Georgia Falconry Association
Apprenticeship Program Guidelines
Falconry is the field sport whereby wild game species are regularly taken during legal hunting seasons and in accordance with all applicable State and Federal laws by any species of trained raptor, especially those of the genus Falcon, Buteo, Accipiter and Parabuteo.
Incidentally, the mandate and emphasis on the taking of game in this definition of falconry (as opposed simply to the aesthetics of the pursuit), is required by law. The keeping of healthy, flighted raptors under falconry permits, and not hunting with them, constitutes an illegal possession of migratory birds. Falconry cannot be practiced to any degree of competency if its practitioners refrain from the regular pursuit and capture of wild game. As an organization we must emphasize this basic principle.
It is possible by state law for a falconer to trap and keep a passage Red-tailed hawk for seven years, seldom fly it and be deemed a Master falconer in the eyes of the law. This deficiency can only be corrected if, as an organization, we establish and promote proper guidelines for the apprentice and his sponsor.
The relationship between the sponsor and the apprentice is the foundation upon which our sport is built. If we build a strong foundation our structure will be strong. While these guidelines are not binding, we hope they will create greater checks and balances, self-policing and the mutual accountability between the apprentice and his sponsor. Just as apprentices have responsibilities to their mentors, sponsors have responsibilities toward their pupils.
A. Sponsors shall be available to their apprentices for sufficient phone conversations or personal meetings (if proximity allows) to maintain the level of communication and moral support that novices require throughout his or her formative years.
B. Sponsors shall inspect at least once the apprentices’ stock of falconry furniture and mews facilities before the inspection made by the State agent. Any practical deficiencies shall be mentioned and/or corrected prior to inspection.
C. Sponsors shall accompany and assist at least once in the trapping of the apprentice’s first bird.
D. Sponsors shall be in attendance at the time of the apprentice’s first free flight of his or her hawk. This is a crucial moment, both practically and emotionally, and should not be undertaken alone by the novice falconer.
E. Sponsors shall accompany and assist on several hunts throughout the apprentice’s first two seasons.
F. Should he or she decide to intermew their bird, the sponsor shall make at least one inspection of the apprentices’ mews and bird during the molt, in order to assess the condition of both.
G. At the end of the apprenticeship a letter of recommendation or denial shall be remitted to state and federal authorities.
A. Apprentices shall have passed the Federal Falconry exam before requesting sponsorship from any GFA member. This allows an important means by which the prospective sponsor may gauge the actual determination and maturity of the apprentice before volunteering his or her free time and energy toward the novice’s education.
B. Apprentices shall have obtained proper state hunting permits as per federal law before requesting sponsorship from any GFA member.
C. Apprentices shall have access to several suitable locations for the pursuit and capture of wild game with a trained raptor. Ours is strictly a hunting sport and novices without easy access to appropriate hunting land should reconsider their decision to undertake the care and training of hunting birds.
D. Apprentices shall submit application to the Georgia Falconry Association and maintain membership for at least the duration of the Apprentice period. This will indicate his or her general resolve and provide access to a body of requisite knowledge via contact with experienced members. The apprentice will gain practical and diverse experience during participation in Field Meets.
E. We recommend the Apprentice have produced or procured at least one hood and lure. While the mastery of proper hooding and luring are not expected of the novice, general proficiency in the creation and use of both these ancient and vital implements will be needed later.
F. We strongly recommend the apprentices acquire a Red-tailed hawk as their first falconry bird. These are the largest, least excitable, least likely to be lost, easiest to train and the most difficult to injure of three species currently available to the apprentice. The American Kestrel is considered far too fragile, high-strung and difficult to successfully hunt with to be flown first by any novice. The Red-shouldered hawk is similarly high-strung and difficult to bring to field competency, and is less hardy than its larger relative, the Red-tailed hawk.
G. We recommend the apprentice keep a daily log, wherein the variables of weight, weather, and time of day are added to a detailed description of each training session and subsequent hunt. The keeping of such a log, though perhaps a tedious chore at times, will provide invaluable future reference material for the novice. Letter to Prospective Falconer:
Dear Prospective Falconer,
We would like to tell you that obtaining a sponsor is not actually the first order of business, though it would seem that it might be at first glance. We recommend prior to looking around for a Sponsor that you study how to become a falconer….. plus a few other things.
We also strongly recommend the following books for those seeking to become falconers: “The Apprentice Study Guide” and the “Apprentice Manual” by the California Hawking Club, “The Red Tailed Hawk” by Liam McGranaghan and “Buteos and Bushytails” by Gary Brewer. You can order these from Northwoods Ltd., Western Sporting and Mike’s Falconry Supplies. We recommend that you get as many of these books as you can, begin studying, take the Apprentice exam and join the GFA. There will be several club workshops that you will have the opportunity to attend. Please see the events list on our web site for dates.
There’s quite a lot to do before soliciting a sponsor and expecting one to sponsor you. If you have gotten as far as passing the test and have joined the GFA you will have a better chance of getting a sponsor since your interest, motivation and dedication will be apparent at that point. At this point we can help you by giving you a list of falconers in your general area, but you must convince them you will be a good candidate. Remember, falconry is a hunting sport and not for pet keepers. Your sponsor may insist you go hunting with other falconers to show your true interest in the sport. If you do not have time to do this he will certainly wonder how you would have time if you had your own bird.
It is the sponsor’s responsibility to see that you have the proper equipment and facilities prior to your state inspection. Once you pass your state inspection your sponsor will help you trap, train and hunt your first bird.
The advantage of joining an association is vital, especially if your sponsor can not help as he or she should.
The Georgia Falconry Association