Young falconer trains raptor
by 8-18 Media
Wings flap eagerly as Edward Brauer III calls his red-tailed hawk to his glove. Ares (pronounced air-ees) flies to the glove and quickly eats a chunk of Japanese quail as a reward.
Brauer, seventeen, of Marquette, is an apprentice falconer who captured Ares in a Wisconsin field almost two years ago. Ares is a male and about two years old. He weighs around one kilogram. Female red-tailed hawks tend to weigh more, about 1.2 to 1.4 kilograms.
You can’t just go out and capture a hawk on your own; you must go through the proper apprenticeship with an experienced falconer, pass a test, plus file pages of paperwork with the DNR. It’s a difficult process, according to Brauer.
“We just had to pay a fee and fill out a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources permit and then we were allowed to go down into Wisconsin and trap him,” he said. “We were just driving past farmlands and it was difficult. We saw about twenty-five red-tails that day but only one, Ares, was a young one. So we turned around, opened the window, put the little mouse in the trap and just threw the trap out in the field.”
The work did not stop there, according to Brauer. Falcons, or hawks, are a very dependent creature to deal with compared to your average household pet. He said he devotes, on average, about six hours a week with his raptor.
“Falconry is not really that easy of a sport to get into,” he said. “It’s time-consuming and it’s a little bit costly too because you have to pay for things like equipment for him. You always have to feed him, you have to clean his muse, or shelter, out––I do that once or twice a week––you’ll have to always get out and exercise with him, and you’ll have to make an effort to get out and hunt with him.”
Hunting is an important part of falconry. To hunt with Ares, Brauer and others move through the brush in the woods trying to kick out rabbits and squirrels while Ares is up high. The hawk follows from tree to tree and scouts the area the entire time, and if they are lucky enough to kick a rabbit or squirrel out of a brush pile, Ares swoops down to catch and kill the prey. Ares gets to eat most of what he catches, but Brauer’s family will occasionally eat some of the rabbit.
Why doesn’t Ares just fly away when hunting? Mostly because it’s easier to get food hand-fed to him. Also, the bond between falconer and falcon was built over weeks of training.
“I had to get him to jump on my glove, and I have to say, I stood there for a long time before he finally did it, but it was kind of cool because you could feel that trust bond develop between us and it was truly an amazing experience,” he said.
Although training is difficult and time-consuming, both Brauer and his parents think it’s an experience he has benefited from greatly. Brauer’s father, Edward Brauer II, feels he has seen his son’s maturity level grow from taking care of Ares.
“Taking on that responsibility, and with the repetition and dedication and all that, I think he has matured as a human being a lot along with this process,” he said. “Once you see that reward, being self-satisfied and reinforcing that your dedication paid off, I think it’s really helped him a lot.”
Brauer’s father, a veterinarian, echoed his son’s view that having a raptor is not as easy as having other animals, especially if you have to be away from home.
“It’s a little bit more intense than if you had a household pet like a dog or cat you could take to a boarding kennel,” he said. “You can’t exactly do that with a bird, so part of it is that you have to have a little bit more responsibility and also to rely on your network, like fellow falconers, to come in and say ‘OK, I’m going to be gone, can you come in and take care of my bird or watch my bird for me?’”
Although he could, Brauer may not keep his hawk forever. He could release it into the wild, and with the proper preparations, Ares would do fine. He could also transfer Ares to another falconer, or to his dad if he becomes a falconer as well. It’s a decision he is facing right now since he is headed for college next fall. One thing that is clear if you get a chance to see a hawk or falcon up close is that they are awesome birds and falconry is a cool sport not many kids get a chance to do.
Editor’s note: This story was written by Tori Wiese, 14, Julien Malherbe, 12, and Elise Heide, 9.
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