Hunting with hunting birds
Satisfying the basic needs of man, the hunt was invariably fulfilled for him and with a special charm – unpredictability, risk, the possibility of self-affirmation. Ceasing to be, over time, the main way to get food, overgrown with traditions, complicated by numerous tricks, it more and more attracted people to their leisure hours, drawing non-professionals into their magical networks and acquiring, thanks to them, features of sportiness and pure excitement. However, it was precisely these sides of it that have long coexisted with the prose of unauthorized fishing, which pleased the earner except for a carcass that was ready for use, and successfully survived it. And in ancient times there were no less ways of “active” hunting than “passive”.
One of the known from ancient times and survived to the present day amateur hunting of hares is their harassment by hunting birds.
Strictly speaking, hunting with birds of prey is not bullying in its full sense, in which, for example, greyhounds are known to hunt birds. At the sight of a victim, a winged predator performs only one natural function for it – a swift attack; he doesn’t scare away the sheltering animal (giving this care to others), although he is able to watch him for a while or carefully monitor the actions of his assistant, the dog.
The idea of taming not only four-legged, but also winged predators and letting them into their natural game, obviously came to mind and primitive hunters. With the transition to cattle breeding and agriculture, the extraction of wild animals ceased to be an urgent need and gradually turned into a category of leisure activities. In the East, hunting with hunting birds has already been common for 4000 years in many countries. In ancient Persia, at the imperial court in ancient China, many hunting birds, mainly falcons, were kept. Their claws and spurs were much appreciated. In order to simultaneously use a large number of these birds on imperial hunts to scare away game, they burned steppe grass with a wide strip. A flock of falcons vying to strike their victims with their claws vied at the hares and pheasants fleeing the smoke. In the steppe and mountainous countries of Asia, eagles were used for these hunts, and although rarely, are still used. These birds are able to take a young wolf alone, not to mention foxes and hares, which easily break the ridge.
Good hunting birds were expensive, and wealthy people, primarily princes and their close ones, could indulge in such a hunt. Today, hunters – golden eagles – do without princely titles, cherishing only their professional authority and working qualities of pets. With proper care, eagles remain good prey even at the age of twenty. To enjoy the exoticism of eagle hunting in the foothills, for example, Kyrgyzstan or in the steppes of Kazakhstan, connoisseurs of such hunts often come from far abroad. The bewitching sight is represented by hunting competitions of several impressive birds brought to the place of “start” by foot owners and as if bent under their weight. The eagle, in a cap and fastened with paws of leather to the gauntlet on its paws, occasionally half-opens its huge wings, almost knocking the owner off its feet. Dogs, unlike ordinary hunting, are not lowered from the fold. The picture of several eagles soaring at different levels is magnificent. Here is one of them laying a wide bend, immediately bringing the bird closer to the ground. A quick glide along a steep incline, a short hijacking – and the brown, hovering into the bush, hides. In these cases, the overshot bird is removed from the competition; they try to scare the hares away by the dogs held on the fold. Meanwhile, the eagles, balancing in the currents of air, circle at a distance. Suddenly, aside, something collapses from above, rolls above the ground itself and for a short time swirls in one place. This eagle bent a hare running quite far away from its shelter. Another, young and, apparently, still inexperienced, landed not far from the opponent, abandoning the search for his own victim. Both are hastily taken away by the owners; the hare is solemnly demonstrated to those present. It is known that in one hunting season a hunter with a pair of eagles hunted up to 400 hares in addition to other game.
Falconry in Russia has been known since ancient times, as well as hunting with dogs. In epics and annals, letters of appreciation, in the famous “The Word of Igor’s Campaign” hunting birds are mentioned – falcons, gyrfalcons, hawks. Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich (father of Peter I) near Moscow contained more than three thousand different hunting birds in special breeding grounds. Every ten of them were served by a falconer assigned to them. These birds, especially well trained and prey, were highly valued in the hunting environment. Many had their nicknames and were personally known among amateurs. The theft or loss of them by trappers and falconers was strictly punished. So, in Russkaya Pravda, for stealing a falcon or a hawk, it was supposed to charge a fine of three hryvnias (the same amount as for a hunting dog).