Saturday, January 21, 2006

setting myself up for conflagration

First things first: I don't think men are better than women, merely different. The sexes excel in different things, which is why I listen to what the mate has to say if it's about falconry. There could be an angle I haven't considered because I don't think along certain lines. I know several women falconers who are more talented and more driven than good male falconers. Most of them can probably out-hawk me. Nonetheless, if there's anyone who actually reads this blog besides myself and Christy, someone's going to call me misogynistic sexist scum for the following statement: Most women falconers aren't great falconers. A fair number of men aren't any good either, but the proportion is smaller.

A lot of women come from the rehab end; they are nursemaids and doctors and comforters. Their hearts are large, and they give admirably generous pieces of it to the animals in their care (scrumptious metaphor, huh?) However, when they decide to become falconers, they tend to continue that practice of babying the hawk. They fear trimming back its weight because 'it might starve to death.' It's understandable: cutting back a bird's weight goes against all their urges as caretakers, and against what they have learned with sick birds, which grow weak and unable to eat with alarming speed.

However, when it comes to training, this attitude only leads to failure. A healthy hawk will be responsive and show strong interest in the intended quarry long before it gets to a starvation point. Cutting a bird's weight is done slowly and carefully, keeping close watch on response versus energy. Fear of starvation has no place with hawks over 18 ounces. (With micro-hawks, however, there is a genuine need for caution.)

Women falconers tend more to project behaviors as positive rather than negative: encouraging rather than cold-blooded evaluation. Here's how. The bird is learning patterns of behavior. (Come to the glove. Follow. When the falconer is yelling "ho," there's game. We go out every other morning at dawn. Plastic bag crackle and his hand dips to his pocket = incoming tidbit). The woman is more likely to interpret behaviors as those she wants to see, and to her the behaviors are nearly as important as the results. They're more satisfied with the bird simply trying for game, or simply following the falconer. The more mechanistic man, for good or bad, tends to ignore behaviors in favor of actual results. The male falconer and the serious woman falconer are not satisfied until s/he actually catches game.

The combined result of these tendencies is that women falconers are more likely to derive enjoyment from flying their bird and coming home without anything caught. Their hawks are too fat to be seriously interested in quarry, and it's okay with them. In short, mediocre falconry. Mediocre male falconers certainly exist, but they are acutely aware that catching game is the goal, feel the pressure more strongly. They will tend to keep trying until they get real results, or drop out entirely.

This post is not intended to discourage women from getting into falconry. It is, however, a recommendation (to both men and women) that they should understand their motives, what drives them to falconry, and to take the goals of the sport seriously.

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