Category Archives: Through A Hunter’s Eyes

Selections from Mike’s upcoming book.

“Through A Hunter’s Eyes” Goes Live

owleyes Through A Hunters Eyes Goes Live

A WAY TO SEE THE WORLD

Greetings From The High Rocky Mountains,

My name is Michael Patrick McCarty, and I wish to welcome you to our online sporting journal, and to our little window of the world. It holds a dazzling view that can change with the seasons and beckons us to roam as far as the eye can see.

Mine is an Irish name to be sure, and my family lineage also includes a healthy dose of old country Polish and American Indian ancestry.

Plainly said, my family history sports a long list of colorful characters; free thinkers and independent cusses who lived and made their livings’ close to the earth. Most of them were hunters and fishermen too.

I really can’t remember when I was not a hunter, because before I was one I wanted to be one. It’s in my blood and within my nature, and I can say without apology that I was surely born that way. It’s a good thing to know, as it is a simple fact that it is important to embrace the foundations of who you are and where you come from.

Most of all it can be said that I see everything through a hunter’s eyes.

It is not something that I can change, and I wouldn’t if I could . The fish and game animals that we pursue are great and wondrous gifts from the creator of all things, and should never be taken for granted. It is a privilege and an honor to follow their trail. To know that puts a certain spin on things.

These gifts I accept, and in so doing I owe a debt of gratitude which I plan to pay. Within this acceptance lies an opportunity to learn, to write and to teach, to give back, and wonder…and to see each other as part of something much bigger than ourselves.

I am hunter, and in that I am always exactly where I need to be, …be it near, or far, from home.

Thankfully, the place of the moment is often filled with wild fowl suspended in cloudless blue skies, or with broad-tailed fish below, hovering ghost-like amidst the rushing waters.

No doubt you can see them too. You’ve made it this far.

Enjoy!

Michael Patrick McCarty

THROUGH A HUNTER’S EYES:  A JOURNAL OF WILD GAME, FIGHTING FISH, AND GRAND PURSUIT

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“Rich, ‘the Old Man said dreamily, ‘is not baying after what you can’t have. Rich is having the time to do what you want to do. Rich is a little whiskey to drink and some food to eat and a roof over your head and a fish pole and a boat and a gun and a dollar for a box of shells. Rich is not owing any money to anybody, and not spending what you haven’t got.”

Robert RuarkThe Old Man’s Boy Grows Older

A Late Night Postcard

elksnow3 A Late Night Postcard

Rocky Mountain Neighbors

I arrived home past midnight last night, to find a small herd of elk feeding in an open pasture to the west. My neighbor keeps his horses here, and I have an unobstructed view of it from our house on the hill. I spotted them as I walked over to our dog kennel on the fence line, and as I studied them I saw a big cow raise her head, just to let me know that she was watching me too.

I don’t suppose I will ever tire of seeing elk. They have a way of taking over the conversation, you might say, to make you pause in mid sentence when you spy one, to make you completely forget whatever you had been doing at the time, as if the world is a mere background created just for them. It has always been this way between the elk and I.

They looked particularly surreal this night, quietly feeding on a blanket of fresh, white powder, surrounded by the mystical light of a high, full moon. I am struck by the picture quality of it all, the sharp crispness of the image frozen in the cold night air. I can only smile. It is a perfect moment in time.

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What Lies Ahead…

My dogs knew they were out there, of course, being that they were no more than 100 yards away with just some old wire to separate them. They had probably been watching them for some time, waiting for me to come home, whining nervously, and wishing they could run over and join up. The elk, for their part, paid us no mind, as they pawed in the snow. They had seen this show before and are not as impressed as us.

We see quite a few elk around our property when the snows grow formidable in the high country. It is one reason to look forward to winter. They especially like to feed at night in a large hayfield below us, and at first light they bunch up and head for the cover of rougher grounds and cedar trees on the properties and public lands to our North. To my everlasting delight, they like to cross one small corner of our property as they leave the hayfields, and if we are lucky, we get to watch. I often sit in an overstuffed chair behind our big picture window, waiting, hot coffee in hand, enveloped in the approaching day as the rest of the world wakes up.

elkinthesnow 300x214 A Late Night Postcard

A Gift of Winter

We have seen herds of one hundred elk and more, although smaller groups are most common. One morning I sat transfixed as a herd of about fifty or so lined up to jump the fence at the edge of the field below our house, then crossed our field on a run and passed along our fence line next to the house. I counted seventeen bulls, some small, some large, surrounded by foggy breath when they stopped. I can see it in my mind’s eye, just now.

At times, a small herd will bed down for the night under our apple trees. Once I looked out to see several lying contentedly in the sun, with freshly laid snow still shimmering on their backs. I’ve seen them browsing in the remnants of our flower garden or standing next to our birdbath, and I wave and say hello. Welcome, I say, and good morning to you.

Last night, I reach my door and turn one last time to watch the elk and try to lock this image in my memory bank for all time. It is the quintessential Rocky Mountain postcard, a picture postcard for the soul, and I wish I could send it out to you, to all, with good tidings and cheer.

I don’t suppose I shall ever tire of seeing elk….

 

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Michael Patrick McCarty

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Moon Over The Mother Rockies

A Pheasantful of Memories

littlerockpheasant e1387235383714 A Pheasantful of Memories

A Memory In The Making – Rocky Tschappat Jr.

Where would we be as outdoorsmen, and as men, if not for the people in our lives who took us hunting?

It is a question not so easily answered, though at least we get to ask. Sadly, a steadily increasingly group of young people never get that chance. In most cases I can only grieve for the loss that they will never fully understand, while staring upward and thanking the heavens for the sportsmen of my youth.

It was only a natural way to be in the world in which I grew up. My father had been a hunter all of his life, and his father was too. To be true so were my uncles and cousins, my brothers, friends, and our neighbors. There was always someone to go hunting with and a shotgun was never far out of hand.

We hunted small game and deer and birds of all kinds, but pheasants – pheasants were a special creature. There were not many to be found in our corner of the uplands, and those that remained were wary and smarter than smart. It was a big event to bag a hefty, redheaded cockbird.

If you are like me then there is no doubt that you remember your first cackling rooster rising like a shimmering phoenix in the sky. The memory of that long-tailed vision burns brightly in the mind, ready for access at a moment’s notice. Mine is a mind full of ring-necks.

I hold my treasure trove of remembrances most dearly, yet it occurs to me that It is only right to return the favor. I am more than willing to share that long list of images in my head, though I would be most happy to help you gain your own.

One thing can be said.

Take a boy, or a girl, hunting – today. It is a responsibility and an honor, and in fact a debt that must be repaid.

We can only be as strong as the sum total of our experience, and I cannot comprehend a life barely lived without the solid grounds of woods and field beneath the boots. The pursuit of wild things is a foundational activity, built upon the realities of the natural world and the spirit of the quickening heart. It is an opportunity to learn some core moral values, while becoming part of something much larger than one’s self.

We owe it to our mentors to carry the torch; to help ignite that undying spark in the imagination and energy of the next generation. I can think of no greater reward than to be remembered fondly in the thoughts of the grateful and fortunate soul of a hunter.

It is only but a moment of memory, and a towering pheasant, away.

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Food Freedom – Young Gunner’s, and Pheasants Forever!

Michael Patrick McCarty

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pheasant hunt 2 A Pheasantful of Memories
Clawing For The Skydglassme / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

 

High, Long, and Lonesome

Mikes Best Pike 1024x768 High, Long, and Lonesome

Manitoba’s Long Green Jewel. Photo by Rocky Tschappat

By Michael Patrick McCarty

July 14, 2013

There is a place in the world that calls my name, with a voice as strong and true as could ever be. It thrums in my head, somewhere deep behind the bustle and noise of everyday living. Searching, beckoning - for me, since the first time I learned of it through my readings long ago. It became some vague and unfilled need, an itch I could not scratch, leaving me in want of something I could not capture. I did not know if I could ever get there.

It is a land of windswept waters and shimmering weed beds, dark timbered islands with ledges of stone, and jagged, multi-dimensional rocks that wrap the untamed shoreline as far as the eye can see.

There are loons here, lonely gulls and bright headed eagles, moose and bear, and the occasional otter slipping gracefully through the waves. There are fish here too, toothy critters, and some as long as your leg. It’s about hovering clouds of blood sipping mosquitos, and impossible days of light that do not end, but only change in tone and hue. It’s all about boats and motors and good friends laughing, eager to see what lies around the next bend.

Bestbigpike1 1024x768 High, Long, and Lonesome

41 1/2″ of Fun and Fury

They call the place Manitoba, and she is a crown jewel of boundless and spellbinding beauty. To my everlasting satisfaction I finally made it, having returned from her just now. With focus and joy I hold the spirit of it all close to my breast, lest she slip away quietly like a dark shadow in the night. I miss her already, with a depth and breadth of longing indescribable by mere mortals.

To say that Manitoba is all about game fish would be a vast understatement. There are Northern Pike and Walleye in numbers and size that would give any hard-core angler a tingle. Both species have legions of diehard fans, of one or the other, or both. They do seem to go together as naturally as warm sourdough bread and butter, and that’s just fine with me.

It’s easy to become obsessed with this kind of fishing, and it doesn’t take long to discover why. You simply have not lived an outdoor life in full until you’ve seen a green backed missile smash a brightly colored floating Rapala dropped perfectly at the water line, streaking through the sun dappled waters like a bear on fire as you remove the slack and make that first electrifying twitch. It is what piscatorial dreams are made of.

A pike is a ferocious customer. He is mean and crude and bursting with bad intent. There is never any doubt about what lies upon his mind, that being to destroy and consume any fish or small creature that will satisfy however briefly his incessant appetite and fulfill his instinctual need to perpetuate the species.

When hooked he is a stout rod full of trouble, and you can feel his mood through the line and see it in his eyes when he knows that he has been fooled. You have diverted him from his one unabiding mission, and he will not forgive you for it.

It makes one very glad to be something other than a baitfish. I, on the other hand, forgive him completely. He is only doing what a northern pike is designed to do, and he cannot change his ways no more than a wolf could cease to dog a wounded moose. I feel for him too, because without a doubt life is tough if you’re a pike. Just imagine the millions upon millions of his kind that never made it to breeding size.

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An Epicurean Delight

The Walleye, on the other hand, seems a most different kind of gentleman. His real name is Wall-Eyed Pike, or Pike Perch. He is really not a Pike at all, but is in fact the largest member of the Perch family.

A tackle thrasher he is not, and I think it fair to say that although they are great fun to catch that is not why we seek them out. Walleye are challenging too, but perhaps that’s not it either. Dare we say that it’s all about the shore lunch fillet, done up right with a side of deep-fried potatoes?

I am squarely in that camp, and he may well be the pre-eminent panfish of North America. I simply cannot look at a walleye without salivating, while instantly picturing that glorious white, boneless slab sizzling in a dark black cast iron frying pan. If that’s a bad thing I stand guilty as charged, but blissfully unapologetic, just the same.

Still, walleye possess their own kind of seriousness. They are a more finicky eater than the pike, and seem more dignified and refined. They may prefer to gorge themselves upon mayflies or minnows depending on the day, or….perhaps not. Fisherman seem to talk of them in hushed and respectful tones, so as not to offend them and put them off of their feed. They remain a most mysterious fish, at least to me, and I plan to spend many more hours trying to figure out what makes them tick.

Of course northern Manitoba is the perfect place to do just that. We four booked our trip with Sam Fett at Silsby Lake Lodge, and they offer some of the finest trophy pike and walleye fishing in North America. Sam and his family have been in the outfitting business for decades, and it’s quite obvious that they know how to turn out some mighty happy sportsmen.

Their literature and impressive brochures speak of fish long and broad enough to test the skills of even the most seasoned outdoorsman, and they are not exaggerating. Boy do they have the fish!

Silsby Lake Lodge offers commercial flights from Winnipeg direct to an airstrip just one quick boat skip from their lodge, and it does not take long to get a line in the water. They offer full service guided lodge packages, or outpost camps with cabins or tents if you prefer to guide yourself and do some of the work on your own, as we did.

We fished from the High Hill Outpost camp for our first three days, and it was everything I had imagined a classic pike fishing camp to be. The scene and scenery is so picturesque that one could spend quite a bit of time relaxing at camp – that is if the fishing wasn’t so good. According to Sam, High Hill Lake and other adjoining or nearby waters may hold one of the largest concentrations of trophy pike found anywhere in the Province.

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Home, Sweet Home

They have practiced strict conservation and catch and release policies for years, and it shows. Anglers may keep a few smaller fish each week for lunch or dinner, and great care is taken to fully revive the bigger fish.

A combination of perfect habitat, large baitfish populations, and exclusive access leads to a rare opportunity for mature fish – and lots of them. Sam told me that we had an opportunity to catch a northern of over 50″ in a weight range up to 45 pounds, and I believe him. That kind of possibility adds a very special spin to every cast!

Our small group did not catch the “fatties” as they call them on our brief stay at High Hill but we did catch all of the smaller pike that we could have wanted and two fish that we estimated to be in the 17 to 22 pound class. It was the first big pike that I had ever brought to the boat, and it is a thrill that I will not soon forget.

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How It Ought To Be

elktracksnow How It Ought To Be

Follow Me

Today was a special day in my hunter’s world. It began like most Rocky Mountain winter days, but by evening I had acquired an elk for the freezer and two new hunting buddies.

Elk meat is a prized commodity in our household and one elk provides satisfying meals for many months. Hunting buddies, on the other hand…well, they are a gift of a lifetime. I am extremely fortunate to have several and I cherish them, but hey, I’m happy to add some others.

My new buddies just happen to be brothers, and like many good hunting companions they innocently possess unbridled enthusiasm, a refreshing ability to gaze upon everything around them as if for the first time, a natural wide eyed curiousity, and the willingness to do anything required of them to make for a successful outing. Of course, like most people they have their own unique personalities and levels of hunting skill. In this case, they happen to be smaller than most and have some trouble in deep snow or rough country. They are named MacKenzie and Connor, and they are six and eight years old. They already love elk and elk country. In fact, they live in some of the best elk habitat that Colorado has to offer. But, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself…

I have known these two since they were born, and I’ve known their father, Pat, for a quarter century or so. Pat and I have shared a lot of elk camps together, and I wouldn’t trade those memories for a lot of money, unless of course I could use it to go on more hunting trips with him. He is one of the finest hunters I know, and he is lucky to be blessed with a wife who understands his passion, and surely knows that she could not stop him anyway. Certainly it’s no wonder that “the boys” as we call them, take to the outdoors as naturally as elk bugle. Pat tells me that there was a time he could leave the house without them tugging at his coat tails, but he can’t really remember when that was. It’s just the way it should be, I say.

Call it a genetically inherited instinct, or say, a natural affinity for the wilds, these boys love the mountains and it is an uplifting thing to see. Pat has trained them right, of course, having brought them along whenever he could even when it meant carrying them. He’s patiently edured the myriad challenges presented by a partner who can’t tie his shoes or zipper his own jacket. He has always been the unwavering teacher in the face of emergency potty breaks, snarled fishing reels, and miscellaneous meltdowns. It’s just the way it ought to be, says he. I love and respect him more than ever for that.

Always happy to lend support over the years, I’ve done my share and have been quick to offer whatever advice a four year old can comprehend. Mostly, I’ve never missed an oportunity to ask them an important question. Something like, “Hey Boys! – I just want to know one thing – Are you going to pack my elk?. It became our personal joke and was always a great question to ask at parties, causing them to fly off with hysterical giggles and laughter and to repeat it to their young friends who do the same. It’s not often that you get a chance to train a group of small ones in the proper order of hunting priorities. After all, middle age now stares me squarely in the paunch, and frankly, I’m gonna need the help.

Today, we are wholeheartedly engaged in what can only be called a “meat hunt”. We know that there is a small herd of elk not far above the house, and it is late afternoon before everyone is gathered and we prepare to sneak up and over the ridge. The boys have geared up like old pros, which of course in many ways they are. They have watched a multitude of elk from their picture window, probably before they were interested in much else. They know the elk trails and the difference between a yearling and a big cow and where the herd is likely to run if they are spooked. Connor is next to me when we start off, and he does his best Indian imitation while pointing out tracks along the way. He shows me where he last saw the elk, and as we near the top of a small rise we see the oh so typical head up frontal view of a smart old cow. We’re busted, and I’m wheezing up through the oak brush and slippery rocks for position.

The first group of cows is moving and I wait, hoping for a better shot and about to lose my oportunity. Luckily, a mature cow is bringing up the rear. It’s not the easiest shot in the world, nor the toughest, but I’ve not been shooting well for a couple of seasons and and I take some extra time to draw a bead. I squeeze the trigger and she drops in her tracks. “Nice shot Mike”, I hear from my six year old guide. Sweet words to be sure when your luck has been a little off for a little too long, and out of the mouths of babes at that.

We stand around the downed animal and I am truly grateful. Pat heads off to help another member in our party, and I am left alone with the two boys and a beautiful sunset in a clear, cold December sky. The boy’s seem quite content to hunker down in the snow and watch, and help. I become aware of the fading sky and the mountain peaks over their shoulders and think that they are exactly where they want to be. They wear these mountains like a warm woolen blanket, and there is room underneath for me, and for us all.

I stand before the elk and bow to the four directions and give thanks, party because it is something I have come to do to show respect, and partly for effect, as I know they are watching. What are you doing, they ask? Why did you look in that direction first? It’s obviously time for me to answer some questions.

I decide to quarter the cow for easier handling, and when my knife comes out they really become interested. Something about boy’s and knives, I guess. “Why are you doing it that way, they say?”. Where did the bullet hit? How many teeth does it have? How old is it?. Mike, your elk tooth wedding ring is all bloody is it going to be O.K.?” And so on and so on.

I warn them several times to stay clear of my knife in case I slip, but they never miss an opportunity to touch or prod or examine in some way this elk. Their mother has sternly warned them to not ruin their cloths, and both their father and I reminded them more than once. For all the good it does. They want to be close, to smell its’ smell and lay their fingers on it’s teeth. Even in death, they want to become part of it’s life. These two are hunters, make no mistake, and I’m proud to be with them on this mountain at this moment in time when two young people chose to join us all in the adventure that we love.

They were quiet for awhile, and I was working to beat the darkness. I saw their heads come up and they smiled and looked at each other like they had a thought at the same time. “Hey Mike!, they say proudly. You know what?…we’re gonna pack your elk”.

I stare at them for a moment, and then clandestinely wipe a bit of moisture out of the corner of one eye. It is not an easy maneuver to perform with a heavy backstrap in one hand and a sharp blade in the other.

“That’s right, I say. I’m sure glad you guys are here”.

Just the way it ought to be, I think.

 

springpluselk 046 1024x768 How It Ought To Be

A Father Pitches In

Michael Patrick McCarty

Food Freedom – and Hunting Forever!

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