Read the original article at everythinglubbock.com here.
Birds of prey have captivated human hearts for untold centuries. If you are one of those captivated, the North American Falconer’s Association (NAFA) invites you to join us to see these amazing creatures up close. NAFA will present a virtual cornucopia of visual delights at their annual field meet in Lubbock, Texas from December 2 – 7. Throughout the week, the lawn of the meet headquarters at the MCM Eleganté Hotel & Suites will be covered with a host of hawks and falcons, along with falconers from all over the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom and other areas of the world. That is, when they’re not out and about the Lubbock area hunting with their birds.
Falconry, the sport of taking wild game in partnership with a wild bird of prey, is a time-honored, traditional hunting method that dates back to the very beginning of recorded human history. Today, falconry is practiced by an estimated 5,000 men and women throughout the United States. The field meet is their once-a-year get-together.
The annual field meet is not a competition. Nor is it a falconry exhibition. It is largely a social gathering where falconers can meet other falconers from the far corners of the country.
(and the world) to exchange information, share experiences, purchase falconry equipment and hawking “furniture” from the wide variety of falconry craftspeople, and discuss training methods and falconry standards. Along with the basic camaraderie between falconers, the annual meet provides a venue for the annual NAFA business meeting where issues pertaining to falconry are discussed and decided.
Interested observers are encouraged to visit the weathering yard during the meet to see hundreds of raptors of all varieties. You will see everything from the smallest North American falcon, the American kestrel (commonly known as the Sparrow Hawk) to a golden eagle. Redtail hawks, peregrine falcons, gyrfalcons, Harris’ hawks and goshawks will be there in abundance along with a couple of exotic species from other parts of the world.
You are welcome to take all the pictures you want from outside the weathering yard enclosure. And with the falconer’s permission, you can also take an up-close-and-personal shot outside the weathering yard enclosure. Visitors are also encouraged to ask questions, and perhaps even arrange to accompany a falconer on a real-time hunt to see what falconry is really all about. Falconers are almost always willing to talk your ears off about their birds, but like in the general population, some are shy and quiet. If one falconer isn’t very talkative, go ask another. As a group, falconers rarely bite!
Bottom line, come out and enjoy these majestic and stunningly beautiful birds with us. The weathering yard is located on the grounds of the MCM Eleganté Hotel and Suites and the public is welcome to come and learn about the sport of falconry.
FALCONRY FACT SHEET:
- Hunting wild game in partnership with a bird of prey.
- A time-honored, traditional hunting method that dates back to the very beginning of recorded human history.
- The most highly regulated hunting activity in America, requiring both State and Federal falconry permits (in addition to local hunting licenses), along with a two-year apprenticeship period under the supervision and guidance of an experienced falconer.
- The primary force behind restoring the peregrine falcon from the brink of extinction. Falconers were the first to notice the decline in peregrine populations, and many falconers donated their own birds for the successful captive breeding and restoration programs that allowed the peregrine falcon’s removal from the Endangered Species.
- Practiced by both men and women.
- A non-consumptive form of hunting and resource utilization. Falconry has no impact on populations of wild birds of prey, nor does it impact game populations. Falconry birds continue to do what they did in the wild, only with the addition of a human partner. Additionally, most birds taken from the wild are returned to the wild to join the breeding population.
- Based upon centuries-old tradition while also including cutting-edge technologies such as radio telemetry.
- Based upon sound resource management and conservation.
- An intimate form of bird watching. Through a mutual bond of trust and respect, falconers are allowed to observe, and participate in, a dynamic aspect of Nature’s circle of life.
FALCONRY IS NOT:
- A competition.
- About keeping birds of prey in captivity for the purpose of exhibition. Falconry birds are released nearly every day and can choose whether or not to return to their falconer. The bird can fly-the falconer cannot.
- About starving a bird of prey into submission. Quite the contrary. A falconry bird is a fit, healthy athlete capable of performing at the utmost peak of its physical abilities and endurance.
- About keeping an exotic pet.
- A weekend-only, when-you-get-around-to-it activity. Falconry requires a daily commitment to the bird’s health and wellbeing that includes regular hunting.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF FALCONRY:
Although its origin is uncertain, falconry is an ancient activity, with earliest available records dating back to at least 722 B.C. in what is now modern-day Iraq. Records of trained goshawks introduced to Japan from China date back to 244 A.D. European records emerged in 400 A.D., indicating that falconry was limited primarily to royalty and the upper classes. Falconry most likely traveled to the New World with the Spanish exploration of Mexico in the early 16th Century. However, the first reports from Hernando Cortez’ expedition into Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City) cited the availability of raptors for sale in the markets of Montezuma’s Aztec empire.
The first falconry club was formed in North America during the 1930s, but disbanded during World War II. Individuals continued to practice falconry through the Post-War period and the North American Falconers’ Association (NAFA) emerged in the 1960s. From there, state organizations formed, including the Texas Hawking Association (THA) in 1970. Today, THA boasts 200 plus active members who are deeply interested in raptor conservation promoting falconry through community outreach programs.
Falconers played a huge role in the formation of the Endangered Species Act and the restoration of the peregrine falcon that resulted in the delisting of the peregrine falcon from Endangered classification. It was falconers who
noticed the rapid decline in peregrine falcon populations during the mid-1960s. Falconers pushed for the creation of the Endangered Species Act that protected the peregrine falcon (and other species like Bald Eagles) so that steps could be taken to rescue the peregrine falcon from the brink of extinction. Falconers developed captive-breeding programs. Many falconers donated their own birds to the restoration of the species through captive breeding.
(News release from the North American Falconers Association)