Falconry is an ancient form of hunting, estimated to be about 4,000 years old, and it was dubbed the original sport of kings.
While we don’t have kings in Kansas, it does take a special kind of person to be a falconer.
Only about 50 Kansans have the required permits and licenses to own and hunt with predatory birds, said Jessica Winebarger, a senior administrative assistant with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.
“Not a lot of people do this here,” Winebarger said.
There are several reasons, Winebarger said, and one of those is the amount of time.
“This is really a lifestyle,” she said.
Every day, the bird must be let out to fly and hunt and must be fed its diet of raw meat.
It takes about seven years to become a falconer, and that first bird often is obtained by capturing it in the wild. The relationship between falcon and falconer is extremely close, and the falcon is trained to see the falconer as a hunting partner, Winebarger said.
Falconers will spend lots of money for shelter, veterinarians and travel. Access to hunting grounds where the falcon can hunt small game also is necessary.
Last week, about 250 falconers, members of the North American Falconry Association, along with another 1,800 family and friends, traveled to Hutchinson from around the world, including from Australia, France and England, to take part in falconry.
“It’s a pretty amazing sport,” said Winebarger, who attended the event. “It’s one of those things where you don’t hear about it much.”