The pile of trash and junk contained remnants of what had once been the vulture nursery I’ve written about before plus a couple old car bodies and a pile or two of pallets and who-knows-what else, much of which was concealed by head-high weeds. An ancient, rusted windmill tower stood smack in the middle of it all, and that’s where the young female red tail hawk named Drea chose as her vantage point to watch for bunnies running for their lives as the rest of us waded into the mess like so many beagle hounds. Just as we began to stomp through the weeds a young cottontail darted out from somewhere and in a flash the young hawk was off her perch and with deadly aim had the rabbit pinned to the ground amidst the trash and weeds.
A few years ago, Stephanie and Caroline Thomson, two young sisters from Indianapolis, Indiana who I met at the recent falconry field meet in Hutchinson struck up a conversation with a falconer from their church about the unique sport of falconry. One must complete an intense apprenticeship program before becoming a licensed falconer, and becoming an apprentice is by invitation only. Once the girls understood the process, their friend agreed to mentor them and got them hooked up with another falconer as apprentices.
Besides the coursework and tests that must precede having their own hawk or falcon, an outside pen for the birds called a Mew must be completed. Falconer’s birds are not pets but are kept and used as actual hunting raptors, so they live in the Mew when not out hunting. The girl’s first summer as apprentice falconers was spent building the Mew for their birds and they paid for most everything needed. In 2013, both Stephanie and Caroline became licensed falconers and that same year were each able to trap a wild-raised red tailed hawk, which their falconers license allows them to do.
Today, Stephanie is 18 and has a 3 year old male red tail named Criere. Caroline is 16 and has a 3 year old female red tail named Drea. During hunting season they hunt with their hawks 2 days a week, and the care of the birds takes them about an hour each day every day of the year. Lots of time is spent in the off-season exercising the hawks and the weight of each bird is monitored very closely, even during hunting season.
Stephanie says that looking back she doesn’t think their friend from church thought they were serious enough in the beginning to complete all it took to become licensed falconers. Today though, for obvious reasons, he feels quite differently and is one of their biggest supporters. Caroline shared with me how amazed she was from the start how willing and excited veteran falconers have been to teach the girls everything they know, and to take them “under their wing” so to speak. The girls are home-schooled and when most girls their age are practicing volleyball or soccer, they are out hunting or exercising their hawks. Stephanie and Caroline Thomson are yet another example of today’s youth putting down their cell phones for awhile to enjoy Gods outdoors; continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors.