McKean Minute: Hunter Education 101

Spring is Hunter Education season in most states and communities across the country. It’s the time that volunteer instructors set up impromptu classes in church basements, school libraries, and municipal buildings and help certify a new generation of licensed hunters.

Nationwide, something like 600,000 new hunters are minted every year, but tens of thousands more don’t take mandatory Hunter Ed classes because they’re too busy, or they’re intimidated by the topic, or they simply don’t understand what hunter education (or even hunting) is all about.

Continue reading McKean Minute: Hunter Education 101

McKean Minute: TPI – A New Way to Measure Hunting Trophies

We’ve all been there. You show a buddy a picture of your latest buck. His first question: “What’d he score?” The quantity of antler and horn has become established shorthand for the relative value of the animals that carry headgear.

Even those hunters who understand that there’s more to a hunt than a Boone and Crockett or Pope & Young score routinely assess the dimensions of an animal with a number. There’s a reason: it’s a yardstick that we all know and recognize, even if we don’t always recall how a trophy’s score is calculated. We like numbers. We like rankings. In that way, a buck’s B&C score is like a thermometer. It’s one thing to say to your buddy, “It’s nice out. Sunny and warm and seems like a great day.” It’s another to say, “It’s 72 degrees.”

Continue reading McKean Minute: TPI – A New Way to Measure Hunting Trophies

McKean Minute: Grassroots Conservation – A User’s Manual

Last week in this space I told you about our Hi-Line Sportsmen group and the third annual fundraising party we threw last month. A couple hundred of our neighbors packed into the St. Raphael’s Catholic Church gym here in Glasgow to eat prime rib and bid on guns, donated art, and sporting goods.

By the time we paid for the firearms (purchased at our local gun shop), the bartenders, and the kids who helped serve food and clean tables, we were left with a pretty good balance of cash. That’s the idea. Hi-Line Sportsmen exists to put the funds we raise back on the ground in our community to help with everything from processing venison donated to our local food bank to funding boat docks at fishing access sites in our county.

Continue reading McKean Minute: Grassroots Conservation – A User’s Manual

McKean Minute: A Recipe for Local Conservation – Pt. 1

We had a party last Saturday night here in my hometown of Glasgow, Mont. A couple hundred folks showed up at the Catholic Church gym. We ate tasty prime rib roasted by members of the Knights of Columbus. We drank beer, including a smooth amber ale from our local brewery, the Busted Knuckle. Glasgow High School students and their parents served food and cleaned tables to help fund this spring’s trip to Washington, D.C.

This wasn’t just a small-town social event, though. We were gathered with a purpose. It was the third annual fundraising banquet for the Hi-Line Sportsmen, and on a night when the west wind howled, blowing around a foot of drifty snow and sending temps well below zero, inside the warm church, we raised a trove of money by auctioning or raffling guns, homemade knives, donated hardware, and even leftover prime rib.

Continue reading McKean Minute: A Recipe for Local Conservation – Pt. 1

McKean Minute: A Hat Tip to the Counter Clerks

Jerry Ketchum died this week. You don’t know him, but I sure did. He presided behind the counter of D&G Sports and Western in my hometown of Glasgow, Montana as long as I’ve lived here. And a significant time before that.

Jerry could be cranky, if you swaggered in assuming you knew more about guns than he did. You didn’t. He could be short, if he sensed you were a tire-kicker who didn’t intend to drop a dollar in the classic High-Plains hunting and fishing store that presides over the eastern edge of Glasgow’s retail district. But he could be as gentle as a .257 Roberts if you were a beginning shooter or hunter, or if you were a kid or a “lady,” as he tended to call members of the fairer sex.

Continue reading McKean Minute: A Hat Tip to the Counter Clerks

McKean Minute: Accidental gun discharges – More common than you think

Last year’s hunting season was deadly in my home state of Montana. Two hunters were wounded when they were accidentally shot in the field; two others were killed.

One of those victims was Mike Drexler, an elk hunter who was shot by his best friend for the worst and most common reason: his friend, Jay Maisano, loaded a live round in the chamber of his rifle as they approached a downed bull elk. Maisano slipped, the gun went off, and Drexler died in the field.

Continue reading McKean Minute: Accidental gun discharges – More common than you think

McKean Minute: When Mentoring Becomes Enabling

A few years ago, Josh invited a neighbor who had never hunted before to join him on the family place. The mentoring relationship stuck, and the neighbor became an accomplished hunter. Then last year, the neighbor showed up with his four kids. Could Josh please teach them how to hunt, he asked?

“I didn’t really know how to respond,” Josh told me last week. “I mean, I’m happy to do it. I really enjoy taking new people out, and besides, I like these people. They’re my neighbors. But we don’t have that much room at my family place, and besides….” Continue reading McKean Minute: When Mentoring Becomes Enabling


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.” Continue reading McKean Minute: My county is better than your county


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


Outdoor recruitment, retention, reactivation and access from the creators of