Staff Profile - Mitch Brantley
Mitch Brantley

Staff Profile
Mitch Brantley

Mitch Brantley waits patiently in a field. Suddenly, there is a flutter of wings as his red tail hawk glides gracefully from his perch and lands lightly on his outstretched fist.

Most know Brantley as a friendly, hardworking member of Coker College’s Physical Plant staff, but few know he is also a licensed falconer. His first encounter with falconry occurred when he met a young falconer in the woods whose hawk was tangled in the brush. He helped the boy free his bird, and that’s when the two began discussing the art of falconry.

Mitch Brantley

“I guess it goes back to just being an animal person,” said Brantley. “I’ve loved animals since I was a kid; it’s just in my nature, so falconry seemed to come naturally for me.”

Falconers today are part of a tradition that is thousands of years old, and much of the terminology, equipment and practices have been passed down through time as well. They are also part of an elite group, as there are only about 1,500 licensed falconers in the entire United States. The sport isn’t for everyone. Becoming a falconer requires a serious commitment and years of training.

“It’s a 365-day commitment,” said Brantley. “Everything you do is planned around the birds because they are living creatures you’re responsible for.”

It’s been five years since Brantley began his training as an apprentice. Since then, he has risen to the level of general falconer. With each status increase, the number and type of raptors a falconer is permitted to keep also grows. Most people choose a bird based on their level and hunting preferences. Different birds are suited for different types of game. Brantley currently has two red tail hawks, Mad Max and Bella, in his hunting arsenal. Brantley’s next ambition is to progress to the level of master falconer. At that point, he will be able to capture and train a golden eagle.

“Trapping a bird, especially your first, is like Christmas morning,” explained Brantley. “I couldn’t wait to have my own bird. The excitement was overwhelming.”

Brantley’s love for wildlife is also put to good use at Coker, where he is the campus wildlife wrangler. He’s the one everyone calls if there is a snake, bat, possum or some other type of creature that needs to be safely relocated.

Mitch Brantley: Falconry

His passion for the sport is evident, and he takes advantage of opportunities to share it with others. He is currently sponsoring South Carolina’s youngest falconer-in-training, a 14-year-old high school student from Florence, S.C. He also holds demonstrations at summer camps, wildlife expos and other public events. For him, being a falconer also means educating people about the many types of raptors and helping to instill in them a greater respect for nature.

“I use the public demonstrations as an opportunity to let people see the birds up close and personal,” said Brantley. “I hope it makes people think more about how beautiful they really are and encourages them to be more respectful of wildlife.”

As vice president of the South Carolina Falconry Association, Brantley is involved in the review of state and federal regulations related to the practice of falconry in the state. The association is dedicated to the conservation, education and rehabilitation of or relating to birds of prey within South Carolina.

“It’s all about the flight. It’s not about whether or not they bring back game,” Brantley said. “It’s about watching the bird fly through the woods and just enjoying watching the hawk be a hawk.”

For more information, contact Kyria Hoffman - 843.857.4103
Photography Credit, Caitlyn Higgins Class of '13 - Marketing & Communications Intern

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