Falconry is the most regulated hunting sport in the United States. There are approximately 4000 falconers in the US today. Alabama has 49 members as of February, 2014. Our national association, North American Falconers Association, or NAFA, takes these statistics and states that roughly half this number are permit holders in good standing but are not actively flying. Studying for apprenticeship involves academics heavy on husbandry, regulations, nutrition, and the training of raptors. You will learn to identify and make safe, effective equipment. Raptors have a psychological need to fly, hunt, and kill, and the time it takes to meet these needs MUST be factored in when pursuing the sport. You will need to have a variety of land access with appropriate game. Earning a Federal and State permit has been likened to earning a pilot’s license. Weight management alone, is a daily task and must be mastered in order to have a happy, healthy raptor. You must take a test, build structures to specifications, and purchase or make equipment that passes both Federal and State guidelines. These will be inspected by your nearest Fish and Wildlife representative.
Because the falconry year revolves on a six month hunting season and a six month molt, finding someone to sponsor you can take an average of one year or longer and can be discouraging. You will need to network within the falconry community and tag along with other falconers during the hunting season, October 1-March 31. It is also suggested that you attend the annual meet, usually held in February. When you have secured a sponsor, passed the exam, and built your mews you will be permitted to trap your first apprentice bird during trapping season from September 1-January 31.
The Modern Apprentice is the premier site dedicated to helping folks begin working towards apprenticeship. If you are interested in coming on a tag along, it is suggested you take a look at the glossary to familiarize yourself with the terms you may hear in the field as well as read in falconry books.
NAFA’s suggested reading guide is also a great place to start.
Our Facebook page is also a great source where you can ask questions and meet falconers. https://www.facebook.com/groups/120263628153468
As an apprentice, you will be using the California Study Guide to prep for the test. You can purchase a copy from Mike’s Falconry among other falconry sites. Ebay occasionally has used and new editions.
Welcome to the world of falconry!