SoulOfTheBurkitshi - Oliver Klink


Nestled in the snowy mountaintops of Western Mongolia, the Kazakhs have mastered the ancient and noble art of hunting with eagles. For nomadic tribes, their survival depends not only on training these majestic birds but in passing on their skills to the younger generation. For centuries, this knowledge has been transferred from father to son, but that’s all beginning to change.

The young women are becoming Bürkitshi, the Kazakh word for eagle hunters. This shift is no accident. Eagle hunting has slowly transitioned from a means of survival to a sightseeing attraction. This influx of commercialism has altered their trading power and divided the community. No longer are they exchanging goods and furs, now they are earning currency through tourism. Teaching the art of eagle hunting to women makes the Kazakh even more interesting to tourists and prevents the sport from becoming diluted or dying out completely.

These images are a glimpse into the soul of the hunters in a time of rapid change. There is a deep bond and a rich unspoken language between the Bürkitshi and their eagles. Yes, the hunt is violent, but the Bürkitshi’s intimate connection with their animals instills the sport with a sense of grace and art.

For those that truly live as Bürkitshi, the future doesn’t faze them. They still hunt in the way of their ancestors, migrate through the rugged terrain and share stories over cups of fermented mare's milk and baursak (fried dough balls). Only now, these stories are also being told thru the soul of the new huntresses.


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Siezbek and his Brother - Eagle Hunters

Siezbek and his Brother - Eagle Hunters

Perched on top of the mountain, the two brothers waited patiently. The only noise came from the wind and the eagles’ wing motion to keep their balance. When the prey was spotted, the hunter removed the eagle’s hood, allowing the eagle to see its prey for the first time. The wait was over. The eagle lifted her wings, and with one flap swooped down like a bullet. The second eagle was launched later as the first eagle missed the prey.