SHTF Falconry: Don’t Think So!
Falconry, what is falconry? Going by the text book definition falconry is “the training of raptors to hunt wild prey for humans”. This by definition is completely wrong. Take it from the ones who know. The instincts and innate ability of a raptor to hunt prey came from millions of years of evolution and where handed down from the parents to the offspring. The only thing that you are “training” a raptor to do is to put up with a human tagging along for the hunt. This is not an easy task. Some falconers will argue that when raising an eyass (a nestling hawk or falcon) that you, in fact, do teach the bird how to hunt. In my own experience, they already have all the mechanisms and drive in place. All we do is “prime the pump” so to speak.
Falconry has been around a very long time. When the art of falconry started is still up in the air. Some historians believe the practice started in the steppes of Mongolia between 4,000 and 6,000 B.C. Other experts believe that it started much earlier in the Middle East. Regardless of when it started, most of the evidence found on ancient falconry was tied to royalty or aristocrats of the time. This is not by coincidence! Kings, queens and the upper-class in antiquity not only had more land, money and goods; they also had more time. When it comes to a SHTF scenario, how precious will your time be? If I haven’t lost you yet let’s talk about devoting time to falconry.
A hawk or a falcon can be equated to an Olympic wrestler when it comes to weight. A wrestler finds his or her optimum fighting weight and does everything they can do to be at that weight when it’s time to hit the mat. Raptors, on the other hand, are very opportunistic hunters and will, even if they just gorged themselves, try to plug some more food down into their crop. They do this because, in the wild you never know when your next meal will be bouncing down the fence row. A heavy bird is bad when it comes to falconry. If the bird is overweight and you cast it into the air, be prepared to stand under your bird swinging your lure for a while. If the bird is sharp or underweight, you will have just as many problems. A bird lacking in nutrition and energy will never be a good hunter. So weight is a very important aspect of falconry. You must find your bird’s hunting weight and make sure that it is at that weight when you want to go hunting. So knowing how many grams/ounces of weight your bird burns in what climate is essential. If you know this number you have dedicated at least an hour a day, EVERYDAY, to your bird. Can you afford that much time in a SHTF scenario?
Now that we touched on maintaining weight, let’s talk about actually hunting along with your bird. I have seen comments stating that falconry would be an ideal way of hunting in a SHTF scenario. I’ve read different explanations as to why, but none of them were from actual falconers. So let’s start with the first one.
Shooting a gun will draw unwanted attention and hunting with a hawk is silent. The first part of that statement is true. Shooting a gun will let others know where you are. The second part however is very much not so. There is a saying among falconers that speaks a lot of truth, “I spent all this time and money just to become a beagle.” That’s your role when you hunt with raptors. You put the bird in the air and flush the game out for them. Almost every animal around knows when a raptor is in the air. I’ve seen ducks hold so tight on the water that you could almost grab them with your hands because there was a falcon flying in the sky above them. I’ve seen rabbits hold so tight that I have actually stepped on them because they knew that my hawk was in the air. So to make these animals move you have to beat the bush. Walk with a stick and slap the brush trying to get something to flush. Bring a dog to flush the game. Now you’re yelling commands at the dog. Falconry is a very loud hunt when compared to any other type of hunting. Falconry is by no means silent, not by a long shot.
The bird will be able to put food on the table. Yes and no. Yes the bird will be able to put food on the table just probably not your table. Let me explain. Some of the best hawks that I have seen hunt were able to get a double kill that day. 2 rabbits sound great. Those were ideal conditions and they were located within city limits. In a SHTF scenario, you won’t be flying hawks inside any city very long, I don’t think. Now country rabbit hunting is a lot harder and they are spaced a lot farther out which means more work for your bird with a hell of a lot flybys or misses. There will be more beating around in the bush and making noise trying to flush game on your part. The both of you will be burning precious calories by the minute. Many days I have went hawking for 4 to 5 hours and came home with sore calves and scratched shins and no meat. Now you’re tired and hungry and so is the bird, but you have no fresh meat to feed the bird. What happens now? So if the bird does make a kill, most likely you will be saving some, if not all of it, to feed back to the bird.
This article is not meant to discourage anyone from legally becoming and practicing falconry. In fact I encourage it. Falconry has changed my life in many ways. Mostly good changes, but a few changes are bad. It’s hard to find someone to take care of your raptor when you want to take a vacation or have a family emergency. Taking care of a raptor is like taking care of an infant that will never grow up. Every day you wake up the first thing that must happen is check on the bird. Every night before you go to bed… check on the bird. Somewhere in between all that you feed it and weigh it and do some flight exercises. These must happen every day whether it’s a SHTF scenario or not.