Minnesota Falconers Association, Wisconsin Falconers Association
1998 NAFA Journal
Dr. Frances Hamerstrom 1907-1998
—By Alan Beske
Honorary NAFA member Fran Hamerstrom died
on August 29, 1998. She was 90 years young.
Born Frances Carnes Flint December 17, 1907
in Needham, Massachusetts to a wealthy and
cultured Boston family, she was tutored for a life
in high society. But Fran chose another path.
Early in life Fran was possessed by an insatiable
curiosity and intense wonder about the natural
world. She followed that passion throughout her
She married Frederick (Hammy) Nathan
Hamerstrom in 1931. They shared adventures to-
gether for 59 years until Hammy’s death in 1990.
Both Hamerstroms studied at the Game
Conservation Institute of Clinton, New Jersey
and then at Iowa State College, Ames, Iowa
where Fran received her B.S. degree under Paul
Errington in 1935. From there, the Hamerstroms
studied under Aldo Leopold at the University
of Wisconsin-Madison where Fran, Leopold’s
only female graduate student, received her M.S.
degree in 1940. She was awarded an honor-
ary doctorate of science by Carroll College,
Waukesha, WI in 1961.
Fran ew her rst bird, a kestrel, when she was
12. Ultimately she hawked with, and was visited
by, falconers from around the world. She appears
on the rst lists of falconers published by the
Falconers’ Assn. Of North America in 1942, the
Falconry Club of America in 1954, and NAFA in
1962. In 1984, she was the rst woman and rst
American elected to honorary membership in the
Deutscher Falkenorden. By the ‘60s she was y-
ing golden eagles and attempting to breed them.
Many of her eagle experiences are described in
“An Eagle to the Sky,” (Iowa State Univ Press,
1970). Fran was an expert raptor trapper and her
book “Birding with a Purpose, Of Raptors, Ga-
boons, and Other Creatures” (Iowa State Univ
Press, 1984) contains many tips on trapping. Her
books were often illustrated by falconer/NAFA
members such as Deann De La Ronde, Robert
Katona, Jack Oar and Jonathan Wilde.
Fran spent decades studying what many falcon-
ers consider the ultimate quarry and which she
considered the wildest creature, the prairie
chicken. Ori the same study area near Plaineld,
Wisconsin she became curious about a mostly
unexplored potential falconry bird, the harrier,
and investigated its natural history for decades.
Her books “Strictly for the Chickens” (Iowa State
Univ. Press, 1980) and “Harrier, Hawk of the
Marshes, the Hawk that is Ruled by a Mouse”
(Smithsonian institution Press, 1986) document
her insights into these fascinating birds. Her long
term kestrel study is still ongoing.
The Hamerstroms participated in the Internation-
al Peregrine Conference in Madison in 1965 that
led to the banning of DOT and at which the pos-
sibility of captive breeding to save the peregrine
from extinction was rst discussed. Formation
of the Raptor Research Foundation in 1966, of
which both Hamerstroms were very active mem-
bers, was also an outgrowth of the Peregrine
Fran served as Chairman of NAFA’s Legal
Committee in the ‘60s and was instrumental in
the efforts to get falconry recognized as a legal
hunting sport on the federal level. She gave up
ying for 5 years during this period to devote her
energy to the legalization effort. Fortunately, Fran
lived to see the culmination of those efforts with
the legalization of falconry in all 49 of the conti-
nental states this year.
Shortly before her death, Fran was awarded fal-
conry’s most prestigious award, the joint NAFA/
Archives of American Falconry North American
Falconry Heritage Award.
Fran is survived by her children, Alan of Arnold,
MD and Elva Paulson of Roseburg, OR,
one brother, Putnam Flint, Weston, MA and
two grandchildren, Lita Judge and Rebecca
Bengtson, as well as scores of gabboons, biolo-
gists, falconers, artists and friends who were
mentored and inspired by the Hamerstrom spirit.
Fran at College of DuPage County, Illinois. Fran was
keynote lecturer at wild bird symposium. ca. 1989
Jonathan Wilde’s 1978 watercolor, “Out Back”,
depicting a Sharp-shinned Hawk near Fran Ham-
erstrom’s house in Plaineld, Wisconsin. Wilde
housesat for the Hamerstroms for twelve years
while “Fran and Hammy went to Texas and Mex-
ico, partly to escape the winter and of course to
work with birds -- Harris Hawks in Texas and Os-
prey along the Baja Gulf in western Mexico.” The
house is depicted in many of her books and the
view would be familiar to any male guest who had
to use the outhouse “out back.”
L-R: Frederick and Frances Hamerstrom,
Jack and Connie Oar at Oars farm ca. 1988