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MAKENZIE’S OUTDOOR ADVENTURES: Falconry Field Meet

Published: Dec. 9, 2021 at 11:49 AM CST
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QUARTZ MOUNTAIN STATE PARK, Okla. (KSWO) -Hundreds of Falconers flocked to the Quartz Mountain State Park in November to celebrate the sport of falconry.

It was the 2021 North American Falconers Association Annual Field Meet, and it’s the latest edition of Makenzie’s Outdoor Adventures.

The North American Falconers Association gets together annually to celebrate falconry in North America.

“It goes back thousands of years,” said Sheldon Nicolle, President of NAFA. “It was a way for people to put food on their tables before guns. And it’s one of these renaissance type sports if you will.”

The sport of falconry requires a lot of training to be able to take or raise a wild raptor to hunt with you.

“The way we do it is by drone training,” said Falconer, Phil Salvati. “First we teach them about their lure, and then we teach them to go up with the drone or kite, and then once they’re at a certain height, we teach them to look down at us and we will release. So they gotta chase and learn that in staying by us and following us, we release something for them to chase.”

Some birds hunt low to the ground, hunting rabbits and mice, while others, like Phil Salvati’s peregrine falcon, hunts from high in the air and stoops down to take out other birds like ducks.

That day, we drove around searching for ducks on ponds. Once we found one, the hunt was on.

“Obviously make sure we have permission to fly those grounds track the winds track the weight make sure everything is set up, GPS is turned on,” said Salvati. “And then we release the bird.”

The wind that day was rough, making it hard for the bird to gain altitude. Once the bird got to a good enough height, we scared the duck off the pond, for the bird to stoop down and attack.

The duck got back to the pond quickly, so the hunt was over at that point. Even though the outcome was not ideal, his bird did make a successful hit on the duck, so he was rewarded.

Nicolle, originally from Zimbabwe, Africa, grew up around hunting raptors.

“The thing I enjoy most about being a Falconer is probably just that connection with a predator getting this this wild animal to accept you as a hunting partner as a pretty neat thing it’s a it’s a privilege to be able to do that so,” said Nicolle.

Nicolle says 70-80 percent of wild birds die within their first year of life, for various reasons including human intervention.

“You know there’s a lot of folks that shoot raptors still to this day, and that’s a huge issue,” said Nicolle. “I think as a falconer and doing that outreach and letting people see these birds up close, and personal. And understand their true value will maybe make them think twice about taking a bird and shooting it.”

Salvati says it’s all about the connection he forms with the birds that he says is indescribable.

“It’s not about the end all do all of killing another animal,” said Salvati. “It’s taking that wild bird or a baby bird and raising it to a certain point, teaching it to fly, teaching it to learn how to to take its prey, and be part of that. And then having that bird allow me to walk up to it on its prey and for him to let go and come to me and trust me, I can’t explain it.”

For more information on falconry, or how to become a falconer, go to N-A-F-A.com.

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