A powerful Red-tailed Hawk flying through the sky can be a moving and majestic sight. Now imagine having one as a hunting partner.
Ron and Lacy Byles trained male and female Red-tailed Hawks, named Jester and Nala. They were trapped as juveniles. This fall is Ron and Nala’s third hunting season together.
“It’s a rewarding feeling to take something from the wild, train it, have it as a hunting partner and have it come back to you at the end of the day,” said Ron.
But training a hawk isn’t for the faint of heart.
“They’re not a pet,” said Lacy. “They’re a hunting partner and caring for them takes a lot of time.
When Lacy trapped her first bird, she had to put a hood on it and bind its feet. “You have to hold the bird for hours a time until it gets used to you enough so that you can offer it food,” she said. “Jester took food from me on the second day. From there, I trained him to hop onto my glove from a perch. You have to build a relationship with them.”
There are three classes of falconers: Apprentice, General and Master. Apprentice falconers are required to be sponsored by a general or master falconer for two years. During this time the sponsor will train the apprentice in the ways of falconry. These include building a quality housing facility, using the necessary equipment, rules and regulations, trapping and caring for a raptor, hunting techniques and reporting requirements, among other things. New falconers are required to pass a 100 question exam before they can be licensed.
Falconers are required to report their activity (trapping a new bird, releasing a bird, transferring a bird etc.) to the FWS on an electronic reporting form.
“I’ve read and studied birds of prey my entire life,” said Ron.
The couple brings their birds to schools in the Parish and participates at the LDWF’s National Hunting and Fishing Day in Woolworth.