Matthew Lynch travels to far western Mongolia to check out an ancient hunting tradition.

“EAGLES HAVE BEEN KNOWN to pick off small children when hungry, or just plain annoyed.”

Like most locals, my guide Aynabek is fluent in Mongolian, Kazakh, and English (he can also add Russian and French to the mix). “The Kazakhs have a saying — ‘There are three things a man must have: A fast horse, a hound, and a golden eagle.’”

We are in Bayan Ulgii — Mongolia’s westernmost province — in search of the legendary Eaglehunters. Cousins to the ancient nomadic Mongol tribes, today’s modern-day descendants practice a tradition that has been passed down from father to son for over 6,000 years. Wide, treeless river plains surrounded by craggy peaks make ideal hunting conditions for the top predator here; eagles will take on a wolf without blinking, and have even been known to kill snow leopards.

Chicks are taken from the nest very young, then brought home to be reared in the house with the family, their eyes kept hooded until the bond between man and bird has formed. The Eaglehunter we visited at the end of the season introduced us to his two beautiful girls in almost-peak condition, while fox pelts and a couple wolf carcasses lay drying in the hasha (family compound) courtyard all around us.

For more, check out this eagle hunting video, and pick up Stephen Bodio’s Eagle Dreams for a vivid (and very thorough) account of this culture.

Thanks to Jan Schultz and Aynabek Havduali for providing the amazing photography.

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Hanging with eaglehunters in western Mongolia

Bayan Ulgii square, the heart of Ulgii City

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Hanging with eaglehunters in western Mongolia

Autumn morning, Altai Mountains

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Hanging with eaglehunters in western Mongolia

Nomadic family encampment; note the solar panels and satellite dishes.

Intermission
7

Over before it starts: Life and death in Mongolia

by Andrew Cullen
23

The people and culture of Nagaland, India

by Vaibhav Mehta
24

Life in Western Madagascar

by Ross Borden
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Hanging with eaglehunters in western Mongolia

Breakfast inside a Kazakh ger (yurt)

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Hanging with eaglehunters in western Mongolia

Training young eagles at sunset on a cold, windy evening -- ensuring they're hungry for the next day's hunt

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Hanging with eaglehunters in western Mongolia

Balapan (2-year old eagle), preparing to hunt

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Hanging with eaglehunters in western Mongolia

Having just taken a fox, this eagle returns to his master.

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Hanging with eaglehunters in western Mongolia

Smoke break

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Hanging with eaglehunters in western Mongolia

Spectators watch this bird take a fox lure.

Intermission
25

25 of the coolest UNESCO world heritage sites in Western Europe

by Hal Amen
17

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

by Andrew Cullen
6

A dream realized on Lady Elliot Island [pics]

by Al Mackinnon
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Hanging with eaglehunters in western Mongolia

The youngest hunters in the field

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Hanging with eaglehunters in western Mongolia

Victorious

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Hanging with eaglehunters in western Mongolia

Life and death on the steppe; Khanjiga Toli, which means ''going home full-handed''

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Hanging with eaglehunters in western Mongolia

It's good to be #1.

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Hanging with eaglehunters in western Mongolia

Nomads bid us farewell.