The Tradition of Hunting with Golden Eagles
For more than 2,000 years, falconry and hunting with large golden eagles in countries like Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan or Mongolia is a unique modality and part of the ancient tradition.
It is said that small villages were dependent on the skill of the Berkutchi or master falconer and his deadly bird of prey. They had the responsibility of providing skins and meat for the entire town. This was important especially in winter when clan survival was difficult.
The Golden Eagle is one of the largest eagles and has a life span of up to 40 years. Its wings reach a range of 2-2.5 meters. It is dexterous in flight, brave, strong and has amazing vision.
Training eagles can take up to 4 years. The process is time consuming and requires daily attention. During this time, a friendship is established between a man and a bird. Not all eagles can be trained, but those that do show intense loyalty. The majority of birds begin training as chicks and are given a special hood (tomogo). Berkutchi (hunter) feeds the bird, sings songs, says warm words, taming the bird to its voice. Later, the golden eagle will learn to respond only to its master’s call.
When a golden eagle is trained and has almost reached adulthood, the bird is shown the skin or fur of those animals which a golden eagle should later hunt. Thus, a golden eagle is used to the smell and peculiarities of its prey. All this is done with the help of special commands. The training continues by dragging fox fur behind a running hunter from a mountain slope or a galloping horse. The hunter takes off the volume, the golden eagle quickly looks back, wings and flies from the height to the prey. Immediately after grabbing the prey, he pushes his sharp claws in and with the help of strong legs the golden eagle strikes the victim. In the process of training, the golden eagle is never tethered and always returns after killing its prey. They even manage to get the bird to kill the prey while scarcely leaving a mark on its fur. Sometimes golden eagles are taught to hunt in pairs, on strong predators like a young deer, wolf or goat.
The hunting season with golden eagles starts in October and ends in February. The cunning bird in tandem with the hunter is capable of killing a dozen badgers, up to 50 foxes, and a couple of wolves during the season.
Moreover, nowadays, hunting with golden eagles is a national sport in Kyrgyzstan. Visiting Kyrgyzstan you get unique opportunity to meet famous local hunters. Also, you have the opportunity to take part in the annual Salbuurun festival (hunters’ competition), to see training and hunting demonstration of birds of prey, to hold and touch the bird, to evaluate the wingspan and speed of diving, and to get unforgettable emotions.