A Wild Moment with Jack Hubley
Illustrated by Sandi Falconer
Interview with Jack Hubley, a master falconer and multi-media advocate for the natural world who has devoted the past 30 years to educating audiences about our wild neighbors. He is best known for his television program, "Wild Moments," a nationally syndicated half-hour wildlife program that airs on over 140 broadcast stations nationwide.
How did you first become involved with nature programs? What are some of the topics that you cover and which topics are you most passionate about?
I had never been on TV until, at age 36, I auditioned to host “Call of the Outdoors,” a hunting/fishing/conservation show that originated on WGAL in 1955. At the time, I was writing for Lancaster Farming Newspaper and doing some freelance magazine writing. I had done a magazine story about the creator of “Call of the Outdoors,” Harry Allaman. I interviewed Nelson Sears, the program director at WGAL, for that story. When the second host, Tom Fegely, decided to hang it up in 1987, Nelson called me and asked if I’d be interested in auditioning for the host spot. Of course, I said yes, although I was scared stiff. It took them from February until July to pick the new host, and I had to have a show ready to air the first week of August, 1987. So, I hit the ground running!
Since then, I’ve hosted three half-hour shows, including “Wild Moments,” a syndicated nature show that aired in 140 broadcast markets from 2000 to 2004. In addition, I had started my short nature vignettes, “A Wild Moment,” in 1995 and they have run continuously on WGAL until this week. My final Wild Moment airs Friday, April 28, at 5:30 p.m.
I traveled the world for the four years that I hosted my syndicated show, but I’m basically a home boy. I like to acquaint viewers with the wild animals that live all around us here in southeastern Pennsylvania. Each species is important to the ecology of our area, so it’s important to me that we get to know and appreciate all of them.
When did you start working with falcons? Do you work with any other birds? Which bird do you find most exciting to work with and which bird do you find easiest to work with?
Birds of prey have always been important to me. I decided to take the plunge and become a falconer in 1986, the year before I got into TV. An acquaintance from Warwick High, Mike Long, was a falconer, so I asked him if I could tag along to take pictures that I would, hopefully, use in some of the upcoming magazine articles I was writing. At first I took a look at this hunting craft and wrote it off as too much of a commitment - especially for a guy with a wife and two young children! But finally I stopped trying to resist and asked Mike if he would be my sponsor.
Falconry, by legal definition and tradition, is hunting wild game with trained birds of prey. It is the most heavily regulated field sport in the country. If you want to become a falconer you must: 1. serve a 2-year apprenticeship under a licensed falconer; 2. pass a written test administered by your state game agency; 3. build hawk facilities according to state and federal specs, and; 4. catch your first hawk. Falconry is more lifestyle than hobby.
Note that I said falconry is hunting with birds of prey. This includes many species of hawks (not just the falcons), and eagles. Among hawks, my first love is the goshawk. Of all the birds of prey, though, I enjoy training and flying golden eagles most of all. I’m currently flying Alpha, a female golden eagle that has been with me for nearly 14 years.
In addition to hunting with birds of prey, I also run a program called “The Falconry Experience” for Hershey Entertainment & Resorts. Although this is not, literally, a hunting program, we do use falconry techniques to train our birds and demonstrate their capabilities to the public.
I was told that your last television show airs this week. What will you miss most about hosting a wildlife show? What are your future plans?
What will I miss? For many years now, my Wild Moment segments have been a Q&A format, with viewers submitting questions, and often photos, about wildlife encounters they’ve had. I’m going miss opening my e-mail at the station because there was always something new and interesting popping up. I’ll also miss the opportunity to help folks understand the wildlife around them, and, in many cases, adopt a more tolerant attitude toward the wild animals that dare to cohabitate with us in our cities and suburbs. When you’re a wild critter, it’s often pretty dangerous to snuggle up to civilization!
As for future plans, I mentioned that I’ll continue doing my falconry program for Hershey, and I’ll also continue doing lectures with live, native wildlife. So, you might say that mine is only a 33-percent retirement.
I'm really curious, what does your family think about your job?
My wife has always been very tolerant about living with a nature nut in our Animal House. Of course, it’s easier to be tolerant when your mate’s avocation is also his vocation and puts food on the table. Our two daughters grew up surrounded by my menagerie, so I had the opportunity to brainwash them at an early age. Result: Neither of them seem to have any phobias, and both have a real appreciation for wildlife and the environment, in general. They realize that rendering our planet inhospitable to wildlife will mean the end of us, too.
Jack is an advocate for the Lancaster County Conservancy "because clean air, fresh water, and wild places are vital to every generation." The Conservancy is a non-profit natural land trust that focuses its energy and financial resources towards preserving open-space areas for continuing public recreation and educational use as well as providing methods and assistance by which concerned citizens can help protect these precious community conservation tools.