My Outlook: Greg Stipp, Falconer
What exactly is falconry?
It is the sport of hunting with falcons or other birds of prey; the keeping and training of such birds.
What type of bird do you use?
I have Peregrine falcons and a hybrid Gyr/Peregrine. Hybrids are very common because they are bigger and faster.
How many falcons do you own?
I own three, but I have two others with me right now for breeding purposes.
How long have you been involved in falconry?
I’ve been in falconry for over 20 years. I’ve always had animals around since I was a kid growing up in Northwestern OK. I had pigeons and other animals, heck I even lost some pigeons to some falcons back in the day.
How did you get started?
I tried when I was younger, but didn’t know how to do it. Now there is so much more information out there about falconry. In 1991, OK Falconry had a meet-up out in Woodward where I lived and I just happened to go and learn more out about falconry. I knew then that this was something I really wanted to do.
What is your involvement with OK Falconry?
I’m currently president-elect, which means I will be president next year. One of my goals is to get involvement back up. We used to get together more to work the birds or go hunt, but we haven’t had much opportunity the past couple years. I want to change that.
What is your advice for someone wanting to get involved in falconry?
Honestly we try to discourage people who don’t understand the work involved. It’s an everyday thing taking care of the birds. You have to check on them several times a day—checking their tether, giving them water. You have to start conditioning them once hunting season rolls around. If they are out of shape they won’t catch anything or could be hunted by wild falcons.
How do you take care of a falcon?
For food, we buy frozen quail to feed them. You also need to shape the beaks and talons to keep them from getting too long. When a bird loses a feather, you have the splice an old feather back in, so the bird can fly properly. Caring for a falcon takes a lot of husbandry—time and attention to detail. It isn’t easy and shouldn’t be done on a whim. To be a licensed falconer, you have to actually fly and hunt the birds.
What is the most rewarding part about falconry?
Watching them on their flights. When everything works out, it’s just beautiful. They can be flying over you and you can’t even see them, even with binoculars. Then you start to hear a whistle—the falcon is moving so fast the wind whistles off their wings, it’s amazing. They can dive upwards of 200mph.
What types of creatures do they catch?
They hunt grouse, ducks and doves. They can catch mice and rats, but you don’t want them to do that, because they will just scarf them down and won’t hunt anymore.
Do you eat what the falcon catches?
I have before but not usually. Normally I use what they catch to feed all my other falcons. All my falcons like duck, so when one catches it, I feed the duck to the other birds.
How do you guarantee that the falcon will come back to you?
You can’t totally. We put digital tracking systems on them, but we didn’t always have that technology. Back in the day, we would try to get them to come back with a lure. But you work a bird and get their responses down before you try it in the field.
What’s your craziest story involving a falcon?
Once I was out hunting with a buddy, and we saw movement and made an action that there was prey. A falcon went in for a dive before we realized it was a small bobcat. The falcon swung down to attack and they both ended up in a ball. My buddy was near it and went and grabbed the bobcat so the falcon could escape.
To learn more about getting involved in falconry, visit okfalconry.com.