7 Ways to Improve Your Hawking Game
When you watch a fellow noble out hawking, they often make it look quite easy. How do their hawks spot prey so quickly and know exactly when to strike? Meanwhile, your hawk simply circles the sky embarrassing you in front of your peers. Don’t despair.
Kings and royal dukes aren’t born with a golden hawk on their sleeve. They don’t have magic hawks that can zero in and kill every small bird they see. Heavens no! They study how to become great and use these 7 ways to become the greatest hawkers in all of Christendom.
So if you’re serious about improving your hawking game – and doing so quickly – we recommend you master the following tips. Even if you never hawk with the King, it’s still very satisfying to become great at the sport you love!
- Getting the Right Hawk for You
Fortunately, hawking is predominantly a game for those of noble birth. Peasants and the like normally can’t afford such an expensive pastime. Still, the type of hawk you use indicates your rank among the peerage. It simply would not do at all to be seen hawking with a bird that is not of your rank. Be sure and obey these strict rules if you wish to continue hawking.
Note the following requirements as taken from the Book of St. Albans printed in 1486:
For the king: the gyr-falcon (very large falcon) or tercel (male falcon or hawk)
For a prince: the falcon gentle or tercel gentle (gentle means female)
For a duke: the rock falcon (type of peregrine)
For an earl: the falcon peregrine (male)
For a baron: the bastard hawk
For a knight: the saker falcon
For a lady: a female merlin
Bottom line: Do NOT be caught hawking with the wrong bird. It is very bad form and likely to get you uninvited from any noble hunting party.
- Ensure the Jesses are Properly Knotted
When the hawk is not in the air, it can be found “on the fist”. This means that you are carrying her upon your hand. Hawks on the fist have straps of leather tied to their legs. These straps are known as “jesses” and have knots tied in the leather. It’s critical to your hawking game that the knots fit easily between your middle and the little finger of your hand that holds the hawk. Proper placement of the jesses makes for faster launching – so critical for a good flight. It wouldn’t do for your hawk and hand to become entangled which can certainly slow down your game.
- Respect the Bells
Your hawk’s legs are adorned with bells fastened by a ring of leather called a bewit. The proper size and weight of your bells are critical to your game. The bells shouldn’t be too heavy as to slow down your hawk in flight. If you should notice that your hawk is dragging in the air, check the weight of the bells and adjust accordingly. Correcting your hawk’s bells could quickly improve flight and kill times.
- Practice your Hawk Launching Skills
While your falconer will train your hawk to be a top flight bird of prey, there are certain things you must do to enable the hawk to fly swiftly to the kill. And that begins with the launch from your arm. Now a good-sized hawk or falcon can weigh up to 4 pounds. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? But are you able to carry the hawk’s weight on your fist for stretches of time. A few arm strengthening exercises can give your hawk a good, steady perch from which to launch. If your arm is dragging, it will take longer for your hawk to gain flight, leaving your bird behind the others. Shaving even a few inches off your hawk’s launch can quickly move your bird into the lead and the first to spot the prey.
- Decide if it’s Horse or Foot
Hawking is usually done on foot or on horseback. Make sure you’ve made the right decision in relation to your environment, before you begin the hunt. For example, if you’re hawking in open country or in fields, you’ll need a horse. If you’re hawking in the woods, be sure to be on foot. And if on foot through the wood, be sure and bring with you a tall, sturdy stick, for easier jumping over streams. Correcting this common mistake of horse or foot can improve your game immensely, resulting in more kills in a single outing.
- Learn to Visualize
This tip may sound silly at first, but it works. Whenever you release your hawk, you should always assume the magnificent creature will take down its prey. That means you need to look up and visualize your hawk soaring through the air. You need to imagine the bird’s wingspan, the accurateness of the dive, the quickness of the kill. Visualization helps improve your game because it’s your way of telling your body the hawk will go anywhere you want it to.
Finally, don’t wait for a royal invitation to go hawking. You can’t expect to improve if you only hawk with your friends. This can only add pressure to your performance, what with everyone gawking at your hawking. Instead, make time to hawk on your own. When you hawk on your own, you can try techniques you might not try if you were with the noblesse oblige.
And finally, just RELAX! Do not take the sport so seriously at first. Becoming proficient at hawking can take some time. Be sure and hire a worthy falconer to properly care and train your birds. Following the simple guidelines above can significantly improve your game and increase your hawk’s accuracy. Remember, you are out there to have fun!
One final tip for a happy day of hawking: If the King joins you, let his hawk have all the best kills. Trust me on this one.