Hunting with raptors is very much an ancient tradition of the Central Asian nomadic tribes. The earliest mentions in the historic sources, Secret History of the Mongols reveals Bodonchar Munkhag, a direct ancestor of Chinggis Khaan, was abandoned by his tribe and caught a goshawk for hunting other animals to survive from starvation. Also, as Marca Polo narrated in his travelogue, Kublai Khan had hunter eagles and gyrfalcons. His well-trained eagles were able to catch Red Deer, Grey wolf, Gazelles, and Foxes.
Nowadays, this old tradition is still kept alive among the Kazakhs in Western Mongolia. Migrated to Mongolia during the Communist years, Kazakh people settled in the Bayan-Ulgii province in the 20th century. Finding peace in the extreme western part of Mongolia, Kazakhs were able to preserve their ancient tradition in the valleys of towering Altai Mountains.
Hunting foxes was one of the recourses of income for eagle trainers during the communist era. After the democratic revolution in 1990, eagle trainers had no restriction and as the number of participants increases, they were able to arrange a contest among eagle trainers and the hunter eagles, testing their training and hunting skills. Today, there are a number of Eagle Festivals are organized throughout a year. The biggest one is Golden Eagle Festival held in Bayan-Ulgii province during the first weekend of October which marks the opening of hunting season.
As the tradition passed down from fathers to sons, hunting with a golden eagle is often practised among men. Ironically, a passionate 13-year-old girl broke the rule and trained her very own eagle under her father’s sight. Apart from having a hard time to be accepted by the hunter society, she became the voice of gender equality. The Eagle Huntress film was made by her remarkable story. Getting stimulated by the brave girl, many young girls now practice this centuries-old tradition. Some of them even beat seasoned eagle hunters in the Eagle Hunter contests.