Becoming a Falconer

If you are considering becoming a falconer, it is very important that you examine your reasons to be sure you have a genuine desire and your venture will not be just a passing fancy. You may have read an article in a magazine or newspaper or even witnessed a flight demonstration. Articles are frequently inaccurate, they may sensationalize the sport and little emphasis may be given to the fact that success is measured by the beauty and excitement of the chase, not whether or how much game is caught. JT, founder of Falconry Alliance, sums it all up with this statement: “[Falconry is] something personal, private, sacred. The unspoken relationship the hawk and I share is clear and honest, a hunting partnership, and my front row seat to the greatest airshow on earth. I get caught up in the vicarious thrill, but still realize that the bird’s the star, I’m the earthbound mortal spectator.”

Flight demonstrations make falconry look easy, but fail to convey any idea of the long hours and the hard work the trained raptor represents.

Before you decide to become a falconer you should have a serious, dedicated interest in the sport and a love for, and interest in, all wildlife and the outdoors. You should read everything you can get your hands on about falconry. You should talk to practicing falconers, if possible, and ask to go on a hunt with them. You should join the Georgia Falconry Association and attend the various seminars, functions and meets held during the year.

Be aware that caring for, training and hunting a bird requires a substantial amount of time and patience. You must be financially able to obtain the basic housing and equipment. If you have the necessary skills, your initial cost can be reduced by building the facilities for the bird and making some of the required equipment yourself.

Lastly, you must have access to suitable land where you can fly your bird.

If, after reading the above you still wish to become a falconer, here is the process:

1.Go to this DNR website, https://gadnrle.org/falconry, for information. This site contains a link to the Falconry State permit Application with Study Guide. This will explain exactly how to begin the process.

2.Study for the test. The California Hawking Club’s “Apprentice Manual” and “The Apprentice Study Guide”, and William Oakes “The Falconer’s Apprentice” are excellent resources to begin your study. There are many other books that are in limited print or are currently out of print including “North American Falconry and Hunting Hawks” by Beebe and Webster and “The Red-tailed Hawk: A Complete Guide To Training and Hunting North America’s Most Versatile Game Hawk-Fourth Edition” by Liam McGranaghan are also excellent study materials. Check falconry equipment websites like Northwoods, Ltd, Mike’s Falconry Supplies, or Western Sporting and online book sellers Amazon and Barnes and Nobles for these titles.

3. Take the test. Technically you have to send in the application before scheduling the test, but practically you can call Special Permits and schedule a date to take the test before you submit the application. The reason they allow this is some must take the test several times before passing. If you fail, you must wait 30 days before taking it again. Since your checks must accompany the application, your checks could potentially be outstanding for a considerate amount of time. In addition, the name of your sponsor must be on the application and it could be very hard to get someone to agree to sponsor you prior to your passing the test.

4. Secure a sponsor. An apprentice must, by federal law, be sponsored by a General or Master falconer. Once you’re a GFA member and have passed the falconry exam, any of the Georgia Falconry Association’s Board members will assist you in contacting potential sponsors. This is just one of several excellent reasons to join the Georgia Falconry Association. Unless you are fortunate enough to know a master or general falconer willing to sponsor you, you will end up contacting one of the GFA’s Apprentice Representatives for the names of candidate sponsors. Those candidate sponsors come from the ranks of the GFA. They are not obligated to sponsor you. Sponsors are looking for apprentices that have done their homework, passed their test, are willing to follow directions, love raptors and are willing to hunt with them. Being a Georgia Falconry Association member is an important step in the process of proving to them that you are serious. Your prospective sponsor will expect you to have a hunting license before he/she will agree to sponsor you and you must have a hunting license before you start hunting with your bird. Note: Hunting is the difference between being a falconer and a “pet-keeper.” One of the worst things that can be said about someone in this sport is that they are a “pet-keeper.”

5. Obtain/construct your facilities and equipment. You must, by law have a mews (house), large enough so that your bird will have freedom of movement. Generally an 8′ x 8′ x 8′ cube is sufficient for a free-lofted red tail hawk. If you include a weathering area, it must also meet state and federal requirements. See examples of mews and weathering areas here. In addition, you must have the following equipment: Aylmeri jesses, leash, swivel, outdoor perch, scale capable of reading 1/2 ounce (15 grams) or better, and a bath pan. Other items not required by law, but necessary, are a gauntlet (glove), hawk box (Giant Hood) and a hunting vest.

6. Have your sponsor inspect your facilities and equipment. If he/she determines you are ready, send your application to the GADNR, Special Permits Unit along with a check payable to GADNR for $30.00.

7. Have your DNR inspection. Give the GADNR Special Permits office a few days to receive your application, and if they have not contacted you, call and ask them to schedule your inspection. If you’ve obviously provided decent facilities for a hawk and have the right equipment, you will pass the first time. If, however, the ranger/game biologist advises you to fix or correct an item, make the corrections as soon as possible and let the DNR know you are ready for a re-inspection. Once your facilities and equipment pass, the ranger/game biologist will sign the form and return it to the Special Permits office in Social Circle. Special Permits will then forward your application and check to the US Fish and Wildlife office in Atlanta. They will assign you a permit number and return to Special Permits, who will then issue your license. A word of warning: the folks at the Special Permits Unit have a heavy workload. It may take a while for your license to be issued, so be patient. This is a good reason to take the test, build your mews and obtain the required equipment early in the year. This way you don’t get caught waiting for your license to be issued after trapping season has come in.

8. Congratulations! Once you have your license to learn to be a falconer, you can trap your bird. Your sponsor will assist you directly with this task. With the content available online you may be eager to build a trap and head out immediately once you have your licence, you should never attempt to trap any falconry bird alone the first time. The falconry laws have changed and there is no longer a set trapping season, you can technically trap all year but your sponsor will be able to guide you as to the best times to trap. The laws as to species an apprentice is allowed to hunt with have also changed, discuss with other falconers in your area which species will work best for your location and types of quarry available. When you trap your bird, you must, within 5 days, complete form 3-186-A (Migratory Bird Acquisition/Disposition Report) which was sent to you along with your license.

How GFA can Help

One of the primary goals of the Georgia Falconry Association is to promote the art and practice of falconry. We are very interested in helping anyone, especially those at the apprenticeship level. According to federal law, an apprentice must have a sponsor. A sponsor must hold a general or master falconry license. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is kind enough to recommend our organization as a resource for those interested in the sport of falconry.

We are glad to assist in the search for a sponsor. We will make every effort to help identify someone who is willing to consider sponsoring a new apprentice. All General or Master class falconers have a responsibility to become a sponsor to ensure the perpetuation of our sport.

Note: If you are a Master or General class falconer in Georgia and would consider sponsorship, please inform one of the Directors of your availability.

We also disseminate information about falconry and our organization to anyone interested in and/or wanting to become a falconer, or falconers who have recently moved to Georgia.

Contact any GFA board member from the list below for assistance.

Name City/County Contact
Donna Blanton Lexington/Oglethorpe (706) 714-2643  dblanton279@gmail.com
Dennis Mock Dry Branch/Twiggs (478) 214-2847
dmock@safeprosecurity.com
Ali Csinos Clermont/Hall (706) 969-2638 acsinos@hotmail.com
Jack Hood Carrollton/Carroll (404) 512-1478
goshawk1979@gmail.com
Griff Lindsey Douglas/Coffee (912) 381-4284 griffmlindsey@gmail.com
Paul Davis Rockyface/Whitfield (706) 264-1751 michael.paul.davis@outlook.com
Ben Hill Arnoldsville/Athens-Clarke (706) 401-7655
Fx4offroad99@hotmail.com