Joe and Mary Ann McDonald would never have expected to visit Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, but they did. During their trip, they met a couple of Kyrgyz falconers.
"The most exciting 'wildlife' shooting occured in Kyrgyzstan, where we traveled up a long valley surrounded by extremely rugged mountains. The location, near Lake Issik Kul -- a nearly two hundred mile-long lake that is bordered by snow-covered mountains that rise as high as 21,000 feet, was incredibly rugged, and is the home of traditional falconers. The area attracts tourists, and we no sooner arrived than falconers on horseback appeared, with European buzzards (analagous to our redtail hawks or, more properly, rough-legged hawks in appearance) and one golden eagle. The buzzards were incredibly tame, and although treated with respect they were handled in a cavalier fashion I'd never seen with an American falconer, who generally handles their birds with the utmost tenderness. These birds were treated like pet cats or dogs, and seemed to thrive. One falconer carried a buzzard on one shoulder and a ring-necked pheasant on the other, and both coexisted and were handled -- including placing both birds on our heads, with complete sangfroid. I've only 'worked with' pheasants one other time, and then, in the US, the birds were nervous and flighty. This pheasant was completely calm, and I had to wonder if it was handled since the day it hatched to account for this temperament."