Five on Falconry: Jeremy Bradshaw

Jeremy and Fresh Merlin!

Jeremy Bradshaw began his falconry pursuit in Gridley, California and has been a falconer for 17 years. His hands-down favorite falconry partner is a merlin and his favorite merlin was a jack named Spike. He is a full-time hoodmaker and passionate craftsman who appreciates and supports artisans in our sport, but notes that the falconer who inspires him most is Randy Fiscus for his unwavering enthusiasm and infectious joy in the field. When Jeremy is not making hoods, snacking on rice cakes (no more M&Ms for the smaller Big Jer) or avoiding washing dishes (do all falconers hate washing dishes?) he’s planning his next adventure traveling west with merlins.


1) So partial disclosure blah blah blah. We have a few mutual friends and the hood I bought from you exponentially raised my expectations for hoods… but I don’t think there’s much more to disclose about how we know each other. So on with it! Every landscape has a quality and a voice that’s unique Alaska’s one with which most falconers are not familiar. You’re now in Moscow, ID, but what is about hunting in Alaska that stands out to you?

I actually did not hunt while I lived in Alaska.  I went there to take a break from falconry and seriously consider whether or not I wanted to continue with it at all. I took that time to focus my efforts on making hoods and examine what falconry means to me, where it has taken me, what it has added to my life, what I have sacrificed for it, and how it might fit in my future. I actually have to say that it is this “Five On Falconry” project of yours and the interview with Matt Mullenix that brought some clarity to what I have felt has been a bit of a falconry identity crisis.  The reference to falconry as being comparable to a long term relationship is a perspective that I had not considered.  It was enlightening for me really, and has allowed me to accept my little philosophical hiccup in better stride.  Anyways, I am not in Alaska any longer because I ultimately decided I needed some hawking.  Living in a town carved out of the rainforest on an island wasn’t going to work for that!

Makin' Hoods!

2) I made a hood once (the-hood-that-shall-never-be-seen) and am no stranger to the attention to both intuition and detail that hood-making requires. As a full-time hood-maker, what has changed in the way you see your falconry and its nuances?

This is the question plaguing me a bit. There are a couple of applications where being a hoodmaker can and has changed falconry for me.  As far as my actual falconry I feel like I should have some deep answer about how being a hoodmaker has brought greater insight and depth in my falconry.  I just don’t think it is so. I have been a small bird hawker in one form or another for most of my falconry, and dealing with the little guys in this sport required me to refine my attention to the details…gear, weight, food quality, etc. Hood making certainly magnified that attention to detail but didn’t necessarily change the way I see it.

Where hood making has really changed my whole falconry world is in opening up so many new relationships and opportunities.  Customers have become friends and travelling to meets to pedal my wares has opened up a whole new sense of community to me.  There is an interesting mix of responsibility to my craft and business in how I represent it and then how I maintain it along the hopefully extended relationship with a customer.

It isn’t just about making one hood for someone, it is about becoming their hoodmaker. That is ultimately what I am after. I have a responsibility for what many falconers consider a key element to the successful manning and training of the bird that is their hope for that coming season. I know, probably over-stating the importance of a hood, but when I get overwhelmed with too many orders I keep my head in the game by focusing on how important that one hood is to that one falconer that placed the order.


3) Speaking of full-time hood-making and living what would be considered the dream for many, what does it take to balance a passion like falconry and a business without losing either?

It is funny for me because with the success of my little hood business has come a serious reduction in free time…free time that was part of my hawking time. I struggle to find balance not just for falconry, but for all of my interests, passions, and hobbies. My friends, and maybe even strangers in the periphery know that I have a touch of “Peter Pan Syndrome.” One of the symptoms of my disorder is a constant desire to find more ways to play. I am the first to admit that I have too many hobbies.The struggle is that the level of hood that I strive to make for falconers takes time, careful consideration, passion, and a commitment to the customer and their bird.

I love making hoods and I cannot seem to say “no”. Orders stack up to the point that I don’t get to go outside enough. I have really had to remind myself this summer that the world won’t end if I don’t work on hoods every day. And for this hawking season I will actually be taking a little breather. I have big plans to travel around the west flying a couple of passage female merlins and my tiercel aplomado to the extent that a new travel trailer and truck are in the works as I write.  Pretty much the only folks that will be able to order hoods from me this fall and winter are those that have my private cell number –if they can get me to answer it.

The Wedding...

4) You and your wife triked (yes, like with adult-style tricycles) down a portion of the Pacific Coast. Then you got married in Las Vegas on your Pugsleys (snow bikes). –And, um, Larry the Cable Guy witnessed, but that’s another interview. I actually see a connection. Falconry is very much about blood, sweat and calories burned, not unlike journeying on a bike. How do the two fit together for you?

The trike trip was actually very much like a falconry season. Each season with a new bird is filled with hope and expectation that then is actualized successfully or not in a series of small victories and failures.  We were swimming in anticipation and expectation of our adventure training ourselves like one would train a falcon to meet the goals of the coming season. Like a hawking season some ideas worked and some did not.  We learned things that we will apply on future touring trips, just like falconers build on their experiences with each season with an intermewed bird or new bird of the same kind. In the end it was a grand adventure that left us wanting more.  That is what I want to feel after each hawking season.

5) Okay, truth be told, I’m still stuck on Larry The Cable Guy. Did you and Stephanie vow to “Git-R-Done”? And will that entail “’til death do you part”?

Larry actually officiated our wedding in Vegas, and surprisingly didn’t say “Git-R-Done” once! I mean come on! A wedding and no “Git-R-Done” from the guy himself.  I guess it was just too obvious even for redneck humor.  If I am lucky enough to get Steph to stick it out with my “til death do us part” the sky is the limit.  She enjoys my crazy ideas way too much and that is all the encouragement I need.

 

Thanks, Jeremy! This was a great interview. I have to admit, going into my 17th year too there is much relief in discovering many of my peers seem to have had crises of “faith”. And I’m also relieved to hear that we seem to come back to the sport on new refreshed terms. I’m also thrilled that you are there for my falconry hood needs… so about that cell phone number…

Seriously, when Jeremy is off hiatus or if you see him at a meet, buy one of his hoods! You can check out his website here. And keep an eye out for a blog on his next grand adventure. It will be a must for merlin lovers!

Five on Falconry: Stacey Huston

Stacey Huston

Stacey Huston began her passion for falconry in Wyoming with a red-tailed hawk named Kiva. Eleven years later she is still passionate about the sport and practically all outdoor endeavors. Stacey and her husband owned a log home restoration company for over fifteen years, but now Stacey is a “kept” woman free to engage in her side jobs of outdoor writing, photography and video work. She spends her free time on long treks in search of her favorite drink, high mountain water sipped from her cupped hands while reminiscing about meeting Jack Hanna and wondering if he ever figured out why someone would want to be a falconer.

1) First question is partial disclosure. I met you on Twitter and we now run in the same cyberpack. In a world in which women have only recently been welcomed (or pushed their way in), how do you think the Internet has added to your “outdoor” experience?

The Internet really has added to my outdoor experience in making it easier for people with common interests to meet. I am a girl who loves and has always loved the outdoors and nature. In school I got along better with the boys because they did all the cool things (outside) and had little in common with girls (shopping, makeup, cloths and drama in general) but the internet has introduced me to many women who enjoy the same things I do. I am a falconer and long bow hunter. We are few and far between, yet the internet doesn’t make us feel so alone in our passions.

2) I read a tribute you wrote to your 19 year-old son on his birthday that brought me to tears. Mothers do the best they can raising their sons and falconers don’t always make the perfect decisions when flying their birds – but we give it our all on both accounts. What do you think you bring to falconry as a mother of two sons?

Don’t really know how to go about answering this, but as a mom the one thing I have noticed is when I have gone out flying with other falconers (usually men) they just “go”. It’s great and I have had some fun times and learned a lot when out flying with them, but for me leaving our kids at home has never been an option. I got my falconry license when our youngest was 2 and he has always gone out with us. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think raising kids “IN” nature is the best gift we can give them. Now that they are older I let them decide if they want to come or stay home and am very thrilled that most of the time they choose to come. My sponsors and fellow falconers have taught me a lot, but nothing compared to what I learn from my children every day and maybe I have helped to light a spark in them that will keep the falconry fire burning for another generation or two.

In Flight

3) Your whole family hunts. The love of your life and husband, “Hawk”, hunts avidly and often with you right by his side. Yet, death and the whimsy of nature is not an easy thing for a mother to digest. Has hunting gotten easier over the years, harder or is it just different?

I laugh at this, because I was raised in the woods. I was the little wild child with dirt under her fingernails and sticks in her hair, that was always in trouble for wandering off and making friends with the wild creatures, but if I had to choose an answer, I would say just different- but I think it is different for everyone, depending on where they are in life. Hunting and death are all just a part of nature. Nature is a beautiful and breath-taking thing, but it is also messy, but necessary. That is what is so amazing about the natural world. I think you need to fully understand and embrace the good as well as the bad before you can truly appreciate what is there. There has to be a balance.

4) What I notice most about your photography is your love and keen eye for capturing the perfect photo of spring babies. As a woman, your love for the cute and fuzzy is encouraged, but what do you say to that person who says, “Please. You’re just going to kill that jackrabbit later”?

I probably wouldn’t say anything to them at all~ Some people aren’t worth arguing with 🙂 besides.. Cottontail tastes MUCH better than Jack Rabbit ~

A Focus in the Wild

5) So is it true that anything boys can do, girls can do better? Because Hawk could never train a raptor as well as you, right? 😉

I don’t know about better. Girls just do things different and sometimes that works out in our favor, but after 20 years of marriage I do have to confess that some “Hawk’s” are not trainable 🙂

 

Thanks so much Stacey for taking the time to answer my questions and waiting patiently while I got this series back on track. I love that there are falconers out there dedicated to getting folks outdoors and connected. This is so vital to the future of the wilderness. And I wonder why it is that us girls always favor the hawks we can’t train…

Find out more about Stacey and check out her fantastic photography on her website!

Five on Falconry: Tim Gallagher

Tim, Skeeter and Macduff

Tim Gallagher has been a falconer since the 7th grade and after referencing that Kennedy was in the White House, he admits it’s been about 49 years. His first bird, Rowdy (named after the Clint Eastwood character in Rawhide), was an eyas tiercel American Kestrel he flew in Orange County, California. (Although every thing else in Orange County is named after John Wayne…) He points to Jeff Sipple as a falconry “big brother” since his early teens –even though Tim’s about a foot taller. Tim makes a living editing Living Bird magazine, the flagship publication of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, but many of us know him from his books and freelance writing. His writing has taken him on varied adventures, most recently to Mexico in search of the imperial woodpecker, and has introduced him to many interesting people, including Chris Carter of X Files fame.(Although Tim won’t admit to having an “I Want to Believe” poster in his office.) During the moult Tim might be found fly-fishing, fencing or trying to decide whether he should relax with red wine, Scotch, a Negra Modelo or a Guinness… chances are though, that he is drinking coffee.  

1) So first up as per my standard, partial disclosure: We have mutual friends, but I mainly know you from your memoir, Falcon Fever: A Falconer in the 21st Century, which I loved. The book details how falconry changed and shaped your life, but there is always a journey in the writing as well. How did writing the book shape your recent life or your views about yourself and your falconry?

Writing Falcon Fever was an interesting process and in many ways very therapeutic for me. I think I had a lot of demons plaguing me, and the writing process was like a self-exorcism of sorts. So many things came out that I’d forgotten about or had repressed for decades. I came away from writing that book feeling like a huge weight had been lifted from me, and I still feel great. I’m also happy that I was able to focus on some of the people I knew growing up—people who did great things in falconry that no one knew about. I’ve had several East Coast falconers tell me that they had no idea what a hotbed of falconry innovation California was in the 1960s and ’70s, and I was glad I was able to document that time and place.

Tim & Steve Bodio

2) I have always thought there is a desire if not an overwhelming need in all falconers for adventure and the exploration of things undiscovered. Your involvement in the search for an iconic bird thought to be extinct and the subsequent book, The Grail Bird: The Rediscovery of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker was surely that sort of adventure. What is it about falconry and thrill-seeking in the wilderness? 

Actually, I don’t see falconry as a monolithic culture that attracts only people who are very similar. There are all kinds of different people in this sport. I think that’s part of its appeal to me. In terms of the love of adventure scale, I’d say that falconers range all the way from shy, timid, danger-adverse dweebs to the most over-the-top, death-defying, adrenaline junkies. I’m probably somewhere in the middle. I really never go looking for dangerous things to do. I started doing things like climbing around on high cliffs and cruising along the coast of Greenland in small boats because that’s where the falcons I wanted to study lived. I’ve never had a desire to climb up the face of El Capitan or something like that just for a kick. There has to be an added reason, like an interesting bird that I can’t see any other way. Same thing with the ivory-billed woodpecker. The only way I had a chance of finding one was to spend a lot of time in their habitat. It’s funny, I used to think floating down the bayou among the crackers and the cottonmouths seemed a little scary—mostly because I hadn’t spent much time in the South (and I’d seen “Deliverance” and “Easy Rider” when I was growing up!). But the danger level took such a quantum leap upward in my recent imperial woodpecker project in Mexico that everything else now seems tame by comparison. I was traveling through the high country of the Sierra Madre, interviewing people in remote villages who might have seen the bird or remembered it from when they were young. So little is known about the species that anything I can find out about it adds significantly to the scientific record. And, of course, if I did happen to find a living one, it would be one of the most incredible ornithological discoveries I can think of. But the danger level is very high. An incredible wave of violence and lawlessness has been sweeping across Mexico, and it’s now reaching well into the mountains. The last time I was in the Sierra, it seemed more like Afghanistan than Mexico. A couple of people in a nearby Tepehuan village had been murdered, another had been abducted for ransom, and three houses had been deliberately burned. People were walking around with AK-47s. The villagers were fleeing into the woods. And the “friendly” drug lord who had gotten us up there and was supposed to escort us out didn’t show up at our rendezvous point, so we had to drive out alone and unarmed on a dirt road that was in such bad shape you could only drive three or four miles an hour in some places—a perfect situation for an ambush. Anyway, there’s no way I would get into a situation like that just for the thrill of it. I’d like nothing more than for the Sierra Madre to be as safe to travel in as the Adirondacks, so I could do my research in peace.

Macduff

3)  Cornell University, where you work, is where the Peregrine Fund was born. (Literally. Initially it was a fund, money set aside for peregrine research in the dismal years of DDT.) Falconers played a huge role in that success story. Where do you see the importance of the “passionate few” in modern conservation?

Well, the passionate few are always the ones that make things happen. They’re like society’s conscience. Most people go along day by day, earning a living, trying to get by, and not paying attention to what’s going on outside them. You need to have passionate people raising their voices and pointing out the problems affecting the world environment. I’m so glad that falconers did so much to help the peregrine falcon—writing to congressmen, contributing money, and sometimes giving their birds to captive-breeding projects to help the species. These are things I always point out emphatically whenever someone says anything negative about falconry. We have paid our dues for raptor conservation.

4) You are also, of course, an avid bird watcher. While all falconers are “bird watchers” most don’t take it to the level of say, pursuing a “big year”. What are the parallels and differences between the rabid bird watcher and life-long falconer? 

Well, that’s an interesting question, because most hard-core falconers and rabid birders probably see themselves as polar opposites, but it’s just not true. They are very much cut from the same cloth. I’ve been involved with both falconers and birders for decades, and I think I have a unique perspective on this. I don’t, however, consider myself at all a typical birder. I think most birders are primarily interested in the outer bird—they are masters at learning how to identify as many birds as possible through visual characteristics, behavior, and sound. It’s what they live for. Avid birders also love to amass lists of what they see, and seeing species new to them is one of their greatest joys. I’m not like that. I’d say I’m much more interested in the inner bird—I want to know everything about the natural history and behavior of the birds that interest me. I guess I really want to know them—and I also at some level want them to know me, hence the falconry. I’m very interested in individual birds, the differences that exist between them in terms of intelligence and adaptability, and yes—though it’s anthropomorphic—their personalities. There are huge differences between individuals of a single species. 

1964

But to go back to your question, the similarity between hard-core falconers and birders is that they share the same level of intensity about their given passions. I guess the difference between them is that birders are lookers and falconers are doers.

5) You have travelled just about everywhere between your job and your joys. Let’s say you have to settle down in one place for the rest of your life to fly hawks and enjoy the view. Where am I sending you?                                                     

You know, I spent so many of my early years moving to different places, always being the new kid in school and having to make new friends and build a new life for myself, that I never felt like I had a home. I used to envy people who still had friends they’d met in kindergarten. Now I’ve been living in the Ithaca area for 20 years, and I think for the first time in my life I feel rooted, in a good way. I like the fact that my wife and all of my children were born in Ithaca. Although it may not be as great for longwing falconry as many other places in North America, it’s definitely a nice place to live. I think the ideal setup for me if I ever get to retire—and that’s a big if; I’ve got one daughter starting at Cornell next year and a couple more kids waiting in the wings—would be to migrate to Nebraska and other parts west for a few months a year with a cadgeful of falcons and get my falconry fix that way. Then, like Odysseus, I’d come home to Ithaca.

This was great, Tim! I love the idea of the “inner bird” and “outer bird” obsession. I think from now on in a varied group of bird lovers I’m going to start conversations asking, “Are you an inny or an outty?”

In all seriousness, thank you for such thoughtful and interesting answers. I’m really looking forward to next spring’s release of your book documenting your search through Mexico for the imperial woodpecker! Let us know when Simon & Schuster has decided on a title and a release date.

Five on Falconry: Matt Mullenix

 

Matt, Ernie and a Pheasant

Matt Mullenix has been a falconer for 27 years. His first falconry bird, Savannah, was a broad-winged hawk he flew in Panama. Although he had been rehabbing screech owls for a local facility, it was the hawk that set him on the path to a lifelong engagement with falconry. His list of falconry mentors is long, but forced to choose, he cites Harry McElroy as an inspiration, noting that although it is too late for any of us to be Harry, we can aspire to be like him and Matt does. Matt works as a VP in Public Relations for the Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations. He passes the time during the moult sipping IPAs, eating game and garden vegetables while sharing stories with friends and neighbors about books or football or kids or marriage and often, even in mixed company, falconry.

1) First question includes partial disclosure… we met online back in the days when the kids were just getting online. Then down the road I convinced you to almost bust a lung flushing ducks for my falcon. (Got a spoonie!) You paid me back by telling the whole Internet about my (slightly drunken) assertion that the guest house next to the Bodio’s is haunted. (It is!) I think it’s safe to say we’re friends. How has falconry influenced, shaped and shaken up your friendships over the years?

First, more disclosure: The little house next to Steve’s is definitely haunted. That’s a documented fact, since you and I both documented it. Also, I was glad for your spoonbill, but I vowed never again to run so hard or so far for anyone else’s bird. It gets easier to stick to that promise ever year.

Friendships? Outside immediate family, virtually all my friends and mentors are falconers.

One of my best friends, Eric Edwards of Florida, is an outstanding falconer and my partner in so many small crimes we will never run out of things to talk about over beer. My wedding to Shelly was like a tri-state falconry club summer picnic. My funeral, I hope, will be also.

The power of falconry to shape and seal friendships is something I find myself extolling to new falconers, sometimes to their mild embarrassment or confusion. This is not an aspect of our sport often written about in manuals, but look closely and you will see it. Falconers rely on each other for instruction, aid, companionship, moral and morale support. Like war veterans, perhaps, falconers need one another to understand all the things that can then be left unsaid. This is a relief, and a blessing.

As a falconer who “grew up” in the sport, I can attest also that falconry can provide real job or even career opportunities: what we now call social networking—but through networks based in real-world, personal experience and not solely on internet profiles. Falconry has always been a guild sport.

Hawk and Dog

2) Most of us know you from your writings on falconry, especially American Kestrels in Modern Falconry, a much needed and influential book. Writing a how-to book on falconry has always been incredibly intimidating to me. In fact, I’ll never write one and have a great deal of admiration for yours. What did you learn from writing an informational book for the sport?

Thank you, Rebecca. In fact, I learned a great deal from writing American Kestrels, both about falconry and about publishing. Writing invites and demands close attention to detail, and this is essential to good falconry. Publishing, I learned, is very tedious and an ego-breaker as much as an ego boost. It is not for wimps. At best, being “a published author” in our small circle is a mixed bag.

On the other hand, I’ve met many wonderful people through the book, which still circulates thanks to continued investment and promotion from publisher David Frank at Western Sporting.

But I would say American Kestrels is less a How-To-Do-It book than a How-It-Can-Be-Done book. Kestrels are game and relatively hardy little falcons that have been flown successfully by hundreds of people, at least, and for decades. The techniques I used and wrote down were a mix of personal experience and borrowed wisdom from others. In falconry there are so many paths to success; I can’t say mine is the only or the best, but it is certainly one and well tested.

Will you never write a How-It-Can-Be-Done book? I wonder! I think you have already.

3) The Internet has really changed the way we information share. While I suspect we will all still collect physical books, we now live in a world where anyone can publish their experiences and “expertise” online. In fact, you have been a frequent blogger in the last decade. What sort of advice would you give to a falconer who wanted to share his or her experiences in writing?

Writing should be encouraged among falconers, not necessarily at length but regularly. Writing improves general awareness of the day-to-day, and it provides a valuable record for later weeks or years when past events tend to blur together or disappear. Trust me on this one.

I’ve written two falconry books and parts of others, plus a lot of blogging about falconry and a few other topics. I have been pleased with some of my writing and its effects but certainly not all. My writing benefits from revision and time for focus, and it often suffers from hasty delivery.

Therefore my one caution with the new media (online publication) is that it can be dangerously easy and quick for a thought to get from your mind to the masses. Writing, as I knew it growing up, was a slow process toward publication if it moved in that direction at all. Most of what anyone wrote prior to 1995 never saw the light of day, and that’s probably a good thing. I wonder now if any thought successfully escapes publication.

 

Maggie and Briana Mullenix

4) You have been a falconer for all of your adult life. I was trying to explain to a newbie falconer the other day about the ebb and flow of this obsession over the course of a few decades. I think even true love has its ups and downs –although it seems almost sacrilege to say such a thing. But the last few seasons have been tough, even lackluster, for me. Has falconry always been a steadfast passion for you?

Falconry has been a bright spot for me since the age of 14. It has dimmed recently, to be honest with you, but only relative to its earlier brilliance and to that of new lights—my children, marriage, career—that are almost blinding if taken in all at once. I often wonder how new falconers, adults already enthralled with family and work, can see enough daylight to make good on falconry’s promise. It might be impossible to expect any passion to burn undiminished for a lifetime. I shouldn’t expect that of falconry, but I admit I’m surprised to see other concerns eclipse it even a little.

In addition to a busy modern life, something happened this year to seriously complicate my falconry. I lost a large and fertile hawking spot, a cattle ranch near my home that featured prominently in my book In Season. This property was increasingly important to my falconry as more places fell to development year after year. It was, for one falconer with one hawk and one dog, almost all I needed for a full season’s hawking.

When its owners sold the cattle and turned the land to soybeans, they plowed every inch of pasture and briar and felled nearly every tree. I’m still welcome on the farm, but there’s nothing for me to do there.

Falconers will tell you this is commonplace experience. I could have seen it coming. But I realized only when this happened how leveraged my falconry had become and how vulnerable it was without this last retreat. I’m not sure how I’ll compensate in the coming season. It is frankly depressing.

Hunting Jackrabbits

5) Aliens abduct you and are going to suck away all of your falconry memories for the purposes of their “Experience the Universe — Just like you were there!” theme-park. They tell you can keep one memory. What will it be?

I think the aliens already came. I mentioned earlier about the importance of writing as a lasting record of one’s falconry, and to me this is now vital. With the exception of a few photo albums and ephemeral blog posts, my books contain my sharpest memories of anything specific in almost three decades of falconry.

I have numerous warm if general reflections of favorite hunting spots, friends, birds, dogs and even individual days in the field. But these are usually triggered by photos or by phone calls with friends. If I had just one shining memory to keep forever, I might first have to recover it (through hypnosis?) to make sure it was the best one. Thankfully, it could be one of many hundreds of good memories—any of them, probably.

Given my weakening grasp of specifics, what I want to remember for all time is this: That falconry made me feel whole. For at least a moment in every hunt, I was infused with the whole life of a place and the whole of my attention on it. And that I shared this state of full attention with good animals and good people who knew, instinctively or consciously—or both at once—that we were each connected, of a piece with that place and point in time.

I love this interview, Matt. When we talk about falconry it seems we never talk about simple challenges, like living a wonderful life in conjunction with the sport. It is easy to fly birds with abandon when you are a kid or retired, but there’s a life to live in between there. Thanks for the spoonie, for backing up my ghost story and for your friendship!

You can read more of Matt’s writing along with Steve Bodio’s over at Querencia.

Five on Falconry: Helen Macdonald

Helen and Gyrfalcon

Helen Macdonald started flying birds at 11 years-old with a Kestrel named Amy with whom she stalked grasshoppers. Helen refuses to do the math, but that means she has been a falconer for a bit now. These early years of falconry began in Camberley, Surrey, UK, a countryside haunted by the likes of Philip Glasier and other falconry royalty. These days she teaches science and literary criticism at University of Cambridge. Helen spends her moult sipping tea (admittedly rather British of her) while writing, painting, illustrating and trying to forget that time she nearly ran over Stephen Hawking with her old Renault 5.

1) First question always includes partial disclosure about our relationship. I’ve never met you, but we’ve known each other online for some time. Actually, I’m kind of a stalker. I’m insanely jealous of your breath-taking writing and English wit. I keep hoping you will come to the states so I can steal your identity. (I’ve been working on my accent.) I know you’ve spent some time here. What did you find are the main differences between hunting in the UK and in the States?

But I’m insanely jealous of you too! Here’s to future meetings with tea and tequila respectively! So. Hunting. Such a good question. I’ve always gone on about how tricky that word is: my feeling is that there are as many different kinds of hunting as there are marriages. But here’s a confession. I’ve never shot, or ridden to hounds, or done any of the other kinds of hunting, except maybe a bit of ferreting, and that, too, mostly with hawks. Falconry’s all there’s been. No especial reason other than it was my first love, and it’s enough for me.

Hunting is a fantastically tricky subject in this country. Admitting you hunt is social suicide in most non-rural environments. It seems to me that in the US hunting seems less of an issue. And it also seems a far more egalitarian activity. Here, it’s marked by centuries of social inequality, and much of the ire directed at, say, foxhunting, comes from this. Toffs on horses; deer stalking for the aristocrats and those who can afford to pay. And of course, related to this, we don’t have great stretches of public land on which to hunt. Our hunting landscapes are privately owned, and the average falconer here often struggles to get permission to fly hawks on local farms and estates. This has got much harder over the last few decades, as the number of falconers has increased significantly. Back when I was small, a falconer knocking on your door was a novelty to a farmer. Now I imagine, not so much.

Mabel

I’m terribly envious of your system in that it allows falconers to fly passage birds. Way back when we were hammering out falconry legislation in this country, we made the decision to license birds, rather than falconers. This meant that in the post-DDT years, when falconry grew massively in popularity and falcons were being nicked from eyries by unscrupulous types, falconry became a bugbear for conservation organisations, and the government slowly withdrew licenses to take birds from the wild. I’d love to fly a passage falcon, but it’s not going to happen. And there are other reasons I wish we’d gone down the Federal US route; in the UK anyone can just go out and buy a golden eagle or a gyrfalcon, and this has obvious knock-on effects in terms of hawk housing and general welfare.

2) You are also a scholar and you teach. Do you find that being a falconer has changed you in any way as a scholar and a professor?

That’s an interesting question. As a scholar, yes. Firstly, being a falconer helped shape my academic interest in the history of human-animal interactions. Secondly, falconry itself is a fascinating topic for historical and philosophical enquiry because it dances around the boundaries of scientific natural history, particularly in the States. Look at the work of Frank and John Craighead, for example, or Fran Hamerstrom, or Tom Cade. Studying the practices and emotional economies of such falconer-scientists sheds light on how the boundaries of what we consider to be “science” are created and policed. Thirdly, on a more technical, historiographical level, falconry is interesting because human interactions with animals are fascinating historical phenomena. It’s become a truism for historians these days to reject the simple notion that past lives, works and deeds were anything like our own. And yet falconry is an extraordinarily robust thing in these terms. Hawks themselves don’t change, in whatever cultural context they’re put, and the ways humans interact with them are constrained by this. You can still use Frederick II’s De arte venandi cum avibus as a falconry text. You can still empathise with the angry court falconer of the sixteenth century who wrote an angry letter to his hawk dealer because the “passage” gyrfalcons he’d bought turned out to be screaming imprints with broken feathers…

In terms of how it’s changed my teaching? Hmm. I wish I could say it’s given me an insight into being patient, or that it’s taught me how to use positive reinforcement to effect change, and so on. It might have done. When I think of falconry and teaching, though, all I can remember was one day four years ago when a morning’s late-season goshawking turned into a wild chase across country —yes, she was far too high — and I turned up horribly late to teach my students. I distributed the poems we were studying, then looked down and noticed my pale corduroy trousers were completely soaked in pheasant blood. It was a bad moment.

3) Mabel, your hunting partner over the last few seasons is in a breeding project now, right? (What a stunning goshawk!) And I know she was a piece of a bigger journey in recent years. Where did Mabel take you and is there some writing in works?

Mabel Closely

Yes, Mabel is absolutely stunning. She’s away and I miss her dreadfully. But as for the writing – yes, I’m hammering out a kind of modern-day version of TH White’s The Goshawk — oh the presumption. My story’s simple. In 2007 my dad’s sudden, unexpected death sent me off the rails. And I decided to eschew bereavement counselling in favour of training a goshawk. Yes, Helen; like that would solve everything. Um. Looking back on it, I was trying to escape being human, because humans grieve and hurt, and hawks don’t. It was an … intense experience. I went feral. Became more than half-hawk myself. As the season went on I cut myself off from friends, family, everything. All that was left was Mabel and me, out on hillsides slaying rabbits and pheasants. Slowly, unknowingly, I sank into a very deep depression. I was so hawkish then I didn’t recognise it for what it was. Couldn’t work out why I struggled to get out of bed in the mornings, or why, in the evenings, Mabel fast asleep with a full crop on her bow on the living room floor, I sat in floods of tears. How dumb was I? It wasn’t until November, when I attended my father’s memorial service in St Brides in Fleet Street, standing there at the lectern giving an address to family and all dad’s friends and colleagues in the congregation, that it dawned on me what a fool I’d been. I’d bought into that old nature-writer’s chestnut that after a great hurt you should flee to the wild to heal yourself. I’m thinking now this is a dangerous lie. Human hands are also for other human hands to hold; they should not be reserved exclusively as perches for hawks.

4) So when you and I are old ladies and finally meet with coffee cup of booze in our right hand and hawk on our left, what’s going to be on your glove and what will you have to say about the “kids these days”?

Oh, I’ll probably be sipping the whisky and snarking about how things aren’t what they used to be, yes? And if I’m too old to run after merlins, my first love, it’ll probably be a Harris. Seriously, though, who knows what’ll come? Falconry’s changed in so many ways since I started. Kites, balloons, hybrids. I never thought I’d even see a gyrfalcon, let alone fly one. But it won’t have changed at all in one way: that strange bond, that contract betwen a good falconer and his or her hawk. That’s the thing, the timeless thing. Long after I’m dead there’ll be falconers kneeling to pick goshawks up off pheasants, or straining their necks to blink into a bright sky for their high-flying falcon.

5)What’s the easiest way to spot a Brittish falconer in a crowded room?

Hah! That depends on the falconer. Longwinger? Well, then. Tweed. Tweed is always a giveaway.

Oh, Helen, thanks a lot. Now I want to be you more than ever! And I don’t think I can wait to read your book. Could you just dictate it to me as it comes to you?? (It was worth asking…)Hopefully I’ll at least get to hawk with you before I am snarking in tweed with a coffee cup of tequila. I do look forward to that though…

You can read some of Helen’s other amazing writing and pester her for more frequent updates on her blog.

Five on Falconry: Steve Olner

Steve with Shilo

Steve Olner is in his second year as a falconer, flying a red-tailed hawk his wife named Zoie. (They have a deal. She gets to name them. He gets to fly them.) Steve hunts in Colbert, Oklahoma and survived his first season thanks to his sponsor, Steve Armstrong. He is in awe of the falconers who came before us and had to go it alone with no telephones or Internet and had to somehow just figure it out on their own. Steve supports his falconry obsession as a photographer and a programmer. He spends the moult guzzling Dr. Pepper and reminiscing about the time he spent with Ted Nugent and 50 Cent while tending bees or loitering at the race track.

1)      So my trend is partial disclosure in the first question. We met on Twitter. I don’t know if we should admit that, but it did force you to read my memoir. Now that you’ve been sucked into the abyss of falconry, what do you think will be in your own memoir?

Actually I was sucked into reading your book by Stephen Bodio. And I think I added you to Facebook before Twitter. I had been reading your blog but not on a regular basis. If I were to write a book, I would hope I remember the frustrating times as well as the good times in falconry. It was cool to read your book and find someone being honest about their hunting experience. Before falconry I didn’t hunt. Not a lot of people hunt in the UK. Also the person I was married to wasn’t inductive to hunting or fishing. I did fish but had never shot a gun or bow. I had never dispatched or harvested game. Too many people talk about their falconry when they get it right, many never tell about getting it wrong and their screw ups. So I would want it to be honest and a true reflection of learning to hunt with a hawk by someone who didn’t know anything about hunting.

2)      Birds, bees and fast cars. I’m trying to see a connection here. Which came first and how do they

With Bees

all link together?

Falconry kind of came first and last. My parents used to take my sister and I to the public library in Bath, England. I am dyslexic so reading to me is something very special. One day I picked up a book, As the Falcon, Her Bells by Phillip Glasier. It was the most amazing book I had ever read. I was eleven at the time and I would have so loved to have taken up falconry then but that didn’t happen for another 30 years.

 

I have always been fascinated by birds of prey. Three years ago I was working for a local magazine and had seen some redtails on posts by the roadside. I thought falconry would be a cool thing to find out about and I ended up writing a photo story with my now sponsor about falconry. Whilst I was finding out about it I thought, why not just do this, so started working out how to become an apprentice.

 

Cars came second. I got a contract to photograph Porsche Racing in the UK. I fell in love with it. There is nothing like the noise and excitement from a race and it’s almost on the same level of the excitement you get when on a slip and catching game. I also like talking with the drivers. They come from all walks of life and it’s interesting to watch them in their jubilations as well as the lows.

Bee’s came about unexpectedly. When I first arrived in the USA I wasn’t allowed to work until my immigration status was finalized. After a while, cleaning the house and being a house-husband was driving me up the wall. So I started helping a friend clear some brush and cut some trees. We felled a black jack tree and in it were some bees. I had read about the issues that bees had (CCD) and decided there and then to try and save the ones we had chopped down. By that afternoon I had built a box to put the bees in and had moved them to the house. Bee keeping kind of went from there. It’s frustrating but fascinating all at the same time.

What links them all together is kind of abstract but it’s what I get out of them the feeling of achievement and excitement, learning about what works and what doesn’t. It’s that warm fuzzy feeling you get when something goes very right. It’s the YES factor.

Shilo in the air

3)      Has your photography changed at all since you became a falconer? How do you see it shaping your art in the future?

In the last two years not really. I still shoot Digital as well as Film. Stuff I want to keep I shoot with film. I haven’t mastered flying a hawk and taking pictures at the same time yet. I find I’m too busy worrying about the hawk and beating brush. My wife has taken some of me training and creance flying. She’s taken some great work of which I’m very proud of. The things I take photos of has changed its more portrait and weddings and less photojournalistic and motorsport. As for the future I find life changes all the time, something new or some opportunity always comes along, the trick is to be fluid with it. There are a lot of things I would like to get into like wildlife photography or some great landscapes photography.

4)      I drove through Oklahoma once a little too fast to stop. I saw a lot of pheasant hunting going on though and maybe I should have stopped. What is the best part of hawking Oklahoma?

That depends on where you live. I live in the south so there is a lot of squirrel hunting and a lot of small birds. In the north there is more quail and pheasants and a lot more rabbits. People like Jonathan Coleman and Ryan VanZant seem to be tearing it up, which is pretty cool. I hunt a lot of public land where the going is tough but all the sweeter when you do catch something. I think I may be one of the few falconers south of Oklahoma city, most are in the OKC or North Oklahoma. I don’t know anything about east of the state, something to work on in the future.

A Sweet Life

5)     In honor of Twitter. Describe a great day in the field in 140 characters.

To me it’s about the experience. Getting your bird on to a slip and increasing the odds of catching something.

Steve, it was really fun getting to know you better! We all seem to have so much in common and yet so many unique experiences. Someone should write a book… 😉

You can read more of Steve’s experiences over on his falconry blog and beekeeping blog. You can also find Steve and wife’s photography here. Check it out!

Five on Falconry: Lauren McGough

Lauren McGough is an Anthropology graduate student and aspiring writer who has been a falconer for ten years. She began her falconry career in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma but has chased falconry experiences around the world. She has an unabashed love for golden eagles and says she has learned a great deal from Steve Bodio, Frances Hamerstrom, Neil Hunter and Alema, her favorite falconry bird. She spends her molt snacking on pineapple and daydreaming about her next falconry adventure while avoiding taking out the trash.

Lauren McGough

1) First question, partial disclosure on our relationship. I met you through Steve Bodio who has always talked about you with affection and awe. However, I’ve met you in person (unlike many of my online falconer friends) and absolutely share his sentiment. So tell me, you’ve been running off to foreign countries to chase after falconry since you were a teenager. What got you started and seriously, weren’t you scared out of your mind??

Growing up in a frequently-moving Air Force family gave me wanderlust. I’ve long enjoyed travel, but until I realized the global reach of falconry, it was pretty much aimless. When I learned that Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa all had their own obsessive falconers and unique history behind the sport, it was an epiphany. Here was something to explore and experience! I was certainly scared, going to a new place is always a gamble, but my family has been incredibly supportive. When my Dad went with me to visit berkutchi in Monoglia when I was 17 – and not only was it fun, but the locals allowed me to fly the eagles – it gave me the confidence to go anywhere. What is interesting to me is the number of times I’ve found myself alone in a strange place for falconry, and almost invariably, there are people you make a connection with. One place I’d really love to go for falconry is Turkmenistan. Caravans of falconers on camelback, with tazis at heel, and passage sakers on the fist, searching for hares in the deep desert is the sort of stuff my dreams are made of. I still find it scary (especially the prospect of flying on Turkmen Air) but the promise of adventure is too captivating.

2) I think I know you well enough to guess that eagles are the bird that tug at your heart the most. What is it about an Aquila that makes you fall in love?

This is a surprisingly difficult one to explain. It is not the size of the bird, and it is not the bond. It is what they are capable of. This big lump of a raptor that should be slow and cumbersome is swift, nimble, agile, aerial, maneuverable and continually leaves me open-mouthed in the field thinking, “I can’t believe she just caught that!” They are an incredible combination of strength and speed which can be flown waiting-on in the worst conditions or off-the-fist at distant slips. They are highly individualistic in their flight styles, and different eagles can work out completely different ways of getting from your glove to that hare or fox. I’ve always flown eagles without bells, and one thing that makes the hairs go up on the back of my neck is the sound of an eagle’s wing beats as it rushes past you, or the scream through its feathers as it stoops overhead, on a quiet mountain or moor.

They can be a pain in the butt to carry, and they can have odd personality quirks that are absent from other raptors, but a fit, confident golden eagle makes for some of the finest falconry on the planet.

No small bird...

3) You know more about cross-culture falconry than just about anyone I know. What is it that we all have in common, no matter the culture or gender?

It is a love and appreciation for the bird, the flight, and the hunt. In falconry, as in my things, you either “get it” or you don’t. And when a bunch of people are together that “get it” you are suddenly at home. What has struck me about falconry is the conversations one can have without even speaking the same language. After a good flight, when everyone is recreating the events with wild gesticulations and excited smiles, one hardly needs a translator. What is funny to me, is that I remember these encounters as if they were actual conversations.

Eagle falconry is a particularly testosterone filled niche of the sport, and Kazakh culture is unabashedly male-dominant, and still, that all melts away when we’ve got keen eagles and quarry to fly. Everyone wants to see good flights, and when we all work together to help make that happen and camaraderie of the sport really takes over. Once you’ve shown your, say, vulnerability when you fear you’ve lost your bird, or your elation when your bird has made a great catch, a real connection is forged. I think of a “hawking buddy” as almost as sacred thing. I think all of that goes a long way in showing the universality of falconry. Although, I once had a drunk Kazakh say to me, “Lauren, you are a good eagle falconer. But if you were a man, you’d be amazing!”

4) A Fulbright. To be a berkutchi. (Mongolian eagle falconer). Seriously. Please tell me how you pulled that off and why other girls should grow up to do something similar.

It may sound cliche, but I love the adage “follow your bliss”. If you seek out your passion, and what inspires your imagination, amazing things can happen. I remember spending hours watching wild Golden Eagles in New Mexico before I even knew what falconry was, and spending hours daydreaming about Kazakh eagle falconry before I even knew it was possible for Westerners to go there. Since becoming a falconer, I’ve always tried to be attuned to opportunities. I found out about the Fulbright program by attending a lecture at my university, and I remember thinking, “Hey wait a minute…I could use this for falconry!”

Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do something. And don’t let that nervousness in the back of your mind stop you – that’s just adventure beckoning. Girls can do whatever they damn well please in this world. A dream is something that should be pursued, no matter who you are and what it is.

Lauren in Mongolia

5) Surely you expected this… tell me about your most unexpected moment in Mongolia. And what the heck was that disgusting stuff you drank??

During my time in Mongolia, we had a particularly grueling day across several miles of mountainous terrain. Daylight was fading, and I was discouraged that, after so much effort, my eagle had not taken a fox that day. Just as the sun slid behind the snow-covered hills, Kukan, the eagle hunter whom I apprenticed under, managed to flush a fox. My eagle bolted from the glove and, after a long flight and subsequent stoop, slammed into a hillside and took the fox. I was suddenly light as air, shouting and whooping, and pushing my horse to a gallop. After I’d traded her, and was attaching the fox to the saddle for the ride home, he exclaimed to nobody in particular, “Why didn’t I ever take MY daughters hunting?” I was floored, and then I couldn’t smile big enough.

As far as the disgusting stuff I drank, that could be a lot of things! Yak milk right outta the yak — good, but tasted like milk with a stick of butter melted in it. “Kumiss”, fermented mare’s milk — sour and tangy, with an ability to get you tipsy before you realize it. Or “sorpa” — the greasy water left over from boiling meat that is dolled out as a sort of desert.

I will say though, there are worse ways to spend a day then laying out in the hot summer sun with molting eagles, reliving the season’s best flights with friends, buzzed on mare’s milk.

Thanks, Lauren. I was jealous before and now I’m absolutely green with envy. Hurry up and finish that memoir that goes with your Fullbright work so we can all read it!!


Five on Falconry: John Pittman

Luz, Shakin'

John Pittman has been a falconer for ten years and got his start in Madbury, Maine. His favorite falconry bird is Luz, a peregrine falcon and he cites Teddy Mortiz as a falconry muse. John works as a Director of Information Services although he dreams of retiring and someday being voted “great person to go for a walk with” by the New England Dogs ‘n Kids Association. He spends the moult avoiding washing the windows by nibbling on wasabi almonds while checking to make sure his telemetry receiver still works.

1) First question always involves partial disclosure about you and me. I’ve known you for quite some time, but only online. We have a ton of mutual friends that I’ve met in person though, so I think that’s close enough to make us friends IRL. Which is good, because I’m dying to tour your house. You are like the best kind of nature/scifi geek. Amphibians, carnivorous plants, funky cool books, dogs, falcons…. When did the falconry come in and how does this all fit together for you?

Nepenthes truncata Paisan Highlands (AKA Massive Pitcher Plant!)

I’ve been interested in falconry since I was a kid. Like, I suspect, quite a few American falconers, I read My Side of the Mountain; it sounded like heaven to me. I’d been berrying (with my mom) and chasing frogs, newts, lizards, etc. from the beginning, so the idea of pulling a Sam Gribley never seemed like a tall tale to me. When I was just starting Middle School, we moved to a town outside of Schenectady, NY and for some reason the Schenectady public library had quite a few falconry books. I mean, As The Falcon Her Bells AND Observations on Modern Falconry (the 2 I remember most clearly) in a public library? Go figure. I read ’em all. Then, about 15 years ago, I came across A Rage For Falcons and it became obvious to me that falconry was within the realm of possibility. I found a sponsor and…
Falconry fits me in so many ways. I am a bibliomane – falconry lit is extensive (to say the least). I like hunting and gathering. I like inter-species relationships (no, not that kind! sheesh) and establishing a working partnership with a raptor is as good as it gets.
Falconry lets me get involved in the non-made world (what some would call the natural world, but I maintain that it’s ALL natural – even the stuff we plains apes do) in a very direct, immediate way. I’m able to put things aside and concentrate on the job at hand – where’s the bird? where’s the prey? is this going to be a good slip? – and then, once things start to happen, to focus on the drama that I’ve set in motion and taken a small part in. When I’m gun hunting over the dogs the ‘in the moment’ concentration is there, but when the bird flushes things resolve very quickly. It’s difficult to identify with the cloud of shot or the grouse (just not enough time for the latter) – when I’m hawking I have the time and the inclination to identify with both predator and prey. The art and practice is simultaneously beautiful, terrifying and awe inspiring.
 
2) I know you teach dog training too and of course, training domestic animals is very different than training a wild one. All the same, I’m curious what training raptors has brought to your teaching style and philosophies on training.

More than anything else, it’s reinforced -incredibly strongly- the need to keep 3 things front and center in any training situation:
a) The animal you are trying to work with is not a little person in a fur or feather suit. It is a different species with a different sensorium and a different list of priorities. Dogs, because they are such amazingly co-evolved companions, will often let you BS yourself. A raptor won’t and both the dogs and the raptors benefit from the trainer being more clear-eyed.
b) The animal you are trying to work with is an individual. Obvious in the dog world and reinforced by finding that a creature with an even shorter to-do list, the raptor (eat, eat, eat, and if the season is right, mate), still has plenty of room for variation. Work with the critter in front of you, not the last one or the idealized one.
c) Succeed. Do whatever you need to do to move forward – put the critter in a situation where the response you want is the obvious and easy(er) one. Like points 1 & 2, sometimes easier said than done, but you have to try!
 
 

John and His Daughter Once Upon a Time....

3) I know there is a new Light-Of-Your-Life who is a wonderful tiny human addition (at least occasionally) to your awesome menagerie. What do you think is most important to share with the children in your life as far as the natural world and falconry?
She is wonderful – thanks for noticing ;-). The most important thing to share with her is time outside. Just that. I’d love it if she grows up to be a woodswoman but in any case I want her to be comfortable outside and nothing substitutes for modeling behavior. So – we’re going to continue to go for walks, pick blueberries, picnic, and eventually go fishing and hawking and roast marshmallows over a campfire. Other folks reading this – demonstrate what you’d like your kids to emulate. Be outside. Be calm (don’t freak out about minor things including creepy-crawlies). Go bird-watching. Gather stuff with your children and eat it. Eating raspberry pie/cobbler/jam made out of raspberries you picked together is about as good as life gets.
 
4) Being the serious techie that you are, I’m very curious to hear what you think is the future of falconry in an increasingly wireless world…

My big idea falconry tech-wise is integrating a GPS receiver on to the telemetry transmitter. We’re not there yet – size and power consumption haven’t come down enough – but I can envision a transmitter that encodes location data into each of its beeps.
Something that wouldn’t surprise me, but that I’m ambivalent about, is a video camera/transmitter backpack. I know NatGeo has done this already, but again, only a matter of time before the rigs are so small that it stops being a big operation. I’m not sure where I want my vantage point to be – I think I’d like my falcon to be an independent operator with me looking on, astonished.
 
5) I check your blog frequently to see your newest discoveries in creepy/cool nature models, mechanized animals and steampunk “artifacts”. If you and I went hawking in a Steam Punk universe, what would be your best falconry accessory(ies)?
It would probably be the zeppelin-built-for-two we’d use to follow the chase when we went crow-hawking. Envision a pumpkin-seed-shaped envelope of engineered carbon (diamondoid, if you will) surrounding a hard vacuum for lift; suspended below is a tube-frame gondola with 2 lovely leather seats, a pair of large propellers with integral electric motors and a brass and aluminium box containing Mr. Tesla’s finest super light, high capacity batacitors (to power the motors).
 
It was so much fun talking to you, John! We really have to do it in person over wasabi almonds sometime! Your insights on molding our youth and our animals should give everyone something to think about or at least reminds themselves to consider.
And I would love to write a short story about crow-hawking in your zeppelin-for-two only to stumble upon a murder, a mute goggle and empire boot-wearing witness and a strange clockwork box that is the key to solving the mystery…But only if someone will illustrate the zeppelin…

Five on Falconry: Katherine Browne

Katherine and Artemis

Katherine Browne has been a falconer for five years and started her falconry career flying a red-tailed hawk named Artemis in Klamath Falls, Oregon. She still enjoys the friendship and advice of her sponsor Donald Adams and now flies a goshawk. Katherine works as the Dealer Relations and Pro-Staff Coordinator for Prois Hunting Apparel and is a flyfishing guide for WillowFly Anglers. She is also a writer and frequently contributes to Women’s Outdoor News. Katherine spends the moult making jesses or finding just about anything to do outdoors so she doesn’t have to wash the dishes.

1)      First up, partial disclosure on how I know you. I actually don’t know you at all except for recently following you on Facebook, where I am enthralled with your adventures and photos. Can you talk about Prois and how you got involved with such a great company and landed such a kickass job?

I am so grateful for my job at Prois. I met Prois CEO Kirstie Pike after a mutual friend insisted that we meet.  Kirstie and Prois had been featured in our local paper a week before my women’s fly fishing club had been featured.  Neither of us really understood why he insisted until we met.  Prois is the finest most technical women’s hunting apparel available on the market.  At Prois we really believe in promoting women in the outdoors and in hunting.  Before Prois women had to settle for sub-par hunting apparel or for men’s or kids apparel.  I am so grateful to be a part of the Prois team and I am so excited about the future of the company.

2)      You aren’t just a falconer. You are definitely an outdoor “Jill of all trades”. What is it that falconry brings to your life that is different from other outdoor experiences?

Falconry was my first hunting experience and without falconry I may have never become a hunter.  No form of hunting is quite as spiritual for me as falconry.  Falconry is the oldest sport known to man and before there were firearms, humans, raptors, and dogs were working together to catch game.  The animals we pursue with our birds have had thousands of years to learn how to escape birds of prey and much less time to evolve to the advent of guns and bullets.  .  Falconry appeals to me in many ways.  It is such a fair chase method of hunting, the partnership you cultivate with a wild animal is incredible, and I have always loved training animals.  I was amazed that you could trap a wild raptor and train it to accept you as its hunting companion.  Falconry is not always romantic.  It requires an incredible amount of patience, dedication, and time but if you are passionate about the sport there is nothing like it.  For these reasons and many more falconry will always occupy a special place in my heart.

Ginormous Rainbow Trout

I am always annoyed people who eat meat and are anti-hunting.  I myself have given up meat before getting into hunting because I hated how animals are commercially kept.  There is nothing more free-range than an animal that has lived its life in the wild then is taken by a hunter.  I strive to use as much of each animal I kill as possible which is pretty easy as a falconer.  With falconry nothing goes to waste and it is the most fair chase method of hunting that I know of.  Every part of an animal can be eaten and is important to the health of a bird of prey including the fur and feather.  I also wish people knew that killing is not what hunting is all about.  I love the pursuit and I often have cause to cheer the animal that gets away just as much as I celebrate the animals I take.  I say a prayer for the animals I kill and thank them for giving their lives to feed me and my birds.  I also love seeing the sunrise and set, I love sitting still and watching animals behave naturally, and I love being a part of the drama that unfolds daily in nature.  I believe if more people really connected with nature as many hunters do we would treat this world a lot better than we do.    Hunting is a great way to connect with nature and hunters are some of the leading conservationists.

With her Goshawk, Hades

4)      We’ve really seen an upward trend in the number of women in falconry in the last ten years, which is fantastic. If this trend continues in falconry as well as other forms of hunting, what do you think the future of hunting and outdoor recreation will be?

I have been amazed while working at Prois at the number of women that are getting into hunting and falconry, I think it’s fantastic.  I am so impressed by the many women that are talented and successful hunters, falconers, fly fishers, and outdoors women, and I am gratefeul for all they have taught me and continue to teach me.  Women are the fastest growing demographic in both fly fishing and hunting.  Women really take the time to learn as much as possible and work very hard to perfect their skills in male dominated sports.  I believe women are the future of outdoors sports and I know the future of hunting is much more secure than it would be without women.  I believe more and more women with continue to learn and enjoy hunting, fishing, and outdoor pursuits and I am so excited to continue to be a part of this growing trend.

5)      So when the zombie apocalypse finally arrives I would like to know what you’ll wearing and carrying. (I’m definitely copying your gear.)

I have spent more time thinking about this than is probably healthy.  I love living in Gunnison in part because if anything happens I know Eric and I would be able to survive and thrive by heading for the mountains.  I will be wearing my Prois Hunting Apparel without question.  I have never been more comfortable in the field, hunting and fishing than I have been since owning Prois Apparel.  I would bring our fly fishing equipment, a few boxes of flys, and fly tying materials.  I would bring my goshawk Hades, our two dogs, camping equipment, and as many firearms and as much ammo as we could carry.  I would also bring a book about Colorado’s edible plants so we wouldn’t have to just eat meat and fish all the time.  I think we would do quite well.  Gunnison has a small population and it’s pretty isolated so the zombie threat would be pretty manageable. 🙂

Excellent! Thanks, Katherine I think I’m about set for the apocalypse now! And it was really great getting to know you better. I glad you’re out there getting more women involved in hunting and fishing and sharing the joy you find engaging with the natural world!

Be sure to friend Katherine on Facebook if you want to keep up with over her constant adventures – it’s almost as good as being out there yourself.