By ANSON NYGAARD/Montana State News
At the grassy base edge of mountain range is a place humans teach eagles to hunt again, where falconers help rescued golden eagles recover and gain back strength.
Rocky Connell is one of those falconers. He’s a 46-year-old son of a veterinarian, and grew up around animals in need of help. In this country golden eagles cannot be taken from the wild except in the case of rescue; a reality which makes the opportunity for him to fly and hopefully hunt with one a privilege.
An aspiring falconer must apprentice for at least two years before owning a bird, and must follow strict federal and state regulations as to what species they are permitted to trap or own. Over the years Rocky has put in countless hundreds of hours, and paid his dues.
Rocky’s day job leaves room for a life dedicated to birds. He bakes bread full-time for the Bozeman Co-op. Five days a week, his shift starts at four a.m., not ending until around one in the afternoon. By then his large light colored beard is usually made lighter with a dusting of bleached flour.