Minnesota Falconers Association, North American Falconers Association
en was born on June 5th, 1936, on
the wind swept plains in Nome,
North Dakota. He was raised on
a farm and spent most of his boyhood in
the great outdoors camping, fishing and
hunting. He always had a passion for nature.
His gentle spirit and calm demeanor made
him a favorite companion to everyone, and
all who met him loved and respected him.
He received his basic art skills from Art
Instruction Inc. and the Minneapolis School
of Art. Much of his artwork deals with birds
of prey, hawks, owls, and eagles.
He worked in the Art Department at General
Mills for 42 years where he met his wife,
Nancy. Ken and Nancy had four children: Tammy, Keith, Troy and Kurt.
Ken had an interest in falconry as a grade school youngster and Bob Widmeier was
his mentor as he learned the sport. Ken held a Master Falconry Permit and trained
and flew five different species of North American hawks throughout his falconry
career; Kestrel, Red-tailed Hawk, Goshawk, Coopers Hawk and Peregrine Falcon. In
all, he flew 18 of his own hawks from 1964-2001, keeping a handwritten notebook
that included details about each of the birds, a hunting log, and notes about where he
He enjoyed falconry meets and was always flying his birds. During the hunting
season his three oldest kids could be found tromping the brush for their dad in
search of game. Following in her dad’s footsteps, Tammy also became a licensed
falconer and flew a Kestrel and a Red-tailed Hawk. Ken was an enthusiastic falconer
all of his life. He was a member of North American Falconers Association and was a
founding and Honorary member of the Minnesota Falconers Association.
by Tammy Holmer (Kens Daughter)
Ken held a Master Banding Permit and for more than 30 years
trapped and banded on Moose Mountain, north of Duluth. For many
of these years, Tammy, who also held an associate banding permit,
trapped, banded and sat in the blind with her dad. Whenever there
was a lull in the action, they would get out the coffee and a sandwich
and it was guaranteed to bring in a bird. One special time, it was their
first peregrine falcon that came in just as he poured the coffee.
He raised homing pigeons where he lived in New Hope, Minnesota,
in the 1970’s. Keith and Tammy would ride off on their bikes, each
with a couple pigeons, taking them further and further each time to
train them to fly back home. The kids loved riding back as fast as they
could to hear Ken announce whose bird had made it back first. Ken
continued to raise pigeons until the last few years of his life.
Ken was skilled at leatherworking and made falconry equipment for
himself and his fellow falconers. Hoods, bags, leashes and excellent
falconry bells were his most sought after items. He also enjoyed
archery and made many traditional bows and arrows. Family get-
togethers often involved shooting at the various targets set up on his
The Artist
Family man
In Memory of Ken
Remember years ago when Readers Digest had
a monthly series called “My Most Unforgettable
Character”? Well, for me, that person would be Ken
I met Ken in 1974 when I was 23 years old and joined
the newly formed Minnesota Falconers Association.
I quickly discovered that Ken was the go-to person
representing the club to new members. I had become
a falconer as a junior in high school but had not
practiced the sport since then because of joining the
service, college, and getting married. He immediately
made me feel welcome!
As a new member, I was much honored to be invited
to Ken and his charming wife Nancy’s home just a
few miles from me in New Hope, MN. They were so
pleasant, cordial and friendly. It soon became apparent
that Ken was extremely knowledgeable about falconry
and raptors. From those first meetings and through
the many wonderful years to follow, he offered his
opinions and views and helped me a great deal in
many areas.
We were good friends for decades, hunted together in
winter and played golf in the summer. As a friend and
mentor, he could be counted on to be supportive, even
when things did not go quite as hoped. For example,
I had a breeding chamber at my home for a pair of
Lanners. Ken loved to come over during his lunch
hour and peer through the peephole and watch the
pair during the early spring. He, and I, were a little
disappointed that the pair produced only infertile
eggs. However, Ken was consistently positive, helpful,
and encouraging throughout.
Ken was a gifted artist in multiple media. Many
falconers and I appreciated and used his leather
falconry gear and well-designed acorn style bells.
Ken will be greatly
missed by me and
all the falconers in
Minnesota. What
made him so special?
He was welcoming
and willing to
share his wealth
of experience and
knowledge with all
who were fortunate
enough to have
met him. He was
never arrogant or
judgmental. He was
a gracious and great
man, a pleasure to
know! Thank you
Ken Holkestad!
A little hunting
I went hunting with Ken many times but this one
instance sticks in my mind. It was the end of January,
about 1975. A group of us went hunting with our
birds by the Mississippi River in South St. Paul. The
snow was about two feet deep. Some of us wore
snowshoes. Ken brought Baron, his well-trained tierce
Red-tail. He posted Baron in a tree as we started
beating the brush trying to move quarry. A rooster
pheasant exploded out of the snow in front of us
and flew about ten feet off the ground. We started
yelling of course. I looked up at Baron. He was calmly
watching the whole event. The pheasant flew about
150 yards and landed behind a tree. THAT IS when
Baron moved. He flew exactly to where the pheasant
had landed and grabbed it. No fuss, like it was no big
deal – he knew exactly what he was doing. Ken ran
over and picked up Baron with his dead rooster. Easy
as pie. Not the most spectacular flight I have ever seen,
but so effective I remember it clearly all these years
later. Ken was a cool falconer!
An Unforgettable
by Marc Rude
As a friend and mentor, he could be counted on to be supportive, consistently positive,
helpful and encouraging...even when things did not go quite as hoped.
bird bander