Tribes, Predators & Me
Gordon Buchanan is in Mongolia training a golden eagle to hunt…
With its razor-sharp talons and beak and a twometre wingspan, the golden eagle is a formidable hunter. In Western Mongolia, the Kazakh people have formed a remarkable relationship with these fearsome flying predators and use them to hunt animals for both fur and meat.
In the second episode of his series, Gordon Buchanan joins a family of Mongolian nomads, including his mentor Sailau, to train a young bird how to hunt.
But first he has to overcome his initial nerves about the task.
‘I wasn’t expecting to feel intimidated by the eagles, but I was,’ he admits.
‘To feel the strength of its talons and to see how sharp its claws and beak were was one of the most intimidating experiences of my life.’
Gordon must spend days bonding with his bird, even sleeping with her in his tent to establish trust between them.
But when an early training attempt ends in disaster, it’s a quick reminder that these animals can never be pets.
As Gordon tries to take the eagle’s ‘kill’ from her, he ends up with a nasty gash on his hand. ‘It’s the type of painful mistake you don’t make too often!’
Gordon then takes the eagle on a horseback hunting party, but admits he feels uneasy killing real live prey. ‘She’s not a shotgun but she’s every bit as powerful and I feel like I’m the one who’s going to be pulling the trigger,’ he confesses.
Before he leaves
Mongolia, Gordon helps Sailau release the eagle he’s worked with for eight years back into the wild so she can breed – and it’s an emotional moment.
‘I struggle to understand how you can sever that bond, but maybe that’s the ultimate symbol of Sailau’s love for his eagle that he will do what’s best for her,’ says Gordon.
‘And setting her free is undoubtedly the best thing.’
High flyer… Gordon with a golden eagle.