Fred Q. Casler was born in Delta, Ohio on January 3, 1903 to
John Maynard Casler and Florence Quiggle. His mother passed
away when he was 13, a very difficult adjustment for young
Fred. For the next few years he lived with many members of his
mother’s family and he moved frequently. Due to a high school
prank Fred and his classmates pulled off at school (a stink bomb
in the furnace), Fred was expelled and was unable to graduate.
Afterwards he attended one semester at Dayton University earning
him the equivalent of a high school diploma.
Fred joined the Army Air Corps hopeful of an opportunity to learn
how to fly airplanes. This was at a time when flying was becoming
popular among young men and a lot of exciting things were
happening. The timing was right, and he learned to fly. He also
learned aerial photography while in San Antonio. He met Helen
Shands, and was married in October, 1928.
After his military stint, they moved to Dallas where Fred worked
for Fairchild Aerial Photography. The post-war petroleum industry
was booming and the need for pilots trained in aerial photography
was in great demand. During the depression he lost his job with
Fairchild. In 1933, on a return trip from Ohio to introduce his
wife and first daughter, Jackie, to his relatives, they drove through
Poteau Oklahoma to visit friends. They were enticed to stay in
the area, and Fred opened a small portrait studio to tide him over
until the depression improved. Fred thought it was interesting that
people were willing to part with hard-earned money to pay for
family photos when it was difficult to afford the necessities of life.
Their second daughter, Joellen, was born in Poteau and in June
1934 Fred moved his family to Tulsa, Oklahoma and started his
business, Aero Exploration Company. This was the height of the
oil boom in Oklahoma and
Tulsa was “the oil capital of the
It is not known how Fred
became interested in the art
of falconry. However, in 1935
he caught and trained his first
bird, a prairie falcon. He
built a weathering yard for her under a grape arbor to provide
shade, constructed a concrete bathing area in the shape of a
three leaf clover, and made a variety of falcon blocks. He built
a special “hawk house and a loft for racing pigeons. From then
on a life-long hobby ensued which immersed him in the art and
skill of making hoods, jesses and bells. Fred learned many of his
skills in leather-craft and bell-making from his close friend, Chief
Wolfrobe Hunt, a full-blooded native American from the Acoma
Pueblo Tribe. Wolf Robe Hunt was
an internationally known painter,
illustrator, silversmith and sculptor
having received honors and awards
in numerous western art museums
including Phillbrook and Gilcrease
Art Museums in Tulsa. With these
skills Fred worked constantly on hood
patterns and custom dyes to form
bells. He constantly researched the
perfect bell metallurgy, solder, and
fluxing techniques believing he could
perfect louder and more resonate
In 1940, Fred and Helens third
daughter Juliana was born. Shortly
after Pearl Harbor Fred, at the age of
37, enlisted in the Oklahoma National
Guard and went on active
duty again. He released
his birds and left Tulsa
with high patriotic ideals.
Deployed to Australia, he
spent three years flying
reconnaissance missions.
He was then transferred
to a base in Colorado
to finish his service
obligations. However,
his stay in Colorado was
short-lived. Col. Luff
Meredith, Base Commander
of the Army Air Base in
Great Falls, Montana was
able to have him quickly
transferred there. Fred and
Col. Merediths friendship
continued to grow and their
knowledge and expertise
in falconry was shared and
enriched during their life-
long relationship.
Fred was discharged from the
army in 1944 and returned
to Oklahoma to rescue and
rebuild his business. He was
again very involved in all aspects of falconry including
trapping and banding birds, and in honing his skills
in the making of hoods, bells and other accessories.
Fred loved sharing his ideas and patterns with fellow
falconers in the Falconry Club of America. He was a true
educator, always willing to share his expertise and new
insights in falconry.
As a matter of record, Fred is credited with being the
first Falconer in Oklahoma. In 1949 Fred and family
moved to an 80-acre estate southeast of Tulsa. Fred
pastured a few steers and maintained a native bluestem
pasture. His home was surrounded by a chain of lakes
stocked with game fish and teeming with native birds
and waterfowl. Fred trained his falcon on racing pigeons
and hawked meadow larks in his adjoining pasture
which was accessible by a simple walk-over stairs across
his fence. His weathering yard and mews were classical
and well appointed. His mews were actually constructed
FRED CASLER - January 3, 1903-March 9, 1965
as dual-purpose facilities. In addition to the normal
fittings one would find in a mews of the day, Fred had also
fitted nest ledges in side by side chambers with adjoining
barred windows that could be opened or closed. The
windows were for introducing the pairs” to each other.
The most surprising aspect of his mews was the fitting
of barred windows that hinged to the outside, allowing
the chamber to be opened or closed. Fred’s dream was
to breed peregrines, and then once the eggs hatched, to
open the window and allow the parents to come and go
and to hunt food for the young. Not too far-fetched,
but certainly the dream preceded the reality of future
successful breeding of falcons in captivity.
With the assistance of his close friend Hugh Davis,
Director of Tulsas Mowhawk Zoo, Fred rehabilitated
wounded raptors that were brought to local clinics and
the Zoo. Fred was a master bird bander and President
of the Tulsa Audubon Society. He made many public
appearances as guest speaker focusing on conservation of
birds of prey and their inherent value to the ecosystem.
He always brought a peregrine and expounded on the art
of falconry. He featured Morely Nelsons 16 mm movie
on falconry and his gyrfalcon Tundra. Ken Riddle
accompanied Fred on some of those programs bringing
his red-tailed hawk or a great horned owl. This was at
a time when one would often see dead raptors lined up
and hanging on fences. They were thought of as vermin
and would be shot on site at every opportunity by youth,
hunters and farmers.
Through the years Fred maintained a close friendship
with Col. Meredith, often visiting him on his ranch in
Montana, and trapping peregrines on Padre Island. Fred
flew his Cessna airplane to Padre Island each fall, and
together he and Luff and “Doc” Charles E. Hall would
trap for a week. Each day their newly trapped birds were
brought home and perched on the lawn and then brought
indoors on screen perches. They fed and handled the
birds each night and by the weekend had selected the
bird of their choice for training. They banded the others
on Saturday, fed, and then released them. In later years
others who trapped peregrines on Padre Island with Fred
were Daniel Slowe, Bill Hawkins, Ken Riddle and E.W.
“Sonnie Heiling. All were privileged to experience those
wild and free trapping adventures with Fred.
Fred was an artful man and loved sharing his crafts and
ideas with other falconers. Each year at Christmas he
would put a gift box together to send to falconer friends.
They were decorative gifts: two Canon hoods (tiercel
and falcon) were hand-tooled western-style and blocked
on plaster of Paris molds. Two pairs of hand-made bells
and classical hand-made swivels were also nestled in faux
velvet, all displayed in a transparent Plexiglas gift box.
When asked why he didn’t sell his wares to other falconers
Fred was quick to point out that if he ‘sold them it would
be like being saddled with another job. He didn’t need
another job and he enjoyed sharing his hobby with his
friends’. Fred was also fiercely opposed to all kinds of
commercialism in falconry believing that commercialism
would spoil falconry by attaching monetary values to
birds and equipment and thereby cheapen falconry by
emphasizing money over ethics.
Probably Fred’s most valuable and artistic contribution
to falconry was his craftsmanship and perfection in
making and fitting falconry equipment. His dedication to
falconry and tireless efforts to raptor conservation were
unheard of. He mentored several interested youths (who
had to be serious and persistent to gain an audience)
always demanding total commitment to the health and
well-being of the birds, and to ethical and honorable
falconry at home and in the field.
Several years earlier, Col. Hei Heiberg, Assistant to the
Commandant of the USAF Academy had invited Fred to
the newly established Academy and ask him for advice
on setting up the Falcon Mascot Program. Fred was
extremely excited with the consultant-ship and humbled
by the experience.
Fred died March 9, 1965 doing what he loved. Returning
from a pipeline photography session outside Aberdeen,
South Dakota he suffered a massive coronary on his
landing approach, coming to rest just off the end of the
runway, and surviving just long enough to have saved the
life of his assistant.
Fred was only 62 years old, still active in his work
and more involved in falconry than ever before. The
realization of the USAF Falcon Mascot program was
only a few years old but one of his most important
accomplishments. There were many other things left
undone in falconry that Fred had aspired to.
The rst Falconer in Oklahoma, Fred was a true educator, always
willing to share his expertise and new insights in falconry.
The realization of the USAF Falcon Mascot program
was one of his most important accomplishments.