CALIFORNIA HAWKING CLUB

Apprentice Of The Year Award

1.  PURPOSE: This document lays out and describes the philosophy and procedures to choose the Apprentice of the year at the annual field meet.  The award is endowed by Dewey Savell of the Delta Raptor Breeding Facility.   After the winner receives the award, Mr. Savell retrieves it, has it engraved with the winner's name and mails it to the winner.  Mr. Savell has reviewed and approved this procedure.

2.  PHILOSOPHY:

A. The story goes that at his first field meet Mr. Savell was treated as a non-entity by the long-time, experienced falconers.  This experience is echoed by several apprentices over the years in letters to the newsletter and in private discussion.  Based on his experience, Mr. Savell wanted the directors and officers of the club to welcome,  to recognize, and to encourage new apprentices for the efforts which they are going through.  To this end he developed and endowed the Apprentice of the Year award.

B. In theory, therefore, the directors and the officers at the meet are to seek out, to meet and to talk with the apprentices that come to the meet.  Then the directors and officers discuss those they feel most closely display the spirit of falconry based on the ground rules and other considerations discussed below, and decide who, if any, earns the award.

C. The candidate chosen receives the award from the apprentice chairs and becomes Apprentice of the Year.

3.  GROUND RULES:

A. Candidates for the award must be an apprentice for the license year of the meet.

B. Candidates must be present at the meet and must be an apprentice at the time of the meet.

4.  OTHER CONSIDERATIONS:

A. Hunting.  Falconry requires hunting.  The Apprentice of the Year must be a hunter.  Headcount is not nearly as important as hunting regularly.  Not all apprentices are blessed with fields carpeted with cottontails.  Bad luck happens.  Hawks get sick and injured and sometimes take a long time to recover.  Nevertheless, is the candidate a hunter?  The best proof of this is quarry taken at the meet.  Tall tales of quarry taken elsewhere without verification are just tall tales. Even if the apprentice does not take quarry at the meet, their fieldcraft should be obvious.

B.  The hawk.  We can learn much about an apprentice (and their sponsor) just from the condition of the apprentice's hawk on the perch.   An apprentice putting their red-tail or kestrel on display in the weathering yard opens them to the criticism of much senior and experienced falconers (More intimidating than a tax audit or root canal).  Any apprentice that puts their hawk on a perch in the weathering area and/or their sponsor are confident that the apprentice and hawk are "ready for the big time."

1) From examining the hawk's plumage, feet, and general condition we can get a good idea of the hawk's condition.  If the hawk is a lusty hunting, first-year passage or eyass hawk, we would expect some minor plumage damage to wing and tail tips and otherwise well worn condition.  Feet should be in good condition.  A hunting adult should be in better condition approaching a feather perfect.  A "fat," feather-perfect hawk may not be a hunter.

2) From the perch, jesses, leash, and bath pan we can tell the concern the falconer holds for his hawk.  Not all falconers are independently wealthy (though it does not hurt) and cannot afford a $200 rotating ring perch.  Jesses, however, are a dead giveaway of the falconer's concern, as are the wrapping and padding on the perch.

C. Service to the falconry community.  Being a modern falconer and a candidate for Apprentice of the Year infers some positive recognition by the officers and directors, and a willingness to work for the betterment of falconry.  My personal experience is that senior members of the club often "groom" talented, skilled newcomers in hopes that they can make non-falconry contributions to the club.  How ambitious is the candidate?  Are they willing to "serve in the trenches" for the club or are paying their monetary dues and going to the field meet ample "service to the community" in their mind?   Have they written an article for the newsletter or journal?  Have they helped set up or take-down a field meet or local mini-meet?  Did they donate anything to the raffles for the meet?   Have they done anything above and beyond being the average run-of-the-mill apprentice for the falconry community?   Good apprentice falconers are a dime a dozen.  Good Apprentices of the Year return some service that they have received.

D. Experience.  Despite age, income, or profession, new falconers come to the sport with a variety of backgrounds in falconry.  Three in particular are:

1) The youthful apprentice. The law now allows youths to become an apprentice at age fourteen. They still cannot become a general until eighteen.  We would expect their activities during their third and fourth years to be significantly advanced as compared with a "typical" apprentice.  A candidate from this group should be active in the other considerations.  The Apprentice of the Year award should not be a reward merely for a long apprenticeship. If the youth, is, in addition, the child of a falconer and is also sponsored by the parent, the motives of child and parent, apprentice and sponsor are so hopelessly muddled as to defy logic, much less sorting out by a club director and officer.  Only the direct eyewitness account of reliable, unbiased falconers to the youth's fieldcraft, hunting and service to the community should be considered.

2) Typical apprentices.  Ninety-five percent of us: your basic apprentice doing a two-year apprentice cycle.

3) Returning apprentices.   In this context, an experienced falconer returning to the sport after an absence or an out-of-state falconer and the state will not grant general or master status.  I expect absolutely "eye-watering" performance from their hawk and outstanding service to our community as barely sufficient to be nominated for Apprentice of the Year.

E. Sponsor.  Not all sponsors are created equal or within easy driving distance.  Some apprentices suffer under the most grueling obstacles it is a wonder they continue.  Some considerations are:

1) Long distance: A recent Apprentice of the Year's formal sponsor lives more than a hundred miles away from the apprentice.  Fortunately, the apprentice received day-to-day support from his local falconry community.  The longer the distance the greater the obstacle the apprentice is under.

2) Paperwork only: The sponsor signs the paperwork by mail without providing any hands-on support.  If the apprentice even shows up at the meet and puts their hawk on display, they deserve consideration for Apprentice-of-the- Year.  If  the hawk is a successful hunter, we may have a winner.

3) The sponsor is a longwinger, exclusively.  A peregrine stooping from 600 feet on a mallard rising from a pond at the crack of dawn does not ready an apprentice for beating their way through a steep-sided, dust-choked, ravine in 105º degree heat with thorns, underbrush, killer bees, and rattlers while the hawk watches placidly from a tree branch.  The  apprentice may actually develop contempt for their lowly red-tail. I mean, after all, if red-tails were a "serious" falconry hawk then their sponsor would hunt with one.   This leads the apprentice to a sense of "suffering through" until they can dump that red-tail and get a real bird (this attitude was expressed to me by the apprentice of a long-winger).  An apprentice with a longwing sponsor who develops a hard-hunting passage red- tail is headed for glory.  This certainly reflects well upon the sponsor.

4) There are no apprentices, general or master falconers available to display to the apprentice hunting ground quarry with a red-tail. Apprentices need to see red-tails hunt ground quarry.  Harris's are a poor substitute in the sense that they are generally far more active and successful hunters than red-tails.  The success of a sponsor's sweet-tempered, adult eyass Harris's hawk can lead an apprentice to deep frustration with his or her fresh-out-of-the-trap passage red-tail. This leads the apprentice to a sense of "suffering through" until they can dump that red-tail and get a real bird.  At the 1998 field meet there were three generals and no masters (that I knew of) flying red-tails.  While this is not a great hindrance, it still needs to be taken into account.