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Our Falconry School

New England’s oldest and largest falconry school was started by master falconer Nancy Cowan in 2005.

Licensed under US Fish & Wildlife Service and NH Fish & Game Department, it has been named “One of New England’s Top Five Animal Experiences” by Yankee Magazine and has thrilled thousands of people since it began. 

School facilities are based at Jim and Nancy’s home, an old estate, in Deering, New Hampshire, on the edge of the Monadnock region. The school’s South-Central location is reached by highways from all directions, making it easily accessible. Arrive here, and you find yourself surrounded by beautiful grounds developed and tended over nearly one hundred years. 

The property consists of twenty-nine acres of woodland, cascading streams, gardens in flower during the spring and summer, and towering maples that glow with brilliant colors during fall foliage season. Trails abound and make for exciting and breathtaking walks done while students work more independently with the raptors.

On the school property is the Cowans’ home, a house built in 1789, along with older barns, a greenhouse classroom, a carriage house garage, and mews for the eleven raptors living on the property. Birds belonging to the School and that interact with students are Banshee, the peregrine falcon, and three Harris’s Hawks, Ember, Spike and Scooter. Besides the school birds, Jim and Nancy each have their own falconry birds, two Gyrfalcons, two hybrid falcons and another Harris’s Hawk. A very special addition is a Lanner falcon, a species exotic to North America. “Banner the Lanner” is famous the world over for ground breaking eye surgery that restored her vision. 

Hunts are held in the fall season and are located at The Timberdoodle Club of Temple, NH, the oldest wing-shooting club of the state and a beautifully conserved area of woods and fields reminiscent of New England in the prior century.

Meet Our Crew

Joe Ford

Master Falconer
The New Hampshire School of Falconry would like to introduce Joseph Ford, Master Falconer. Joe will be joining us to help us teach classes. He comes to the School as a friend and former apprentice of Nancy. He is bringing with him a lifetime of animal experience that includes domestic Livestock and dog training, a biological sciences degree, and a career in zookeeping.
Joe grew up on a farm in northern New Hampshire, where he trained oxen as a young teen. Now He lives on a horse farm in the Nashua area with his fiancé Lauren, who is a horse trainer. Joe learned how to train dogs from his parents. His mother owns and operates a dog training facility, and his father trains his own hunting dogs.
At the age of 16, Joe decided to pursue a life of falconry. Nancy and her husband Jim took him under their wings (pun intended). Joe went on to achieve a General level falconry license under the Cowans' guidance and has since attained his Master level license.
Joe graduated from UNH with a bachelor's degree in Zoology, with minors in Animal Behavior and Psychology, with a dream of becoming a zookeeper. Joe has been a keeper with Zoo New England since 2012 and is happy to be returning to his falconry roots.

Joe Ford, Master Falconer
Photographer: Kevin Talbot   |

Nancy Cowan

Master Falconer
Beloved wife, mother, grandmother, Master falconer, teacher, speaker, dogsledder, historian, and bestselling author Nancy Cowan, founder of the New Hampshire School of Falconry, died Saturday morning, January 9, at Concord Hospital of Covid-19. She was 74. Nancy Cowan has spent over three decades involved with falconry in New Hampshire. Initially, helping her husband lobby to make hunting with birds of prey a legal form of hunting here, Cowan, an animal lover, was drawn to falconry as she watched her husband working with his hawk. Once she began, there was no turning back as she discovered working with hawks and falcons opened her to meet nature and the wildlife around her with an intensity she had never before experienced. Now a master falconer, owner of an internationally known falconry school, and a wildlife rehabilitator who describes herself as “a sports trainer for wild peregrines”, Nancy Cowan wrote an account of what she had learned from raptors through the years. Her book, Peregrine Spring, earned a place on the NY Times Best Seller list, and was named “Best Book of 2016” by New England Outdoor Writers Association. Nancy retired from sixteen years as a Town Clerk and Tax Collector and lives with her husband, Jim, in Deering, New Hampshire. Although busy with running her New Hampshire School of Falconry, she is at work on another book about living with birds of prey.

Nancy Cowan, falconer and author, dies from COVID complications (Concord Monitor, 1/15/2022)

Jim Cowan

Master Falconer
Jim Cowan grew up in Central Massachusetts spending as much time in the woods as he could. He met Nancy when he came to The Citadel (SC military college). Soon after, he became a falconer and Nancy’s parents’ garage became home to a Redtailed hawk. When he entered the military, he released his bird. Sometime later, after moving to New Hampshire (and by then married to Nancy for ten years) he decided to resume falconry but changes in the laws of the nation required states to adopt falconry under law as a means of hunting so Jim embarked on a quest to bring falconry to the state. In 1988, the legislation Jim had introduced and worked so hard for became law. Jim is a master falconer who flies his own raptors and supports Nancy in running the school and her practice of falconry. Jim and Nancy have been married fifty-one years, and counting!

Ground Crew

Master Falconer Assistants
Although a falconry school could not be such without raptors, it is a pair of dogs who complete the hunting partnership here. Dogs who work with raptors to find game are an important part of the falconry equation. They are called, no matter what breed they are, HAWKDOGS. Our hawkdog partners, shown here flanked by a white gyrfalcon and a peregrine, are both Gordon Setters. In past years, Nancy and Jim have used German Wirehaired Pointers and a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, but when it became difficult to replace the wirehairs, they turned to Gordon Setters from nearby Damon’s Kennels of Washington, NH. Buckethead and Rain are uncle and nephew and ably fill the role of “finder of gamebirds” during the hunts. They are gentle, slower of foot than English setters, and have superior noses for locating the prey. When they fall into their points, you KNOW, and the hawk KNOWS, that there will soon be a flush of prey for the raptor to pursue and, hopefully, take.