Fal­conry has ded­i­cated fol­low­ing

Be­tween 100 and 125 li­censed in Mary­land

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY ROB­BIE GREENSPAN

ANNAPOLIS | With blood on her beak and her prize be­tween her talons, Glory looked up, pleased with her­self.

The search for the rab­bit had been go­ing on for about 10 min­utes, but the hunt it­self lasted less than two sec­onds — two sec­onds of flight time for Glory, a north­ern goshawk, to catch and kill her prize.

Af­ter 20 years in fal­conry, Glory’s owner, Greg Dorsch, is still amazed by what the birds can do.

“Goshawks will fly un­der­neath [other] birds of prey to force them up, be­cause [the birds of prey] are not as strong of fliers,” Mr. Dorsch said. “They will catch up to them and then flip over and grab the prey with their talons.”

Mr. Dorsch isn’t just a man with a bird; he’s part of an ex­clu­sive group of Mary­land res­i­dents in­volved in fal­conry.

Fal­conry is the sport of tak­ing wildlife by means of a trained rap­tor, ac­cord­ing to Mary­land’s Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources.

More sim­ply, it is hunt­ing, but in­stead of us­ing a gun, the fal­coner uses a bird.

While not a main­stream sport, there are still a num­ber of peo­ple in Mary­land who par­take in fal­conry. There are be­tween 100 and 125 li­censed fal­con­ers in Mary­land in any given year, said Glenn Ther­res of the Mary­land Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources. In 2016, there were 109 li­censed fal­con­ers.

Each fal­coner chooses his or her own way to ob­tain a bird.

Trap­ping is the most com­mon way to ob­tain a fal­con, but nei­ther of Mr. Dorsch’s cur­rent fal­cons, Glory, and Xena, an Amer­i­can kestrel, was caught through trap­ping. He ob­tained Glory from a nest, and Xena from a barn.

“A farmer called me. He found [Xena] on the barn floor when she was a baby,” Mr. Dorsch said. “She didn’t have any feath­ers when I got her, and she was near death. She smelled aw­ful bad, I don’t know what hap­pened. I nursed her back and got her healthy.”

Mr. Dorsch’s chil­dren named the fal­con Xena af­ter the war­rior princess. Both Glory and Xena are fe­males, as Mr. Dorsch prefers hunt­ing with fe­male fal­cons, which are typ­i­cally one-third larger than males.

Most fal­con­ers, how­ever, turn to trap­ping to get their birds.

Mr. Dorsch’s trap uses a metal box made of wires, which he puts prey in­side. The out­side of the box has nooses that catch the bird’s talons when it lands on the box.

When Mr. Dorsch sees a bird he wants to trap, he will set the box down and drive out of sight. The bird sees the prey and dives to at­tack it. When it lands, it at­tempts to take the prey and fly away, but its talons are al­ready caught.

In Mary­land, peo­ple who want to own rap­tors must find a Gen­eral or Master fal­coner to serve as their spon­sor for two years. These ap­pren­tices must be at least 14 years old and can only have an im­ma­ture red-tailed hawk, Amer­i­can kestrel or red-shoul­dered hawk, ac­cord­ing to the Mary­land Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources.

Dur­ing those two years, the spon­sor teaches the ap­pren­tice about dif­fer­ent as­pects of fal­conry, from catch­ing their bird to train­ing it, hunt­ing with it and gen­eral ad­vice on tak­ing care of it day-to-day.

Af­ter the ap­pren­tice passes the state fal­conry exam with an 80 per­cent or higher score, they be­come a Gen­eral Class fal­coner. Gen­eral Class fal­con­ers must be at least 16 years old and can have no more than three rap­tors at a time.

Af­ter they are a Gen­eral Class fal­coner for five years, the fal­con­ers en­ter the Master Class. Master fal­con­ers are al­lowed to have up to five rap­tors from the wild.

There is no ex­act start to “hunt­ing sea­son” for fal­conry, as dif­fer­ent an­i­mals are el­i­gi­ble to be hunted dur­ing dif­fer­ent months.

Squir­rels can be hunted start­ing Sept. 1, while oth­ers, like the rab­bit, are not el­i­gi­ble un­til Nov. 1.

All fal­conry hunt­ing ends March 31.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The sport of fal­conry has a ded­i­cated fol­low­ing in Mary­land, with be­tween 100 and 125 li­censed fal­con­ers in the state in any given year. Peo­ple must com­plete in a two-year ap­pren­tice­ship and pass the state fal­conry exam with an 80 per­cent or higher to be­come a Gen­eral Class fal­coner.

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