McKean Minute: My county is better than your county

Chambers of commerce in flyover country grasp at any opportunity to market their communities to the wider world. That’s why you get such curious designations as World’s Largest Frying Pan (Rose Hill, North Carolina), and Biggest Ball of Twine (Cawker City, Kansas). My friend and fellow Powderhooker, Eric Dinger, tells me that his hometown of Luverne, Minnesota, plans to build the world’s largest nutcracker.

In my case, my hometown (Glasgow, Montana) had the unfortunate designation last summer of being named the most remote town in America. For most rural places, that’s the fast lane to oblivion, but chambers of commerce being what they are—unapologetic promoters—mine embraced the distinction by printing banners and shirts proclaiming Glasgow as the official “Middle of Nowhere.”

But I’d like to propose a new and more meaningful distinction. I’d like to nominate my county—Valley County, Montana—as the huntin’est, most game-rich jurisdiction in America. I submit this claim mainly to establish my legitimacy as a hunter in this era of polarization and chest-thumping bravado, but it’s also a source of pride and curiosity. Can any other county, parish, or borough in America beat the diversity of huntable species in my homeland?

Just last week, the first legally harvested wolf was shot in my county—actually, about 3 miles from my house—in at least 50 years. We also have mountain lions in the Missouri River Breaks. We have coyotes and fox (both red and swift) here, too, along with bobcats, but I’m talking here mainly about designated game animals. A black bear may occasionally roam through Valley County, but they haven’t stayed long enough to qualify for this list.

On the big-game side, we have: mule deer, whitetailed deer, elk, bighorn sheep, moose, pronghorn antelope, and buffalo (though they’re not designated as wildlife in Montana. Weird, I know). For upland species we have: sage grouse, sharptailed grouse, pheasants, Hungarian partridge, and wild turkeys. I won’t get into all the waterfowl species that you can hunt here, choosing instead to simply categorize them as ducks, geese, tundra swans, and sandhill cranes. On the small-game front (for which you don’t need a license), we have: jackrabbits, cottontails, and—arriving just a few years ago—red squirrels. We also have raccoons, badgers, muskrats, mink, beavers, and a whole bunch of ground squirrels, but nobody really categorizes them as huntable species.

So, if I’m counting, and I surely am, that amounts to 8 big-game species that you can hunt if you have the license or permit, another 5 upland species, and if you really want me to enumerate the duck and goose species, I’ll add them to the comments.

Mainly, though, I’m curious. I’d love you, dear reader, to name another jurisdiction with more hunting opportunity than mine. If you can, then I’ll sic the chamber of commerce on you, because to a hunter, Huntingest Town in America is a much more significant designation than Largest Ball of Paint (Alexandria, Indiana).

McKean Minute: Step Up – Become a Hunter Education Instructor

Over the next few months, nearly three-quarters of a million Americans will be certified to become hunters. They’re the graduates of each state’s Hunter Education and Bowhunter Education programs, and the numbers are impressive. The rolling  average for the past 10 years is that somewhere around 650,000 new hunters are certified annually through state-delivered courses, many of which are held in the winter and spring months.

Who teaches these beginning hunters? I do, along with some 50,000 fellow hunter education instructors. Continue reading McKean Minute: Step Up – Become a Hunter Education Instructor