Shoshana Datlow knows how deep the bond between human and animal runs. One day when she was in grade school, a man came in with a falcon on his arm. He set it loose, and Datlow watched it soar over the school. “I said to myself, ‘I want to do that one day,’ ” she recalls.
Some say falconry is the world’s oldest sport, dating back millennia. When Datlow releases Sully, her gyrfalcon, it flies up more than 1,000 feet and circles above her. Datlow’s job is to lead her bird to areas populated with ducks, pheasant, and grouse. Even from this height, Sully can see Datlow’s every move. “Sometimes I can’t even see him with my binoculars,” she says. “But I trust that he’s above me.”
When Datlow finds prey, she rouses it from its hiding place. That’s when Sully dives toward it at 200-plus miles an hour, knocking birds four times his size out of the air for the kill. “Falcons do this naturally in the wild, so the training is about the bird accepting me as a partner,” Datlow says. “He learns to benefit from me leading him to game. In essence, I’m his dog.”