John and Vicki Swift
HAWK CHALK Vol. XXXVI, No. 1, April 1997
Tribute to Dave Vance
March 1, 1924 - April 21, 1996)
— by Blake Soule
About a year ago the falconry community and I
lost Dave Vance, a great man and dear friend, to
cancer. He got his rst bird at 14 and never lost
the love that he had for birds or wildlife in general
until the day he passed away. He was one of the
best friends I’ve ever had despite the 33 years of
age difference; for 14 years we hawked together.
Dave served in World War II in Europe as a med-
ic, and after his return continued his interest in
falconry and was considered one of the pioneers
of early US falconry. Over the years, Dave ew
longwings, shortwings and buteos, and was one
of the greatest lovers of raptors of all time. His
love of birds came rst and falconry was second
as he put the good of the bird before the fun of
the sport — he most always brought his bird to
the eld overweight for fear that underfeeding
would leave the bird weak and susceptible to dis-
Dave spent over two years organizing and laying
the groundwork for the legalization of falconry in
Tennessee; he’s responsible for our enjoyment of
the sport in this state.
Dave was a NAFA member since 1983. In 1991
I went to my rst NAFA Meet with Dave. After
ying longwings for around 15 years, Dave had
started ying Harris’ hawks with me. Neither
of us had ever seen a jack chased by a hawk,
and as we drove out we talked about how many
jacks we would take. We hunted 6 days and
drove home shaking our heads. So we returned
the next year for another shot, and drove home
again with nothing in the bag. We skipped the
next year, but returned in 1994. That year on
the rst morning of the Meet, Dave’s bird “Sam”
slammed a jack — if you could have seen the
look on his face, a 71-year-old man still fullling
his dreams.
Dave never had success in breeding his Harris’
hawks, another of his dreams. The day he came
home from the hospital, knowing that his life was
coming to a close, he wanted his bed set up in
the window so he could see the birds in the back-
yard. He asked me to put the male and female
together so maybe they would breed and he
could watch from the window. Dave only lived 10
more days but, on the morning he died, “Sam”
laid the rst of 3 eggs. After the funeral I took
birds and eggs to my home and put the eggs un-
der my bird (who had also laid an egg). The eggs
hatched and the offspring fullled the nal dream
that Dave had longed for.
Dave leaves behind four sons and daughters,
two stepdaughters and June, his wonderful and
gracious wife of 23 years.
Dave, Sam, Dolly 1976
Al Nye and Dan Cover (background),
Dave Vance with Harris’ Hawk on rabbit
A couple of ol’ duffers trying to catch something. From the looks on their faces,
I do not think they are having any luck. Dan Cover and Dave Vance.
Dec. 1988. One that did not get away.
A pond with a few trees and a large blackberry patch on the
bank. Old tree stumps were dumped at the edge of the briar
patch, which made a perfect home for rabbits and quail. One
snowy day I counted seven rabbit in or near the stumps.