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Training Merlins

Photo by Rob Palmer

So, you’re thinking about getting a merlin or you have a fresh-trapped bird and don’t know what to expect. Merlins are highly variable birds with different personalities. Most tame down very quickly and training is usually slowed by the reluctant falconer. They can be very tame on their perch, sitting quietly as the dog sniffs their feet three days after trapping and very soon be chasing every bird in the field. Merlins can also be very skittish and will ignore everything you show them.

 

Before, or just after, trapping a new merlin, I re-read almost every book on my shelf dealing with merlins. And every year I learn more about these amazing little speedsters – every year I also forget half of what I learned. After reading volumes of text on hawking merlins I realized that just about every author has a different approach to training, management, weight control, and hunting. And just about every one of them differs slightly from my approach.

What follows are some of my thoughts and experiences with merlins. I hope this site will be an ever-changing resource as I learn more about these incredible athletes.

 

As of the 2016 falconry season I’ve flown over 30 passage merlins, most of them female columbarius with only one male flown. I’ve flown four casts, one of them a deadly pair and I’ve inter-mewed two of these birds. I’ve hunted all of my merlins in a style best described as “loose”, on marked quarry, mostly sparrows. My first merlin, a suspected columbarius/richardson’s inter-grade was trapped at 240g and only took about ten birds. Each of the following have taken fifty or more birds a season with most catching over 100 birds. In addition to my own birds, I’ve had the privilege to hawk with some of the best merlin falconers in the country, flying a variety of game in differing styles.

 

Many novice merlin falconers seem to believe merlins have an almost unnatural ability to fly down anything in the air. This can be true but don’t expect to just walk into a field with your lawn chair, release your merlin and watch it fly down birds. Catching birds with a merlin is not easy, in fact I believe catching small birds is the most difficult form of falconry. Many good falconers make catching birds with a merlin look easy – it’s not.

 

The nuances of catching game with a merlin can be very hard to pick-up through books or emails. If you want to be successful with your bird I highly recommend getting out with someone that’s catching game with a merlin. A day in the field can save you weeks of frustration. But in the end it takes trial and error to become successful.

Food & Weight Management

In the wild merlins eat a diet of insects and small birds. Every effort should be made to supply your bird with the same high quality small bird diet by shooting or trapping sparrows or starlings if necessary. I start my birds off on a diet of trapped English sparrows supplemented with frozen quail. Once the bird is flying I find that they catch a sparrow per day (most days) and I supplement with quail.

 

Learning to trap English sparrows is an essential skill to flying merlins. They are very handy for trapping, baggies, entering and a good food supply. I’ve used just about every trap configuration under the sun. For years I used the two chambered trap described in Harry McElroy’s “Desert Hawking With A Little Help From My Friends.” But several years ago, a friend bought me a repeating elevator trap and it works wonders. I'll usually put out a few of these in different spots around town. I also use a twenty-foot mist net. I bait my traps with finch seed and bread and I always leave a sparrow or two in the trap. To keep your sparrows healthy be sure there is a good supply of water and shade from sun. 

 

If you need to keep your sparrows alive for baggies or trapping you’ll need to build a cage to house your temporary flock. Sparrows will stress easily so it’s important to provide hiding places, small boxes or tubes, and I keep the whole cage covered with a sheet. Sparrows require protein in their diet and will not survive long on just seed and bread, a scratch feed such as game bird starter or chick starter/grower works great. With proper food and housing I've kept sparrows alive for months in my cages. 

Manning and Initial Training

One of the most important steps you can make when training any new bird or behavior is to set goals – determine what your goal is, move towards your goal and evaluate your progress along the way. My goal for the first few weeks of manning a merlin is to get the bird as tame as possible as quick as possible.

I bring the new merlin home, and fit her with all her new equipment. I attach the anklets with eyelets, put in the jesses, attach the swivel and leash. Next, I envelope the birds tail in packaging tape. I advise using some form of tail protector, I use packaging tape. If you choose to use the tape it is very important to use the correct tape. The tape you’re looking for is the type you have to wet to activate the adhesive. Do not use “sticky” tape. This tape when dry will not stick to anything. I cut a piece that when doubled over is just slightly longer than the birds tail. I then cut tabs on one of the halves. I wet the tape, lay the bird’s tail on one half, fold it over then fold the tabs around the edges. The great thing about this tape is that it will not fall off and when you’re ready for it to come off you merely immerse the tape in water, the glue releases and it comes right off.

As soon as the bird is fitted with all the necessary equipment I sit in a quiet place with the bird bare-headed on the glove and try to feed her a few bites, most merlins (the best merlins) will eat within the first hour.

 

After about an hour on the glove I move the bird to a shelf-perch in the living room. As long as I’m home I leave the bird on the shelf bare-headed. As long as you avoid walking directly towards the bird or making direct eye contact she will typically sit quietly on the perch. It is very important at all stages of training that you keep an eye on the birds legs, merlins have delicate legs and if a bird bates too much she could easily bruise or damage leg scales – this should be avoided at all costs. When I leave the house, or when going to bed at night, I hood the merlin and leave her on the perch.

 

From day one to free-flight, training should progress rapidly. Training is usually slowed by a reluctant falconer. By day three your merlin should be at a minimum stepping to the glove for food, and more typically hopping to the glove, the length of her leash indoors. Once she is hopping ten feet inside, move your training outside. By the end of the first week expect your bird to be flying twenty feet on a light creance line.

 

Once you’re confident that she will sit quietly on her perch while you’re away you can leave her bare-headed. I set up a web cam on my birds at home and watch them from my computer while at work using a webcam.

Hood Training
Weight Reduction

I leave the bird unhooded as much as possible. I believe this speeds the taming process. After the bird is eating well on the glove, usually by day three or four, I start using high level tid-bits and feeding her tid-bits out of an upturned hood. I do my training flights, then finish feeding the daily ration by cutting it up into small bite-size pieces. I place a piece in an old hood and let the merlin feed from it like a small leather bowl. The bird will quickly begin to see the hood as something positive and move her head towards it when presented. I then start to slip it on her head while she’s feeding on the glove, let her take a few bites then remove it.

I also find using a strobe light in a dark room to be highly successful in initial hood training as well as getting a hood on an untrained bird. 

 

It is very common for merlins to remain difficult to hood, especially in the field, so don’t worry to much if your bird is difficult to hood. I’ve found I can usually hood even difficult birds by putting it on while they’re feeding on the glove. 

Weight reduction should progress very slowly, no more than a few grams per day. Never intentionally fast a merlin, I’ve had a few that wouldn’t eat the first day. I had one merlin that I couldn’t get to eat for three days – I released the bird and trapped another. I’ve found it easiest to manage a merlin’s weight by calculating the percentage of trap weight daily. This is especially handy for people that have never flown a small raptor. You have to develop a small-bird mentality, where every gram matters. A weight drop of four grams doesn’t sound like very much but a weight drop of two percent of body weight does, for a merlin four grams and two percent is the same thing.

 

I try to drop the weight one to two grams per day if necessary, no more than two percent per day.

Introducing to the Lure

I use a small leather lure with a parachute cord lure-line – I remove the inner fibers from the parachute cord, tie a knot in the middle of the line and fill half of the line with BB’s. This allows you to make the lure fairly soft and light while providing enough weight to prevent carrying.

 

Merlins love their lures. Most will come from any distance to the lure. Introduce your bird to the lure once she is flying twenty feet to the glove outside. Do a few twenty-foot flights to the glove, then kneel down close to the ground and lay a well garnished lure on the ground. Tie enough food to the lure that she will have a good reward but still fly up to the glove when finished – I find a quail leg works well. If she’s hesitant, you can move the her down to the ground if necessary, she’ll hop off and walk over to the lure. Make sure you have your knee on the lure line or in some way make sure there is no way for her to drag the lure. Let her settle down and eat. If she tries to carry it off just sit very still until she settles down and eats. Once she is finished show her a garnished glove and she should hop right up. Soon she will blast from the perch as soon as the lure comes out of your vest.

 

I don’t train my birds to catch the lure in the air, there’s nothing wrong with this I just don’t do it. I don’t think it’s necessary unless you’re planning to lure fly your bird. Instead, I drop the lure to the ground and allow the bird to drop onto it.  Shortly after the bird is free-flying and hunting I stop garnishing the lure. I’ve never lost any quickness to the lure by not garnishing it.

 

While your bird is eating on the lure get in the habit of offering tidbits, this will pay off later when you’re making-in to her on a kill. You want her to look forward to your approach.

Bagged Game

Shortly after I start creance training I begin to incorporate bagged sparrows. I don’t do it because I think you need to teach them how to kill things or that sparrows are tasty. It’s the beginning of anti-carrying training. I want to know how my bird is going to act with a sparrow in it’s feet, before she enters the field. Your goal in this section of training is to condition your bird to look forward to your approach and not to try to carry.

For the first sparrow I like to do a few normal creance flights to the glove. Then, I sit on the ground and throw a sparrow out about 6ft away. She will be quickly on top of this familiar meal. Then you do nothing. Let her kill it, she’ll try to carry but you’ll have the sparrow tethered to a twelve ounce fishing weight by a two inch string. Sit motionless, not looking at the merlin. She’ll soon settle down and begin to eat. Only after she has eaten about half of the sparrow should you even think about direct eye contact. If she seems to have settled in you can try to give her a tidbit, if she looks at all nervous leave her be until she has finished, then step her to the garnished glove.

The next day and every day afterwards repeat the process, ending with a bagged sparrow. Within a few days you want to be able to walk around your bird while she is eating. Approach her on her kill and give her a tidbit; walk twenty feet away, then approach again and give her another. You’ll want to do this a few times while she’s eating.

Once she seems comfortable with your approach and seems to understand that you have offerings you can try to pick her up off her kill. Wait until she has plucked and broken into her sparrow then you can try to pick her up off the bird. If she looks nervous don’t rush it. I approach and offer a tidbit then offer a garnished glove for her to step to. She’ll usually step off her sparrow and onto the glove within a few days.

Hunting

Now for the tough part. Training a merlin to fly to you is no great accomplishment, they are typically tame and train to the glove very quickly. Catching stuff is the hard part. Passage merlins come out of the trap with a method of hunting they found successful in the wild. Merlins are highly variable in this respect and some very inflexible. Your first consideration in choosing a style is whether you want to adapt to how your bird seems to prefer hunting or whether you want to train her to your methods.

My first merlin was the toughest to get going – much of this was certainly due to my inexperience – she would ignore anything I flushed but would take off and fly 200ft up to chase some little bird flying over. This was obviously how she was hunting in the wild.

My cast Lilly and Rose were totally different from that bird and from each other. Lilly was very quick to get going and she chases anything and everything. She’s caught sparrows, doves, snipe and other misc. birds. Rose however was a pain to get going. She was obviously a bug catcher and would eat several dragonflies and a few big grasshoppers during our first hunts, and would completely ignore sparrows. After 2 weeks of frustrating failure I decided to bag her on set-up sparrow slips every day for 1 week. After that she took the next wild sparrow we flushed and has been deadly since. However she doesn’t chase anything else, she’s only interested in sparrows.

Flight Styles & Quarry

There are numerous ways to fly a merlins at game: pursuit flights, waiting-on, off the fist, from a t-perch, out of trees, ringing and I’m sure there are a few I haven’t seen. And there are many quarries to choose from: sparrows, starlings, blackbirds, doves, quail and snipe.

The way I would classify my hunting style is “loose” on marked quarry. Once in the field, I unhood the bird, attach the transmitter, remove the jesses and cast off the merlin. I then walk the field looking for birds. The merlin flies around the field for a few seconds, warming up her engine, before taking perch in a nearby tree. Merlins differ and some spend most of their time sitting, waiting for a flush while others spend a lot of time flying around me and periodically landing when they get tired. When I bump a sparrow I watch closely where it puts-in and I mark the spot.

Once I make my way over to the marked spot I get into position and use my lure to call the merlin in for the flush. There are a variety of ways to flush a bird, away from the merlin, towards the merlin and out to the side. You get different types of flights with each of these flushes and pay close attention to which your merlin is most successful. Most of the time I try to flush the sparrow out to the side if possible. If the sun is low on the horizon I find it very helpful to flush the sparrow with the sun directly behind the merlin, this gives her a slight advantage.

Doves

I’ve been asked many times if a merlin is fast enough to catch a dove. Absolutely, merlins are fast enough to catch any bird their size and slightly larger. Mourning doves are an excellent quarry for merlins. Merlins are one of the best raptors for flights at dove. I’ve caught a handful of doves with merlins and I’ve seen several other falconers fly them successfully.

 

My first experience with dove flights was watching Jim Ince fly a passage female in Houston, Texas. Jim would go to a field late in the day when the doves were flying in to feed and get water. The merlin would take perch on a telephone pole nearby and watch the doves flying into the field. She would bob her head as she locked in on each one, looking for her prey. I don’t know what she was looking for but when she found it she would blast off the pole and the chase was on.

 

The flight could only be observed in binoculars, as she pursued her quarry for a mile downwind. She would catch up to the dove and once it felt too much pressure the dove would seek cover with the merlin right behind. If they didn’t come back up off the ground within a few minutes we would make our way over to pick her up on her quarry. And she would often carry it back to the top of an oil tank nearby.

Often times the dove would blast back up off the ground with the merlin in hot pursuit. And once a merlin gets a foot on a bird they are relentless and a warm meal is only a matter of time.

 

Spence Wise flies almost exclusively on doves in central Florida. Spence will locate small groups of doves in an open area with sparse cover. He positions himself one hundred yards upwind and allows the merlin to locate the doves while on the fist and he lets her initiate the flight. These flights also go for great distances and usually end up with locating his merlin on her kill with telemetry.

 

If he finds doves in a spot where he can sneak up on them he’ll allow the bird to perch nearby while he sneaks up on the doves. Once he’s within fifty feet he’ll call the merlin in with the lure and run in to flush the doves.

Flocks

Most years I'll take trips out west to hawking meets or to hawk with friends. I also spent two hawking seasons living in Amarillo, TX as well as parts of KS. During these times I usually hunt flocks of black birds or starlings with my merlins. These can be spectacular flights and I have found that most merlins take to these flights very naturally. 

When you find a flock of birds feeding or roosting you'll want to release the merlins from quite a distance, a 1/4 mile away is not too far, but several hundred yards at a minimum. You can hold the merlin on the glove until she initiates a flight but I'll usually put the bird on a fence post and let her choose her time. Then you basically turn into a spectator, a pair of binoculars will come in handy as you try to pick your bird out of the melee.

My bird Lilly would catch a black bird, cache it and return to the chase to snag another. 

Other Qarry

Across the U.S. there is a lot of suitable quarry for merlins. They are capable of catching just about any bird their size. The key is suitable terrain; find quarry in open fields, merlins do not deal well with heavy cover.

I have caught a handful of quail while on hawking trips out west. Again, look for areas where the quail can be flushed out into the open and away from thick cover.

I’ve only caught one snipe with a merlin and I know others who have caught the odd snipe. I would like to focus more on this quarry one day with a merlin. I watched a wild merlin fly a snipe down while both were passing by overhead. The merlin quickly made up a 100 yard gap on the snipe and forced it to take cover in a swamp. It was the most impressive wild raptor flight I’ve seen. I think taking the time to train a merlin to wait on might be the key to consistently catching snipe with a merlin.

Across the U.S. there is a lot of suitable quarry for merlins. They are capable of catching just about any bird their size. The key is suitable terrain; find quarry in open fields, merlins do not deal well with heavy cover.

I have caught a handful of quail while on hawking trips out west. Again, look for areas where the quail can be flushed out into the open and away from thick cover.

I’ve only caught one snipe with a merlin and I know others who have caught the odd snipe. I would like to focus more on this quarry one day with a merlin. I watched a wild merlin fly a snipe down while both were passing by overhead. The merlin quickly made up a 100 yard gap on the snipe and forced it to take cover in a swamp. It was the most impressive wild raptor flight I’ve seen. I think taking the time to train a merlin to wait on might be the key to consistently catching snipe with a merlin.

When They Catch

This is an area where I probably differ from most merlin trainers. During my early hunts when my bird catches a sparrow I do NOTHING. This can be a very difficult concept for falconers to grasp. Most of us have read too many books and listened to too many falconers describe the vast selection of making-in techniques. Early on we’re taught that when our birds catch game we have to “do” something. We have to get in there and secure the bird and the prey. Neither is true when flying a passage female merlin on sparrows. And I suspect it’s not necessary with a jack merlin either. A female merlin can carry a sparrow to a tree, eat it and will then fly down to the fist every time. I’ve had hundreds of sparrows carried to trees and eaten by my merlins and every one has flown right back down to the glove.

 

I can’t be bothered with long drawn out anti-carrying training or cache training. As stated earlier, my goal is to get my birds hunting as soon as possible. The caching will come with time and the carrying is not a problem. In fact I suspect that the carrying will save your bird’s life. I’ve had one merlin killed by a raptor and that bird was killed just after catching a sparrow while still on the ground. In comparison I’ve had merlins chased by raptors dozens of times while carrying a sparrow in their foot and they’ve always managed to evade their pursuer. I think a fit merlin can hold their own with just about any raptor in the sky.

 

It takes weeks if not months of training to train your bird not to carry, I think this time is better spent hunting and building your relationship with your bird. A merlin is not going to stop carrying until it has established a trusting relationship with you, either in the field or under a controlled training situation.

 

In short, I don’t mind my bird carrying. If they are going to cache they must carry – if they’re not going to cache I would much rather my bird eat the sparrow in a tree rather than on the ground.

Caching

Sorry, no elaborate methods here on how to train your bird to cache. I’ve found that caching comes as your bird’s weight and strength goes up. Most of my birds have started to cache by the end of their first season and my inter-mewed birds have started caching much sooner in the second season. Both of these events have coincided with an increase in weight.

 

I had one merlin that cached the first bird she caught and went on to cache nearly every bird she caught the entire season. Another cached her second bird and also went on to cache the majority of her quarry.

 

I have noticed that my birds are more apt to cache if they catch early in the hunt when they still have lots of vigor left in them. When my birds have caught late in the hunt when they’re more winded they tend to carry their birds to a tree and eat. Caching can only come when your bird is confident that you are going to produce more game for them, either through lots of hunting or through elaborate training schemes.

 

The only drawback to caching I can think of is that unless you can retrieve the cache your bird misses out on a very nutritious meal.

Flying A Cast

Merlins flown for falconry will never achieve level of speed, agility and stamina of their wild counterparts. However, twice I’ve come fairly close.

 

The first time was after releasing an inter-mewed female at the end of her second season. I released her in a field that we hunted almost every day. For 2 weeks I returned to the field every morning, swung the lure to call her in and started the hunt. At the end of the hunt I would leave her to eat the bird she caught or if I we didn’t catch I would feed her up and leave her in the field. After 3 days of this her strength and stamina had noticeably increased. After the first week she was amazing, capable of flying down birds with little effort. In the second week she only showed up to hunt every other day and by the end of the week she was gone.

 

The second time was while flying a cast of passage female columbarius, Lilly and Rose.

 

Why a Cast?

 

Are two birds better than one? I don’t know if I’d say better or that I caught more game with the cast as I would have caught with a single bird. But it sure was exciting, non-stop action.

 

For the 2002 falconry season I had set my sights on catching snipe. I bought a Barbary tiercel, had dozens of perfect snipe fields and bought a new dog, I was set – then my bird was killed by a Great-horned owl. Migration was starting and I had time to trap a merlin. But, I still wanted to catch snipe and I have never had any luck catching snipe with a merlin. So, I decided to fly a cast.

 

A cast wasn’t the solution to catching snipe. I found the main reason to fly a cast is to see a level of performance matched only by wild merlins. The competition between the birds made them fly faster, harder and longer than I’ve ever seen out of trained merlins. When flown together every flush was chased until the prey either made it to cover or was caught, they never broke off of a chase. I can’t remember a season when I had more fun, enjoyment and exciting flights.

 

Initial Concerns

 

My first challenge was how to get them into and out of the field. I had to park on the side of the road, climb through a fence and walk a safe distance into the field before releasing the birds. I came up with a small, portable, PVC cadge. I would carry the hooded birds on the cadge, cast them off then fold it up and put it into my vest. This worked very well. Midway through the season I was able to drive into the field and release the birds from my truck. Still, I often used the cadge to get the birds back to the truck.

I suspected that I would be better off hunting larger birds like doves and snipe. I feared that sparrows were too small for both birds to get a foot on and they would end up chasing each other, trying to steal the sparrow.

 

Conversely, they wound up fighting over larger birds and they ignored each other when one caught a sparrow. I believe it’s very important to have both birds consistently catching game before hunting them together. During the first week of flying them as a cast Lilly was doing most of the chasing and all of the catching, and Rose started chasing Lilly every time she caught. This was due to the fact that I didn’t get Rose consistently catching game before flying them together – she had only caught one sparrow on her own. I solved the problem by separating the birds for a few weeks until Rose was consistently catching on her own.

 

At first, when one caught a bird, I would quickly call the other bird down to the lure, and hood that bird, place it on the cadge and go retrieve the bird that caught. I did this a few times but quickly found it unnecessary. Instead, I opted to ignore the bird that caught and continue hunting.

 

Training

 

I trained the birds separately until they had caught game on their own. The only difference was that I housed them both on a shelf perch built for two. The birds could get within a foot apart. I did this so when they were flown together they would at least recognize each other and hopefully not view each other as a threat.

 

I hood trained each bird, trained them to fly to the fist, introduced them to the same lure, got each bird free flying and catching game – then I flew them together on game.

 

Hunting

 

I’ve flown seven merlins for falconry. I’ve hunted mostly sparrows, but they’ve caught a variety of birds. I would best describe the way I hunt with merlins as “loose” on marked quarry. In short, I release the merlin, find and mark quarry then call the bird in for the flush. Most merlins I’ve flown spent the majority of the hunt sitting in a nearby tree waiting for a slip. I flew the cast in the same manner. However, they spent the majority of the hunt, typically two hours, on the wing. I believe this was due to competition with each other, both birds wanted to be close and ready for a slip.

 

I hunted ninety-percent of the season in a 4,000 acre cow pasture. The majority of the field is treeless with inch-high grass and scattered palmetto bushes and two-foot diameter clumps of dense grass. I could not imagine a more perfect place to fly a merlin in Florida.

 

In the beginning I made the mistake of trying to get both birds in position for every flush. The problem with this was one bird would get there first and I would have to let that bird pass by and turn until the other bird was in position, then the first bird would be out of position and so on. I quickly realized this was frustrating the birds so I started flushing for the first bird in position. This worked well because if the first bird missed the other bird was right there to take up the chase.

 

The biggest difference I saw in the chases, when compared with flying a single bird, was that the cast never pulled off of a pursuit, I can’t remember even once. They pursued every bird until it was either caught or made it to cover, regardless of distance – the longest successful chase was measured at almost a quarter of a mile. However, the majority of the quarry we caught was caught on the initial flush.

 

The birds spent two hours a day flying and were incredibly fit. Several hunts lasted almost four hours with the birds flying hard the whole time – it was the falconer and falconer’s wife that eventually tired.

 

What did I do when one caught a sparrow? Nothing. I know this could be difficult for most falconers to grasp; we’re taught from early on that we have to “do” something when the bird catches game. There are countless techniques for “making-in” and transferring off of a kill, rarely will you see someone advise to “just let her eat it all in the tree.” The fortunate thing about catching sparrows with a female merlin is that she can eat the whole sparrow and still come back – I’ve caught hundreds of sparrows, the majority eaten in a tree, and I’ve never left a merlin in the field. I’m not against transferring a merlin off of its kill – I do it often. But I don’t panic if she flies with it to a tree and I don’t overdo “anti-carrying” training.

 

When one bird caught a sparrow she would either sit on the ground with it or carry it to the tree line, the other bird would ignore her. I would continue hunting, in the opposite direction, with the bird that didn’t catch.

 

When a bird caught I set a timer on my watch for fifteen minutes – after this time if the bird had not cached and come back or eaten and come back I would retrieve her.

 

Typically, the bird that caught would fly off to the tree line and cache her sparrow, then join back in on the hunt. I’m sure the competition encouraged caching – they wanted to get back to join the action. But they would also fly off and eat their sparrow – Lilly would almost always fly back and land at my feet after eating, I always had to go and retrieve Rose but she always flew down.

 

Catching game with two merlins is always going to be somewhat of a juggling act, requiring a high level of confidence in your birds. You have to let go of some control. If you run off after a bird every time it flies out of your sight, with or without a bird in it’s feet, you won’t get much hunting done.

 

I found it very comforting to carry a telemetry receiver into the field. If a bird went missing for more than a few minutes I could get a bearing on her and make sure she was still in the field. I used a Tracker Maxima receiver – I found it very helpful and convenient.

 

I would not advise anyone to fly a cast for their first experience with merlins. However, I would highly recommend the cast experience to any falconer that has successfully flown a few merlins.

 

Merlins are highly adaptable falconry birds and can be flown in a variety of ways on a diverse range of quarry. We’ve only touched on their capabilities in this chapter. It’s impossible to put all the nuances of flying a merlin down on paper. If you think you’re up to the challenge of a merlin I highly suggest getting out with someone flying a merlin to learn more about this little speedster. Often times you’ll learn more from one day in the field than in volumes of text. Catching game with a merlin is well within the capabilities of most falconers. I would urge anyone with an interest to give it a try and have fun.