Kris Klosterman first held a hawk when a pair of the raptors broke into his chicken coop and killed several of his birds.
“(The hawks) couldn’t get out, so I went in and had to get them out,” he said. “And while I had them in my hands, I thought, ‘These are the coolest things other than my kids that I’ve ever had in my hands.’”
Now Klosterman, a Springfield Fire/Rescue Division firefighter, is the only licensed falconer in Springfield and hunts with a red-tailed hawk named Zinc.
Roughly 4,000 licensed falconers are in the U.S., and about 70 of them are in Ohio, according to the Ohio School of Falconry website.
Falconry involves people working with trained raptors to hunt prey in its natural habitat. Klosterman often also uses his dog while hunting with Zinc.
“He’s gotten to the point now where he associates me and my dog as his hunting partners,” he said. “We scare up the game and he chases it down.”
Everything they catch is used to feed Zinc, Klosterman said.
There are three classes of licensed falconers, said Joe Dorrian, a master class falconer who founded and directs the Ohio School of Falconry in Columbus.
The apprentice is licensed to hunt with a hawk under the watchful eye of a sponsor. The next class, general falconer, can have up to three birds. Falconers with seven years of experience can apply for master status, which gives them the legal ability to hunt with a golden eagle and have up to six birds, Dorrian said.
Klosterman recently completed his apprenticeship under Dorrian and once the state processes his paperwork, he will move up to the general class.
Each state has its own laws and regulations on the sport and getting licensed, but the process generally takes two years. To start, Dorrian said, everyone has to pass a test and build a facility, differing depending on each state’s regulations, to house the bird.
The cost to get started in falconry is roughly $1,000, Klosterman said, which includes the cost of equipment to house and maintain the bird.
The next step is to find a sponsor to work with for two years. That’s often the most difficult part, Dorrian said, because sponsoring an apprentice is such a big responsibility. The sponsor and apprentice will spend 10 to 20 hours together for a six- to eight-week period just within the first year, he said.
Dorrian quickly agreed to sponsor him, Klosterman said, most likely because he was already a hunter, making him more self-sufficient than others.
“I’ve always been a hunter,” Klosterman said, “so he didn’t necessarily have to teach me anything, he just needed to walk with me while I went through the process with the hawk.”
Dorrian and Klosterman trapped Zinc together on the Ohio State University campus. Training a bird to hunt with a human, called manning, takes about five weeks, Dorrian said.
Klosterman is a natural and gifted at reading his bird, Dorrian said.
“You have to be intuitive of what the bird is telling you,” Dorrian said. “That’s a big benefit to a falconer, especially an apprentice, because it means you’re learning lessons once, not two or three times.”
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