COLUMBIA — In the world of cinema, the 1971 made-for-TV movie "Harpy" is not mentioned often. But for Larry Temares, director of the Missouri Falconers Association, images of the film's harpy eagle sparked a childhood interest. He nurtured that interest in birds of prey — also known as raptors — and falconry throughout his adolescence.
After years of hands-on training and learning tricks of the trade from mentors, Temares became licensed to fly his own birds in the fall of 2009.
"It took me until I was about 20 to actually find and talk to a real falconer," Temares said. "Then I hung around for about 15 years with some falconers in St. Louis before I got my own license."
Falconry is much more than a sport to Temares — it's a lifestyle. During the fall and winter hunting season, a falconer must closely monitor his raptor's weight and take it out to fly a few times a week.
"It pretty much takes up all of my free time," Temares said. "Even in the spring and summer, if you have a bird, it's not like a dog where you can just take it to a kennel and have somebody watch it. You either don't take vacations or train a family member to take care of a bird."
Since becoming licensed to practice falconry in 2009, Temares has used three different hawks. He started his first season with a passage red-tailed hawk and flew another red-tailed hawk in 2010. In April 2011, Temares got his current bird, a goshawk.
"It's the one bird, from when I first started learning and reading about falconry when I was 11 years old, that always fascinated me," he said.
Temares said during the Middle Ages the goshawk was known as the "cook's hawk" because of its ability to skillfully catch a variety of prey from rabbits to pheasants.
During his first season with his goshawk, Temares was impressed with the hawk's abilities. However, one day while hunting, the hawk flew into a bush and suffered an abrasion on its eye. The hawk later got an infection that caused blindness in its right eye and partial vision loss in the left.
"She's nowhere near the bird she was four months ago," he said. "Before, if I flushed four or five rabbits, and she didn't catch one, there was something wrong."
The hawk still has the ability to detect and chase its prey, but catching the animal and holding it until Temares comes to retrieve it has proven difficult.
Although the hawk is injured, Temares still enjoys taking it out to the open fields around Columbia to fly because falconry is his passion.
"You're in a partnership with a wild predator," he said. "It's hard to describe. It's just a whole other feeling that goes above and beyond any other type of hunting I've done before."