Tuesday, March 11, 2014
By BOB HUMPHREY
(Continued from page 1)
Handlers prefer hunting over small ponds or creeks where airborne ducks have less chance for escape. Even then much can go wrong and most stoops are unsuccessful. Falcons will sometimes blink -- intentionally missing an easy mark. If their attack isn't swift enough, the duck may outdistance them. And like human hunters, they sometimes just plain miss.
When it all comes together it's an unrivaled experience. Merely watching the flight of these magnificent birds and feeling the anticipation as they take chase is a thrill. It's even more rewarding for the handlers when the days, months and years of training pay off, and a falcon successfully stoops and binds to its quarry.
It's not surprising that falconry isn't more popular. The investment of time, effort and money required to train and properly maintain a hunting falcon far exceeds that of a champion retriever. But the thrill of watching a hunting bird using its instincts in concert with rigorously trained skills is indescribable.
A falcon is more than a mere extension of its handler. It embodies the spirit of the wild, and the strength, agility and coordination of a true predator. Falconers are among the most dedicated hunters I have ever encountered, and their success rate is testimony that it is the sport, not the game taken that is paramount.
Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be contacted at: