DONORS:
Martha L. Browne, Mike and Karen Yates, Richard Howard, David Jamieson,
Barry and Wylene Pharaoh, James Frazier, Bruce and Evelyn Haak, Darryl
Barnes, James Younk, Carol Wambolt, Paul and Linda Mascuch, Steve Sherrod,
North American Falconers Association, Idaho Falconers’ Association.
Charles H. Schwartz
(1944 to 2016) by Bruce Haak
O
n March 9, 2016, Charles
H. Schwartz, age 71, lost
his battle with cancer.
For four decades, he
was married to Martha
Browne, who shared his passions for
falconry, captive breeding, fishing, and
travel. He is also survived by his son
Alan and daughter Greta from his first
marriage. A lifelong outdoorsman,
passionate reader, and consummate
falconer, he led a unique life and left
friends and admirers throughout the
worldwide falconry community.
Charles grew up in Ohio. He earned
a degree in zoology with a minor in
chemistry from Ohio State University,
where he also played in the marching
band. He was a game warden in Ohio
before moving to Idaho to pursue a
Master’s degree in science at Idaho State
University. When I first met Charles in
1980, he worked as a chemist for the State
of Idaho. Later, he managed a research
department at the Simplot Corporation in
Pocatello.
His father was a butcher and an NRA gun-
safety instructor. No doubt, the man was
instrumental in instilling Charles with a
love of sport hunting. Each interest that
Charles pursued became a discipline to be
researched and mastered. These included:
photography, scuba diving, writing,
upland game and waterfowl shooting and
big game hunting. During spring and
summer, he preferred fly fishing from
his drift boat. One of his great joys was
floating rivers in Alaska to fish with his
friends while experiencing the pristine
wilderness environment.
As a pioneer raptor-breeder, Charles left
an indelible mark on the sport of falconry.
He was proficient at artificial insemination
techniques, producing the first tri-bred
falcon (merlin/prairie/peregrine) and the
first merlin/gyrfalcon hybrid. Because of
this special skill set, he was hired to breed
and train falcons for the Royal Family
in Bahrain for five years. Later in life, he
successfully bred and flew gyrfalcons.
A gifted trainer of imprinted falcons,
Charles flew one of the first prairie/
peregrine hybrids produced by Les Boyd
with great success. He was also one of the
first falconers to successfully hawk sage
grouse in Idaho in the 1970s. Chasing sage
grouse with large falcons was his preferred
method of hunting, and this ultimately
became his consuming passion for 40
years. He freely shared his knowledge of
grouse biology and their winter ecology
with the researchers studying sage grouse
in eastern Idaho.
A member of the North American
Falconers Association since 1971,
he served as Secretary in 1978, and
Mountain Director in 1989. He was also a
founding member of the Idaho Falconers
Association (IFA), holding several offices
including president. Charles was the
principal author of the IFA constitution.
In addition, he contributed articles and
photographs on falconry and hunting
dogs to NAFA, the IFA, International
Falconer, The Pointing Dog Journal, and
Dog World.
I met Charles while on a hawking trip
in September of 1980. He and Marty
opened their Pingree home to me, and
showed me aspects of falconry that I had
yet to witness. This was the first of many
educational experiences that I would glean
from their company.
Sage grouse hawking was Charles’ passion.
His intermewed Peale’s falcon, Gemini,
was a seasoned veteran and his English
pointer knew her job well. On my first
drive out to the Big Desert, we stopped
the vehicle to let a flock of maybe 200
pheasants leisurely cross the dirt road.
That was more pheasants than I’d seen
in western Oregon in the past ten years.
I remember asking: “Why dont we
chase those?” Charles replied in a most
patient tone: “No, no, were going grouse
hawking. The first time I saw Gemini
punch a big grouse down into the sage,
I knew what all the fuss was about. This
was next-level falconry: big country,
big-running dogs, tough grouse, and
high-flying falcons. These were all the
ingredients needed to fuel a full-time
addiction.
Committed to honing his raptor-breeding
skills, he and Marty showed me a young
merlin hybrid they had produced. A few
years later, after my wife and I had moved
from Oregon to the Boise area, Charles
convinced me to build a barn and pursue
raising peregrines. With his help and
advice, I did this for 20 years.
While in Bahrain, Charles sent home red-
naped shaheens and Barbary falcons that
formed much of the U.S. breeding stock
we have today. In addition, he sent me a
passage red-naped shaheen to fly that I
named Jasmine. A combination of pupil
and teacher, she would show me what
greatness is in a game hawk. Ultimately,
Charles gift became a life-changing
experience for me.
In many respects, Charles was a
Renaissance man: well-rounded, smart,
and technically skilled, yet patient with
those of lesser intellect and knowledge.
He was a natural teacher, an aspect of his
personality that attracted individuals from
various disciplines and interests into his
multiple orbits.
However, my most vivid recollections
are of hawking sage grouse with Charles
in the dead of winter; bitter cold, eerie
blue skies on the verge of crackling,
and English pointers leaving contrails
of snow far into the distance. The tense
anticipation of falcons leaving the glove
to mount into the ethers, the white-vapor
breath of a motionless dog locked on
point, the explosion of grouse flushing
from cover, and the lethal collision of a
stooping falcon on its quarry, all blend in
my mind as the ultimate memories of a
friend who generously shared his world
with me.
Charles Schwartz would be eulogized best by his dogs.
They knew him better. All of us, his friends, sought out his companionship
and wisdom, and enjoyed good times with him in the field and around his
kitchen table. But Charles and his dogs simply shared each other’s enthusiasm
for life and the hunt, and they brought great joy to each other.
I have a heart full of memories of Charles; twenty years worth. Memories of
fishing and hunting, of falconry, cooking, and whisky, but my favorites are dog
memories. One stands out. It was after dark, winter, driving across the snowy
desert after hawking. Mac, the black-headed pointer, slept on the front seat
between us. We had been driving in silence for a long while. Charles put his
hand on Mac’s head and told me, “You haven’t been loved until you’ve been
loved by a bird dog. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was right.
He was always right. He was right about how and when to enter a young hawk
to game (soon), he was right about how long to leave the venison roast in the
oven (not very), he was right about how to write (brevity and clarity), he was
right about leaving my old life in Florida and moving to Montana in order to
fly gyrfalcons and train bird dogs.
But I hope he was right about one of the last things he told me, not long after
his diagnosis. We were on the phone and he was telling me what the doctors
were telling him – and suddenly there were hundreds of questions I needed
to ask him, and hundreds more things I needed to say, but the tightness in my
throat wouldn’t let anything out.
He didn’t let me struggle with it for long. “You can do this, John, he told me.
So a few months have gone by. Most days I think of something that Charles
probably would have said if he were here with me—always something that
makes me smile although its usually a smile that ends up tasting salty. I still
have lots of questions only he can answer. And every day I see things that he
would have savored – a sharptailed grouse silhouetted against the mountains
to the north, or the way the late afternoon sun can draw out the gentle curves
of the prairie around my home.
Charles made the world a better place. He showed me the vast
openness of the heart. We were all fortunate to have him as a friend.
Photo by Howard Huff
By John McIItrot
Lasting Friendship
AS A PIONEER RAPTOR-
BREEDER, Charles left
an indelible mark on the
sport o falconr.
AS A FRIEND, he was
generous, wise, and a
natural teacher.