California Hawking Club 2024

California Hawking Club 2024

Showcasing the art and sport of falconry, “The Sport of Kings,” at the Tri-County Fairgrounds

By Christina Reed
The Hired Pen


“Rapio,” Latin word for raptor; meaning ‘taking by force.’”

Eastern Sierra, CA—The raptors are back. No! Not the Jurassic Park dinosaurs. Although, these raptors are related to those prehistoric creatures. The raptors or birds of prey in this scenario are present at the Tri-County Fairgrounds, in Bishop, CA, and these magnificent hunting birds are a part of the California Hawking Club’s 52nd Annual Field Meet. Some of these birds of prey and handlers, called falconers, were here in 2022, and they attracted a great deal of interest and attention. This year, January 17-20, 2024, visitors and participants will be filing into the Fairgrounds to get up close and learn some interesting new details about all things raptor.

The California Hawking Club has been active since 1971, and “The purpose of this organization shall be to preserve birds of prey and to advance the art and practice of falconry.” The CHC has a number of ways they preserve falconry, including improving the qualifications and abilities of falconers, disseminating information and knowledge, and promoting the public image of falconry, as an art and sport. It is estimated that there are 700 falconers in the state, and more than 4,000 nationwide. Wild-caught hawks cannot be bought or sold (federal and state law).

The 52nd Annual Field Meet is a chance for the falconry community to demonstrate their birds’ abilities, and also an opportunity to continue the apprenticeships of new falconers, under the direction of a sponsor, who is a General or Master. Birds of prey require licensing, and a hunting license, along with a full inspection of the birds’ mews (living area) by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Falconers must pass a 100-question exam (including raptor natural history, biology, handling, diseases, care, and the history of falconry and the laws), and they must have a sponsor if they are in an apprenticeship. Following a two-year apprenticeship, the falconer is ready to begin to fly a raptor, and it takes about seven years to become a General and Master.

Did You Know?
There are a number of phrases and words, which come directly from falconry, and some of these terms are used in everyday language today. For example: “Under my thumb,” “wrapped around your little finger,” “Hoodwinked,” and the “end of my tether” are all terms used in falconry to describe a leash connecting the bird to the handler, the position of the leash, and what it means to be at the end of your “tether” or translated today…”rope.”

Raptors have hook-shaped beaks, sharp curved claws called talons, and they pursue prey, at incredible speeds, like the peregrine falcon, the fastest of them all, plunging 200 mph from the skies, like a silent hunter from above. The golden eagle is sometimes called the “King of Birds,” and falconry, dating back to 4000 to 6000 B.C., is truly a heritage art and sport. Check out these interesting birds of prey, and get to know their falconers / handlers, and a little bit more about the “King of Sports.” Tri-County Fairgrounds, Bishop, CA. January 17-20, 2024.





Photos by The Hired Pen