By Ray Oehme
While most people who prefer the cold and snow of winter enjoy hobbies related to skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and the like, a select few falconers in Iowa keep a bird’s-eye view on the perfect wintry weather to fly. Rob Kirkman is such a person.

Armed with state-of-the-art GPS, this seasoned hunter seeks his prey from above–way above. Hundreds of feet above the terrain, his falcon is just about to take an unsuspecting mallard in mid-flight. Rob says watching a falcon hunt is a thing of beauty, even an art form, where nature and human for a moment share the circle of life.

To be able to enjoy this sport takes years of training, both for bird and handler. After Rob got his first bird of prey, a hawk, he spent a two-year internship under a master falconer. After hunting many rabbits and squirrels, he graduated to his first falcon.
Many falconers capture their falcons from nests while fending off an angry mother falcon, only to spend every day after measuring, weighing, reporting vital statistics, and training the bird to do what would otherwise come natural to a bird of prey.
As Rob describes flushing out pheasants for his hunting partner already half a mile above, you can imagine a sight few ever witness. The falcon can reach speeds of 200 mph in it’s stoop (dive), killing on contact, or driving its prey to ground. Rob then races to his bird to coax it off its well-deserved trophy, and “click”, you have your Kodak moment.
For more information on Iowa falconry, check out http://iowafalconer.com/.