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28.07.04 17:34

SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK…

A HAWKER RECOUNTS REAR OCCASIONS WHEN FEATHERED FRIENDS OF HUNTERS FIND THEIR MASTERS AGAIN

There is a saying in the folklore of our people: “There is no a single hawker that did not lose forty birds.” This conditional number of “forty” shows that it happens quite often to hawkers. That is why Turkmen hawkers, congratulating each other on a new hunting bird, say “Let the lead be durable and strong.”

And there are many occasions when hunting birds do come back to their masters. It often happens under strange and unexpected circumstances.

A few years ago we had the following incident. We hunted for a second consecutive week together with a master. One morning we left our camp with our hawks. The Turkmen greyhound called Melekush was, as usual, the first to reach the top of dunes and started surveying every bush in the lowland from there. When I was a few steps close to the dog, she suddenly got off the mark. The dog noted a hare running away up the bent of the dune and I had to release the hurrying hawk immediately. Abrupt take-offs of the bird behind dunes meant that together with the greyhound they hunted after a prey. Having laid low for a while, we set out to a little bush of Saksaul. It was right there that the hawk flew up last time. If the hawk caught the prey then we will see Melekush at his side. The dog will wait for us and will come over to us after some time. But this time the picture was different. I saw the embarrassingly running greyhound. The prey was missing. I had to take out a lure and call back the bird. For half an hour I was calling back my feathered friend, changing places from time to time. Without a hope to find him, we came back to the camp to resume the search the following day.

At dawn I set off alone to the place of the bird’s last take-off. I could not find the hawk by the noon. I asked the master to hunt with his hawk where my bird got lost, hoping that he would come back seeing his mate hunting after a pray. We discussed it sitting at the bonfire. Then it happened in no seconds. The old man fell back and a bowl with pieces of meat went off and a big piece of fresh hare meat, which my master held in his hands, moved to the clutches of my hawk. The bird sat on the ground near us and gorged.

I took the hawk and put him in a special place and fed him to satiety. He never flew away for a second time and hunted all the season.

Last year marked similar occasions. One of the hunting birds got lost in the evening. There was no time for searching because we had to return to the camp till dusk – it is easy to get lost in the desert in the night. Our hawks caught 15 hares, Talays, in five days of the hunt. We usually erect a small hovel of bushes next to the tent to keep fresh meat there. Young and inexperienced greyhounds sometimes try to get in there to treat themselves to meat. Dogs are severely punished for doing this. A well-raised greyhound is a guarantee of the successful hunt. When we fell asleep, a familiar rustle was heard from the hovel. Old men Ata Aga ordered to kick a dog out of the hovel and punish her. I went to the hovel and could not believe my own eyes. My “prodigal” hawk ate to his fill and looked pride and delighted. Obviously, he came back to the camp before us and run the “storage” of fresh meat.

Ata Aga waited for his bird, which had also got lost, for three days. He started packing in the evening. The nearest village was 40 km from the place of our hunt and the old hunter made his way there, hoping to find his feathered assistant. It often happens that lost birds on getting hungry fly in the populated areas to people.

As we saw Ata Aga off early in the morning, having walked about 200 m, we heard a human call. Far in the distance, standing on the dune, a stranger was waving. We headed towards him. This man turned to be a shepherd with the flock close to our camp. We learned from him that close to his place a bird of prey hunted hares for three days that used to ran out of their hides in the bushes of Saksaul stirred up by the flock. The hawk did not let the shepherd come close and, at the same time, did not fly far away. No sooner had he finished his story, the hawk appeared in the air and landed near Ata Aga. The master was overwhelmed with joy.

We thanked the shepherd for help and he stood a while looking after us, surprised by the bird’s love for his master.

Ata EYEBERDIYEV

Chairman of the National Club of Hawkers of Turkmenistan

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