Picks and Pans Review: A Rage for Falcons

UPDATED 05/27/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/27/1985 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Stephen Bodio

"As your bird soars, dives, rolls, chases and strikes, you rush forward, yelling, heart beating as if it were pumping blood to those incredible wings." That's the way Bodio, a contributing editor to Gray's Sporting Journal, describes the sensation a falconer feels when his hawk is hunting. The author began trapping hawks when he was 13, and at 17 began using them to hunt. Nowadays some of his birds are hatched in captivity; most are captured in traps baited with pigeons. Bodio is slightly self-conscious about the bloodiness of his beloved sport, but he doesn't shrink from describing the brutal efficiency with which the hawk kills. The falconer is not immune either. "Getting hit on your bare hand by an enraged gos (goshawk) is just like sticking a fork into a light socket—a memorable experience, a blow to the gut," writes Bodio. "You need serious gloves, like a welder's, to handle a gos." Not long ago, several varieties of hawks were on the endangered list, but since the use of DDT and other pesticides was curtailed, Bodio says, the birds are returning in substantial numbers. Still, falconry is not likely to become a mass sport. "To be a serious falconer," the author concludes, "a person must be a mixture of predator and St. Francis, with all the masochistic self-discipline of a Zen student. There will never be more than a few such people." Obsessions often make for interesting books. The author is truly obsessed, and he is a skilled enough writer to make his strange commitment to this ancient sport fascinating to others. (Schocken, $16.50)

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