Bruce and Evelyn Haak, Ben Elliott, Karen and Larry Cotrell, Ronald S.
Kearney, Oregon Falconers Association
George Peden, M.D.
Doctor, Falconer and Friend
By Bruce Haak
eorge Peden (1938 to 1991) was born and raised in Redmond, Oregon, and developed a keen interest in birds of prey at a young
age. As a young man, he corresponded with Col. Luff Meredith, the founding father of American falconry, and tested his skills
with kestrels. Fortunately for George, his uncle Ralph Elliott lived near Smith Rocks where Georges meanderings among the trees
and high cliffs brought him first-hand experience with many species of nesting raptors, including the local prairie falcons.
George was a serious student and did not keep hawks while attending Oregon State University (OSU) in the 1950s. However, one
of his classmates had captured a peregrine and was hunting ducks in the Corvallis area. Occasionally, George joined him in the
field. Upon completing his Bachelor’s degree, and a 4-year tour of duty as a Naval officer, he studied at the Oregon Health Sciences
University to become a physician. After completing his formal education, he worked in northern California. In 1974, he returned
to Klamath Falls, OR with his wife Martha, where his interest in falconry was rekindled. At the time, his attention turned to prairie
falcons as well as captive breeding. He would eventually obtain peregrines for breeding stock and produce Peales falcons, only the
second person after Larry Schramm to do so in the state. George also produced the first hybrid falcon in Oregon by inseminating my
9-year old passage female prairie falcon “Kudu with peregrine semen. The sole offspring of this breeding was a tiercel, called “Mutt,
flown for many seasons by Randy Carnahan.
I spent a lot of time at George and Marthas home in Klamath Falls while studying prairie falcons in Tule Lake, CA for my Master’s degree at OSU. Later on, we would hawk ducks along the farmed verges of Klamath
Lake, hawk partridge in Idaho, and exchange peregrines for breeding. As a physician, he worked harder and slept less than anyone I know. Our dinners were frequently interrupted so he could deliver a baby in the nearby
hospital. Upon his return home, he could pick up the topic of the conversation without skipping a beat. A healer, an outdoor enthusiast, and a rabid reader, he seemed to be interested in, and know something pertinent
about, almost everything. He was blessed with a truly incredible mind. In his role as a small-town doctor, he brought many of his neighbors into the world, and also watched a number of them leave. But through it all, he
seemed willing to nurture the soul of anyone in need.
He’d told me more than once that he wanted to die with his falcon in the air. It was to be a prophetic statement in that the tiercel peregrine I gave him in 1991 was the last creature to see
him in this world. George was a large man with an even larger heart, which was his eventual undoing. The passing of friends like George leaves a void that, sadly, can never be filled.
George in Klamath
Falls, 1977.
I met George Peden sometime in 1973-74. At that time he
was trying to get back into falconry after all his years in
the military and medical school. He had finally gotten to
the point that he felt he could practice falconry with the
dedication that it deserves.
Oregon at that time was in the painful process of trying
to normalize the stringent regulations imposed on the
fledgling falconry community after we forced Oregon
to accept our sport through legislation. Although we
had “legal falconry”, the only problem was that actual
recognizable falconry was impossible with what they left
Our fledgling club, Oregon Falconers Association, had
fought against great odds to even get our foot in the door.
As the second elected President of OFA it was up to me
to see if we could overcome the ingrained distrust of our
motives. ODFW is governed by a panel of commissioners
appointed by the Governor. Hearings were held once
each year in Portland Oregon to decide rules concerning
hunting and fishing.
I, quite frankly, was in over my head. I had little money,
time or experience to spend traveling to Portland from
the far end of the state to talk to these people and present
a viable alternative to the prohibitive rules imposed by
a Department that did not want to have to deal with us.
Since our numbers were about 26 people in all, the fight
was doubly hard.
Here is where George stepped in. George, and his wife
Martha, had a habit of adopting, feeding and nurturing
anyone studying or interested in raptors. Several
wandering college students were the beneficiaries of their
George would take time off from his physician duties to
go to Portland to help and guide me in my presentations
to the commission. Through his encouragement, support,
and personal charm, in our meetings, we were able to ease
the suspicions of the ODFW and put OFA on a path to a
trusted relationship with the Department.
We were also dealing with the federal fish and wildlife
officials concerning captive breeding, and being able to
use the progeny in falconry. Several of us were driving to
one of the hearings, and had to go to the USFWS first.
George spotted a flower shop. He yelled for us to stop
at the shop. He went in and bought a large bouquet of
flowers. We all trooped into the main office and George
in his booming voice stated that he had “flowers for the
Boss”. He gave them to the secretary, Tami Tate Hall. She
was the one that dealt with and helped us on an every day
basis, and richly deserved much more than flowers. I feel
safe in saying that our reputation was greatly improved by
this simple, very astute act.
I find it quite difficult to describe George. The words all
sound a bit too flowery and flattering, but in truth that
description fits him to a tee. He was a big man with a
booming voice. He was generous to a fault. He had a habit
of finding “starving” college kids that were in the wildlife
fields, and feeding them with Marthas willing help. My
wife and I spent many an evening gathered around his
house eating and talking about the different aspects of
raptors. It always struck me as amusing. George lived in
one of the more affluent areas of town. While George
and Martha were never “that way”, some of Georges
neighbors were most likely aware of the “riff raff bird
people that were regular and welcomed visitors.
He was tireless in his pursuit of falconry. We spent many
days scouting the local ditches and ponds with our
falcons. I wasn’t with him when he died, but the guy who
was, told me that George had collapsed while his falcon
was in the air over ducks. His falcon, when George did
not respond to him, landed on his chest as he lay on the
Dr. George well knew that his heart would someday fail,
but that did not deter him. I never saw him discouraged
or cranky. He took life and relished every minute of it.
by Larry Cottrell, Jordan Valley, Oregon