JWN Arts & Hawking 

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Is Abatement Your Calling?
copyright Jim Nelson, 2017

       Abatement falconry is to game hawking as riding the range is to steeple chasing. If you are a falconer, it may have occurred to you that bird abatement might be a great way to earn a living, doing the thing you love most, flying falcons.         In reality, working as a falconry-driven abatement specialist is not unlike being a fence-mending cowboy. Yes, cowboys ride horses...from sunup to sundown. Yes, as a cowboy you will immerse yourself in horse lore. But as a cowboy you must accept the realities of professional horsemanship versus amateurism (not meant as a derogatory term). As an amateur, or recreationist, you call the shots.  As a professional, your employer or your client's needs drive the shot-calling.  As an amateur you can afford to be picky. As a pro, you must take things as they come. This same circumstance is true for the abatement falconer.  

        Like the cowboy who rides out each morning with a string of greenbroke jugheads, to both ride and continue training "on the job," so does the abatement falconer often sally forth with a mixed team of trained and semi-trained falcons. Some will be fully proficient from previous seasons of work, and some will be raw recruits knowing little more than the fundamentals. The abatement falconer is not only responsible for managing and flying the all-stars on the team, but also for bringing along the laggards. A truly proficient falconer will call upon his or her skills and abilities to take the birds on his or her team and move them forward in their development. We believe this to be an  important aspect of this work. Without the ongoing training and development of rookies, no profession can ever hope to sustain itself.

       Bottom line, in the agricultural setting, bird abatement is a highly specialized form of farm work. The role of the abatement specialist is to keep the field or orchards free from pest birds, primarily using trained falcons as the most effective tool available to meet this end.

        Therefore, abatement is an almost ceaseless activity before and during the harvest, even when there is little or no bird pressure on a field.

        You may find yourself assigned to a contract far from your home, or at a significant distance from "civilization." You must have a strong sense of self, for you will spend many hours alone.  You must have physical stamina, for there is much walking about to be done.  This is an almost ceaseless activity before and during the harvest, for even when there is little or no bird pressure on a field, the abatement specialist and his falcons must be on guard to ward off the next possible assault.

       You must have patience, because your abatement falcons will not always behave themselves in a textbook manner. You must have good people skills, because you will frequently interact with the farmer and the farmhands and your deportment represents your company. Above all, you must be honest. If you sign an abatement contract, do it with your eyes wide open, then stay with the work until it is done. Do not take advantage of you employer's faith in you to fulfill your obligation.

        With all of that said, abatement work provides an employment opportunity that is the right fit for many, especially in today's economy where finding satisfying work for good wages is becoming increasingly rare. Though abatement work is no doubt extremely rigorous, the pay is good, the season is relatively short (three to four months per year, unless you wish to "follow the sun") and the opportunities for personal growth as a falconer are unsurpassed. By the end of your first abatement season, you will know more about trained raptor behavior and their authentic management than you could hope to learn in five seasons of recreational falconry. 

Good luck!