Falconry, the "sport of kings," is actually the sport of hunting. Instead of using a gun, or a bow and arrow, hunters go into the wild with a raptor that catches small game. Rabbits. Squirrels. Other small, edible animals.
In Hershey, Pennsylvania, you can do falconry, but without the bloodletting. Basically, you watch a demonstration with fake prey and you get to call to a Harris' hawk and watch it swoop in on you and land gently on your hand. Sans small animal in beak.
A story with more detail on Hershey's falconry program is in today's Washington Post. (Written by...well...me.) But the video? Only available here.
(Some of you may remember I did falconry once before.)
Below is Kristin Smith-Simon, who was in my group of "falconers."
This next video shows that even a young 'un can participate, although the minimum age is 8. That's Darius Robinson with falconer Jack Hubley.
Last time I was at Hershey, a substitute falconer ran the program. He did just fine. But he didn't do the final act that Jack Hubley, the regular falconer did. Which was to have a hawk fly between two lines of people.
Probably because there weren't enough people that first time I went. There were only a handful of us. This time, I was in a group of 11.
Hubley told us that hawks can squeeze themselves tight temporarily, wings to body, to get through crevasses and other small spots to reach their prey. We got a small taste of that as the hawk flew through our lines and brushed us with his wings.
(Falconry is a nice solo travel experience for social people because you will be with other people oohing and aahing together. Hm. "Social solos?" Have I coined a phrase?)
Photo and videos: Ellen Perlman