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
The single most popular day for American hunters is Sept. 1, the dove opener in most states. In Texas alone, over 400,000 hunters are likely to be in the field, and you can almost hear the drawl-cussing from here as most of those hunters whiff their first dozen shots.
Missing is half the fun, because with early season dove, there’s almost always another opportunity. The other half of the fun is the company. Dove hunting is one of the most social activities you can have while wearing camouflage. Maybe you have a special memory of a dove opener with family or a group of close friends. There was probably as much laughing as there was cussing. As many excuses for poor shooting as there are congrats for making nice shots. And as much cursing of dogs as praising them. Continue reading McKean Minute: This dove season, take a newbie
Where I live in eastern Montana, February is a brutal month. Hunting seasons are over, the ice fishing can be slow, and we annually have a bout of soul-searching cold in February when the mercury dips to -30. And stays there for a week or two.
But I’ll trade a year of Februarys for a single August. For me, August is the cruelest month because it’s hot, dry, buggy, and I’m daily reminded that I need to be prepping for the fall, but I can’t seem to find the time to adequately do it. Continue reading McKean Minute: Make the Most of This Cruelest Month
Are you a cat or are you a dog?
I’m not asking whether you crave catnip or bury bones in your yard—though you might do both. I’m asking you as a hunter what sort of predator you are.
The topic came up in an oblique way the other day as I admitted to a friend that when it comes to deer hunting, I’d rather be on my feet than sit a stand. My preference probably owes to the area I normally hunt, which is fairly open and populated by more mule deer than whitetails. But it also comes down to personal preference. I simply feel like I’m going to have more encounters with animals and convert encounters to success when I’m on my feet and on the ground. Continue reading McKean Minute: Cat or Dog?