More than 40 berkutchi (falconers) from seven regions of the country, Astana and Almaty took part in the exciting hunting competition. Thousands of fans and spectators enthusiastically greeted the participants near the village of Rakhat and camera crews from as far away as Iran and Turkey came to shoot the event. Despite foul weather, the hunt was successful.
The tournament was held in several stages, during which the falconers demonstrated their skills in different exercises, such as “chasing the hare and fox” and having “the birds hop onto their master’s hand.” To catch prey, the eagle must accurately calculate the trajectory of its flight. At the start, the hunter removes a special leather case from over the bird’s eyes, gives the command and throws it up in the direction of the game. Then, there are a few seconds of flight and the defeated prey weakly struggles in the powerful claws of the bird. It is noteworthy that the eagle never kills its prey, just waits for its master.
Three thousand years ago, the ancestors of these berkutchi also went hunting with their birds and chased not only hairs and foxes, but also saiga and bears. Then, especially skilled and experienced berkutchi provided whole villages with food and one well-trained bird used to cost a herd of horses or camels. Centuries have passed, but the ancient and difficult hunts of nomads have not been forgotten. Now, there are schools in seven regions of the country that train in eagle, hawk and falcon taming.
The competition hosts had the largest team. However, the winner in total points was Arman Koshkarov from Atyrau, silver was taken by Ayan Seitzhan from the Almaty region and the bronze medal was awarded to Bayrak Tastanbekov from the Akmola region. Among junior falconers, the entire podium was occupied by representatives of the Zhambyl region – Bagdaulet Babazhan, Abylai Usen and Serikbol Zhalgasuly.
As executive director of the Kyra Federation Executive Director and chief tournament referee Bagdad Muptekekyzy noted, the Sonar Tournament, held for the eighth time, showed that the ancestral tradition of hunting with birds is gaining popularity among young people. This ancient and difficult skill has survived due to the enthusiasm of experienced hunters who once enjoyed a great reputation among the people. A decade ago, there were only 17 professional falconers in the country. Today there are more than one hundred.
The federation plans to hold its next falconry tournament this fall. It will be dedicated to the memory of famous berkutchis Aben Toktasynuly and Seitzhan Kodekov whose efforts in the early 1990s helped revive this Kazakh tradition.