Falconry, or the activity of hunting with a falcon, is often known as the sport of kings. But who says it can’t be the sport of queens, too? I’ve never been an outdoorsy kind of girl, but I’ve enjoyed this sport since I was seven years old and still enjoy it to this day, whenever I get the opportunity to visit the Virginia or West Virginia countryside. A lot of other women might be surprised to find out that they might find it fun, too.
Though this sport might be unheard of in the urban or suburban areas, it really has a rich history. According to PBS, records indicate that the practice of humans using raptors for hunting purposes traces all the way back to ancient China in 2,000 B.C. Falconry in its highest level of popularity took hold in England in the 1600s, and there were very specific rules about who could use a specific bird to hunt. Today in the United States countryside, it’s much more lax.
One of the best things about falconry is that it forces you to go outside, get some fresh air, and exercise. But unlike a trip to a workout room or a typical run through the park, your bird, as well as your guide along for the trip, determine the path that you’ll take through the mountains, hills, or forest. It can be exciting to have another type of lead during exercise than you’re used to.
In my experience, a great falconry experience typically entails going to a bird barn, where the guide shows you the different types of birds you can hunt with – not only falcons, but also hawks, owls, and even eagles (the last two are usually reserved for only the most experienced). The guide packs food away for the bird (typically chick legs) for the journey. Of course, if you go on a real hunt, you’ll be taking the bird to find its own food out in the wild and likely will not be traveling on a nice, even pathway to get there. Still, a falconry walk with a guide can be thought of as an adventure.
The guide will provide a glove for you to hold the food in for the bird and also to allow the bird to perch comfortable on your hand without pinching your skin. When first venturing out, don’t be surprised if the bird doesn’t come to you right away. It may perch in a tree or look out for prey in the wild, as it is a natural predator. But even though a falcon doesn’t form bonds the same way a cat or dog, after some minutes, the bird will stay on your hand longer, even after it’s done eating.
The cycle basically repeats itself throughout the lesson, and as it goes on you’ll get more and more comfortable with the bird. It doesn’t hurt that the scenery in the hunting area is usually very beautiful. That coupled with getting to stretch your legs in a brand new situation and environment is very rewarding. It’s definitely something worth Googling “falconry in (insert where you live here)” if you want to have a new experience!