Falconry (also known as "Hawking") is defined as the training of raptors and hunting with raptors for the pursuit of wild game. Falconry includes capturing raptors from the wild, caring for, training, hunting, and transporting raptors held for the sport of falconry. "Raptor" means a bird of the family Falconidae (examples include peregrine falcon, gyrfalcon, or American kestrel), the great horned owl, or a bird of the family Accipitridae other than the bald eagle (examples include Northern goshawk, Cooper's hawk, or red-tailed hawk).
Falconry is an ancient sport with recorded evidence dating back to paintings made in Mesopotamia over 4,000 years ago. Historically, falconry has been used to catch prey for sport and food throughout Europe, Asia, and the Middle East with peak participation during the 17th century. However, due to the advent of guns and other modern weaponry, the sport quickly fell out of favor, but was revived in the late 19th and early 20th century at which time it was introduced to North America. Today there are small falconry clubs in almost every state.
The average falconer may spend a year or two training a raptor before it is ready to hunt. Training is an ongoing process that continues throughout the bird's life. For every hour spent in the field there are a hundred hours spent in the care and training of the raptor. Successful hunting is not the major focus of falconry. The average raptor takes 30 to 50 flights before it catches anything. The real thrill of hunting with a raptor is watching a magnificent bird hunt and enjoying time in the outdoors.
Because the sport requires catching, training, and caring for a raptor, state and federal regulations require that a new applicant take and pass the falconry exam with a score of at least 80%, find a current master falconer or general falconer who is willing to sponsor them, build a mews and weathering area which must pass inspection by the DNR, and submit an application. Once the applicant receives their permit they become an apprentice falconer (or junior apprentice falconer for children 12-16 years of age), and they may capture and train a red-tail hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). To learn more about acquiring a Minnesota falconry permit, please go to "New and Renewal Permit Application Requirements" (below).
For the benefit of falconers and prospective falconers, both federal and state falconry and propagation regulations were compiled to create a guide to Minnesota falconry on the following webpages. Unless otherwise specified, most of the information found on the following pages is found under Minnesota Rules Chapter 6234.0800, Chapter 6238, and Federal Regulations 50-CRF 21.29 and 50-CRF 21.30. The following pages are a guide only and do not contain all regulations pertaining to falconry in Minnesota.