Pre-apprentices and other interested individuals often ask for a list of what you need to do in the proper sequence to become a falconer, so here it is.
Please note that if you’re reading another club’s study guide, things are done differently in different states, so stick by Washington’s rules.
As a side note – if you are planning to run a dog with your bird either pick up a veteran falconry dog or add another nine to twelve months to your schedule to get a puppy grown and comfortable and controllable in the field. You do not want to be training a dog and a bird at the same time, particularly if it’s your first bird. Too many uncontrolled animals in the field is a recipe for disaster and leads directly to lost birds, injured dogs, and frustrated and unsuccessful falconers.
If you have any questions about what to do or when to do it, email the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife Falconry Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 425-379-2302 Monday through Friday from 9-5. WFA provides dedicated Apprentice Coordinators to help new or returning members complete all necessary steps and to answer general questions.
Pay attention to the instructions in the letters you receive from WDFW. Write the checks out as instructed, send things to the right addresses, and so forth.
And, most importantly, do NOT wait until the last minute and expect that your paperwork can be expedited for you! The process must be followed and steps will not be skipped.
- Download the official Washington State falconry packet.
- Start saving money. Avian vets are expensive. A general checkup and worming is roughly $100, plus any necessary medications.
- Read. Read. Read. A good place to start is www.themodernapprentice.com. Also read the official Washington State information. Obviously, anything officially published by the State supersedes anything written on this or any other privately-maintained website. Borrow or buy books and read some more.
- Join worthwhile online communities and websites and read those too.
- If you were born after 1972 and you haven’t taken it already, you MUST schedule and finish your Hunter’s Education class so you can get your hunting license. It’s a good idea to do this anyway, as it makes getting hunting licenses in other states much simpler.
- Find a good raptor vet. A generic “avian” vet will not suffice – a raptor is not a parrot. Find someone who knows raptors. Your sponsor will most likely point you towards one.
- Figure out where the bird’s food is coming from during the training process. There are many quality raptor food vendors available. Again, your sponsor can help you find one.
- Join WFA.
- Contact your Director to get introduced to potential sponsors near you. You can also attend any WFA meet or the Summer Picnic.
- Impress a General- or Master-class falconer enough to take you on as an apprentice. Remember, this is a relationship, not just a signature. You will be working with your mentor nearly daily for two years. Also note that sponsors are limited to three (3) apprentices at one time.
- Fill out the apprentice’s paperwork, get it signed, and file it.
- Start building mews and acquiring/making equipment.
- The state will send you a letter explaining how to schedule your written exam with the WDFW office closest to you. You may also call to set up a date and time to take the test in Olympia. Please allow a minimum of 48 hours notice. The exam takes 75 minutes and you pass with a score of at least 80%.
- Once your exam is officially evaluated, and assuming you pass, you receive a letter notifying you that you passed and asking if you are ready for inspection. When you are ready for inspection you reply to the state.
- The state notifies the WFA Director-At-Large that you are ready for someone to contact you and conduct your inspection. WFA has been authorized by WDFW to conduct inspections on the state’s behalf; however, this is not mandatory. You may opt to have a WDFW official inspect you instead, but be prepared to wait at least several weeks and possibly months.
- Have your inspection.
- The completed inspection checklist is sent back the Falconry Coordinator and a letter is sent to you notifying you if you passed or failed the inspection.
- Assuming you pass, your paperwork will be processed and your license sent to you.
- Make sure your hunting licenses and other paperwork is in order.
- Make sure you have raptor food on hand for immediate use.
- Get out there and get a bird!
- If you trap a bird, it’s good practice to take it to the vet for a worm check and general inspection. Best to start off your career with a healthy bird.
- File your 3-186A form online.