DONORS:
Scott Struthers, The Family of Dana and Jeraldine Struthers
(The following is based upon Dana Struther’s Oral History of his falconry
submitted to the Archives on March 26, 1994 while he was living in Lake
Wales, Florida)
Dana Struthers was a lifelong falconer. He grew up during
legendary period of falconry and bird trapping along the upper
Mississippi River and Great Lakes. He was born in Minneapolis
on June 12, 1923 and got his first bird, an eyass Cooper’s Hawk, at
the age of 12. He said, with pride, that he had broken both arms
the year before and could not do many things – other than climb
trees! He had found between 15-20 Coopers nests in the vicinity
of Camp Carlos. He was motivated by a camp counselor to train
a hawk. He named the bird “Hazard” and took his time with her
before he trusted her enough to fly her free. Eventually, he lost
her. She was gone for 2 to 3 weeks. One day, as he was walking
home from school, she landed on him. She had recognized him
and returned as though she had never been gone!
An early mentor was William Kilgore who had authored the
Birds of Minnesota. Mr. Kilgore, a non-falconer, gave him dutch
bells, a Mollen hood, and several falconry books. He was an early
associate of Bob Widmeier. He recalls two eyass tiercel peregrines
that Bob and a friend had taken from an eyrie on the St. Croix
River. They were spectacular fliers! He calls that Widmeier was
such a master craftsman/hoodmaker that he could just look at
a bird and then cut a perfect beak opening without so much as
a trial fit. Struthers said that Widmeier flew the best birds he
had ever seen until he began to watch Bob Anderson recently in
Minnesota/Iowa.
Another early mentor was legendary Ed Feeney of Spooner,
Wisconsin. They would travel along the upper Mississippi River
and its tributaries and located at least 15 peregrine eyries. One
year, Mrs. Feeney trapped 19 peregrines in a short time at Cedar
Grove. Struthers related that no matter what Feeney was doing,
he would take time off and trap hawks during the migrations:
Escanaba, Michigan in the fall, and Whitefish Point, Michigan in
the spring. Struthers himself enjoyed trapping along the north
shore of Lake Superior under Silver Creek Bluff. They would
watch peregrines “flicker hunting along the tops of bushes. He
would watch pairs of peregrines engage in cooperative hunting of
nighthawks – the tiercel waiting on while the falcon skimmed the
surface of the river. He would find where the birds would cache
their kills – sometimes as many as 10 to 15 head.
He was a keen observer of natural history. While trapping he
would watch merlins ring up after small birds, catch them, and
then release them. They would stoop and repeat the catch and
release several times. He recalled catching a merlin that was nearly
as large as a tiercel peregrine.
Dana Struthers was involved in the conservation community.
Through Widmeier he met Duck Stamp artist Kouba who became
a close friend. They met the legendary Captain Knight (Phillip
Glasier’s uncle) who came to the Minnesota Natural History
Society with his Golden Eagle, Mr. Ramshaw. Struthers said the
eagle was so old that it would hit people in the audience when he
would fly above them to the stage.
Dana enjoyed photography. He had a large slide collection and
associated with well known wildlife photographers such as
the Craigheads, the Murrays, Captain Knight, Emil Lehrer. He
published in the “Minnesota Naturalist” frequently with Forest
Lee (who once photographed 15-20 peregrines sitting on a wire
in the Aleutians!).
Around 1953, he took a leave of absence and travelled to Europe.
He visited with the Dutch falconer Dykstra and the famous
English artist George Lodge. He brought back hoods from the
renowned Otto Kalls. He asked Lodge who his favorite artist
was – and Lodge said Joseph Wolfe. He celebrated Lodges 93rd
birthday with him. He recalls that the week before Lodge had
wandered off 8 or 10 miles to see the roots of a tree he wanted
to paint. His friends had to go find him! He also said they Lodge
greatly admired the American wildlife artist Fuertes.
Dana Struthers lived the early history of American falconry!
A LIFELONG FALCONER in the
EARLY HISTORY of AMERICAN FALCONRY
PHOTOS:
Top: Passage Falcon, 1953
Middle: Hawk Mountain, 1956
Bottom: Dana enjoyed shing
Observer of natural
history and involved
in the conservation
community, Dana lived
the early history of
American Falconry.