Get 1 Year of Cigar Aficionado for Just $14.95 + A Free Gift!

Falconry
Photo/iStock

The first hurdle of falconry is the fear. A full-grown raptor rockets down from the sky to nail a landing by grasping your forearm in its razor-sharp talons. The next is disabusing yourself of the notion that these are extravagant pets for oil sheiks. This millennia-old art is actually a sport—and it’s thriving in the United States.

Falconry is working in tandem with a bird of prey—an eagle, hawk, falcon or even an owl. Skilled falconers ramble through nature as their avian partners—don’t call them pets, they’re wild animals by law—fly alongside. The human’s job is relegated to flushing out game (squirrels, jackrabbits and snakes) from the brush, so the bird can swoop down on it. Getting a falconry license takes several years—typically by apprenticing with a master falconer and passing a written exam. But if you just want to experience the thrill of working with one of these magnificent raptors, a number of companies across the country will show you the basics. You skip the learning curve and the need to stock your freezer with rodents, reptiles or road kill to feed your bird. From the North American Falconers Association list of providers, I tried New England Falconry of Massachusetts. But California is another popular state for falconry as vineyards owners have found that a few flybys by a hungry hawk will discourage pesky birds from gobbling grapes. One of them, Napa’s Bouchaine Vineyards, offers occasional falconry experiences. Among the most challenging aspects of the sport, after training a bird to trust you, is keeping it in fighting trim. “Weight is 
everything,” explains New England Falconry’s Ian Turner, as a handsome Harris Hawk grips his heavily gloved forearm. “Konrad weighed 670 grams this morning. If he was 690 I probably wouldn’t have flown him. He’d think, ‘I’m full enough, I don’t need you guys.’ ” Turner stresses that falcons and other birds of prey are never truly domesticated, nor would you want them to be. When it comes to taking down a squirrel—the critters have been known to bite off a careless hawk’s toes in the struggle to survive—you want a bird that’s all business. Visit bouchaine.com, n-a-f-a.com and newenglandfalconry.com

Sport

More in The Good Life

See all
On Sale Now: Tickets To Big Smoke Meets WhiskyFest

On Sale Now: Tickets To Big Smoke Meets WhiskyFest

The day has come to get your tickets to the inaugural Big Smoke Meets WhiskyFest.

Apr 13, 2021
Macanudo Sponsoring Barstool Sports Golf Tournament

Macanudo Sponsoring Barstool Sports Golf Tournament

General Cigar Co. is sponsoring all 26 Barstool Sports events across the country.

Mar 30, 2021
11 Irish Whiskeys That Bring a Taste of the Old Country

11 Irish Whiskeys That Bring a Taste of the Old Country

The Irish whiskey revolution marches on with the country’s iconic copper pot stills.

Mar 16, 2021
Two New Cask-Strength Bourbons for 2021

Two New Cask-Strength Bourbons for 2021

Heaven Hill’s powerhouse Bourbons have arrived in the form of new cask-strength batches of both …

Feb 19, 2021
Johnnie Walker Puts Time in a Bottle

Johnnie Walker Puts Time in a Bottle

Renowned blended Scotch brand Johnnie Walker celebrates the Chinese New Year with a special Blue …

Feb 12, 2021
Tampa Bay Celebrates Super Bowl LV Win With Cigars

Tampa Bay Celebrates Super Bowl LV Win With Cigars

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers brought home the Lombardi Trophy last night to Cigar City as Tom Brady …

Feb 8, 2021