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
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
sums it all up with this statement: "[Falconry
is] something personal, private, sacred. The
unspoken relationship the hawk and I share is clear and
hunting partnership, and my front row seat to the greatest
earth. I get caught up in the vicarious thrill, but still
that the bird's the star, I'm the earthbound mortal spectator."
demonstrations make falconry look easy, but fail
to convey any idea of the long hours and the hard work
Before you decide to become a falconer
you should have a serious,
in the sport and a love for, and interest
in, all wildlife and the
You should read everything you can
get your hands on about falconry. You should talk to
falconers, if possible, and ask to go on a hunt with
You should join the Georgia Falconry Association and
attend the various seminars, functions and meets held
during the year.
Be aware that caring
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
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
packet. The packet will include an application form,
information on the test, and Federal and State regulations.
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
3. Take the test. Technically
you have to send in the application before scheduling
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
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
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
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,
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
7. Have your inspection. Give the GADNR Special Permits
office a few days to receive your application, and if they
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
to the Special
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
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
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
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:
Special Permit Unit
2065 U.S. Highway 278, S.E., Social Circle, Georgia 30025
All Applicants for Falconry Permit
Special Permit Unit
Joint State/Federal Falconry Permits
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.
a completed application form.
at least 80 on the Federal/State falconry examination
administered by the Georgia DNR.
the specified facilities and equipment and make these
available for inspection by the Department.
a valid Georgia hunting license if 16 years old or
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
who fails the examination may apply to retake this examination.
The schedule for reexamination will be determined by
the State wildlife agency.
FOR FACILITIES AND EQUIPMENT
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:
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
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.
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.
Equipment. The following items shall be in the possession
of the applicant before he can obtain a permit or license:
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.);
Leashes and swivels-- At least I flexible, weather resistant
leash and 1 strong swivel of acceptable falconry design;
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;
Outdoor perches-- At least 1 weathering area perch of
an acceptable design shall be provided for each raptor;
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.
Maintenance. All facilities and equipment shall be
kept at or above the preceding standards
at all times.
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
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.
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
Can I go onto private property to retrieve my bird?
DNR recommends if we can quickly retrieve it do so, but
if not contact the landowner before entering the property.
What if my bird takes game that is illegal or out of
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.
Can I allow someone that is not a falconer to hold
or fly my bird?
If I am asked by a school, church, or some group to
talk about my bird and falconry, is this permissible?
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.
Can I give flight demonstrations?
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.
Can I be compensated monetarily for my educational
talks or demonstrations?
but only for actual expenses. You are not allowed
to make a profit. A falconry permit is not an educational
Can I be compensated monetarily for taking groups on
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.
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.