Best time to visit Mongolia

Hunting with Eagles in Mongolia

Female eagles do not try to act lady-like and break all stereotypes with their aggressive hunts

Best time: November–March

Hunting with Eagles
Hunting with Eagles
Hunting with Eagles

While Kazakh men are considered to be better hunters than women, everything is different when it comes to eagles. Females work better, for they are stronger and more aggressive than males, and would kill some Siberian fox or other prey with much greater enthusiasm. Therefore, hunters deliberately pick up only female chicks from the eagles' nests found in the Altai Mountains' forests. The little eagles have to be around four years old so that domestication goes smoothly. At this age, the pup already knows how to hunt, and is independent of her mother, but not yet too experienced. As soon as the eaglet is brought home, everyone treats her as an equal family member. It is important to spend a lot of time to establish a strong bond between the master and his eagle, and long hunting trips are vital for strengthening these relationships.

In 6 to 8 years, hunters are obliged to set them free to breed in the wild; it is always a sad but inevitable parting. The only thing that remains of the eagle is a fur coat made of prey killed by the skillful bird—hunters wear these coats for hunting to protect themselves from the brutal winter cold, as the hunting season falls on winter months, namely from November through March. Eagles are kept wrapped in cloth which is supposed to keep the birds warm and calm.

Unfortunately, the number of golden eagles is slowly decreasing in the Altai Mountains, and true eagle hunters only number from 50 to 60. Brave adventurers might find one of these and join the​ hunt. For the rest of the curious travelers there is more convenient opportunity to learn the art of ancient way of hunting—simply visit Golden Eagle Festival held in Ölgii on the first weekend of October.

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Practical info

When is the best time to go hunting with eagles in Mongolia?

Eagle hunting in Mongolia is best done between November and March. During the winter months, the animals are easier to spot and eagles can better hunt them. The hunters go out early in the morning and continue until late in the afternoon to take advantage of the sunlight. Show more

Where can I visit to learn about the ancient way of hunting using eagles?

To learn about the ancient way of eagle hunting, visit the annual Golden Eagle Festival held in Ölgii on the first weekend of October. Here, traditional Kazakh eagle hunting skills such as horse riding, archery, and falconry are showcased. In addition, to observe this skilled art, visit the Altai Mountains' forests in Mongolia where eagle hunters, most being native Kazakhs hunt to practice this ancient art. It's worth noting that eagle hunting is slowly decreasing and the number of Golden Eagles is on a decline. Show more

How are female eagles trained for hunting in Mongolia?

Female chicks from eagle nests in Altai Mountains are selected purposely as they are stronger and more aggressive than the males. According to the tradition in Mongolia, hunters treat the eaglet as an equal family member after they are brought into the household. To establish a strong bond with the eagle, hunters tend to spend a lot of time with the bird, especially on long hunting trips and they keep the eagle calm by wrapping it in cloth to maintain warmth. Show more

What happens to the eagles once they are too old to hunt?

Golden Eagles are released back to the wild after six to eight years of eagle hunting in accordance with tradition in Mongolia. This is the point where the eagle has matured and is able to breed. Legends say that eagles should breed in the wild for their bloodline to be perpetuated, therefore being released to the wild aids in preserving the strength of this bird's bloodline. Show more

Why are the number of Golden Eagles decreasing in the Altai Mountains?

Golden Eagles in the Altai Mountains are facing a decline due to habitat loss, human hunting, and illegal capture for pet trades. However, there is hope to reverse this declining trend as eagle hunting is steeped in tradition, which is why some eagle hunters started to release their birds to the wild after a few years of hunting. This act can preserve the population and eagle hunters are known to value these birds. Show more

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