Almost everyone comes into this sport as a beginner with no prior knowledge. This page is designed to help you to understand the apprenticeship process and the steps required to obtain the permit/license required to practice falconry in the state of New Jersey.
Start by absorbing as much information as possible about falconry. Check out the on-line falconry supply companies for the large selection of books they carry on falconry. Either purchase several that are intended for beginners, or after identifying ones that you find of interest check them out at your local library. There are also a number of on-line resources that anyone wanting to learn about falconry would benefit from including the Modern Apprentice and The Apprentice Falconry Forum. In addition anyone planning on taking their states falconry exam would benefit from the two available study guides, one from California, and one from New York. Both will help you with preparing for the New Jersey exam. Read each book through at least once, then study the most relevant areas heavily. You will also need to study New Jersey Fish & Wildlife Regulations, as there will be relevant questions on the exam.
Contact the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife and ask for the information and application for getting a falconry permit.
Identify a potential sponsor. To become a licensed falconer one is required to complete a 2 year apprenticeship program. Keep in mind that not only is the candidate making this 2 year commitment but the sponsor is as well. Due to the small number of falconers in New Jersey there are a very limited number of available sponsors. As a result, available sponsors do their due diligence and carefully vet potential candidates before committing to sponsor a candidate.
Start preparing your falconry equipment and your mews (hawkhouse). You should have all the legal requirements ready for inspection so as to expedite the application process after passing your exam! Read New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife Falconry Regulations thoroughly for equipment requirements.
Contact the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife and schedule and take the exam. You must get an 80% or better to pass. You can take the exam without naming a sponsor, but he/she will actually need to sign your state permit application. Once you’ve passed the exam, you may get your state falconry permit be prepared to wait up to 60 days to get your permit. Don’t wait until the last minute to send in your application.
As soon as you have a state hunting license, and a state falconry permit in hand, then you are ready to go trapping and to obtain your first bird.
You will be required to trap your own bird. Trapping is not necessarily difficult, but it is something about which you will learn as you study for the exam. It is also something that should be done with your sponsor, if at all possible.
In New Jersey apprentices are limited to flying a Red Tail hawk.
With respect to falconers taking their birds from the wild, studies show that an estimated 75 to 80% of immature raptors die each year. Every time a falconer traps a passage raptor (one less than a year old), there are at least two probable results. The first is that the particular bird trapped will be helped to transition into its second year of life, which is an accomplishment that it only has a 20 to 25 % chance of doing on its own in the wild. Second, one less bird has been temporarily removed from the competition for food and habitat. Since the vast majority of falconry birds are released back to the wild, usually after 1 or 2 hunting seasons falconry actually benefits wild raptor populations. In reality, however, there are too few falconers in the United States to truly impact wild raptor populations one way or the other. The true enemy of raptor populations is destruction of habitat for both themselves and their prey.
The below books are considered ‘essential’ for all new apprentices. For more recommended reading, please visit our reading list here.
1. California Hawking Club: THE LURE OF FALCONRY (FD1044)
2. California Hawking Club: APPRENTICE STUDY GUIDE (FB1076) *
3. California Hawking Club: APPRENTICE MANUAL (FB1091) *
4. W. Oakes: THE FALCONER’S APPRENTICE, A guide to training the Red-tailed Hawk.
5. B.A. Kimsey & J. Hodge: FALCONRY EQUIPMENT (Chapters 2, 3, 4 & 11) (FB2030)
6. M. Mullenix: AMERICAN KESTRELS IN MODERN FALCONRY (FB1046)
7. W.S. Clark & B.K. Wheeler: HAWKS OF NORTH AMERICA (Peterson Field Guide)
8. W.S. Clark & B.K. Wheeler: A PHOTOGRAPHIC GUIDE TO NORTH AMERICAN
*(Essential prior to taking the falconry examination.)