconry in my youth and found out several important things. The first of which was the immense amount of time, equipment (cages, special food, vet bills, medicine, hoods etc) and training required to successfully train and keep a bird of prey alive and healthy. Training not only for the falconer but the bird takes months, if not years many hours a day, every day and if the bird decides to leave on its first flight it can’t be stopped. You lose all that investment of time and effort. Flying a bird of prey off the wrist in a large open field with a three foot wing span to bring down ducks and such is hardly a stealth operation. There was/is a reason that rich Sheiks’ in Saudi Arabia hire bird handlers full time to ready their birds for flying. In a SHTF situation I doubt anyone is going to have the time it takes to find, train, keep and use a bird while fighting off the zombie hoards. If things have stabilized to the point you would have the leisure time to do this during a TEOTWAWKI go for it. IMHO

  3. I know in my state that falconry is highly regulated. You can’t just go out a catch a bird and start, they are a protected species and you can get in real trouble just picking up and keeping a red tail hawk feather, so catching a bird would probably put you in jail. Here you have to apprentice with a liscenced falconer for a few years before you are allowed out on your own. I think when the need for silent hunting is neccesary all of the small game that you could get with a falcon would be long shot out of the woods by all the starving people who would care less about being not heard than getting something to eat. In my state it took a good 30-40 years to get sufficient quantities of game back to open decent hunting seasons after the deppression and we have one of the premier conservation departments in the country. I grew up in the sixties and it was still a big deal to get a deer or turkey, now you can get 4-5 deer a year if you hit all the seasons. Now you have yahoo city slickers that never hunt or go to the woods till opening day of deer season and bring home deer, hell some of them could probably throw a rock off their front porch and get one now days they are so plentiful. If we had a true shtf end of the world scenario the deer would probably be hard to come by after a year or two, not to mention squirlles, rabbits etc that could be taken with 22, slingshot, or air rifle. So I think falconry would be a somewhat rare thing unless you had 5000 acres out in the boonies that had rivers on three sides and was very hard to get to so you had it all to yourself, then you might have some leisure time to learn falconry.

    • What state do you live in that it’s a crime to pick up a red tail hawks feather??? Also a falcone is not a Hawk you don’t need 5000 acres to use a falcone to hunt and remember it’s only illegal if you get caught and don’t have connection lol.
      But seriously what state are you from? don’t want to get into trouble for picking up hawk feathers cause i collect them

  4. JedRebel says:

    Seems like a fascinating hobby but in a survival situation just a net calorie loss. I doubt you could bring in enough meat just to support the bird, much less yourself. Would be alot of fun to see them in action though.

  5. Kelekona says:

    I read up on the subject long enough ago to forget most of it, but it seems like just eating the pigeons would be easier than having to trade it to your hawk for whatever they brought down. I don’t know for sure, but using cats seems like it might pose the same problem.

    Now for the people who are going to keep dogs anyway… at first glance, there already seem to be dogs bred specifically to pro-actively kill things. I’m sure that many of the working breeds also retain enough wolf to hunt like one.

  6. I’ve always thought of Falconry as an interesting sport or hobby, generally associated with wealthy folks who had “people” to train and care for the birds. When you’re in a survival situation, the one thing of which you need to be aware of are calories and time. If the calories (and time) spent collecting food, yield fewer calories than you spent to get then, then you’re wasting the effort. Learning to hunt game birds and waterfowl with a bow and flu-flu arrows (arrows designed for hunting birds in flight) is probably a much better use of your time, and will most likely provide many more calories for the effort. When not used for any amount of time, the bow and arrows also need no special or additional care.
    I also suspect that the same amount of time used to train and keep a falcon in shape would provide a lot more food if it were spent with chickens, rabbits, pigs, or a myriad of other animals.
    All in all, this was still an interesting topic.

    • charlie (NC) says:

      I’m with you on this Ohio. Trying as best I can to think like a Falcon, I suspect if my feathered friend isn’t getting something better to eat at home than what he catches that he’ll never bring his catch back.

      As far as survival birds go a few carrier pidgeons might come in handy. At least you can eat them and their eggs. Falcon is probably a bit tough! A good idea Chet but I’m afraid it wouldn’t work out post shtf.

      • pidgeons = pigeons Perhaps you meant to say homing pigeons as the true carrier pigeons are a very rare bird indeed

  7. clippins says:

    I agree, very interesting but in a true SHTF situation you could always eat the falcon.

  8. Interesting post. I do love birds and have worked with birds of prey at a healing santuary. I would imagine that you would need to collect a bird in its youth, to bond it to you through food. The falcons I worked with would not give me the time of day. Treated me like the hired help. Well, I was. Duh. They are an aloof bunch.

  9. Wellrounded says:

    Not allowed in Australia. Very hard to get permits just to work with (rescue) injured birds of prey. Our native animal laws are way over the top. We can’t even collect road kill to feed the dogs. Only things we can hunt locally are hare, rabbit, fox and pig (all feral introduced). Not even allowed to fish without a permit, lol.

  10. SarcasticSam says:

    Well this is a post I did not expect and I found it very interesting. Perhaps because I know absolutely nothing about falconry, I wonder at the time to train and the resources required to capture and keep a raptor. I find the whole concept daunting (and as I said, I know nothing about falconry and it may be a good idea) but I think putting your time and calories spent (OhioPrepper’s point) into setting and checking ten snares will yield much more food. I have a lot of experience hunting and I’m a fair hand at it but nothing beats trapping when it comes to wild game gathering. As to the low profile aspect , true enough, but there are silent weapons such as slingshots, bow slingshots, hunting sticks, crossbows, spears, compound and re-curve bows etc. and firearm ammunition with low noise levels as well as accessories like silencers as that keep things low profile. Simple to construct by the way and plans for silencers are readily available. Of course make sure you have the proper licensing/tax stamp ;)
    I have serious doubts about the practicality of hunting with raptors in terms of return of calories vs those expended in the effort……………………… but the coolness factor is a ten!!!
    Interesting article and you made me look up some articles on falconry.

  11. SarcasticSam says:

    Chet R: I hope you were not offended by my comment. I really know nothing about falconry. How did you first get into falconry and how long have you been at it? What is the biggest animal your falcons can take down?

  12. SurvivorDan says:

    Don’t know if I would care to give it a go, but I just watched a video about falconry. Very, very cool stuff.

  13. SurvivorDan says:

    Perhaps a trained bald eagle……..”Pick me up a nice 15 lb salmon. Go Baldy! Up, up and away!” Now that would be sweet.

  14. I have seen people with trained falcons , I have even seen a trained owl . This thing was HUGE ! a great horned owl , it was at a zoo demonstration . The thing would fly off and catch simulated game and bring it back to the keeper , very cool ! Like you said , if the game in the area is still abundant , it could be useful . If not , there are always at least rats , mice , and smaller birds in rural areas to feed your pet . Ferrets were used once upon a time in Europe to get rid of rodents as they could follow them into their burrows .

    • T.R.
      I have a Great Horned Owl that visits from time to time and it is HUGE! I would have to say a six foot wing span? Beautiful.He/she only apppears during nesting season and is the only animal I allow a chicken or two. I do realized the are protected LOL. Someone might say Shoot,Shovel & Shut up. But I like them. Besides the are terrible tasting, alot like Bald Eagle. Jeez… Just kidding.
      Can you imagine someone training them to swoop down in the dark to find hidden enemies and harrass them. Just getting hit with a wing would send someone scrambling. One of my big turkeys hit me with a wing and busted my lip. Badly.

      • LOL I hear ya , when you see them close up, the giant yellow eyes are so striking they are almost hypnotic . I like owls , when I was a teenager in the sticks , we had barn owls on the property , we never did have a rat or mouse problem because of them . It was very cool to watch them hunt as they can almost hover while their head is looking around for something to catch . I have no idea where they came from , but from dusk till dawn we would see bats , we didnt mind them because they eat a lot of bugs .

  15. Interesting falconry, the sport of kings was brought up. I did falconry back in the 70’s with a sponsor (required where I lived) with a red shouldered hawk. KiKi she was called, was a big responsibility to keep, maintain, feed and train- to kill and come to the “fist”. Being smaller than a red tail, she naturally was supposed to hunt snakes and small vermin like the wood rat, but she was best trained to fish like an osprey. Hunting with a red shouldered hawk in thick brushy swampy forests where I lived was nearly impossible, and the best clearings were around water. The chase for a kill takes miles and one had to always keep an eye on the raptor at all times. To me it was a hobby and the love of the bird, and I never thought the sport was good enough for eating their kill. If it is a small kill, the bird had to eat too—they can run out of energy fast or be too heavy to fly long.

    From my experience it would be easier for man to hunt on his own or with a dog in most places. The only advantage I saw was in the desert, revatively flat for miles with scarce game and an eagle’s eye view way ahead with the bird. I believe that’s why falconry gave favor in the mideast desert regions.

  16. T.G.
    Yes! The eyes are freaky. I remember hunting one night and had a Great Horned Owl grab a rabbit, turn right in front of my truck and swoop away. The wing span was as wide as my truck. I was in awe and grateful to see something that others would never see! In a life time. Soo very cool indeed!
    My eyes are amber like that and my hubby calls me owl lady…..I can see that. I am a predator too! I wish I could fly.

  17. CountryGirl says:

    Falconry is for wimps :>)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTPWr7gc2gM

  18. garry_f_owen_trooper says:

    My youngest offspring and I were just talking about such an endeavour the other day. I introduced all of my children to Sam Grigsby and Frightful during their growing up years (from the book “My Side of the Mountain” by Jean George). As I’ve thought about it since our conversation, a trained falcon or hawk would also provide a measure of OPSEC by scouring the skies for Big Brother’s drones. They’d be worth the training for that aspect alone if times get truly hard.

  19. Hey all,

    Thanks for all the comments. Constructive or otherwise…. I can have a bird out hunting free-flying in 30 days from time of capture with a (generous) estimation of 1 hr a day (with additional free time this could be greatly reduced). Our take (with a first year bird and my first year being a falconer) between Nov 1 and March 30 was 59 cottontails and 1 hen pheasant. Most taken within an urban-suburban environment. I am certainly not advocating as a cure all end all method, but a skillset to consider. thanks again all.