Fierce Feathered Friends

Just came back from a quick afternoon paddle on a local lake where I must have spent 15 minutes watching an osprey catch dinner for her nest full of young. As I watched, my mind drifted back to one of my more extraordinary experiences at a program that allows ordinary folks to get up-close-and-personal with a remarkable bird of prey.

I’m talking, of course, about falconry programs like the one at Manchester Village, Vermont’s Equinox Resort. Their British School of Falconry—the oldest such program in the U.S.—offers several experiences that let you get a taste of this sport that was so popular with the likes of Alexander the Great and Kublai Khan that it’s been dubbed the Sport of Kings.

My wife and I did their  45-minute Introduction To Falconry program, which can be paired with an hour-long Hawk Walk that allows you to free-fly your very own Harris hawk on a leisurely amble through the lush Vermont countryside.  For a more authentic falconry experience, the school also offers half-day sessions  in September and October where you can actually take the birds out on a hunt for small game such as rabbits and quail.

If Vermont seems a bit too far out of the way, you might want to check out the half-day Falconry Experience offered by the West Coast Falconry Academy.  You can also learn more about the extraordinary commitment of time and money it takes to become a falconer here.

 No matter where you end up handling these impressive birds, I can tell you from personal experience that it’s a pretty safe bet you’ll never look at a soaring bird of prey the same way again.


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