February 2, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Falconry Alive & Well In Iowa
By Lowell Washburn

FT. DODGE, IA—According to Webster, falconry is defined as
the sport of pursuing wild game with trained hawks.  For centuries,
the sport remained a time honored tradition among tribal desert
nomads, Mongol chieftains, and European royalty.  But with the
invention of gun powder, falconry’s popularity plummeted.  By
the late 1700s, the ancient practice had nearly disappeared. 
Nearly, but not quite.

Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, falconry is currently
enjoying a remarkable modern-day return.  Practitioners of the
art may be closer than you think.  This past weekend, for example,
the Sport Of Kings was alive and well in Fort Dodge as members
of the Iowa Falconers Association assembled to conduct their
official winter hunt.  Although the three day, outdoor retreat
may have lacked the pageantry of the highly organized hunts led
by the likes of Genghis Chan or King Henry the VIII, it was
nevertheless clear that the passion for “pursuing wild game
with trained hawks” continues to burn.

“This is our major winter meet, and things have really worked
out well,” says Iowa Falconers Association president, Steve Lohrer. 
“The weather has cooperated, there’s plenty of game, and the birds
are flying great.  I don’t know exactly how many people there are
this weekend but, so far, I know there are falconers from at least
three states.”

“Although it is a hunting meet, a lot of people come for the
camaraderie and to see other people fly their birds,” noted
Lohrer.  “We’ve had a good variety of gamehawks represented
— the list includes red-tails, goshawks, and peregrines. 
Falconry meets offer a great opportunity to see how other people
do things, a good chance to learn.”

Among the participants most interested in seeing “how other people
do things” was Steve’s dad and third year falconer, Gary Lohrer. 

“Steve has been practicing falconry for about 15 years, and I really
became interested after seeing him train his hawks,” says Gary. 
“These birds [immature red-tailed hawks] are trapped from the wild,
and each one has its own temperament.  Training a bird to hunt with
you is very challenging and I enjoy that.  I still make mistakes,
but I’ve learned a lot.”

“The hawk I’m flying now is a first year, female, red-tail that
I trapped late this fall,” says Gary.  “She’s the third red-tailed
hawk I’ve trained, and she’s really beginning to understand that
if she stays close to me and the dog that we’ll probably produce
something for her to chase.  Yesterday, we caught our tenth
cottontail rabbit.  We‘re becoming a team.”             

To learn more about falconry in Iowa, visit the Iowa Falconers
Association on line at

Photo:  Rabbit Hawkers — Steve Lohrer of Van Meter [left] and his father Gary Lohrer, of Urbana display a cottontail rabbit bagged near Fort Dodge during last weekend’s official winter meet of the Iowa Falconers Association.  The rabbit was captured by a young of the year, red-tailed hawk currently being trained by Gary Lohrer.   Photo By: Lowell Washburn