John and Vicki Swift
Butch Olendorff a Memorial
Richard R. “Butch” Olendorff was a charter
member of NAFA and a charter member of the
Raptor Research Foundation. In 1961 at age 17,
he and George Valiconyi worked their way from
Anchorage, Alaska to Denver, Colorado to at-
tend a falconry meeting at Hal Webster’s home.
They worked on a ship from Alaska to Hawaii
to Seattle, Washington. There they bought a
used vehicle and drove to Denver. That meeting
formed the North American Falconry Association
and many lifelong friendships. The next year
Butch and Dave Rosino came to the first NAFA
field meet in Reno, Nevada. There along with
possibly thirty hawks sitting on their perches we
saw two fine goshawks, two peregrines, and a
Cooper’s flown. The Thanksgivings of 1961 and
1962 had impacted our lives in a big way. Not
only had we seen the hawks, the equipment,
and the paintings and made friendships, but we
found out that there were men who studied rap-
tors professionally.
Unlike the high school age falconers from
Colorado, those high school falconers from
Anchorage, Alaska had a problem. The only rap-
tors they could get their hands on were gyr fal-
cons. As the story goes, while in high school,
they paid five dollars apiece for three eyas gyrs
from a native Indian girl. But Butch wanted to
fly accipiters. After age 17 he never flew another
By the time Butch had finished his Bachelors
degree in Washington state he had married
Sheri, and they had had their first child. Then
the Olendorffs moved to Colorado where Butch
started his PhD at CSU in Fort Collins.
Butch didn’t want to waste time. He went
straight through his doctorate program. While
working on his PhD, Butch took on the respon-
sibility of editor of NAFA’s Hawk Chalks and the
NAFA Journal. During this period, the Colorado
Hawking Club was formed and Butch edited
the CHC Journal, too. Butch was hawking then,
too. It was during that four year period that he
was obsessed with catching various sundries
with Cooper hawks and rabbits with a passage
red-tailed hawk. In the mid 1960s there were
many weekends when a dozen people would
get together. We were young and hungry to trap
hawks, find eyries, make equipment, go hawking,
and save falconry and raptors.
Butch was a scientist, author, administrator, vi-
sionary, mentor, husband, and father. He was
very important in the early years of the raptor
profession. He faced his lifelong illness with dig-
nity and humor. Butch had spent much time with
his family, despite his professional activities. He
started a youth soccer club and coached his chil-
dren’s soccer teams.
Butch established the Raptor Research and
Technical Assistance Center for the BLM in 1990.
He had also worked on the California condor
recovery team and the California Bald eagle and
Peregrine falcon working teams.
Over 25 years have passed, and many of the fal-
coners from Colorado in the mid 1960s joined
the Olendorff family in Boise, Idaho to pay last
respects to Butch. Dr. “Butch” Olendorff, age 50,
died Thursday, February 24, 1994 from diabetes
complications. Butch loved falconry meets, rap-
tor research meetings and parties where falcon-
ers and raptor researchers were in attendance.
Butch’s passing brought together a large group
of both types of his favorite people. He would
have liked that, but for us it was rough to ac-
knowledge our loss.
by Jack Stoddart, NAFA Journal, 1994