Master falconer Park Yong-soon handles a golden eagle in this February 2015 photo. Robert Neff Collection

In the early 1920s, an American gold miner working at Oriental Consolidated Mining Company in northern Korea wrote:“The Koreans are not allowed any firearms, so do not do much hunting except a little with hawks. They catch hawks and starve them and then liberate them to catch pheasants and other birds. When the hawk catches the bird the hunter steps in and takes the bird away from the hawk. It sounds odd but you would be surprised how many they catch.”The idea of falconry may have seemed strange to this young American, but he, like his peers, was fairly impressed — especially considering (judging by their letters home) their own bird hunts with guns were often unsuccessful. His assumption that Koreans hunted with hawks was because they were banned from owning guns wasn’t quite true. Korea has a long and colorful history of hawking.In the mid-1890s, Isabella Bird Bishop, an English travel writer, described pheasants as being “literally without number and are very tame.” While they may have seemed tame to her, they were not so tame that one could easily walk up and snatch them. Hawks and falcons were needed for the task — and they did very well.

In the 1930s, one Korean hunter boasted to Sten Bergman, a Swedish zoologist, that in one season, with just one hawk, he managed to bag 300 pheasants. Perhaps not as impressive as the hunter who claimed to Bishop that “he sometimes got between twenty and thirty pheasants a day but had to walk or run 100 li [approx. 55km] to do it.”Bishop pointed out that obtaining and training falcons was no easy matter.“To obtain them three small birds are placed in a cylinder of loosely woven bamboo, mounted horizontally on a pole. On the peregrine alighting on this, a man who has been concealed throws a net over the whole. The bird is kept in a tight sleeve for three days. Then he is daily liberated in a room, and trained to follow a piece of meat pulled over the floor by a string. At the end of a week he is taken out on his master’s wrist, and slipped when game is seen. He is not trained to return. The master rushes upon him and secures him before he has time to devour the bird.”

It was extremely important to get the falcon before it ate too much. Once full, the falcon would no longer hunt. Once trained, these birds were very expensive and in the 1890s brought as much as $9 a bird — a princely sum considering servants could be hired for a couple of dollars each month.Of course, such valuable and noble birds attracted less than honorable attention. The Korean idiom “shi ch’i mi tte da” meaning “to feign ignorance” is said to have its origin in the theft of falcons. The falcons were marked with tags (shi ch’i mi) on their tail which indicated their owners but occasionally these tags were removed by unscrupulous people who then claimed the falcon as their own.At least one American raised hawks for a very short time in the early 1900s. William Franklin Sands, an adviser to the Korean government, wrote:“A very noble but exceedingly expensive sport was hawking. I kept hawks for a while, for the experience and as an attraction to the 카지노사이트킹 young courtiers, but it was too troublesome to go on with.”

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