How to Become a Falconer
Many people have an idea of what falconry is, or have at least heard the term, but most know very little about what is actually involved in the sport, and what it takes to become a falconer. Sometimes a trained eagle is used as part of the pregame festivities at sporting events, where it will be released, circle the stadium, and then return to the arm of the falconer. This is the extent of most people's contact with falconry, although there is much more to it than that.
Falconry is the practice of using trained raptors (birds of prey), usually a hawk, to aid in the hunting of game. The sport of falconry has been around for centuries, but in modern times it has become less common. What typically happens in a hunt is that the hunter will release the trained bird, which will fly overheard waiting for the hunter's signal. Meanwhile, the hunter uses a dog to find and point game, usually birds. Then the hunter will flush out the birds, and his raptor will swoop down and grab one of the birds, and return to the ground.
Becoming a falconer is a rather involved process, which requires an enormous investment of time. There are some good books on the subject designed to educate those who would like to learn more about falconry, a couple of which you can find here and here. If you decide you'd like to become a falconer, the first step you should take is to contact your state's game department for information on falconry. Falconry is highly regulated and there are many specific laws that must be followed by anyone participating in the sport.
Since you will be owning your own hawk, you will be required to pass a federal exam that goes over the care and training of hawks. In some states, you are required to have a sponsor before taking the exam, while in others you may take the exam first. Regardless, you will need a sponsor, which is a seasoned falconer with either a General Class or Master Class falconry license, who basically "shows you the ropes".
If you pass your test, you must build an acceptable facility for your hawk to live in, and purchase all of the equipment necessary to train and take care of your bird. Your sponsor should let you know what you'll need, and give you some pointers on building your bird's house, called a mews. Once your mews is complete, it will be inspected to insure that it meets federal regulations. After your mews is approved you will receive your Apprentice class falconry license, and with the help of your sponsor you can get a hawk and begin training it.