The eight steps you must follow to become a falconer:

1. Take and pass falconry exam.

Passing grade is 80%. You can take the test at the Elmerton office of the Pennsylvania Game Commission offices. Schedule ahead and follow the directions on the Pennsylvania Game Commission's website and in printed material from them.

The test is 100 multiple-choice and true-false questions about raptor natural history, biology, care and handling, diseases, history of falconry and laws. Study materials are available [see The Apprentice's Bookshelf]. Don't be anxious. If they've done their homework, most people pass the first time. If you fail, you can take the test again, but you might want to take a few days to review the material before trying again.. Your results from passing the test come along with the Falconry License Application. Before you can send the Application back to PGC, you need a sponsor to co-sign the application and or write a letter stating willingness to sponsor you, and you need your facilities and equipment inspected.

2. Hunting license requirement.

Falconry is defined as the release of a bird of prey after wild quarry. Hunting, flying free, is the best exercise for the hawk and is the best source of their natural diet. You must have a hunting license before you start hunting. To get a hunting license, you must have taken a hunter safety course, also known as the gun hunter safety course. PGC, gun clubs and many firearms stores, will provide you the name and telephone number of an instructor in your area. Your sponsor will be looking for you to have a hunting license. Do this before you get your sponsor.

3. Develop a Sponsor.

An applicant to be an apprentice must be sponsored by a general or master falconer. Once you're a PCP member and have passed the falconry exam, the Peregrine Club of Philadelphia Apprentice Chair will assist you in contacting potential sponsors (the State does not help you in this regard). This is just one of several excellent reasons to join the Peregrine Club of Philadelphia. Unless you are fortunate enough to know a master or general falconer willing to sponsor you, you will end up talking to the Peregrine Club of Philadelphia's Apprentice Chairman for the name of candidate sponsors. Those candidate sponsors come from the ranks of the Peregrine Club of Philadelphia. They are not obligated to be a sponsor. You must establish that relationship, and being a Peregrine Club of Philadelphia member is an important step of that process. Sponsors are looking for apprentices that have done their homework, passed their test, have their hunting license, follow directions, love hawks and are willing to hunt with them.

4. Get your facilities and equipment.

You must, by law, have the following equipment: Aylmeri jesses - (including grommets, bracelets and jesses), leash, swivel, outdoor perch, scale [capable of reading ½ ounce (14 grams) or better] and a bath pan. In addition, you must have a hawk house large enough so that the hawk will have freedom of movement. Generally an 8' x 8' x 8' cube is sufficient for a free-lofted red tail hawk.

When (your sponsor thinks) you are ready for your facilities inspection, fill out the license application and send it in. Shortly after sending in your application the local PGC officers will call to schedule your inspections. If the WCO advises you to fix or correct an item, promise to do so and ask how to get them back out to re-inspect. Most recent experience indicates that if you've obviously provided a decent environment for the hawk and have the right equipment, you will pass the first time. Should the WCO fail you, there is a re-inspection. The Game Warden will sign off the form and hand it back to you. Except for finalizing the formal paperwork, you are a falconer.

5. Submit Paperwork. Submit required material to PGC.

6. Trap your bird.

After you receive your license, you may trap a hawk any time during the year. You may take an immature redtailed hawk (also called a "passage" redtail) or a kestrel. There are excellent reasons to take a hawk in the fall and early winter. First, they have learned to survive on their own. Secondly, they are not so set in their ways.

7. Submit More paperwork.

You will need to fill the Federal Form 3-186A on line. You must also fill out and submit a Resident Falconer Raptor Capture, Recapture and Release Report. You have 10 days to get this done.

8. And you are a falconer!

Some words of advice:

  • There is no such thing as a stupid question - no matter how many times you ask it.
  • Follow your sponsor's advice, direction, and council. You should listen to other falconers, but they aren't the ones signing your paperwork, and that includes the Apprentice Contacts.

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