Potomac Falconers Association, North American Falconers Association, Mike and
Karen Yates, Alan and Venice Beske, Bob Collins, David Parks, Steve Chitty, Duane
Skuce, David Kyger, William Maguire, Luther L. Huff, Matthew Frey, Teddy Moritz,
Michael Moreland, Bill Barbour
Floyd caught many things in his life but I
count myself as one of his greatest catches.
Little did I know, as a young falconry
apprentice awakening at 4:00 AM to make
the long dark drive to Frostburg, Maryland
to meet Floyd at daybreak in the hopes of
trapping my first bird on Big Savage Mountain,
that it would be I who would be ensnared by
his friendship and faith.
I will forever be thankful to Floyd for being
an intrepid guide on the slopes of my life's
mountain. I will do my best to keep the trails
marked for the next generation and maybe,
just maybe, by his example, I will blaze a few
of my own. I'll see you again on the mountain
shortly, my good friend.
My first times with him were on the ridge trapping.
My father and I would listen to him expound upon
his knowledge informed by years of experience. He
could tell the weight of a bird simply by holding
it. He was amazing! Often we would pass the
prime-time trapping hours well into the evening,
just talking in his blind. We became friends. He
mentored me in so many ways.
Recently, I had the occasion to instruct a group of
Eagle Scouts who had visited to see my birds and
learn about falconry. After a couple of hours of
bird talk, one parent asked, ™where did you learn
all of this?∫ I pointed to Floyd's picture on the wall
and said, ™from the master.∫
He is now with his master in Heaven. And I long
for the day when I will see him again.
Memories from friends
Matt Frey
Jason Caldwell
From his wife Sharon:
Floyd was passionate about his
interests. Each interest occupied
and defined seasons of his life.
I was proud to be his wife and
partner through many of those
seasons and I will miss him forever.
Floyd E. Presley, Jr.
December 19, 1937 – January 2, 2016
By Jason Caldwell and Matthew Frey
loyd Presley lived a life outside the safe hedges and soft comfort of
convention. It would take a weighty volume written by adventure
novelists like of London or Stevenson to chronicle its gritty richness
and raw vigor.
Floyd’s persona and life were consistent with that of the archetypical heroes
in those masculine fables. He grew up rough and tough who, out of necessity,
learned to use his fists to defend himself–quite adroitly –when called to do
so. He found employment for those skills as a motorcycle gang enforcer and,
more gainfully, in the Army National Guard. Despite the his surrounds, out
of concern for maintaining his wits and composure, and as a natural athlete,
he eschewed tobacco and alcohol, earning the moniker Straight Arrow.
Floyd was an avid hunter. Many hunters know their way around the woods
but few are true woodsmen. Floyd was the latter. He was an accomplished marksman.
After rabbit hunting with a shotgun became too easy, he began hunting with a pistol.
He would point-shoot the rabbits on the flush, often with a head-shot. Floyd always
used dogs, obedient to voice commands. He bred and trained beagles, black and tan
coonhounds, Chesapeake Bay retrievers, dachshunds, and Jack Russell terriers.
In 1963, Floyd found and embraced falconry as the arena in which to exercise his
adventurous spirit. Floyd and his brother, Jimmy, along with good friend, George
Bittrolff, became entranced by falconry. Soon, Floyd’s other brother, Hank, became
similarly enthralled. Getting started was not easy for them; they didn’t know any
falconers. They had as a resource only an old English falconry book. They were
determined to become falconers even if it meant weathering the difficult learning curve
by trial-and-error. They began road trapping red-tails and, after developing a successful
training regime, taking squirrels, the areas most abundant quarry. By late 1964, they
flew their red-tails in casts of two or three. At the time, there simply wasn’t a rule that
stated unequivocally that it couldn’t be done. They didn’t use scales but rather judged a
hawk’s readiness by her response and the feel of her keel.
Floyd trained many species: American kestrels, a broad-winged hawk, Cooper’s
hawks, goshawks, a great horned owl, a merlin, a sharp-shinned hawk, red-tailed hawks and many Harris hawks. Floyd
successfully flew a peregrine x prairie hybrid, a Harris x Ferruginous hybrid and a Harris x Cooper’s hybrid named Mulder
(after the X-Files character). Harris and Cooper’s were Floyd’s favorites.
As a falconer for over fifty years, Floyd caught many kinds of quarry: grey squirrels, cottontail and jackrabbits (both in great
numbers), ducks, quail, pheasants, woodcock, ruffed grouse and dove.
In the 1970s, Floyd began breeding Harris’s hawks. His birds were renowned
for being talented game-catchers. His best-known bird, Elvis, caught over 1200
rabbits in his lifetime. Floyd produced over 300 Harris’s hawks. He also bred
golden eagles and European sparrowhawks.
In 1978, Floyd became a federal raptor bander. He was a master raptor trapper,
banding well over 4,000. Many falconers learned how to trap birds from his
Floyd also rehabbed raptors and performed raptor education programs for
state parks, schools, camp programs, and, in recent years, for Bible schools,
church groups, and Bible camps. He was also an amateur herpetologist
focusing on rat, corn, and king snakes.
Floyd was a proud leader of the Potomac Falconer’s Association. He was an active
member of the North American Falconer’s Association and its southeast director in
the early 90s. Floyd also maintained an active membership in the NRA.
Additionally, Floyd loved to read and write. He authored two books, Savage Early
Maryland, Books I & II that drew upon his intense interest in American history,
particularly his fascination with native cultures in colonial Maryland.
Without doubt, within the paradigm of falconry, such was his experience, creativity,
and willingness to teach that there are few practitioners today that have not been
touched by Floyd’s contributions to our comprehension and practice of catching
game with a raptor.
As impressive as Floyd’s falconry resume might be, he ultimately recognized that
his legacy would not reside within his achievements in the sport. Somewhere along
the way, Floyd realized something profound and this memorial would not be in
keeping with his wishes were it not mentioned that, at some point, perhaps in a
quiet moment reflecting on the day’s flights, Floyd came to a recognition that, as
magnificent and beautiful as the birds to which he had devoted his life were, how
much more glorious is the Creator who fashioned them.
In lieu of that recognition, Floyd progressively turned his life over to God, accepting
Christ as his Savior and finding new purpose in serving people and showing God’s
love to those who weren’t familiar with it. Those that knew him witnessed the change
in his life. A man who was once hard as nails would tenderly weep when he pondered
how God could accept him despite his flaws, mis-steps, and failings.
Despite his new calling, Floyd’s previous exploits in the sport were not
lost to vanity. His credentials and the respect that he had earned in
falconry circles imparted to him a platform that allowed him to share his
faith with people who otherwise would dismiss any attempt at conveying
the Gospel. For many, if Floyd spoke, you listened.
Without doubt,
within the paradigm
of falconry, such
was his experience,
creativity, and
willingness to teach
that there are few
practitioners today
that have not been
touched by Floyd’s
contributions to our
comprehension and
practice of catching
game with a raptor.