Falcons fly high at annual meet

PROFESSIONAL falconers and their right-hand birds gathered the last weekend of the season for the annual Ohio Falconry Association meet. The event is held annually in the Cadiz and Morristown-Belmont areas, and the public was invited to attend and watch as falconers came to fly their birds on wild game.

Several Ohio Falconers, a few apprentices and a few pre-apprentices all gathered at a cabin in the woods to enjoy each other’s company and, most importantly, to hunt.

Mick Brown, president of the Ohio Falconry Association, said it’s not a competition. Rather, “We get together to go hunting and tell tales to each other,” he said. “It is just a chance for falconers to get together and watch some of the highest flying game-hawks at their physical best at the end of the regular hunting season.”

Brown had anticipated a Golden Eagle being brought in for the weekend but the large predator did not materialize. However, Mike Garcia brought his pair of high-speed falcons from Illinois.

Garcia brought a Gyrfalcon and a hybrid Paragreen-Gyr mix. The largest falcon in the world, the Gyrfalcon breeds in arctic and subarctic regions of the northern hemisphere. It preys mostly on large birds, pursuing them in breathtakingly fast and powerful flight. The breed is polymorphic, being recognized in three color phases: white, grey, and dark. Gyrfalcons are one of the most highly regarded birds of falconry, and princes in Asia used to give these as gifts to kings.

Garcia showed the Ohio falconers how he kites his birds every day. He let a kite fly up more than 1,000 feet into the air, and released each bird to go after its reward- the rewards being 1,000 feet up in the air with the kite, of course. The birds were incredible as they circled above, gaining height with each pass over our heads. The Ohio Falconers were all left staring up at the sight they didn’t see often.

Peregrines and Gyrs are uncommon sights in Ohio. The large mountains and dense woods do not provide an optimal place to hunt with the high-flying, quick-diving falcons.

During the hunt, the birds circle barely visible, some 1,000 feet overhead and then swoop down at breakneck speeds.

Doug Outward, a local sportsman, acts as guide for the event. The Falconers rely on guides who know where to locate game and have relationships with landowners so permission can be granted to fly their birds. Falconers are generally looking for small game, such as rabbits, squirrels, pheasants and ducks.

“Falconers grow to love watching their dogs work as much as seeing their falcons fly,” said Brown whose longtime hunting companion, Tippi, scoured the underbrush for rabbits ahead of the hunting party.

“Aside from the great show of training by the Illinois Falconer, most of the weekend was spent hunting,” Brown added. “The groups of Falconers were split in two in order to cover more ground and to give all the birds a chance to hunt,”

“Successful hunts were made by Falconer Brandon Hunter, Falconer Steve Pisarchik, one by apprentice Falconer Rusty Reeves,” Brown recalled. “Every bird showed multiple great dives and chases, and all-in-all, the weekend was successful.”