Category Archives: Through A Hunter’s Eyes

Selections from Mike’s upcoming book.

Elk In Time

Heading Home

Returning home from a short week of elk hunting with a long drive ahead, I had an opportunity to reflect on what had obviously been a very successful endeavor. Our small group of four hunters had managed to tag out under some challenging conditions, chief among them the obvious fact that the migrating herds we sought had simply not arrived in our hunting area. We were incredibly lucky to find and set up on some small groups of resident elk, and managed to take advantage of what would have probably been our only opportunity while other hunters searched in vain all around us.

It would be fair to say that it was our hunting skills that made the difference, and it would not be exaggeration or boast. My friend Pat and I have shared more elk camps that either of us could ever count. We paid our dues in those 35 years or so, and we have learned a thing or two along the way. Mostly we learned that elk hunting is a grand adventure which takes extreme dedication and hard work, with odds of success sometimes quite low or nearly impossible. That of course is why they call it hunting, and not shooting.

His two sons Mackenzie and Conner are young men know, and it is good to see them grown up and strong and eager to find their place in the world. They love their elk and their elk hunting, and they have managed to soak up a lot of elk hunting wisdom already. In fact, they have already taken more elk and mule deer than the average hunter. They do it all with the anticipation and joy that only young men can bring afield, and it is fine to be near them and bathe in the glory of their bright eyes and spontaneous laughter. There is something about elk and elk hunting that can bring out the best in us all.

Still, I wonder why some hunter’s are nearly always successful, while others are mostly not. Are hunters born, or molded by curiosity and circumstance. Is is skill and experience that makes the difference? Is is attitude and determination, perhaps? Or is it something else, maybe some undefinable quality hiding just beneath the skin. Maybe, just maybe, it is something much more mysterious and magical.

There was a time when the bringing home of meat meant everything. It was literally and obviously the defining line between life and death. It determined how many of members of your tribe or community would survive through the empty winter, and whether your own family and children would go to bed with a belly full of life-sustaining protein, or nothing at all. An empty stomach can make for a long and anxious night, and has a way of permanently arranging  a person’s priorities.

Hence the pursuit of game was most often a full-time activity. It took great effort and unwavering attention to the little details that could make a difference between success and failure. It was an endeavor which could require great physical effort, and could produce great fear, and result in permanent injury and even death. The hunting game was very serious business indeed.

It is not that way for most of us today, at least in the United States. Most hunting today falls under the guise of “sport”. At least that is what the uninitiated call it. But don’t try to tell that to the many families who count on their annual moose or elk to fill their larder. There are countless households who could not do without the small game and birds they bring home either. It would appear that wild game is still an important and critical component of the american diet. It has become even more important in the lean and terrible years of a struggling economy.

Hunting has always come easy for me, and I have had more than my fair share of successes. Animals have always been part of my everyday world, and their has never been a time when I have not felt deeply connected to them in some way. They have come to me as naturally as trees reach for the sky, and it was a great long time before I began to realize that this was not so for everyone. It is a phenomenon I have yet to fully comprehend.

I took my first white-tailed deer with a bow and arrow when I was twelve years old, much to the amazement of my friends and family, and even myself. Similar successes followed over the next few years, and I was often the only person to harvest an animal in a growing number of hunting camps. Other hunters began to look at me out of the corner of an eye, and wonder.

When you are young, it is easy to attribute such things to hunting skill and determination. When you get older you begin to wonder if it is just incredibly good luck. Many years ago I realized the great blessing of it all. I realized that something much more intriguing going on, but just what it was I could not say.

It was easy to wonder these things while wondering the sand ridges and washes amidst the cedar and low gray sage, with arrowhead chips and ancient bones at our feet. I could feel the ancestors there, as strong as I have ever felt it. It was easy to imagine them standing there, watching. They huddle quietly under the cedars, taking the measure of the quality of your soul and heart’s intentions as you stumble clumsily through their world.

Ancient Eyes of The Fremont People

A small movement on the side of a distant peak snaps me back to the task at hand. A small herd of elk has bunched up below a small snowfield, and three of us sit in the mud and glass them, wondering which way they will go.

They are more than a mile off, and they mill around one way and then the other as they sort out their collective mind’s. For our part, we whisper strategies and discuss this’s and that’s, eager to jump into action. It is always the best part of a hunt, that first contact and the knowing that something is about to happen.

Suddenly, the elk are moving fast in single file, all at once like the synchronized wheeling of a flock of birds in the sky. We are up and moving too, pulled together like powerful magnets that have just been energized.

Miles and miles of empty and desolate country surround us, yet, for no obvious reason the elk run directly to us as we scramble for position and shooting lanes through the scattered trees and brush. The bullets fly and lives change as they find their way home, leaving those left behind even more rooted in the way’s of life and death. We can only look at each other in silent amazement, sure in ourselves that something wondrous had just occurred.

How could it be, we all murmured? How could elk such as these choose to run in the only direction which would surely place them in harm’s way, when a simple turn or slight alteration in their path would have delivered them to cover and safety. How indeed? There are simply some things that are unexplainable in a hunter’s world. It may be best not to try.

The next morning was eerily similar. Connor had been sick for several days, and had been late from camp each morning. Today he was feeling much better, and the previous day’s adventures had motivated him ways only he knew.


There are times when even the best of hunters cannot find an elk, no matter the need or how hard they try to make it happen, or pray in hushed tones on bended knee.

One thing I know: “The elk will come to the hunter when it is time to leave this earth, when they are ready, and in their own time. They will only come when you are ready to receive them and to help them with their journey to the place that the spirits live. Each wish only to carry along the respect and dignity that you both deserve. I am honored; we are free.”

[Article In Progress]

cheering us on….happy for our results…This is special, they say. Don’t ever take it for granted. Do not let our sacred way of life and our precious values disappear into the dust and immorality of a civilization who has lost its way in the face of misplaced anger and disrespect.

The Hunter’s Jubilee


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Michael Patrick McCarty

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.


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

Michael Patrick McCarty

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Clawing For The Skydglassme / / CC BY-NC-SA


“Through A Hunter’s Eyes” Goes Live



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.


Michael Patrick McCarty



“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

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.

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.

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….



Michael Patrick McCarty

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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.

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.

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.

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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