A while back in my adopted hometown of Mount Dora, I was amazed to see on the broad lawn of the Lakeside Inn a few dozen people sitting in the grass, and perched on metal rings beside them were falcons.
Apparently these people were members of the Florida Falconer's Association, a group that is fascinated with this ancient sport. I had no idea what’s involved in obtaining or training a falcon, but I can tell you that these people take their sport very seriously. Consider their mission statement:
• To promote excellence in falconry and support those that fall short.
• To continue falconry’s rich tradition of sporting flights at wild game.
• To keep our members well informed of issues facing falconry and to encourage them to participate in shaping the future of our sport.
• To work with federal, state and local agencies to assist in maintaining regulations based on sound biology to allow advancement in the sport and keep raptor populations healthy.
You can watch videos of trained falcons in action, and with members of this group ready to help, you can work your way into the sport.
But it won’t be easy. They say after you hook up with a falconer, it can take up to a year to get your permit and your first bird. Then you have to...
• Pass a 100-question exam on raptor identification, training and health, and laws pertaining to falconry.
• Build housing for your bird.
• Aquire equipment (glove, leash, perch, etc.) and have that equipment pass inspection.
And then apprentice under someone for two years.
It’s certainly not for everyone, but if it’s for you contact the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and request an information packet on falconry, which includes a set of current regulations and an application for a permit.
For more information, visit www.floridafalconry.com.