Most Mississippi sportsmen who hunt small game for birds and rabbits use a modern shotgun of the proper size and have done so for nearly three centuries. More than 357,000 Mississippi hunters ages 16 and older take to the woods each year, a force larger than the peacetime armies of Germany, Britain, and France combined. However, of those hunters, only about 25 use a bird of prey instead of a firearm or primitive weapon to hunt.
What is Falconry?
Falconry is hunting wild animals in their natural habitat with the use of a trained falcon. In times past, the term ausstringer or falconer was used for a hunter who did the same with a hawk or an eagle, however today the term falconer and falconry is used for the practitioner and the sport in general. The hobby originated in the ancient world in 2000 B.C. C. and predates the use of firearms for hunting by more than a millennium.
Do you have what it takes?
Falconry is time consuming and expensive. One should start as an apprentice to the sport and work up to being a general or master level falconer. Alan Mumbower, regional biologist and MDWFP Falcon Program guru puts it this way on the states website to see if falconry is for you:
“Will you, can you, dedicate part of your waking hours to a creature that at best will simply tolerate your presence, is as affectionate as stone, and at worst will cause you heartache and puncture wounds? Can you commit to an average of half an hour a day, every day, and two to four hours on a hunting day, regardless of school, family, or work, while you have your bird?”
Being a falconer requires more time than many other hunting disciplines and is a lifestyle change that affects you 365 days a year. Let’s face it, no matter how dedicated a hunter you are, you still don’t have to feed and care for your rifles, shotguns, or bows every day, no matter what. With a bird of prey on the payroll, you will.
The good news is that the most valuable item and the one you couldn’t do the sport without is free. You cannot legally purchase a bird of prey to hunt and you must catch your own in the wild. However, before you head out into the woods to capture your new feathered friend, you must first apply for an apprenticeship. In the application you must pass a review and certification inspection where you must show your Mews (interior installation for your raptor), your outdoor area where the tied raptor can fly, your jesses (anklet) for the bird, swivel, leash, gloves, bath containers, perches, scales and other equipment needed to care for and train your animal. This equipment is highly specialized and, like all good hunting equipment, it costs money. However, before you even go shopping for your equipment, you must pay for setup with MDWFP to take your falconry written exam per federal and state regulations, and pay your permits and fees of no less than $100 (valid for five years). plus the cost of your regular hunting license.
Current Mississippi state regulations only allow the apprentice falconer, who must be a minimum of 14 years of age, to humanely trap their new bird during approved times after all tests, fees, and inspections have been completed. previous. An apprentice can only own one red-tailed hawk (most often used by new falconers) either a red-shouldered hawk or an American kestrel. The new falconer must train his first animal and use it for a full hunting season before becoming a general falconer after two years. During this time you must work for and be sponsored by a Master Falconer, by definition an athlete with at least eight years of experience in the sport. General falconers can own two raptors and hunt without the tutelage of a master. Master falconers can own three birds.
The two dozen Mississippi falconers who practice this ancient sport wouldn’t have it any other way. For their time, effort, and money invested, they are modern day beastmasters who are literally one with nature. Many Mississippi falconers practice more extreme bird hunting, using their raptors to catch ducks and doves, as well as squirrels and rabbits effortlessly and with a grandeur that must be seen to be appreciated.