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Becoming a Falconer in Georgia

If you are considering becoming a falconer, it is very important that you examine your reasons to be sure you have a genuine desire and your venture will not be just a passing fancy. You may have read an article in a magazine or newspaper or even witnessed a flight demonstration. Articles are frequently inaccurate, they may sensationalize the sport and little emphasis may be given to the fact that success is measured by the beauty and excitement of the chase, not whether or how much game is caught. JT, founder of Falconry Alliance, sums it all up with this statement: "[Falconry is] something personal, private, sacred. The unspoken relationship the hawk and I share is clear and honest, a hunting partnership, and my front row seat to the greatest airshow on earth. I get caught up in the vicarious thrill, but still realize that the bird's the star, I'm the earthbound mortal spectator."
Flight demonstrations make falconry look easy, but fail to convey any idea of the long hours and the hard work the trained raptor represents.
Before you decide to become a falconer you should have a serious, dedicated interest in the sport and a love for, and interest in, all wildlife and the outdoors. You should read everything you can get your hands on about falconry. You should talk to practicing falconers, if possible, and ask to go on a hunt with them. You should join the Georgia Falconry Association and attend the various seminars, functions and meets held during the year.
Be aware that caring for, training and hunting a bird requires a substantial amount of time and patience. You must be financially able to obtain the basic housing and equipment. If you have the necessary skills, your initial cost can be reduced by building the facilities for the bird and making some of the required equipment yourself.
Lastly, you must have access to suitable land where you can fly your bird.

If, after reading the above you still wish to become a falconer, here is the process:

1.You may go to this DNR web site address for information. For an application currently you must contact the Special Permit Unit of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources at (770) 761-3044 and request a falconry packet. The packet will include an application form, information on the test, and Federal and State regulations. (See copy of the letter that accompanies your packet below).

2. Study for the test. The Georgia Falconry Association’s “Apprentice Manual”, "The Apprentice Study Guide" by the California Hawking Club, "North American Falconry and Hunting Hawks" by Beebe and Webster and "The Red-tailed Hawk: A Complete Guide To Training and Hunting North America's Most Versatile Game Hawk-Fourth Edition; McGranaghan, Liam are all excellent study materials. The GFA manual ordering instructions are on the Publications page of this web site. The others may be ordered from Northwoods, Ltd, Mike’s Falconry Supplies, or Western Sporting.

3. Take the test. Technically you have to send in the application before scheduling the test, but practically (and this was confirmed by the Special Permits Unit on May 9, 2006) you can call Special Permits and schedule a date to take the test before you submit the application. The reason they allow this is some must take the test several times before passing. If you fail, you must wait 30 days before taking it again. Since your checks must accompany the application, your checks could potentially be outstanding for a considerate amount of time. In addition, the name of your sponsor must be on the application and it could be very hard to get someone to agree to sponsor you prior to your passing the test.

4. Secure a sponsor. An apprentice must, by federal law, be sponsored by a general or master falconer. Once you're a GFA member and have passed the falconry exam, any of the Georgia Falconry Association’s Apprentice Representatives will assist you in contacting potential sponsors. This is just one of several excellent reasons to join the Georgia Falconry Association. Unless you are fortunate enough to know a master or general falconer willing to sponsor you, you will end up contacting one of the GFA’s Apprentice Representatives for the names of candidate sponsors. Those candidate sponsors come from the ranks of the GFA. They are not obligated to sponsor you. Sponsors are looking for apprentices that have done their homework, passed their test, are willing to follow directions, love raptors and are willing to hunt with them. Being a Georgia Falconry Association member is an important step in the process of proving to them that you are serious. Your prospective sponsor will expect you to have a hunting license before he/she will agree to sponsor you and you must have a hunting license before you start hunting with your bird. Note: Hunting is the difference between being a falconer and a "pet-keeper." One of the worst things that can be said about someone in this sport is that they are a "pet-keeper."

5. Obtain/construct your facilities and equipment. You must, by law have a mews (house), large enough so that your bird will have freedom of movement. Generally an 8' x 8' x 8' cube is sufficient for a free-lofted red tail hawk. If you include a weathering area, it must also meet state and federal requirements. See examples of mews and weathering areas here. In addition, you must have the following equipment: Aylmeri jesses, leash, swivel, outdoor perch, scale capable of reading 1/2 ounce (15 grams) or better, and a bath pan. Other items not required by law, but necessary, are a gauntlet (glove), hawk box (Giant Hood) and a hunting vest.

6. Have your sponsor inspect your facilities and equipment. If he/she determines you are ready, send your application to the GADNR, Special Permits Unit along with a check payable to GADNR for $30.00 and a check payable to USFWS for $100.00.

7. Have your inspection. Give the GADNR Special Permits office a few days to receive your application, and if they have not contacted you, call and ask them to schedule your inspection. If you've obviously provided decent facilities for a hawk and have the right equipment, you will pass the first time. If, however, the ranger/game biologist advises you to fix or correct an item, make the corrections as soon as possible and let the DNR know you are ready for a re-inspection. Once your facilities and equipment pass, the ranger/game biologist will sign the form and return it to the Special Permits office in Social Circle. Special Permits will then forward your application and check to the US Fish and Wildlife office in Atlanta. They will assign you a permit number and return to Special Permits, who will then issue your license. A word of warning: the folks at the Special Permits Unit have a heavy workload. It may take a while for your license to be issued, so be patient. This is a good reason to take the test, build your mews and obtain the required equipment early in the year. This way you don't get caught waiting for your license to be issued after trapping season has come in.

8. Congratulations! Once you have your license to learn to be a falconer, you can trap your bird. Your sponsor will assist you. You may trap a hawk only during the trapping season, which runs from September 1st through December 31st. You are allowed to take an immature redtail or an immature red-shouldered hawk or a kestrel of any age. When you trap your bird, you must, within 5 days, complete form 3-186-A (Migratory Bird Acquisition/Disposition Report) which was sent to you along with your license.


This is the letter that will be in your packet:

Wildlife Resources Division
Special Permit Unit
2065 U.S. Highway 278, S.E., Social Circle, Georgia 30025
(770) 761-3044

MEMORANDUM

TO: All Applicants for Falconry Permit

FROM: Special Permit Unit

SUBJECT: Joint State/Federal Falconry Permits

To practice falconry in Georgia, in addition to a valid hunting license, a valid falconry license is required by Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) 27-2-17. This law, which conforms to Federal regulations, qualifies Georgia as a participant in a joint Federal/State permit system. As a result, Georgia falconers are issued a single Federal/State permit upon approval of both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The cost of this three-year permit is $30.00 for State and $100.00 for Federal licensing. To obtain a falconry permit, an applicant must meet the following requirements of the law. Raptors may not be taken or possessed prior to fulfilling all requirements and obtaining a falconry permit.

  1. Submit a completed application form.
  2. Score at least 80 on the Federal/State falconry examination administered by the Georgia DNR.
  3. Possess the specified facilities and equipment and make these available for inspection by the Department.
  4. Procure a valid Georgia hunting license if 16 years old or older.

Attached is a copy of the falconry section of the law, a fact sheet concerning the required Federal/State examination, a copy of the Federal standards for facilities and equipment, a bibliography on falconry and raptors, and a falconry permit application form.

The falconry exam may be taken any day, Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., with a previous appointment, at the Georgia DNR Special Permit office in Social Circle at the above address. If you live some distance from Social Circle, it is possible to arrange to take the exam at one of our field offices. When ready to take the exam, submit the completed application form to the above address. If you need to make special arrangements, or have questions concerning falconry, please call the Special Permit Unit at (770) 761-3044 or the USFWS at (770) 679-7070.

Section § 27-2-24 of the Georgia Code requires that all applicants for a permit designate an address in Georgia where the applicant can be personally served with service of legal process. Your permanent Georgia address will fulfill this requirement.

The falconry exam, developed by the USFWS, is difficult and requires thorough knowledge of falconry. All applicants, even the most experienced and knowledgeable, should refresh themselves on all aspects of falconry and raptor natural history prior to taking the exam. The enclosed fact sheet outlines the emphasis placed on the various aspects of falconry. If a passing score is not made on the exam, it may be taken again after 30 days.

After the initial permit is acquired, renewal will be contingent only upon submission of reports (Federal form 3-186A) on raptors held, and on maintenance of facilities to standard, the latter to be determined by continuing inspections by agents of the Department.

FACT SHEET: FEDERAL/STATE QUALIFYING EXAMINATION FOR A FALCONRY PERMIT

PURPOSE
The examination is designed to determine the applicant's knowledge of raptor identification, natural history, care in captivity, falconry techniques, and applicable laws and regulations.

LEGAL REQUIREMENT
Persons desiring to obtain a Federal/State falconry permit are required to answer correctly at least 80 percent of the questions on a supervised examination. A higher passing score may be established by the State wildlife agency. States may use either an examination provided by the Fish and Wildlife Service or a State examination approved by the Service. Once an applicant has passed the examination, no future examination is required by Federal regulation for permit renewal or for changes in permit class or State of residence. State wildlife agencies may require additional examinations.

ADMINISTERING AGENCY
State wildlife agency personnel or their representatives will administer the examination.

CONTENT- FWS SERIES 010 EXAMINATION
The examination consists of 100 multiple-choice questions, each with four possible answers. The questions are distributed into three general categories: raptor identification/biology - 25%; maintenance of raptors in captivity - 50%; and falconry practices/regulations - 25%. A more detailed distribution of questions on this examination is provided by subject. Many of the questions fall into more than one category, e.g., a definition of "eyass" would need to be known to answer a question concerning the handling of eyasses.

 

Subject
Number of Questions
   
Literature Review/Definitions
4
Raptor Biology

Species/Sex/Age Identification
Ecology (Habitat/Food/Behavior/Distribution)
Breeding Biology

4
10

5

 

Falconry

Equipment and Facilities
Taking and Initial Handling of Raptors
General Health Factors/Food/Water
Injuries/Disease/Parasites
Training/Hunting Practices
Ethics

12
8
20
15
12
4

 

Regulations
Other

5
1
 

Persons intending to take the examination should review the raptor literature and applicable regulations. The questions emphasize the practical aspects and obligations of being a falconer. A knowledge of scientific names and obscure publications is not required. The statistical probability of scoring 80 percent or more by chance alone is less than one in a million. If an applicant must guess the correct answer to 50 of the 100 questions, the probability of achieving a passing score is less than 5 in 1000.

FAILURE TO PASS

A person who fails the examination may apply to retake this examination. The schedule for reexamination will be determined by the State wildlife agency.

STANDARDS FOR FACILITIES AND EQUIPMENT

(g) Facilities and equipment. State laws and regulations shall provide that before a State falconry permit is issued the applicant's raptor housing facilities and falconry equipment shall be inspected and certified by a representative of the State wildlife department as meeting the following standards:

(1) Facilities. The primary consideration for raptor housing facilities whether indoors (mews) or outdoors (weathering area) is protection from the environment, predators, or undue disturbance. The applicant shall have the following facilities, except that depending upon climatic conditions, the issuing authority may require only one of the facilities described below.

(i) Indoor facilities (mews) shall be large enough to allow easy access for caring for the raptors housed in the facility. If more than one raptor is to be kept in the mews, the raptors shall be tethered or separated by partitions and the area for each bird shall be large enough to allow the bird to fully extend its wings. There shall be at least one window, protected on the inside by vertical bars, spaced narrower than the width of the bird's body, and a secure door that can be easily closed. The floor of the mews shall permit easy cleaning and shall be well drained. Adequate perches shall be provided.

(ii) Outdoor facilities (weathering area) shall be fenced and covered with netting or wire, or roofed to protect the birds from disturbance and attack from predators except that perches more than 6 feet high need not be covered or roofed. The enclosed area shall be large enough to insure the birds cannot strike the fence when flying from the perch. Protection from excessive sun, wind, and inclement weather shall be provided for each bird. Adequate perches shall be provided.

(2) Equipment. The following items shall be in the possession of the applicant before he can obtain a permit or license:

(i) Jesses-- At least 1 pair of Alymeri jesses or similar type constructed of pliable, high-quality leather or suitable synthetic material to be used when any raptor is flown free. (Traditional 1 -piece jesses may be used on raptors when not being flown.);

(ii) Leashes and swivels-- At least I flexible, weather resistant leash and 1 strong swivel of acceptable falconry design;

(iii) Bath container-- At least 1 suitable container, from 2 to 6 inches deep and wider than the length of the raptor, for drinking and bathing for each raptor;

(iv) Outdoor perches-- At least 1 weathering area perch of an acceptable design shall be provided for each raptor; and

(v) Weighing device-- A reliable scale or balance suitable for weighing the raptor(s) held and graduated to increments of not more than 1/2 ounce (15 gram) shall be provided.

(3) Maintenance. All facilities and equipment shall be kept at or above the preceding standards at all times.

(4) Transportation: temporary holding. A raptor may be transported or held in temporary facilities which shall be provided with an adequate perch and protected from extreme temperatures and excessive disturbance, for a period not to exceed 30 days.

Note: In Georgia, both indoor and outdoor facilities are required. Outdoor facilities using perches more than 6 feet high are not required to be covered or roofed. However, fencing is required regardless of perch height. A minimum of 4' high fencing is recommended for weathering areas which are not required to be roofed or covered.

Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
Florida
Georgia
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Massachusetts
Maryland
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska

Nevada
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Dakota
North Carolina
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
Utah
Virginia
Washington
Wisconsin
Wyoming
   

[Note: These states are participants in a joint Federal/State permit program.]

Questions and Answers
 

The answers to the following questions have been reviewed by Scott Frazier of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Q. Can I trap along roadways?

A. Yes. See article on roadside trapping here.There are many ways to trap a raptor but one of the easiest is to drive along the highway, spot a hawk and throw out a BC trap. The law states that it is illegal to trap wildlife upon the right of way of any public roads in Georgia. This law was not written with falconers in mind. A falconer several years ago was stopped and issued a citation for doing so. This incident prompted the DNR to issue a Law Enforcement Opinion. This opinion allows us the right to trap raptors along the public rights of way.

It is a good idea to make a copy of this opinion and carry it with you when you are trapping.
You might also print and take with you the Hunter Harassment Statutes.

Q. Can I go onto private property to retrieve my bird?

A. The DNR recommends if we can quickly retrieve it do so, but if not contact the landowner before entering the property.

Q. What if my bird takes game that is illegal or out of season?

A. Georgia does not have a 'let it lay' law where you can pick up your bird on illegal or out of season game and leave the prey with no penalty. Certainly we can not control a legally free flying bird that is no longer under our control and is only governed by its desire to eat and not man made laws. We can only try to enter it on game that is legal and in season.
If your bird catches game that is not legal or in season, retrieve the bird, leave the game and hope there are no observers. If you encounter a DNR agent simply explain your situation and if the agent is understanding you may not get a citation. Remember agents are only doing their job and are obligated to enforce the law.

Q. Can I allow someone that is not a falconer to hold or fly my bird?

A. No.

Q. If I am asked by a school, church, or some group to talk about my bird and falconry, is this permissible?

A. Yes, but only if you educate the public about the sport of falconry. You can not just teach about the birds or their natural history. Your license is a falconry license therefore in all situations you must primarily educate about the sport of falconry.

Q. Can I give flight demonstrations?

A. Yes, but only in conjunction with educating the public about falconry. A word of caution: make sure there are no small animals, plastic baggies, or objects that resemble prey in the group.

Q. Can I be compensated monetarily for my educational talks or demonstrations?

A. Yes, but only for actual expenses. You are not allowed to make a profit. A falconry permit is not an educational permit.

Q. Can I be compensated monetarily for taking groups on hunting trips?

A. Yes, and you are allowed to make a profit. This seems to contradict the question above but the difference in this case is that you are practicing the sport of falconry which you are licensed to do.

The federal laws control the falconry licensing program and mandate which species of birds are endangered and which may be taken from the wild for the purpose of falconry. The federal law also sets the standards and requirements for keeping a raptor.

 

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