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
I’ve been on an evangelistic roll in this space for the past month or so, extolling the virtues of mentoring new hunters. Hopefully my one-note chorus hasn’t turned you away from the subject, because I have one more post on the topic before I return to our regularly scheduled programming of bad dogs, good kids, and the hard-won rewards of late-season roosters and ice fishing. Continue reading McKean Minute: Resolve to Mentor in 2019
Anybody can look like an ace deer hunter when there are plenty of deer around. Thanks to an abundance of cervids, I looked pretty good to my apprentice hunters this fall. Each of the beginning hunters I took out shot deer. Maybe not trophy bucks, but after all, that wasn’t the goal.
Then my longtime friend Chris asked me to take him goose hunting. Chris is an accomplished big-game hunter, but he’s just never been in the right place at the time the geese were there, and because he’s seen my occasional success with honkers, he asked me to show him the ropes. Continue reading McKean Minute: To Mentor Is To Give. Literally
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