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My Falconry – Hunting Scaled Quail with a Goshawk and Bird Dogs
A falconry video looking into the unusual world of hunting Southwestern quail with a Goshawk and bird dogs
The sheer amount of coordination, time, and training that goes into molding a pointing dog into a tool of upland hunting can make for a daunting journey. The challenges of this lifestyle require not only a massive commitment of time and energy, but also the passion to keep it going day in and day out. Add in another dog, and then another, and the ability to develop those skills grows with each new experience. But now lets add another species into this picture: a goshawk. This is where we pick up on this story and take a brief glimpse into the world of falconry with Tyler Sladen of Albuquerque, New Mexico. We teamed up with Outdoor Life and Dakota 283 to capture this incredible lifestyle through film, photography, and words.
“My falconry is not your falconry. It’s not their falconry. For me, it’s bird dogs with upland game and a goshawk.”
Tyler is an upland hunter at heart; the addition of birds of prey merely refined that obsession. As he points out, falconry adds in so many options and variables that you could never do it all in a lifetime. “I could do this for the next 50 years of my life and yet I didn’t get to experience the other 90% of falconry.”
Tyler obtained his goshawk by taking it from the nest as a baby and raising it by hand. This experience alone sets the cornerstone for the major lifestyle commitment that is falconry. Now a year old, the goshawk—named Hashbrown—is an key piece of Tyler’s hunting team. We followed along as they hunted scaled quail and rabbits with his bird dogs.
Perhaps the most impressive part of this whole choreographed dance is the ability of the hunting dogs to recognize Hashbrown as a team member, rather than as prey. But if you dig deep enough into the history of hunting dogs, you’ll find that many of these breeds were developed before the advent of the modern shotgun and therefore worked as falconry dogs. Tyler currently runs Setters, Vizslas, and a recently-acquired Cocker Spaniel. When game is captured, the dogs stand guard to protect Hashbrown from would-be scavengers while Tyler catches up to the action.
This unique world is one that takes four species—humans, dogs, birds of prey, and the prey itself—to unify this purposeful act of nature. Of course, the particular species of the bird of prey introduces yet another variable into the equation. Tyler’s method of hunting over bird dogs and flying his goshawk from his arm for upland game birds is just one method, but it’s not the way that all birds of prey hunt. The possibilities are indeed endless.
Interestingly, the lack of a shotgun allows them to hunt in more developed areas that have restrictions on the discharge of firearms. It’s a world that many of us can only dream of.
READ in Outdoor Life: This Hunter’s Falconry Demands Discipline, Stamina, and a Pack of Bird Dogs
The United States stands as one of the last countries where birds of prey can be taken from the wild. Extensive research has shown that there is no negative impact from this highly-regulated activity. Few permits are issued and, with less than 4000 falconers currently in the U.S., the competition for capture permits is minimal.
This pursuit has often been referred to as the “sport of kings” because it draws its rich history from royalty around the world, even today. But as Tyler says, falconry isn’t the same for everyone, and the multitude of variables makes it possible to create your own, unique experience of teaming up to hunt with a bird of prey.
This film was made possible by Dakota 283 and in collaboration with Outdoor Life.
A.J. DeRosa founded Project Upland in 2014 as an excuse to go hunting more often (and it worked). A New England native, he grew up hunting and has spent over 30 years in pursuit of big and small game species across three continents. He started collecting guns on his 18th birthday and eventually found his passion for side-by-side shotguns, inspiring him to travel the world to meet the people and places from which they come. Looking to turn his passion into inspiration for others, AJ was first published in 2004 and went on to write his first book The Urban Deer Complex in 2014. He soon discovered a love for filmmaking, particularly the challenge of capturing ruffed grouse with a camera, which led to the award-winning Project Upland film series. AJ's love for all things wild has caused him to advocate on the federal and state levels to promote and expand conservation policy, habitat funding, and upland game bird awareness. He currently serves as the Strafford County New Hampshire Fish & Game Commissioner in order to give back to his community and to further the mission of the agency. When those hunting excuses are in play, you can find him wandering behind his Wirehaired Pointing Griffon in the mountains of New England and anywhere else the birds take them.