April - Harvesting wild game
In these blogs over time I will be looking not only at how we cook and prepare game but also at where it comes from and the people that are behind it. Game can be harvested in a wide number of ways, by man and dog, with a gun and via the ancient art of Ferreting and Falconry.
Falconry has a special place in my heart since I have been a practicing falconer for over the passed 20 years.
When Falconry started is a point of argument - some say Falconry began in China or the Far East, some 1000 years BC and was then brought to Europe by the knights of the crusades. What cannot be argued is the fact that falconry back then was practiced to bring food to the table. Long before guns were invented mans association with birds of prey was evident in historical paintings and manuscripts and throughout the world it was an art practiced by many a civilized and nomadic people.
Predominantly Falconry was used to put food on the table but in some countries such as Mongolia the large Golden Eagles were used to hunt foxes and Arctic hares for fur which was then made into clothing.
Falconry was mainly used as means of harvesting wild game in the middle ages and bird of prey were at this time very important, so important in fact that here in Europe an individual’s standing in society had a lot to do with the hawk or falcon he or she was permitted to own. Even the English language had names and expressions that were solely derived from falconry expressions such as to be “hood winked” referring to when someone was fooled into seeing something that is not true or there. In the falconry world this term refers to when the Hood is placed on the falcon or hawks head therefore impairing its sight form things the falconer does not what it to see. Another expression is “To Mantle” most of you know the Mantle on a fire place but “To Mantle” or the action Mantling comes from when a bird of prey covers its food with its wings so that other hungry predators will not see the food it has.
Even the Royal Family had strong connections with Falconry in that the Royal Mews in Kensington was built not to house horses but the Royal Family’s extensive collection of birds of prey. The word Mews come from falconry not from the horse world. A Mews is a place where a bird of prey is kept tethered and ready for hunting the only reason the word is used in conjunction with horses is because after the invention of the gun and the scaling down of the Royal family’s falconry team the Royal mews was turned over to horses and it became fashionable in London to call your stable a Mews.
In these times before guns Falcons such as Peregrines would catch Pheasants, Partridges, Ducks and Grouse and the Hawks would take Rabbit, Hare and some of the game birds. Eagles would take Hares, Rabbit and Deer. So as you can see Falconry brought much food to the table in this bygone era. But this is not all lost in the past as today the art of falconry is alive and well and clubs such as The British Falconers Club (www.britishfalconersclub.co.uk) and the British Hawking Association (www.bha.co.uk) help to ensure that it never dies.
I myself fly and hunt with Peregrines and Hawks but together with my wife Charlotte we have some 30 birds of prey at home most of these make up my wife’s display team CJs Birds of prey (www.cjsbirdsofprey.com) but my team are out with me most weekends catching game for the table as well as for themselves. Long live Falconry.