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Kyrgyzstan: Eagle hunting

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Eagle hunting | Kyrgyzstan | Asia

[Visited: July 2010]

When I arranged to go hunting with an eagle near Bokonbayevo near the southern shore of Issyk-Köl lake, I had romantic images of going out with an eagle and seeing what would happen. Things turned out to work a little differently, though. After I arrived in the town, and was having a late breakfast, a local guy in a training suit carrying a small black bag showed up. He appeared to speak English, and after a while, presented himself as the Eagle Man. He looked at me, opened his bag, and said: the rabbit! And indeed, inside I saw a quiet rabbit, looking at me with those innocent eyes rabbits can have.

Picture of Eagle hunting (Kyrgyzstan): Eagle on the hand of the eagle hunter

When the eagle hunter left to change and get his horse and eagle, I started to think again. Having seen the rabbit made me feel guilty somehow. Should I just disappear and take a shared taxi to the west? But that would not be very nice to the eagle man. So it was, that after ten minutes, I found myself walking next to Talgar on a horse, the eagle man, Tumara, his eagle; we were followed by a hunting dog. Right behind Talgar, a black bag tied to the saddle of the horse, which I knew to contain the rabbit. While walking the streets, it became clear that Talgar was a well respected man. With the eagle firmly places on his right arm, he now seemed to radiate some kind of authority that no one else had, and people looked up to him - and not just literally. At a house in the outskirts, he parked the hooded eagle in the street. When he came out again, he had dressed up in the traditional Kyrgyz costume with a Kyrgyz hat - and looked quite awesome.

Picture of Eagle hunting (Kyrgyzstan): Eagle in close-up: Tumara

A friend now joined him, and immediately asked me if I had not been in Osh. Since the showing of the documentary on TV in which I had been interviewed, people regularly recognized me and even knew my name: a strange sensation. We left the town behind, and walked into beautiful scenery. Open fields with yellow flowers, the mountains of the Tien Shan range, and on the other side, the blue waters of Issyk-Köl. But we were not here for a hike, we were here for a kill. Soon enough, Talgar stopped, we had some pictures taken, and the friend walked into the fields with the black bag. Meanwhile, Talgar took the hood off the head of Tumara. Then, when the rabbit was released into the field and Tumara was set free, it was a matter of seconds. The enormous bird spread its wings, flew down into the fields, and with pin-point precision hit the rabbit. Talgar summoned me to come down with him, and while I thought the show was already over, in reality, it had just begun. Tumara was already fiercely picking away at the rabbit with its fearsome beak when we reached her, and blood was colouring the white fur of the rabbit. Then, in another display of efficiency, Tumara showed how a rabbit can be completely eaten in a matter of perhaps 20 minutes - leaving an empty fur behind. What had been a cuddly rabbit less than half an hour ago had been totally ravaged by the eagle. Talgar went up with the eagle to show me again how deadly precise his bird was: again, it made a direct strike at the lifeless fur. Later, when we were on our way back to the town, I still had mixed feelings: guilt mixed with admiration for this incredible bird.

Picture of Eagle hunting (Kyrgyzstan): Eagle having a feast on a rabbit
Picture of Eagle hunting (Kyrgyzstan): Hunting near Issyk-Köl lake: Tumara, Talgar, and the hunting dog
Picture of Eagle hunting (Kyrgyzstan): Talgar on horse, releasing Tumara for a dive to her prey
Picture of Eagle hunting (Kyrgyzstan): Impatiently, Tumara is picking away at the rabbit
Picture of Eagle hunting (Kyrgyzstan): Tumara enjoying fresh rabbit meat
Picture of Eagle hunting (Kyrgyzstan): Talgar showing off his pride Tumara
Picture of Eagle hunting (Kyrgyzstan): Eagle and man: Tumara and Talgar in Kyrgyz dress
Picture of Eagle hunting (Kyrgyzstan): Talgar and Tumara spreading her wings
Picture of Eagle hunting (Kyrgyzstan): Tumara has enormous wings
Picture of Eagle hunting (Kyrgyzstan): A direct hit: Tumara flying directly to her prey
Picture of Eagle hunting (Kyrgyzstan): Hooded eagle

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