Weekend Warm-Up: Hunting with Falcons

According to Shawn Hayes, falconry is not an art or a sport but a way of life. At an early age, the city boy gravitated to a life of outdoor adventure, much to the dismay of the more conventional people around him in Riverside, California. He took to the open and free spaces of parks, mountains and deserts to learn more about wildlife, particularly birds of prey. At one point, he no longer wanted to simply watch the creatures soar past him. He wanted to know them and learn from them. This interest took him to South Africa, the Middle East and Europe to learn the technique and history of falconry.

Training his hawk. Photo: National Geographic

One day, a friend of his rescued a hawk and brought it to him. He hand-raised the bird, gleaning tips from falconry manuals. However, he strengthened his relationship with the falcon based on their daily interactions. Their partnership focused on goals that benefited them both. The hawk was freed to hunt, while Hayes trained him to perform the perfect flight. Despite the constant risk of his friend flying away, he allowed it in order to learn.

His relationship with his hawk extended to his human relationships. A wild animal taught him much about patience, perseverance and the desire to connect on a deeper level with both animals and humans. A bond with the wild, its lands and its animals does not make one wild but rather more human.