Hunting with a wild bird of prey is an exhilarating and fulfilling endeavor.  There is nothing quite like watching your hawk pursue and ultimately take its quarry.  Or marveling as it flies toward you through the trees and lands deftly on your waiting glove.  The bond between falconer and bird is a lifelong, deeply treasured relationship.  It takes years to reach this state.  It is an incredible process and achievement, full of challenges and rewards.  But becoming a falconer must be done with great forethought and readiness.  It requires seriousness and maturity.  It requires considerable time and resources.  It is not to be taken lightly.  It is not a hobby.  It is a lifestyle.  And you must be ready and willing to accept this responsibility, without fail.  The life and well being of your bird, as well as your reputation as a falconer, depend on it. 

The initial process of testing and licensing can take up to 6-8 months - or longer.  The responsibilities of keeping your hawk healthy and flying it on game are 24/7/365.  If you are prepared to devote the time, energy, and resources necessary to become a falconer, then read on….

Below is a list of the steps to becoming a falconer in New York State:

1.  Research
  • Raptor biology, Falconry, History of Falconry
  • Books and DVDs are both good resources
2. Become a Member of the NYSFA
3.  Apply for Falconry Packet from NYSDEC Special License Unit
4.  Study Packet – study the Questions & Answers;  know them by heart
  • 100 questions – you must score 80 or higher to pass this test
  • Test offered twice a year. Second Friday of April and August each year at DEC regional offices statewide.
5.  Take New York State Hunter Safety Education Class
  • Contact NYSDEC Regional Office for schedule of available classes
6.  Purchase a NYS Hunting License
  • A required legal step to hunt with a raptor in New York State is possession of a valid small game license.
7.  Find a Sponsor
  • DEC will supply you with a registry of licensed falconers in New York State after you pass the written test.
  • Our association is dedicated to fostering the sport and therefore have committed to helping those individuals serious about becoming falconers find a sponsor.  Please use the following links to identify which region you are in and which Director to contact.  Each of our regional directors is prepared to help locate a suitable sponsor based on geographical proximity and willingness to fill the role.
  • You can also join the NYSFA as an Associate member prior to getting a license, and use the Member search to find and connect with falconers in your region. This is an excellent way to start meeting people and finding out if falconry is a good fit for you.
8.  Build Facility and acquire necessary equipment
  • Mews and Weathering area
  • Glove
  • Scale
  • Perch
  • Anklets, Jesses, Leash
  • Refer to NYSDEC Inspection Checklist
  • Refer to List of Vendors
9.  Have Facility and Equipment Inspection

This is arranged regionally, by contacting your regional DEC office. You must pass your inspection, which is based on a rigorous state checklist intended to ensure the basic safety of hawks in your care.

10.  Apply for State Falconry License

This application can take time to process - so do not leave it until the last minute! Our friends at the DEC work very hard to get these licenses done, and it is courteous to leave them as much time as possible before your first season begins to process your application.

11.  Acquire food Source

Your sponsor will be able to help with this, otherwise there are many reputable food suppliers in our sponsoring businesses section.

12.  Build Traps

Upon joining the NYSFA you will gain access to the member resources section and forums. There we discuss and explain trapping processes, methods and safety in more detail. Your sponsor will also supervise this process to ensure it is done properly, ethically, and safely.

13.  Trap Bird

For most apprentices in NYS, your first raptor will be a passage red-tailed hawk.

14.  Train and hunt your bird

The process of training and hunting is where the commitment truly begins. Everything on the list before this step is just prep work. If you've gotten this far, the journey, commitment, and self-discipline is only just beginning.

Additional resources

NYSDEC Special License Unit
Phone Number (518)-402-8985
Special Licenses Unit
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-4752

NYSDEC Falconry Introduction Pamphlet

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Unit Region 5
(413) 253-864
P.O. Box 779
Hadley, MA 01035-077

Further Information and Learning