Falconry Apprenticeship Agreement

As part of my work as a falconer, I have been lucky enough to work with some of the best falconers in the state, many of whom have strict rules for how they work with apprentices. From them, I have been compiling the requirements that I believe are most likely to generate the best possible outcomes. From those, my goal is to build a contract for future apprentices to use, or consider when asking “is what my sponsor wants reasonable?” If I one day have apprentices, I imagine some part of this “contract” document may serve to guide my expectations for them.

This is not to say you cannot be successful following some OTHER form, or that I am sitting here wringing my hands in judgement if you don’t do it exactly like this. I’m far from a master, and far from knowing everything. But I hope that in writing down some of these expectations, I can help other codify their thoughts on apprenticeship in a way that helps new apprentices be successful.

Apprenticeship Agreement

This contract represents my commitment to my hawk. It represents my sponsor’s commitment to me. It also represents my family’s commitment to falconry and the time it will take in my life. It represents my respect for the thousands of years of falconry that have come before me. I represents my deep honor and respect for the raptors used in falconry.

By signing below, I acknowledge, understand, and agree that…

Mental Commitments

  • Hawking is self-discipline, not animal discipline. I will never intentionally harm, or permit injury to a raptor in my care, for any reason. 
  • I am ultimately responsible for the fate of my hawk as soon as I take possession of it.
  • Hawking is a hunting passion and lifestyle. Hawks are not pets. I am not looking for a fancy bird to show off. Hawks have an instinctual need to hunt, and it is my ethical duty to feed that instinct as an able and skilled participant in my hawk’s hunt. 
  • I have taken significant time and thought to understand that I will enjoy working with wild animals. Hawks will not love me; they will at best consider me a food source, and not a companion.
  • I will present the art of falconry in the best possible light to everyone I meet.  
  • To be a successful falconer, I must love the outdoors. A hawk doesn’t care as much if it’s cold, wet, snowy, hot, or beautiful, and when the weather is miserable, only my joy in being outside will see me through.
  • I must be patient and dedicated. Manning the hawk will test my patience. Finding game will test my determination.

Time Commitments

  • I am committed to spending no less than 1 hour per day with my hawk when not hunting, and no less than 3 hours per day with my hawk when hunting.
  • I am committed, able and willing to hunt my hawk a minimum of 5 days per week. Just like an athlete, hawks require constant maintenance and exercise.
  • If I have a significant other, falconry is about to enter their lives too. The have also reviewed this document, spoken with my sponsor, and understand that these requirements.
  • I am fully capable, financially and physically, of providing for the hawk’s needs. This includes housing, good quality food, and medical care, as well as your time and attention. I have a fund specifically set aside for medical needs and supplies, above and beyond the startup costs of building a mews, acquiring a hawk, etc. This fund has at least $2,000 in it as of the date of signing below.
  • I have no serious commitments constituting more than a 2-day period between the months of September and March (trapping and hawking season), for at least the minimum apprenticeship requirement of two years.

Skill Commitments

  • I will read voraciously on the subject of falconry.
  • I will exhibit a strong knowledge of husbandry techniques, and understand when to employ each.
  • I will ask my sponsor “why” questions. If they cannot answer, they commit to finding out “why” something is done a particular way. “Because it was always done that way” is not a sufficient explanation. 
  • I will seek out good hunting grounds for my hawk. I will develop my “game sense.”
  • I will develop general husbandry skills, not only by listening to my sponsor, but by reading and exhibiting curiosity about the sport in general.
  • When one solution is not working for a particular hawk, I will search for other solutions until one does. My lack of knowledge is not sufficient reason for failure.
  • I will be capable of swiftly and humanely killing prey animals without hesitation.
  • Where the hawk’s welfare is concerned, “good enough” is not in my vocabulary, and I will conduct myself with a curiosity to learn new skills and techniques.

Community Commitments

  • I will reciprocate with other falconers; if they work the brush for my hawk, I will work for their hawk on the next available occasion (typically, immediately). If they give me a piece of gear, I will stand ready to help if they have a similar future need.
  • I will follow all applicable laws. When I am not certain of a law, I will take responsibility for looking it up.
  • I will give my time freely and unbegrudgingly to the general welfare of raptors in the state of New York, even if it is not a raptor in my care. 
  • I will join and maintain memberships in all appropriate state and federal level falconry organizations, recognizing that these groups are my best attempt at maintaining the art of falconry for future generations.
  • I understand that the state’s apprenticeship requirement is a minimum and at the end of it. I am entitled to neither an upgrade, nor continued sponsorship. 
  • Prior to upgrade, I will obtain the recommendation of no less than 3 General or Master class falconers, and present these to my sponsor. Any of these three recommendations may be used to fulfill my legal requirements for upgrade. In addition, I will obtain them in order to demonstrate my commitment to the falconry community, and the approval of my and my sponsor’s peers. I will not seek these upgrades out before such time as is appropriate.

Termination of this Agreement

  • Should I become unable to fulfill any of these duties, I will voluntarily resign as a falconer. 
  • My sponsor may terminate this agreement at any time for any reason, but will certainly do so should I prove negligent, incompetent, or abusive toward my hawk. In this case, I agree to not seek any other sponsor. To “hop sponsors” due to my error would be to demonstrate disdain for the wellbeing of the raptor, and I am better than this.

The undersigned agree to all above conditions and acknowledgements.

_________________________                                      _________________________ 

Apprentice                                                                               Sponsor

_________________________                                      _________________________ 

Apprentice’s Significant Other (if applicable)                 Date of agreement