Gary Boberg, North American Falconers Association, Jamey Eddy
My Friend Pete by Charlie Porter
All of us who were lucky enough to have Pete
Watzke in our lives experienced a horrible
loss with his passing. But, we realized how
fortunate we are that our lives interacted with
Pete was one of my closest friends since our
meeting in the early 1970s. Always fit, Pete was
the best tree climber, surfer and athlete among
the southern California coastal falconers.
His falconry accomplishments included
being the only austringer I know to catch
multiple snipe with a Cooper’s Hawk. He
was an incredible merlin trapper and a most
skilled hood-maker. Incredibly, his unequaled
craftsmanship was accomplished despite his
crippling rheumatoid arthritis. His hands, feet
and shoulders were badly affected. If I hadn’t
known Pete and hadn’t seen his hoods, and
had been shown pictures and x-rays of his
hands, I would never have believed that such
a beautiful, perfectly crafted hood could have
possibly been made with those hands.
Pete dealt with that conditions ups and
downs for decades. Even in the worst of
times, his resilience and refusal to be defined
by his condition was an inspiration. While
in his presence, it was easy to forget that he
was disabled by his disease – mainly because
Pete was such a sweet, kind, and genuinely
good person. He was childlike, without being
childish, in his fascination with the natural
world. He was always catching lizards,
flying hawks and falcons, fishing or finding a
fascinating insect. Petes vitality and zest for
life was contagious and a huge demonstration
of positive life energy. His flame burned
brighter than anyones.
I hawked with Pete for countless hours. I
hiked the dry forest jungles of Costa Rica with
him. These are some of the best memories of
my life. Knowing Pete was like winning the
great lottery of life – all of us who were his
friends were given a huge gift of friendship.
Pete was the personification of a life lesson
in resilience, positive energy, and success in
being a sweet loving person. He is very much
Countless Adventures with Pete
by Mike Crago
Charlie Porter and I had a discussion recently. I started
by saying that I still find myself hitting auto dial to call
Pete a couple times a week. Charlie’s comment to me
was there are several of us that were lucky enough to be
honorary Watzke brothers.
My relationship with Pete started over 40 years ago on a
quest to find merlin nests south of the Canadian Border.
Over the years we found dozens of merlin eyries of
several sub-species from monumental rock walls sharing
the same breeding grounds as their larger cousins the
peregrine falcon, to my own back yard where the bird
feeder became a regular source of protein for a city
dwelling pair.
I could write a book on the adventures of hiking in
multiple states, in monumental places where we knew
that very few human feet if any had ever touched and the
experiences that we had on this journey. Our adventures
took us on countless trips and hundreds of thousands of
miles while Pete would talk endlessly expanding on every
detail of whatever rant he was on, (Pete was long winded
as hell). Whether it was on a butte near the Canadian
border peering into a merlin nest or on a boat in the
Gulf watching hundreds of arctic peregrine falcons on
migration, Pete could never get enough of raptors and
loved falconry.
Petes devotion to falconry kept him alive much longer
than most people that have dealt with his debilitating
disease. They say that necessity is the mother of invention
but for Pete it was the Merlin. Pete was the first and is the
best master micro Dutch hood maker ever. Pete carved
his first merlin Block from an antique oak table leg that
his mother was throwing in the trash and this was the
beginning of a new generation of hoods. Petes attention
to detail and his stitching is unparalleled to this day. If
you wanted to make a hood shy falcon hoodable, you
used a Watzke!
Pete almost always had a smile on his face, even when he
was in severe pain. Over the years our friendship grew
well beyond falconry as Pete truly was like a brother to
Since Petes passing I spend a lot of time replaying
memories of our adventures. I can only hope that Pete
is in a place with all of the old timers, with high flying
flacons, and abundant quarry.
You Are Missed Pete!
A heart of gold by Hub Quade
Not sure the first time I met Pete, probably around 1988. I believe I met him through Kent Christopher. Pete
was helping Kent to put together a mews for his falcons. My first memory of Pete is helping somebody out.
One time I needed to have our bathroom floor done. Pete came over and helped out getting it done.
Every so often Pete would call. I think he just wanted to talk and visit. Not wanting or needing anything. Just
talk and visit. Not often someone does that now days.
As many know, Pete had a love of Merlins. He was always excited to talk about and to fly them. As many also
know, it was amazing the craftsmanship he was able to put into making a hood. Even more so in to a merlin
hood, and doing the fine micro sewing job that he did.
Many people loved Pete for his kind heart. He touched many that way. His heart, kindness and love for
falconry and friends is his legacy. He will be missed.
His heart,
kindness and
love for falconry
and friends is his
Despite having crippling rheumatoid arthritis for a large part of his life that
affected his hands, feet and shoulders, Pete made beautifully detailed
hoods, as seen above.