Here’s a copy of the letter I sent to the TWRA asking to be upgraded to General Falconer:
“I’m writing to request that I be advanced to the status of General Falconer. I have had the privilege of hunting with and learning from falconers for the past 5 years. In the 2013-2014 season, I began to work in order to become a falconer. That year, I went on a number of different hunts, including inviting a couple falconers to come and stay at my house for a long weekend and hunt in my woods every day. I learned how to make traps, jesses, leashes, and giant hoods. I read everything I could, including the California Hawking Guide, The Falconer’s Apprentice by William Oakes, Falconry by Humphrey Ap Evans, and The Red Tailed Hawk by Liam McGranaghan.
“In the 2014-2015 season, I went trapping on several occasion with other falconers, helping them to get their birds. I also had the opportunity to observe and work with my sponsor on training and flying his bird throughout that year. He also worked with me to prepare my mews for TWRA inspection and get ready for trapping and training my own bird. I learned how to trap, attach equipment, schedule my life so I could hunt 5 or 6 times a week, and feed and house a bird of prey. By that time I had already spent two years in the world of falconry, and I was ready to take my exam and begin flying my own bird.
“Now, I have just completed two seasons of falconry under a sponsor (the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 seasons). In that time I have successfully trapped two juvenile red tail hawks, one in November 2015 (#RO121983) and one in September 2016 (#RO124454). I trained them, kept them strong and healthy throughout the entire season, and hunted with them both successfully. I have loved every bit of it!
“In both seasons, I also went trapping with several other falconers who were getting their own birds so that I could get as much experience as possible with trapping.
“I released my first bird in March 2016 after hunting about five times a week for four months and catching around 15 squirrels, mice, and chipmunks. With my bird this year, we caught 43 squirrels and rabbits from October to March (not including at least a dozen mice and chipmunks!). I had ample opportunity to hunt both birds with other licensed falconers who have years of experience, and was able to learn from them about red tails, Harris hawks, Goshawks, Peregrine Falcons, and kestrels. I also learned all the necessary care and maintenance for these birds. I’m planning to keep this year’s bird over the summer and hunt with him for another season.
“Respectfully, I would like to receive my general license so I can continue pursuing and enjoying this great sport in our state. I’ve been researching and planning to trap and hunt with a kestrel when I am able.”
My sponsor told me that this letter, along with his recommendation, would be enough. Turns out he was wrong (I can say that now because I’m not his apprentice!). I also needed to give a log of all my hunts along with the animals harvested. I didn’t know I was supposed to do that, and it could have been a tricky thing but thankfully I had kept a journal and had texted my sponsor every time I caught something.
And now I’m in the big leagues. I’m a General Falconer, which just means that I know at least enough that I shouldn’t make any terrible mistakes. But, there is so much more to learn! A General Falconer is allowed to have up to three birds at a time, and so we are already planning on trapping an American Kestrel this upcoming season! After that, I hope to train a Goshawk at some point, and when the Future Apprentice is old enough, we’re going to hunt Harris Hawks together.
[I love this watercolor, Handsome Hunter by Morton Solberg. Kestrels are beautiful little birds!]