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Published on: Dec. 13, 2011

Duffee. “They are like a mentor. They show you what to do and how to understand your bird. If my bird acts a weird way that I have never seen before, I call Tom and ask him what is going on. It’s usually a behavior that is completely normal, but I have to reassure myself.”

The sponsor also ensures that the aspiring falconer knows what he or she is getting into. “When someone watches us hunt, they usually don’t realize all of the time, work and commitment that has gone into training and caring for that bird,” said Schultz. “You have to fly your bird every day during the season and make sure it is getting the proper care all year,” added Duffee. “If you keep your bird for the summer, you can’t go on vacation. It’s not like a hunting gun. You don’t just clean it and put it up. It’s a living creature.”

Public Response

Raised in a time and place where raptors were most often considered “good-for-nothing chicken hawks,” I was anxious to hear what type of reaction Schultz and Duffee got from the public. “Falconry is historically a reclusive sport,” said Schultz. “When I first got involved, falconers were very reluctant to even let people know that they had these birds. That has all changed and falconers have become more social and open to the public, because the public has become a lot more receptive to falconry. Most people who see me with my bird are curious and ask a lot of questions. When looking for new places to fly the birds, I always invite the landowner to join me on the hunt and watch.”

As we reached the wood lot behind the mall, and Duffee placed Autumn once again on her leather gauntlet, I could hear the excitement in her voice. “My favorite game to go after is squirrel,” said Duffee. “With rabbits, you walk and you hit brush. Squirrel hunting is more three dimensional. It’s more of a challenge for me and my bird, because you have to keep the squirrel running. The bird has to figure out the best way to catch the animal.”

We approached the timber and began maneuvering our way through the maze of woody obstacles. It wasn’t long before we saw a flash of red scurrying along a limb high in a hickory tree. Autumn flew to a limb on a nearby tree and

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