John Kern with T-Bone
If he sees the game first, well, the chase is on,” explains Kern. “Through our time in the woods together, Choo-Choo and I have forged a successful hunting routine. I can read his body language. I can tell when he needs to rest or when he sees prey and is about to make a move. In turn, he responds instinctively to my cues. This complementary team effort is my goal for our relationship.”
For Morse, who more frequently pursues rabbits, a hunt will start with him walking through a field or briar patch carrying a tall stick where his bird can perch. Morse works to flush game, at which point Malice’s instincts will naturally kick in.
“The falconer does a lot of work leading up to the chase, but when the bird sees a rabbit or squirrel, it’s all up to them. They take off after it, and watching them fly is my favorite,” says Morse. “I just really enjoy watching Malice work.”
Getting to see a bird of prey in action is also what motivates Kern to stick with a sport that requires so much time, energy, and dedication.
“I love witnessing the different flight maneuvers birds do to get to their prey. Sometimes it’s quite acrobatic. They might spiral down around a tree trunk or execute a last-second inversion spin for an under-the-branch grab,” says Kern. “Maybe it is the fact that I never know what I might see from my bird.”
In Tennessee, the falconry season lasts 10 months out of the year, and most falconers can be found working with their birds daily during that time, or, at a minimum, three times a week. And while the act of hunting is certainly enjoyable for those who participate in the sport of falconry, it’s really a love for the animals themselves that motivates falconers to train and care for their birds day in and day out.
“Falconry is a sport that has conservation woven throughout its structure. Falconry and falconers have been instrumental in pushing for protections for birds of prey,” says Morse. “The desire to see these birds up close also drives a desire to protect them for others to see them, both up close and in the wild. This partnership is beautiful and rewarding for both the bird and the falconer when done well.”