Falconer loves to watch the kill, and must hope his bird will return

September 21, 1992|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

There is something about a hawk on the hunt that makes Michael Dupuy's eyes light up. There is a special feeling, he says, about watching the bird spread its wings and swoop down over a fleeing rabbit.

"I can't describe how exciting it is to see that happen," said Mr. Dupuy, a licensed falconer from Silver Spring. "The bird knows how to kill. You are just a witness to it all."

With that buildup, Mr. Dupuy brought out Cinnamon, a red-tailed hawk with a 52-inch wingspan, and fed it frozen day-old chickens as about 35 parents and children from Severna Park watched.

Cinnamon devoured the feast in moments, perfectly content to rip apart the small birds in front of her audience, many of whom covered their eyes or turned away from the spectacle. "If you are squeamish, this is not a sport you should get into," Mr. Dupuy said.

But falconry is a sport -- maybe the only one where an apprenticeship is required -- and Mr. Dupuy was in the county to give a demonstration and talk about the hobby at the Wild Bird Center, a store in Severna Park.

Standing in the parking lot, the full-time computer consultant NTC who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for Congress from the 4th District earlier this year, gave a two hour presentation on what it takes to capture, train and hunt with birds of prey.

"I've been into falcons since I was 15," said Eileen Silvers, who lives in Glen Burnie. "But I never had anybody that knew anything about it."

Ms. Silvers brought her 8-year-old daughter, Tara, to the demonstration and was pleased at the interest she showed. "I've always been interested in birds of prey," she said. "They are so beautiful, so majestic."

But Judy VanDevender wasn't so sure. She liked the bird -- it was the eating habits she didn't care much about.

"This is probably hypocritical," she said, "but I am so thankful that I can go into a supermarket and get my meat all packaged."

The children, however, had simpler views. "I've never seen a bird so big," said Ms. VanDevender's son, 8-year-old Stephen.

Mr. Dupuy said he became interested in falconry when he was about 9 and read a book about outdoor survival. Now, the hobby takes up much of his free time. He operates a computer software consulting business out of his home.

"If you are involved in something high tech such as computers, it is really nice to have hawks," Mr. Dupuy, who cautioned the children listening to him that birds of prey are not pets.

"These are wild animals," he said. "They are not like dogs or other pets. They do not need to come home every night to eat. Their only attachment to their owner is that they are an easy source for food."

Mr. Dupuy said he has lost a few birds over the years while hunting -- hawks that simply decided to fly away once loose.

Hawks don't come from pet stores. Before you can hunt with a hawk, you have to trap one. Mr. Dupuy said the government wants to make sure hawk owners are serious about the sport. "What they don't want is people to think this sport is about having a pet bird. They want you to go out and trap a bird."

And that, Mr. Dupuy said, can take a long time. It usually involves putting a live pigeon into a leather harness attached to a long string, then driving for what can be thousands of miles hoping to spot a hawk from the road. Then you throw the pigeon out of the car window, hope the hawk goes after it and then hope the predator catches a foot in a noose fastened to the harness.

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