My friend Pete asked to borrow my 870 Wingmaster for a weekend. He had been invited on a pheasant hunt and didn’t have a shotgun.
So I loaned him one of mine. When I got that Remington back fully two years later, the receiver was rusty and the stock so scratched and dinged that I’d guess it had bounced around a pickup bed filled with fencing supplies. Continue reading McKean Minute: Unwritten – The Secret Code of the Outdoors
We call them “grip-and-grins.” You’ve seen them, and probably participated in more than a few, that pose with our quarry after a successful outing. I’ve seen you too, beaming like a flashlight while hoisting an outsized fish or thrusting the antlers of a deer or elk to the camera as though they were the Stanley Cup.
We hunters and anglers have been gripping and grinning as long as we’ve had instruments to record the moment. Whether faded tintypes in a museum or time-bleached Polaroids from the family album or digital photos shared by social media, these images have in common the electric joy of unexpected success. The best of these photos draw you in. You want to know more about the moment—where and when it happened? Who took the photo? The story of the hunt? Continue reading McKean Minute: Grip and Grin 3.0
It’s full-on hunting season here in eastern Montana, but I haven’t been out much for myself. Instead, I’ve spent the last couple weeks guiding brand-new hunters to their first deer.
It’s been alternately rewarding, frustrating, euphoric, and deeply memorable. But here’s my biggest take-away in these first days of real-world mentoring: this is really a working version of hunter education. Continue reading McKean Minute: Hunter Education 2.0
When it comes to how I sleep (on my left side), how I drink my coffee (black and strong as crankcase oil), and how I carry a pocketknife (left front pocket), I’m a creature of habit. Same with how I butcher my family’s meat. The species may vary by the season or the mix of tags in my household, but it’s invariably wild—antelope, elk, goose, walleye, swan.
What doesn’t change is my process, honed over years of habit-forming butchery. Continue reading McKean Minute: Butchering Woes in the Age of CWD
My family and I have a hunting-season tradition. After we’ve butchered an animal—whitetail, mule deer, antelope, or even elk—we drive the meatless carcass out in a pasture on our place where there’s a giant willow tree along a creek bank.
We unload the carcass—the rattling white cages of ribs with ledges where backstraps once rippled, the unjointed hips and naked femurs, the pelvic bones with rump roasts carefully carved off their convex curvature—and we toss them down the creek bank underneath the spreading branches of the willow. Continue reading McKean Minute: Feeding ‘Demetri’
My dad was as stoic as a cornerpost. He could certainly be animated, but when it came to hunting and guns, he was serious, severe, and solitudinous.
Because he was my mentor, the person who introduced and personified hunting to me, I grew up thinking that’s what hunting was: lonely, serious, and grim. When it came time to introduce hunting to my own kids, I approached it in much the same way, scolding my twin boys to quiet their loud footfalls and to quit having so much giggly fun. Continue reading McKean Minute: A long view on the value of mentoring
I own a staggering amount of gear that I don’t use. I have lost count of the number of hiking boots and backpacks in my possession, and while I love to collect knives, the number of unused blades in my collection argues against ever acquiring another.
My wife would define me as a hoarder, but it’s more—and less—than that. I have too much gear because one of the traits that defines me as a hunter is the “you-never-know” syndrome. I got a new rain jacket because you never know when I might need a packable set. I got a Gore-Tex jacket because you never know when I’ll need my outerwear to breathe.
Then there’s the sheer variety of gear that an all-season hunter requires. I need one pair of boots for early season archery and another for cold-weather bird hunting. I try not to abuse this line to my wife, but I can justify almost all the gear in my closet by passing it through the you-never-know filter. Continue reading Mentoring: On Sharing Gear
Mentoring is the hardest thing you’ll ever do, like raising a foster child. And it’s the easiest thing you’ve ever done, like joking with your buddy.
I’ve heard both those analogies used to describe mentoring, but both seem to add an unrealistic weight of expectation to the experience.
As I’ve written in this space in the past, mentoring is a handmade thing, crafted between the participants. In that way, no two relationships are the same. But they do have some commonalities, and the relationship between a mentor and a mentee (note – the entire community of folks committed to this effort is struggling with how to describe the apprentice hunter. Is “mentee” really the best word? If you have a better alternative, would you let me know?) generally starts with some questions. Continue reading McKean Minute: Mentoring 101 – Simple answers to complicated questions
We talked a couple weeks ago that one of the main attributes of being a mentor is simply showing up, being available to someone who has questions and needs guidance.
The second great attribute is to give that guidance in any amount. Many of us get intimidated by the idea that in order to be a good teacher, we need to give all of ourselves. While some of us have a bottomless reservoir of outreach, most of us simply don’t have the time, energy, or enthusiasm to answer every question that comes around or to be available around the clock. Continue reading McKean Minute: When Mentoring, Any Amount Will Do
I coach middle school cross country. Most weekdays from late August through mid-October, I drop whatever it is I’m doing, lace up my running shoes, put a whistle around my neck, and encourage three dozen awkward, gangly kids who are not my own to run (and, some days, to simply walk) with purpose.
Most autumn weekends, I get on a yellow school bus and accompany the team to a race somewhere in my windy corner of northeastern Montana. Continue reading McKean Minute: Make a Difference – Show Up