Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019
APPLING, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Autumn is a female, or hen, Red-tailed hawk trained by Master Falconer, Dr. Jason Norman.
She is trained to hunt small game like squirrels and rabbits.
Dr. Norman says these birds benefit from the falconer.
“So the great thing about flying a Red-tail is that we take them from the wild and they're young birds and most these young birds don't make it, so they get a college education. They get great healthcare and they become very strong and learn how to hunt. And then we're able to release them and so they have a great survival rate, where as they would never have that as young birds out in the wild”, explained Norman.
Falconry is not for the weekend warrior outdoorsman. These birds are protected on the state and federal level, so getting in isn't easy.
Once the bird is trained, the hunting starts. Norman explained the hunting process saying, “you start to have them follow you through the woods while you're shaking vines and you present normal game like a squirrel or a rabbit to them and they pursue it as they would naturally.
Once they capture the prey, you then trade them for meat. So if we were to take this squirrel from her, she wouldn't want to work with us again, so what we want to do is get some meat that's already open and ready, see she is already trying to move it, so I'm going to offer her some meat that is already open and ready. And that meat is going to entice her to trade with us”.
They are trained to be partners with the falconer.
“If you decide you want to let her go you can easily cut the jesses off and let her go and at any time. She is free to go if she would like. She can fly off and I would never see her again, but she chooses to stay with me and have this partnership because it's beneficial to both of us”, said Norman.
General Falconers are only allowed to hunt with hawks, but once you become a Master Falconer you can work your way up to falcons that can hunt birds.
Norman says the sport will never be huge, but will always have a strong backbone to keep the tradition going.
To learn more about falconry in Georgia, click here: https://gadnrle.org/falconry
To learn more about falconry in South Carolina, click here: http://www.dnr.sc.gov/birds/falconry.html