Eagle hunting

Kazakh eagle hunter

Q: If bear hunters hunt bears, and elephant hunters hunt elephants, what do eagle hunters hunt?
A: Wolves.

No, really, this is no joke. The eagle hunters of Central Asia are so called not because they hunt eagles, but because they hunt with eagles. Eagles – Golden Eagles – are their weapon of choice. For hunting wolves. Now that is amazing.

Of course, you want to do this – immediately. But be aware, it is no mean feat to hunt with an eagle. You must first select and collect your bird while it is still a young chick. This will probably involve some climbing on a sheer cliff face high in the Altai mountains of western Mongolia.

You’ll then have to develop an intimate and constant relationship with your bird until it is big enough to hunt. It will wear a hood over its eyes so it learns to trust you.

Then one day you will mount your horse, eagle in hand, and travel to a commanding peak in the landscape. There you will release your eagle and it will soar toward the heavens, and you will feel supreme. Later your eagle will return with a fox and you will sit together by your campfire and share the meat.

You will live together in harmony for perhaps 20 years.

When you are ready, you will hunt wolves.

Eagle hunting

Many thanks to BBC photographer Tim Allen for permission to use his amazing photos. Look out for the BBC’s Human Planetprogramme on the eagle hunters.

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