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2/15/17- “Hawking” in Alabama

by Meaghan English, TrueSouth Properties Wildlife Specialist

For the first time in my 25 years, I went squirrel hunting last weekend. There were no dogs and no fancy gear, just good ol’ walking-around-the-woods-shaking-vines squirrel hunting and it was a blast! Imagine my surprise when I was told “you haven’t been squirrel hunting until you hunt with hawks.” Wait…what? I had no idea that was a sport much less an organized club. But yes, falconry is still alive and well in Alabama. I will elaborate on the history of falconry, the art of falconry, and where you can go to see the sport in action!


The North American Falconers Association was founded sometime in the 1960s, which was brought on by the presence of the red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). This bird is highly desired by falconers because they are easily trained and have very mild temperament. There were very few falconers at the time, but they would get together and hunt with their hawks to gather rabbit and squirrel. Around 1996, falconry found Alabama. About 40 falconers got together in Opelika, Alabama and organized themselves into the Alabama Hawk Association, according to the AHA website. From that point on, falconers gathered themselves into small groups and roamed all over Alabama with their red-tailed hawks. The hawks learned to pay close attention to the humans and wait patiently for the humans to flush a squirrel from the branches of a tree.


            Falconry is beyond infatuating to me. The whole process starts with trapping a red-tailed hawk either by a net or a wire trap (similar to a Tomahawk). Next, the falconer begins extensive training with the hawk. A seasoned falconer will weigh the hawk and figure out how much food to feed it to keep it alive, but also keep it hungry so that the hawk will hunt. If the hawk is full, it will not hunt appropriately. Before arriving to the woods, bells are attached to the hawk’s feet for locating purposes. Once in the woods, the falconer allows the hawk to find a perch on a nearby tree. The falconer and maybe a few others will begin shaking branches and vines to force squirrels into plain sight for the hawk (some falconers use dogs, some do not). Once the hawk is zoned in on the squirrel, it swoops it with it large talons aimed for the squirrel, grabs it up, and takes it to an open area for consumption. It is up to the falconer to find the hawk and trade it another piece of meat for the squirrel. This goes on and on until the falconer is content with the harvest. I have been told that sometimes the red-tailed hawks are very loyal and will remain with their owner for many hunts. However, it is possible to trap a rogue hawk and the first time the falconer sends it up to perch, away it goes.

Where to find falconry events

Meets are held once a year in Alabama, but people all over the country are invited! The past two meets have been held in the Grampian Hills on the outskirts of Camden, Alabama. However, past meets have been held in Echo, Alabama near Ozark. This is a time for all members of the AHA to get together and share their knowledge and skills with other, less experienced members. It is also a great time for the public to get a unique view into the livelihood of a falconer.

I feel like the sport of falconry is a glimpse back in time. It is unbelievable to me that people are able to train hawks when I can’t even train a dog to fetch. If you are interested, please visit the AHA website and keep up with this amazing sport. The next meet will be held in Camden, AL on February 23-26!


By: Meaghan English

My name is Meaghan English, a wildlife specialist with TrueSouth. I graduated from Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Ecology and Management and I have grown up with a passion for hunting. I knew from an early age that I was not only interested in the harvesting of wildlife, but I was also very interested in their biology and management. I decided that I not only wanted to be a wildlife enthusiast, I want to be an educated wildlife specialist. I will be using that grand education as a member of the TrueSouth team contributing wildlife blog articles!

My first hunting memory flashes back to when I was six or seven years old. Like any other Saturday during deer season, my dad had told my mom to get me ready because we were going hunting. Of course I was ecstatic! I was not ecstatic about the hair bow my mom made me wear with my camouflage (she wanted everyone to know I was in fact a fashionable girl). The entire way to Perdue Hill, Alabama, my dad told me that today would be the first day I would actually shoot my first deer and I knew I was ready. We pulled up to the camp, unloaded, and fed all the “camp cats”. Before we headed to our stand, I had spotted three kittens that I simply could not leave behind so I stuffed them in my jacket. After walking what seemed like five miles, we finally made it to the “Pressbox stand” (with my smuggled kittens) and sat down. Dad continuously pestered me to be quiet, but I wasn’t that worried about shooting a deer, I had kittens! Eventually, the sun began to sink behind the trees and a spike (without olfactory senses) entered the field. When it was safe to quietly move, dad handed me the gun and I handed him my three kittens. I slowly pulled the gun up and placed my cheek against the stock. Dad told me to breathe slowly and pull the trigger when I was ready. Sure enough, I pulled the trigger and the spike hit the ground. We high-fived, exchanged kittens again, and climbed down to see the kill. It certainly was not a wall hanger, but a huge chapter in my life was started that night. My dad and I still hunt together to this day and we practice quality deer management at all times.

My ultimate goal is to provide clients with a survey of flora and fauna that currently inhabit a specific tract of land and, if desired, how to properly manage that land for the species that are found there. All feedback is greatly appreciated and I look forward to working with you!

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