Before this amazing experience, I knew falconry involved a bird flying (possibly hunting something) and then returning to its owner with prey—and it wore a bell on its foot. My education? Hidalgo. (It’s an excellent movie and I seriously recommend it.) However, that meant I didn’t know much about the sport. The idea came to me when I was brainstorming my boyfriend Marc’s 30th birthday. I knew I wanted to do a Game of Thrones themed party and wanted a really amazing gift for him.
Browsing through Facebook, I stumbled across an ad for the Ohio School of Falconry. Though not really directly connected to Game of Thrones, it seemed like a medieval-style sport to match the spirit of the party! And it was in Columbus, Ohio! And it involved birds—Marc loves birds! It was fate.
I ended up booking by calling the owner Joe, who is potentially the best possible person to take falconry lessons from. When I called I had basically no idea what was involved or what class I wanted to book. He patiently answered all of my questions and gave me a rundown of what to expect, the pricing, how to book, what birds we would be flying, as well explaining a little background on what falconry actually was. He also asked what I was looking for and then suggested we book the Walk with Hawks class that involves free-flying hawks through the woods in a 2-hour session. It was $100 per person. When I had looked up other classes in other parts of the country, they were comparable to more around $200-300 per person. I was sold!
Marc loved his gift and we recently took the course (on our 2-year anniversary! An amazing way to spend it! 🙂 )—which was every bit as fascinating as I had hoped it would be!
We took the session with two other participants. It really felt like a private lesson with the individual attention we received. Soon, we got to meet our first hawk, which was a red-tailed hawk. He was impressive and I admit, I was a little nervous of his super sharp beak so close to my eyes, but he was on best behavior.
Joe’s class is broken down so you go from elementary school all the way up to your PHD in falconry. And we really did learn so much! We started out learning to hold the hawk, then, how to literally walk with him on our hand. We advanced to a hoop on a stake. Joe brought out a Harris Hawk for this portion of the course. The hawk would stand on the raised hoop and fly to us and then fly back to his perch. We gradually increased distance. Finally, we took a hawk into the woods, where she free-flew and came back down to us from the trees.
As you can see from the photos, we were beaming (okay sometimes concentrating lol) in every one! By the end of the course, I felt like a true falconer and flying the hawk felt effortless. Handling the bird was natural and nerves had long since dissipated.
I didn’t want our session to end! But alas, end it did. As a last, extremely generous touch, we got a picture snapped of both of us holding birds together for the scrapbook! It was hard to put the birds away and I have a feeling we might be back again someday!
All in all?
To do this falconry class, we stood for 2 hours and walked a short distance on a clearly defined dirt path. It was not strenuous in terms of physical exertion. We were taught the proper handling methods for the birds’ safety as well as our own and as a result, everything went flawlessly. The birds were pretty well mannered and gorgeous. One boy in our group looked about 12/14 and did wonderfully.
Really, this experience was made great by Joe and the Ohio School of Falconry. I wanted to be sure that we could take pictures of the experience and he made certain I got some great shots, giving us time to be “the paparazzi.” We learned how to do a “falconer’s high five” and he gave each individual ample personal instruction and care. It was apparent how passionate Joe was about the birds, as well as sharing his love for the sport. You really get your money’s worth!
It was such a memorable experience for Marc and myself and I’m so glad I stumbled across this advertisement. The best part about the experience? In the last stretch, that feeling like you know what to do with the hawk, you know what to expect, and you don’t have to think about the steps, they just mold into a seamless action. I felt like a natural! 🙂
So, have you ever wanted to become a falconer? Are there any fears, concerns, or questions of the unknown I didn’t cover? Comment below and let me know!
Per Person Cost: $ (>25) $$(25-50) $$$(51-100) $$$$(101-200) $$$$$(201+)
The Ohio School of Falconry gives its courses at Camp Mary Orton, which is down a wooded road. Just keep driving down it … you’ll get there!
Walks with Hawks Class: $$$ ($100)
Be an observer and watch the Walks with Hawks Class: $$ ($50) (But I had to do it too, I couldn’t let Marc have all the fun!)
The class is taught with safety first. Joe went very carefully through safety rules before any birds were brought out. He taught proper ways to interact with the birds. You will wear a safety glove over your hand and arm, and hold the bird out and away from your body at a specific angle for safety. He never left our sides and made sure if we started to do something wrong, he could easily correct it. I felt completely safe and that the birds’ welfare was extremely well cared for.
US Dollar: I mailed a check to the Ohio School of Falconry and received an e-mail confirming receipt of check and was mailed my two Walks with Hawks vouchers, receiving them within the week.
For More Information
Meet their Birds! http://www.ohioschooloffalconry.com/our-birds.html