Wednesday, January 18, 2006

why I'm a falconry elitist

A falconry elitist is someone who wants it to be difficult to get into the sport. I like to see hawks served well by their owners. A raptor that is not being flown even once a week is a neglected bird. A raptor that is not hunting or taking game with its falconer has not been trained correctly.

All too often I see apprentices with no feel for the raptor at all. Admittedly, this does take time to develop. But any apprentice worth his/her salt will start to get an idea of what their bird is thinking, and be able to react accordingly, within a few months. If this hasn't happened by the second bird or the second year, there's a person who should not be a falconer.

To be friends with a hawk or falcon is a privilege -- you know it when they look you in the eye. Falconry is not a sport for physically lazy or thoughtless people. It's physically and emotionally demanding, and you have to love it in order to be any good at it. If you're not naturally talented (and I am not) you have to work hard to make up for it.

I have friends who oppose elitism, and I understand their point as a political position. As the laws are now, we purchase or trap our birds, pay the vet bills, feed and house them, think nothing of spending a dozen hours a week driving and hawking, buy the books and videos and equipment for their upkeep, and do all the thinking and worrying. Yet, we do not own them in the way dogs and cats are owned -- we possess them. Raptors are formally the property of the United States, and under that provision, they can be taken away from us at any time. And they have, for the flimsiest of reasons. However, if the laws were changed so that anyone can possess a raptor without going through the hoops of apprenticeship, test-taking, and mews inspection, they will demand more rights and change possession into ownership.

Perhaps, as an elitist, my focus is too small. I am sad for the hawk that is not being given sufficient opportunity to do the things that hawks do -- fly and hunt. I think that if anyone can have one, there will be lots of hawks sitting on perches (or cages -- shudder) being fed badly, and being released to the wild, unable to hunt on their own, when they're no longer fun or interesting.

Obviously, I'm torn as to which way is better.

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