the bird. We are basically the dog for them.” Falcons can stoop at speeds more than 200 miles per hour and will hit the game in midair. “A few years ago, The North American Falconers Association put devices on falcons to measure G-force,” said Schultz. “In a stoop, they were exceeding a force of 25 G’s.”
Our search for quail ended as empty-handed as the rabbit quest, but it was still fascinating to watch. We weren’t giving up yet. We decided to drive to a patch of timber behind a local mall. It was a tangled mess of ice-broken trees, brush piles and arm-thick vines. We were certain there would be a few squirrels in there.
Becoming a Falconer
As we traveled, Schultz explained what it takes to become a falconer. “There are three classes of falconers: apprentice, general and master,” said Schultz, a master falconer. Since falconry involves the use and care of a living animal, becoming an apprentice involves more than just buying a permit. “An apprenticeship is a two-year program where you are sponsored by someone who is a general or master falconer. You have to find a sponsor willing to take on an apprentice, build a mews (housing for the raptor), have the mews inspected and pass a written test. Then you can apply for the permits.”
“Falconry is one of the most highly regulated sports,” said Schultz. “Currently, you must have a permit from the state and federal government. An apprentice can only have one bird, and it must be a red-tailed hawk or an American kestrel, as they are very common and more easily trained than other species. After the two-year apprenticeship, and with sponsor approval, a falconer achieves the status of general class. This allows you to have two birds of any species that are not endangered or threatened,” said Schultz. “Then after five years as a general class, you can become a master falconer and can have up to three birds of any species.” The Missouri Department of Conservation keeps close tabs on the birds. Periodic visits by conservation agents ensure that the birds are well cared for and that the standards are being met.
As Schultz’s apprentice, Duffee spoke more about the benefits of a sponsor. “Your sponsor is going to teach you everything you need to know about falconry and show you how to make equipment, but they are also there for moral support,” said