the west virginia falconry club
The West Virginia Falconry Club is a dedicated group of licensed falconers who have assembled together to actively promote, preserve, and advance the sport of falconry in West Virginia. We are not only falconers, but also conservationists committed to the comprehensive well-being of wild raptors.
Jason grew up in a pastor’s home in Baltimore, Maryland and was also fortunate to be raised in a hunter’s home. Not only was his father a second-generation minister and a third-generation hunter, but he was also infatuated with predators, especially birds of prey. Falconry was his dream, sparked by a book he had read in the eighth grade. He passed this love of raptors on to his only son, Jason, who grew up reading the books he had collected. He also handled the small treasure chest of falconry equipment that had been acquired through mail order catalogs down through the years. When Jason was a teen, he began to pursue falconry with a passion. He finally acquired a sponsor and passed his examination in 1993. His father, Howard–also enthralled by the chance to finally be a falconer–tested only two weeks later.
Jason spent the first several years, like most beginning falconers, hawking with red-tails and kestrels. He even spent most Saturday afternoons hawking with local falconers while attending Seminary in Knoxville, TN. In the late 90’s, he met Floyd Presley, who mentored Jason in ridge trapping and hawking "old school." Jason eventually became a sub-bander under Floyd and the two remained close friends until his death in 2016.
In 2003, Jason moved his wife and two young children to West Virginia. Together, with his parents, his family bought a small farm near Berkeley Springs. Falconry had only been legal in the state for a few years and was known only to have one other master class resident. The next year Jason and Howard teamed up with friend and fellow falconer, Matt Frey, to combine energies in an effort to bring a much-needed reform to the regulations. After a long up-hill battle, they were able to change the regulations in 2014. The club's leadership continues to work alongside the WVDNR to make falconry the best field sport it can be.
In 2006, Jason became a licensed raptor educator founding Raptors Up Close, an educational program with live birds of prey. He still continues to band raptors every year. He is also permitted for abatement services with raptors and permitted for raptor propagation. He is a proud member of the International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators, the North American Falconers Association, the Potomac Falconers Association and a founding member of the West Virginia Falconry Club.
Jason now lives with his wife, Tonya, four children and a large assortment of birds. Although his interest lies in anything concerning raptors, falconry is his preference….his passion.
Each fall, since 2007, Ray would witness his racing pigeons being chased, grabbed and ultimately plucked and eaten by Cooper’s hawks. This is where his interest in falconry began.
After years of considering whether he really wanted to become a falconer, he finally took the plunge in 2016 and became licensed. A couple seasons later, Ray made several trips to Berkeley Springs to hawk and learn from his mentor and now friend, Jason Caldwell. This pivotal season set him on the right track to becoming a successful falconer, and it’s no secret Ray credits Jason for shaping him into the falconer he is today.
While Ray has also flown a couple American kestrels and a parent-raised goshawk, his favorite style of falconry in West Virginia is hawking hen red-tails on squirrels.
Ray is a proud member of the North American Falconers Association and was elected vice president of the West Virginia Falconry Club in April of 2021.
In 2015, Heather watched a short documentary that featured Mongolians hunting golden eagles on foxes. From that moment, she was hooked. She knew she wanted to live a lifestyle that few people get to experience or even understand—the falconry lifestyle. Though her years practicing falconry have been relatively few, during that time, she’s spent countless hours dedicating her life to the sport.
Heather’s passion lies in squirrel hawking. She currently flies a red-tailed hawk named Mags. During squirrel season, on any day remotely fit for hawking, and sometimes even on days that aren’t, you'll find Mags and Heather in the woods, chasing down every squirrel they can find.
Heather is a proud member of the North American Falconers Association and serves on the editorial committee for the International Journal of Falconry, an annual publication produced by the International Association for Falconry and Conservation of Birds of Prey. She is also the author of, Squirrel Hawking in Appalachia, her account of a season spent squirrel hawking with her mentor in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
Heather attributes her success as a falconer to the West Virginia Falconry Club and a few of its key members. Without the club, she feels she would be miles behind where she is fortunate enough to find herself today. Heather encourages all falconers to become a part of the West Virginia Falconry Club and experience the fellowship and camaraderie the membership offers.