A great alternative to a day on the peg, falconry is an ancient and thrilling sport
There’s an ancient beauty in witnessing a falcon or hawk take quarry. “One of my most memorable days in the sporting field was on a soaking, blustery day one October,’’ recalls a hardened countryman. “A peregrine was hanging in the sullen skies above a field of Lincolnshire sugar beet, while a pair of English pointers quartered the ground.
After 20 minutes, one of the dogs froze, his point backed by the other, as they scented a covey of wild English partridges. The triangulation of prey and predator – the birds, the pointers, the peregrine – seemed to last an eternity before the covey burst in chattering flight.
The peregrine then grew in size, like an express train thundering down the line, before it flew between us and clattered one of the greys to the ground. It remains one of the most enthralling moments of my sporting life.”
Chris Astridge runs East Anglia Academy of Falconry and takes out groups of four on his goshawk and peregrine hunting days, which cost £500 for four people, including a pub lunch. “It starts at 9.30am, when guests are introduced to the falconers and austringers (a person who hunts a hawk rather than a falcon). We use HPR dogs to locate the prey while the falconer releases the peregrine to gain height and ‘wait on’ in anticipation of being served lowland game – a pheasant or a covey of redlegs. When the birds rise, the falcon drops like a stone and either knocks down or binds on to one,” says Astridge.
“Then it is the turn of the austringer armed with his goshawk. It’s a true shortwing hawk, a master of speed, and guests are always amazed by its blistering acceleration as it leaves the glove to sprint after its prey.”
East Anglia Academy of Falconry, tel 08456 807897