In Bayan-Olgii, there are around 400 hunters who still preserve the magnificent art of taming and training the wild Golden Eagles. They use two methods when trying to acquire these stunning feral birds. One way is to take them directly from their nests found on the peaks of the Altai Mountain. The eagles usually return to the same nest every season and the hunters know these nesting areas very well. In the summer, once the snow has melted, the hunters will watch the nestlings just before they learn to fly and their mothers are gone. One of the hunters ties himself to a long rope around the waist, while his friend holds the other end and he dangles 10-20 meters above the nest to grab the best opportunity.
The hunter makes sure to only go for the female birds, as they will grow to become larger with a natural, motherly instinct to prey for their nestlings. Another way to obtain the wild bird is through the use of traps or nets, when the eagle is already mature and wild in the nature. The camouflaged nets are placed in their hunting ground with large amount of meat as a bait. When the eagle lands on the net, it eats the bait and its wings are tangled in the ropes, unable to flee. When using traps, the hunters will wrap the tip of the spring with a soft shield, to prevent their injury. Once captured, the hunter checks the seized eagle and identifies its femininity and age. Since the hunters use the eagles until they are aged ten, they are carefool to choose birds that aren’t over four-years-old.
This is identified through the colours of their tail feathers. When they are young, the bird’s feathers are almost completely white and their edges are dark. As they grow older, the dark colour tends to spread higher up. The hunters tame their eagles for about a month or two, depending on whether the bird is a nestling or adult. During the process of taming a nestling, the hunter will mimic the mother by feeding it directly into its mouth. Taming a mature eagle on the other hand, involves placing a blindfold over its eyes with a headdress called a Tomaga. Its food is limited until it proves itself submissive to the hunter. Once the training is over, in the summer, the eagle will eat as much as it desires and the blindfold is let off on the river banks. But nearer the hunting season or before a contest, their food is greatly reduced and their heads are once again covered in order to sharpen their senses and avoid distractions. When the eagle reaches the age of ten, it is released and goes on to survive twenty more years in the wild, not before a sad and difficult farewell from both the hunter and the eagle.
This photo was taken in a high iso and therefore it has a painting effect.
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