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Bart Russell

Shane Bullard

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Fred Q. Casler

1903 – 1965

Early Oklahoma Falconry History

an article written about Fred Casler by Ken Riddle:

Although falconry has been practiced for less than 100 years in the United States, Oklahomans have witnessed some early, quality falconry dating back to the mid 1930’s.

Fred Casler, a pioneering Oklahoma falconer trapped and trained his first raptor in 1935.

Fred Quiggle Casler was born in Delta Ohio January 3, 1903.  His father was a dentist and Fred attended Dayton University. He joined the Army Air Corps in the early 1920’s where he learned to fly, and became an accomplished aerial photographer.  He married his wife Helen, a native Oklahoman from Wewoka in 1928.  He then left the Army Air Corps and went to work for Fairchild Aerial Services until he was laid off due to the depression economy. He then moved his family to Poteau, Oklahoma where he established a small portrait photography studio and then later to Tulsa where he established the Tulsa Aero Exploration Company in 1938. Fred established his business in the building now known as “Boulder on the Park”.  At that time he resided with his wife and 3 daughters at 945 East 36th Pl. in Tulsa.  To care for his falcons he built a small hawk house with attached grape-arbor shelter on a shaded lawn, and provided a clover-shaped bath for the falcons.

Fred trapped his first falcon, a prairie falcon, and trained it in 1937.  During this time he hacked a kestrel and had trained hawks.

Fred joined the National Guard in the summer of 1940 and was subsequently sent to Australia for the entire year 1941.  When he returned from Australia Col. Luff Meredith, the base commander transferred him to the army base in Great Falls, Montana.  Col. Meredith is known as the “Father of American Falconry” and undoubtedly transferred Fred to his command because of a friendship and his interest in falconry.  They remained good friends and trapped and flew passage peregrine falcons together until near the end of their lives. When Fred returned to Tulsa from wartime service he found his business in shambles but was able to get it running and back to some semblance of productivity. Tulsa Aero Exploration Company purchased a Lockheed P-38L Lightning aircraft in 1946 to be used in aerial photography.

In 1949 Fred moved his family to a small ranch southeast of Tulsa.  The ranch was located just north of the land on which Union High School stands.  Fred flew his peregrines there almost daily during season.  He was an artist, and made hand-tooled leather falcon hoods, brass and silver falcon bells and hand-made falcon swivels.  He would not sell these but rather gave them as gifts to falconer friends.  Fred was truly a role model for young falconers and mentored a number of young falconers in the 1950’s and early 60’s.  He was an active conservationist who devoted his time to educating the public on the value of Oklahoma raptors at a time when they were considered vermin.  It was common to see 30 or 40 red tailed and red shouldered hawks hanging by their feet from barbed wire fences: victims of a senseless slaughter by gun hunters. Fred maintained a “breeding project” for peregrines at his Broken Arrow ranch for many years.  Although they never bred (wild-caught peregrines were too nervous and unsuited for captive breeding), Fred had the right idea.  His plans included opening the specially constructed breeding chamber to allow the young to fledge and return to the wild in a unique reintroduction and conservation project.


An article in the Tulsa World newspaper highlighting Fred Q. Casler, President of the Tulsa Aero Exploration Company demonstrating the powers of flight of the peregrine falcon during a lure-flying exercise for Audubon Society members.

Fred made presentations on falconry to local Wildlife and Conservation organizations all over the southwest.  A 35 minute, color, 16 mm movie by cinematographer and falconer Morlan Nelson entitled Modern Falconry was shown.  The 1950’s film featured Morley’s passage gyrfalcon “Tundra” hunting ducks and pheasants.


Fred in the back yard of his Tulsa ranch just north of present day Union High School. Five ponds surrounded his home.  The premises included a homing pigeon loft and a pair of high-ceiling free flight mews for his peregrines. In addition to making beautiful hand-tooled falcon hoods, brass and silver bells, and traditional swivels, Fred also attempted captive breeding with his peregrines and paired them in special-built facilities with nesting ledges that would be successful today if the right birds were employed.  Indeed they were facsimile prototypes of the successful 1960’s Cornell breeding chambers. He even planned to open hinged barred windows so that the parents could fly in and out after the young hatched!


Peregrine trapping on Padre Island was an exciting fall activity.  The Wooden Scotch box headset was one used for many years on Assateague Island by Dan Slowe who was an excellent falconer, game-hawker, and friend to Fred.


Fred, Erick Skov, and Dan Slowe in Corpus Christi Texas, 1962


Dr. Jim Enderson professor of biology at Colorado College conducting peregrine migration studies.  Fred was a master bird bander. He and Dan Slowe cooperated with Jim by providing banding and peregrine movement data on the Texas beaches.  Photo from 1963.


Fred Casler hood pattern.  The beak opening was small, so that it could later be cut to the hawks gape.


Fred Casler hood, generously donated to the OFA archives by Mr. Bob Collins


The mascot for Edison high school in Tulsa came about in part, because of Fred.  Below is an excerpt pulled out of a letter between Fred Casler’s middle daughter Jo Ellen Doremus, and Dr. Ken Riddle.  She wrote:

“The Edison eagle was an eagle that dad was rehabilitating at the time I was a freshman, and we were organizing all of the symbols at Edison.  I was in the first graduating class, so as a freshman, I was in the top class (for all 4 years).  As a class we got to choose colors, the mascot, etc.  I don’t remember all the details of how it happened except there were some who suggested the "Edison Light Bulbs,"  And most of us didn't like that.  I probably opened my big mouth and mentioned that we had an eagle, and that Dad would bring it to games...which he did.”


A write up by Mr. Casler about falconry in Oklahoma, submitted to the American Falconers Association in 1941.  By 1942 the club was called the Falconers' Association of North America, and by 1953 it was called the Falconry Club of America.  It's members list at that time still included Tulsa's Fred Q. Casler of Aero Exploration, and in 1956 the club makes a reference about Fred living at RR 4 in Broken Arrow.


Fred died March 19, 1965 after landing his Cessna during the throes of a heart attack.  A non-flying passenger was riding with him.  A soft crash landing at the end of the runway was the only secondary incident associated with the landing.


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