Hunting with birds of prey: A primer on this ancient and thrilling sport


A gyrfalcon-prairie falcon hybrid chases a sharp-tailed grouse (photo: Mark Adam)

The falcon climbs into the clear blue Saskatchewan sky as the falconer lets his dog out his truck, sending it into the field to find the grouse that just landed in a small patch of cover. The dog quickly finds the birds’ scent and goes on point. The falconer looks skyward to locate the falcon, which is now more than 600 feet up and still climbing while circling above the dog.

After letting the falcon make one more loop, the falconer commands “flush” as the raptor passes over the dog. With that, the dog rushes in and seven sharp-tailed grouse rise into the air. The falcon folds her wings back and begins her stoop, or dive. Reaching a breathtaking speed of some 200 kilometres an hour, she intercepts a fleeing grouse and knocks it to the ground, leaving a trail of feathers in the air. The falcon then wings over and lands on her prize. This is the very moment the falconer has spent a year or more preparing for—a hunt with no weapons other than two living hunting partners, a falcon and a bird dog.


Many hunters and anglers aspire to level the playing field, upping the ante by taking their pursuits to the next level and making them more challenging. Hunters may restrict themselves by only using muzzleloaders or longbows, for example, while anglers may opt to only use light tackle or fly rods. Falconry takes it one step further by using a trained bird of prey as the means for taking game. Want to spread your wings and give falconry a try? Here’s an overview of what you need to know.