Falconers captivated by raptors

Topaz Lodge and Casino is the gathering location for a group of raptor enthusiasts during their 37th annual California Hawking Club Field Meet continuing through Saturday. At this writing, more than 150 participants were preregistered for the four-day event but a lot of walk-ins are also expected. The CHC Field Meet is anticipated as being one of the largest and falconers are expected from Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, California and Nevada.

Falconry, once consider the sport of kings, is one of the oldest hunting sports. The basic definition of falconry is the taking of wild quarry in its natural state with a trained raptor. Of all sports in America, falconry is the only one that utilizes a trained wild creature. Among the raptor family, falcons, hawks, eagles and owls are all essential elements of our wildlife ecosystem.

Falconry is not an overnight achievement. Becoming a master falconer takes at least seven years; finishing your apprenticeship alone will take at least two years. Your raptor requires a significant amount of time, every day, 365 days a year, and a bird in training requires substantially more time. Raptors, unlike a rifle or a bow, cannot be hung on the wall, or put in the closet, and forgotten until the next hunting trip.

Because all raptors are protected by state, federal, and international law, all potential falconers must obtain necessary permits before obtaining a raptor or practicing falconry. This can take quite a while, since it includes taking a written falconry exam and getting the appropriate signatures. In some states, hunter education courses are required before you can get your hunting license.

Before getting involved in the sport of falconry, you must be able to answer the following questions:

1. Are you sincerely interested in all aspects of wildlife and the out-of-doors?

2. How badly do you want to learn? Are you ready to start at the bottom of the totem pole and stay there for two or more years and dedicate many hours to the sport?

3. Can you listen to and follow advice?

4. How's your patience and pain tolerance? Raptors bite. They also can grip or rake you with their powerful feet and needle-sharp talons.

5. How much have you already read? What groups or listserves do you already belong to? A serious commitment to becoming a falconer is often evidenced by a ravenous appetite for books or online information.

6. Can you hunt? Not do you know how, which is a challenge in itself, but are you emotionally prepared? Falconry is sharing your life with a creature that has evolved over millions of years to do one thing-kill.

7. After investing all this time and effort, do you really understand that, at any moment of free flight, your bird can choose to simply fly away?

These are the things to consider before taking on this challenging sport. But, thanks to the many falconry organizations, national and international, this ancient tradition will keep on keepin' on.

-- The Republican precinct meetings and informal caucuses for precincts 10 and 24 will be 9 a.m. Saturday at the Topaz Ranch Estates Station 4 fire station. The doors will open by 8:30 a.m., business to begin as close to 9 a.m. as possible. This will be the only time in which Nevadans will be able to express their specific wishes as to whom should run for Republican candidate for president. All registered Republicans can cast their vote in the preference poll. For more information contact Republican Central Committee chairwoman Maggie Benz, 782-5078.

-- The south county Democratic caucus location for precincts 10 and 24 will begin with the doors opening 11 a.m. Saturday at the Topaz Ranch Estates Community Park Building, 3939 Carter Drive, Topaz Ranch Estates. For more information contact Rural Organizer Cindy Trigg by e-mail at ctrigg@nvdems.com or access nvdemscaucus.com for location information or call 338-1561.

-- Jonni Hill can be reached at jhill@recordcourier.com or at 782-5121, ext. 213, or after hours at JHILL47@aol.com.


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