HOPE TO PRESERVE A DYING ART
abuse, but I treat each and every eagle like family. I think of them more often than I think of my grandsons,” he said.
Haymu has had seven eagles over the years. The one he is currently training is only a year old.
“I feed him well in the summer, to help him grow. When it’s cold, however, he needs to be more active and train, so he can learn to follow my instructions,” Haymu said, adding that January is the best time to train eagles.
The eagle, which lives in his owner’s yard, is fed on lamb meat and livers.
When the sun rises high, Haymu dons his fox fur hat, sheepskin coat, and felt boots — the traditional attire of a falconer.
He trains the young eagle in front of his home. If it lands steadily on his right arm, it is rewarded with fresh meat.
Haymu also trains the bird to follow a moving target. An assistant on horseback drags a fox hide through the snow, and the eagle sets off to find its target.
It only succeeded in doing this four times in two hours, but Haymu was not discouraged. “A young eagle takes time to learn,” he said.
Haymu has to be tough if the bird misbehaves, but he said he has never harmed it. “It pecked me once. It was
wearing a hood and I was mimicking the sound of a hare. It flew down and jammed its beak into my palm,” he said.
The birds are usually kept for around four years before they are released back into the wild so that they can mate.
Haymu does not depend on falconry for a living, but he wants to see the tradition live on.
In Qinghe, there are 40 eagle-hunters and 40 eagles, said Tuokun, head of the falconers’ association.
The average age of falconers is over 50, and both Haymu and Tuokun worry that they might be the last generation that keeps the art alive.
“I have two sons, a driver and a businessman. Neither wants to learn. I am worried that when I die, falconry might die with me,” said Tuokun, 60.