1 Year of Cigar Aficionado for $10 PLUS 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
CBS Sunday Morning Thanks Cigar Aficionado

CBS Sunday Morning Thanks Cigar Aficionado

The September 6 broadcast of the hit television show “CBS Sunday Morning” closed with host Jane …

Sep 8, 2020
Complete Michael Jordan Video Interview to Debut July 30 at 7 p.m.

Complete Michael Jordan Video Interview to Debut July 30 at 7 p.m.

On Thursday, July 30 at 7 p.m., we will be posting on CigarAficionado.com a special, uncut version of …

Jul 23, 2020
The Second Coming of the Drive-In

The Second Coming of the Drive-In

The quintessential American entertainment venue, the Drive-In movie theater, stays viable with …

Jul 22, 2020
Countdown to Ecstasy

Countdown to Ecstasy

At the 2019 Big Smoke Las Vegas last November, Doug Halcomb and his Cigar Raiders crew were on a …

Jul 10, 2020
Tiki Drinks

Tiki Drinks

Tiki drinks encourage us to have fun with our cocktails and not worry about mixing a proper this or a …

Jun 30, 2020
The Most Luxurious Golf Course in Las Vegas

The Most Luxurious Golf Course in Las Vegas

When it comes to the most luxurious round of golf in Vegas, it is undoubtedly the relatively new …

Jun 19, 2020