Is becoming a falconer right for me?
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How to become a Falconer
There are three levels of falconry:
Apprentice - is where you begin (you must be 14 to start the apprenticeship program). This requires getting the proper falconry permits from the state/region and federal government. The requirement for licensure typically includes an hourly training minimum as well as a written test (passing grade is 80%) that ensures the falconer knows how to properly feed, train, and care for his bird. The apprentice must also get a hunting license in order distinguish him/herself from being a 'pet owner' and a falconer.
The apprentice needs to find a sponsor; someone who has had experience as a falconer for at least two years, and who can train the apprentice through their first two years of falconry. Getting a sponsor before the examination can be very beneficial as they can help the apprentice prepare for the test.
The apprentice is also required to build a mews, or hawk house. The bird will need safe housing from all weather conditions as well as wild animals. The sponsor can help with plans for the mews, which is typically at least a 10'x10' structure, with proper perching and a window. This will be inspected by a state Fish and Wildlife officer. They will most likely also check to make sure the apprentice has proper equipment; a scale & perch for weighing, a leash & swivel, a leather glove, a bath pan, proper perching, bells & leather jesses, and a source for food.
The Fish and Wildlife officer will send off the approved inspection of the mews, along with the apprentices' test results and sponsor information, to the permitting offices. Once the permit comes back, the apprentice can trap a bird (a novice falconer can have only one bird for training at any one time) and begin hunting. Usually this bird is either a Redtail or a Kestral.
General Falconer - is a designation after two years of falconry experience (and the falconer must be 18 years of age). Two raptors are allowed at any one time at this stage, and different types of raptors can be used other than the Redtail or the Kestral.
Master Falconer - is a designation after seven years of falconry experience, and is the highest level to obtain. At this level, up to three birds are allowed at one time, and the falconer is allowed to pick from a wider range of birds.