Our Annual Community National Park Clean Up
October 30, 2018
Guidebook to Mongolia
November 11, 2018
A young Kazakh boy in western Mongolia with a golden eagle that he uses for hunting in the winter

Hunting With Eagles – Mongolia

Western Mongolia is dominated by the Altai Mountains physically and culturally. The Altai have functioned for thousands of years as a homeland for the nomadic cultures of Eurasia including the Kazakhs – Mongolia’s largest ethnic minority group with approximately 100,000 living in the provinces of western Mongolia. Hunting with eagles (‘berkutchi’) is a form of falconry traditionally found throughout the Eurasian steppe. It is still practiced by the Kazakhs of western Mongolia and in 2011 UNESCO added Kazakh eagle hunting to the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as an example of living human heritage.

But to experience real Kazakh eagle hunting, you need to head out into the remote Altai Mountains – and you need to visit in the Mongolian winter.

Why winter?

Hunting with golden eagles is primarily a source not of meat, but of fur. The main prey species are red and Corsac foxes and of course, their winter fur is more valuable. Female golden eagles, known as berkut, are used for the hunting because they are typically more aggressive.
We work closely with a number of Kazakh eagle hunters on our hunting with eagles Mongolia winter tour experience

Meet Bashakhan – just one of the Kazakh eagle hunters we have worked closely with for the past 13 years plus. He together with his family host you as part of our Hunting With Eagles Mongolia winter tour.

As part of our  winter tours in Mongolia, we offer a hunting with eagles experience – where you are hosted by Kazakh families – all headed by eagle hunters – and you will get to experience the traditional Kazakh way of life  as well as the tradition of hunting with eagles. All are rural Kazakh families we work with directly throughout the year. These are our own personal friendships that we have personally built up over the past 13 years. We use no agents or tour operators – we work directly with all the families as this leads to a more personal insight for you as our guest.

Part of our hunting with eagles itinerary includes travelling alongside our eagle hunters and being part of the hunting experience. Out here, all schedules go out of the window. You’re on nomad time, and the hunting activities depend on your host family, the eagle hunter, and the weather conditions – we leave these days entirely in the hands of the eagle hunters as it makes for a more authentic style of trip but you’ll witness the eagle hunt, and the close relationship and communication needed between hunter and eagle. The birds can weigh over 6kg; hunting with them requires skill, strength and no little courage.

You’ll also experience the incredibly close connection that the Kazakh eagle hunters have with their eagles, they are virtually family members, but it is sometimes hard for outsiders to recognise this.  Another major reason for the Kazakhs hunting with eagles is the tradition and the sense of identity it gives.

Sailaukhan the Kazakh eagle hunter - one of your hosts for our hunting with eagles Mongolia experience

Meet Sailaukhan – together with his nephew’s Aibolat and Baibolat – he hosts in the small community of Sagsai you as part of our hunting with eagles experience.

For those that brave the winter weather in Mongolia, the rewards are without limit. With no other tourists in evidence, it is easy to feel that you have the country to yourself. This is the time that people come together, that challenges are faced as one, that unique experiences become everyday occurrences. This is the time that the legendary Mongolian hospitality comes into its own. Although the winters are harsh, they are also extraordinarily beautiful. This is a wonderful time of year to visit for anybody interested in photography – the low afternoon winter light is perfect for capturing the Land of the Eternal Blue Skies. Not only does Mongolia produces a stunning natural show but there are festivals to enjoy and experience. Although it’s ‘out of season’ local communities organize annual events in celebration of local community, networking and collaboration to ensure a better future for the specific region and its herding community. These are in addition to the traditional cultural festivals. This image was taken by our guest Massimo Rumi in the Altai Mountains at the home of one of the Kazakh families we work with. We look forward to welcoming you at this spectacular time of year. Just pack thermals!

 

If you’re interested in learning more, why not explore our Mongolia winter tours website page for more details on how you can experience hunting with eagles.

Winter is a quintessential Mongolian season. It is cold, very cold, but the cold is an important part of what makes Mongolia and its landscapes extraordinary at this time of year. Remember, for all low season travel we offer our 15% discount. Why? By travelling in the low season you’re helping us to provide more sustainable support. Just remember to pack the thermals!

Jess @ Eternal Landscapes Mongolia

Jessica Brooks
Jessica Brooks
I’m Jess Brooks. I have been based in Mongolia since 2006 and am the founder of Eternal Landscapes Mongolia - a registered Mongolian business and social travel enterprise that focuses on providing travellers with a real 21st Century insight into Mongolia that supports local communities. I'm also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society - awarded for my work in Mongolia and a published guidebook author - having worked together with World Adventure Guides to produce a digital interactive guide to Mongolia. http://www.jessbrooks.co.uk/
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