Consultant David Ehlen is
an avid seeker of experience and adventure with a
serious curiosity streak.
Growing up steeped in the
great outdoors, the head of
ACME Business Consult-
ing’s Transaction Services
practice took up a sport
that may seem unusual, but is actually one
of the oldest sports still practiced today:
falconry. Ehlen is a Master Class Falconer,
who started practicing the art after college.
He says the birds are amazingly pure ani-
mals, and even explained some parallels
between falconry and his profession.
Out of Office...
ACME’s David Ehlen
Consulting: How did you get into falconry?
Ehlen: I grew up in the Midwest and on the prairies
of South Dakota. Bird hunting, fishing, those sorts
of things. I became aware you could actually keep
these birds under a federal license and actually hunt
with them. The more I got involved in it and the
more I studied it, it became clear it was something
that I wanted to do. It’s pretty complicated to get a
license—you go through a U.S. Fish and Wildlife
test, then you have to be sponsored by a falconer
who has at least a General Class license. There’s
an apprenticeship model and it takes a bunch of
time. I think the reason for that is to shake out the
passing interest in it. A lot of time people find they
just can’t care for them, so they build a bit of rigor
into the process to get a bird to make sure you’re
really committed to it.
Consulting: What is a Master Class Falconer?
Ehlen: It’s a level of permit from U.S. Fish &
Wildlife. You start out as a Novice, move to General Class then to Master Class. The point of distinction there is centered around how many birds
you’re allowed to keep. A Master Class falconer
can keep 3 when I last checked, and is qualified to
apply for breeding permits.
Consulting: What are some of the overlapping skill
sets between consulting and falconry?
Ehlen: Falconry is really rooted in process and discipline. There is a point you release the bird where
you lose all control of what’s going to happen.
You’ve got some stop-gap measures in there, you
can lure a bird down from the sky, you train them
to come down as your way of controlling the situation, but most of that moment of releasing the bird
is focused on preparation work. Are they flying in
the right weight? Are the weather conditions conducive to them having a controllable situation
where they’re not soaring and getting out? These
are birds that can literally be gone quickly. Part of
the discipline around falconry is rooted in preparation and making sure you’re very thorough. I think
it’s really process-driven. It’s a really disciplined,
process-driven sport. You also kind of get to learn
all these different things, try different things, meet
different people. Falconry is kind of an unusual
thing to be doing but it’s rooted in curiosity, which
is a reason I think a lot of us do consulting.
Consulting: What’s your favorite part of the sport?
Ehlen: For me the great part is checking into
something that’s really pure. The birds are just
absolutely amazing in terms of what they are. Nine
out of 10 birds of prey in the wild don’t live past
one year. The ones that do survive are perfect.
They’re top of the food chain predators, and are
really interesting. I look at it as wiggling my way
into a little slice of perfection. It’s very humbling.
There’s a point where you just have to say you
have no control over what happens next. That’s
pretty exciting. It also kind of keeps you grounded
in that, I’m going to prepare to the best of my ability everything that I can control because there’s
this moment I have to let go.
Consulting: How does it know to come back?
Ehlen: They’re not really social creatures, but they
build this level of acceptance with you and they can
imprint on you depending how young you get
them. It’s really this level of acceptance and trust,
it’s not affection like a dog. When things get kind
of dicey they will start looking for you, but things
happen pretty quickly at 150 miles per hour.
May 2013 Consulting