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The Hunt
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Castles The Cookery The Feaste The Hunt Merriment Ships

The imagery presented here is that of "The Hunt".

Hunting was a preferred leisure pursuit of the medieval lord and was the primary source of meat for a lord's meal.  There were two key methods of hunting,  those of falconry and the hunt of ground-based game.  Nobles expended great effort to maintain their private forests for their own personal use.  Laws were passed decreeing that peasants were not allowed to hunt in these forests. If any peasant dared to poach in these forests, he likely would have his hand or even his head removed by the executioner.  With these laws and penalties known amongst the peasantry, lords were free to hunt in "their" forests at their whim, where there was always an abundance of game as a result.  

In the hunting of ground-based game, the prey of choice was usually either a stag, a doe, or a boar.  The lord's hounds were specially trained to track prey by scent, obeying signals blown on a horn.  A hunt was usually managed by the lord's huntsman, who would locate the prey and await the lord to decide if the game was worth the hunt.  When the lord decided to pursue the hunt, the huntsman would encircle the game, driving it back in the direction of the hunters.  

At this point the hunt begins, with the noblemen and their ladies riding their steeds, following  the yelping hounds as they chase the prey through dense forests and over ditches.  A typical hunt would continue for hours, and when the game was eventually trapped and killed, a song was played to pay homage to the slain beaste.  The hunt was then followed by a great feaste with the slain game served as the main course.

In falconry, a lord would use a magnificent bird-of-prey, the falcon, to kill another bird or small ground-base game in this type of sport. A falcon is a fiercely intelligent bird that is trained by the lord's falconer. 

A falcon was trained to locate, attack and kill another bird in mid flight.  Female falcons were used rather than males due to their larger size and greater tenacity.  The process of training a falcon was both tedious and difficult, requiring great skill and patience on the part of the falconer.  The falconer wore thick leather gauntlets, allowing the falcon to perch on his wrist, where he would feed the falcon by hand to foster trust between falcon and falconer.  When the falcon was eventually tamed, a bell was tied to the falcon's leg and when necessary a hood was placed over its head to keep it quiet. 

A falcon was trained by tying a leash to one of its legs and allowing it to fly short distances, returning to the falconer's wrist upon hearing a whistled cue.   Upon a successful flight and return, the falcon would be rewarded with a small piece of raw meat.  The falcon would then be trained to attack similar small pieces of meat.  After the successful completion of such training, the falcon was released from the leash and allowed to hunt for itself.  

When the falcon succeeded in killing its prey, the falconer would reward the bird with food.  Initially, the falcon would hunt small "easy" prey, eventually being given larger birds and land-game to hunt.  Hounds were used to initially assist the falcon in its hunt.  Eventually, though, the falcon became so well trained that it was able to kill large birds and small land animals unassisted. 

At this point, the bird became the lord's hunting falcon.

Let the hunt begin!

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