Faces of Hunters: Jamaica Smith

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Falconry is the art and sport of hunting with a trained raptor. Many people are completely unaware that falconry even exists. I was certainly one of those people. If it weren’t for one book and the internet, I would most likely not be a falconer.

Although not raised in a hunting family, by my early 20’s I was interested in becoming a hunter. When I met my husband, who was a big game hunter, I had the perfect opportunity to join the hunting community. It was my interest in quail hunting that ultimately led me to falconry. A friend loaned me a book titled A Hunter’s Road: A Journey with Gun and Dog Across the American Uplands., by Jim Fergus. Towards the end of his trip Jim wound up in New Mexico, where he went hawking with a falconer. I was instantly intrigued, wondering if I too could be a falconer. I had my doubts, as I was certain this falconer in New Mexico was the only one east of the Mississippi.

shaq windy dayShortly after that we got a home computer with dial-up internet. My very first internet search was for sugar gliders, a small marsupial that was a popular pet at the time. My second search was for falconers in my home state of Arizona. Twenty years later, it’s safe to say the search for falconers was more fruitful than my forays into sugar glider ownership.

Turns out there were indeed several falconers in Arizona. I found an address for a falconer in a town about three hours from us. He telephoned me the day he received my letter, and later went on to sponsor both myself and my husband during our apprenticeship. In my two decades as a falconer I’ve flown several different species of hawks and falcons. The three primary quarry in my area are cottontail, jackrabbit, and Gambel’s quail, and my birds take a fair number of each every season.

I will be writing a series of articles about falconry for the “Faces of Hunters” blog. If you would like to know more about falconry, chances are good a quick search on the internet will put you in touch with your state’s falconry organization.