Tag Archives: Hunting

Cowboy Medicine – A Backyard Brew For You

 

The pleasures of making cowboy coffee on the trail and in the backyard. Enamel coffee pot on the fire in the snow on an elk hunting trip.
It’s all About the Coffee! Photograph by Frank M. Donofrio of Glenwood Springs Colorado

 

I am often struck by the power of photographs, and the way they can transport us in time and space, sometimes backwards to a place of fond memories, sometimes forward in anticipation of future adventures. I found such a picture tacked to the bulletin board of our local feed store, and I thought I would share it with you.

Exactly why it caught my attention so dramatically I do not know, but it stopped me in my tracks as I reached for the exit door. I stepped closer, and as I did it drew me deeper and deeper into that perfect recorded moment of experience. Perhaps it reminded me of a past hunt, with the excited chatter of friends or family nearby.

Maybe you, like me, can imagine elk in the background and  just out of view, hanging on the edge of the timber on their way to cover or feed.  I can feel the crispness of the air there, and smell the smoke in the swirling winds. I can smell and taste the coffee too!

This wonderful image was captured by Mr. Frank M. Donofrio of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. He calls it “Cowboy Medicine”, and he has been kind enough to let us reproduce it here. It is an unexpected comfort, and a gift for the eye of the restless soul.

Frank tells me that he snapped it a few years back, on a mid November elk hunt in the spectacular high country near Aspen. He says it was a cold, blustery day, and that in his hunter’s wanderings he happened to meet up with a woman in her later years and her middle-aged son. They told him that they had grown up nearby and were quite intimate with the country, having hunted it all of their lives. They were happy to share some of their hard won backcountry knowledge, and more.

The son offered to build a pot of coffee to help stave off the numbing chill, right there and right then. Frank gladly accepted. After all, the company was fine, and the view was pretty good too.

Apparently, the man liked coffee of the cowboy kind, brewed simple, black, and strong. The recipe is not complicated, but ask anyone in the know and they will tell you that it’s proper preparation is still a fine art, freely given, yet earned on a life of many trails.

Start with a healthy slug of water, freshly drawn from a sparkling mountain stream. Bring to a roaring boil over a fire of spruce and pine, and throw in a handful or three of coffee grounds as you back the hissing pot from the hottest part of the flames. Let it simmer down a bit, and then throw in a splash of water or two or maybe a fist-full of snow to cool it down. Take it from the fire and set it on the ground awhile to let the grounds settle, but not for too long.

It’s always best served piping hot, and there is something to be said for a dose of grounds in the mix. The old cowboys used to say that you could tell when it was right when you could stand up a spoon in it. It’s about texture too, and if you look real hard you can see them there, squinting past weathered brows while chewing on their coffee behind big handlebar mustaches. Or at least I would like to think so.

Now kick back and wrap your hands around a steaming mug of mountain medicine for warmth and moral support. Enjoy the ride. Savor the moment. It’s the doing of it that counts and where you are that matters.

That place be elk country, and there is no finer location on terra firma to drink a’ cup a’ Joe.

I wish to be somewhere just like this next fall, god willing, squatting behind a cowboy fire on a rugged ridge of the Rocky Mountains. There may even be some horses close by, nickering and pawing in the soft white powder.

We’ll keep an extra tin cup in the outfit, just for you. Hope to see you there!

*I have always heard references to the fact that the old-time ranch cooks would not think of forgetting to add a raw egg or some egg shells to a pot of their boiling brew. It turns out that this is true, as the egg or eggshell attracts sediment like a magnet and makes for a cleaner presentation.

Well, I have tried adding the eggshell, and it does work. For now I’ll withhold judgement as to whether this makes a difference in the taste, but it might. I haven’t tried the raw egg yet, but in the camps I generally inhabit a raw egg is a much too precious commodity to mix in my morning caffeine. But I don’t mind being wrong, and I shall try it sometime soon.

Of course if I do that will mean that I have shared another elk camp, and that would be more than fine.

I’ll be sure to let you know how it all works out.

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I am blessed to live in Northwestern Colorado, a place where elk can sometimes become a part of your own backyard.

In my case, it’s just another excuse to gather ’round the fire just out the backdoor, and scan the surrounding hills for elk, or mule deer, or whatever else may be on the move.

God Bless elk, family, and friends, and coffee too!

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Michael Patrick McCarty

 

vintage photograph of young cowboy with cowboy hat pouring coffee from a metal pot on top. Making Cowboy coffee
Coffee Up Boys! Guaranteed To Put some Hair On Your Chest

A Rocky Mountain Stocking Stuffer

Bringing in the Game. Photo by Michael Patrick McCarty

December 21, 2013

Just in Time For Christmas Dinner.

Oh Joy To The World!

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Food Freedom – and Wild Meat Too!

Michael Patrick McCarty

 

“The real work of men was hunting meat. The invention of agriculture was a giant step in the wrong direction, leading to serfdom, cities, and empire. From a race of hunters, artists, warriors, and tamers of horses, we degraded ourselves to what we are now: clerks, functionaries, laborers, entertainers, processors of information”. – Edward Abbey

Forever Humbled

Death Is Always A Possibility

“Obsessive pursuit finally led the bull of his dreams. Then something else took him over”.

There is a place I have been that many elk hunters must eventually visit. The mountains may shine amidst spectacular landscapes and it may look like typical elk country, but somehow things are different there. It is a land of mystery and natural forces inaccessible by horseback, jeep or other conventional means. Inward rather than outward, it is a journey of the heart on a path unique to each individual. It is a place you only know once you get there.

I found myself in such a place some years ago, while archery hunting in the high desert country of northwestern Colorado. Elk hunting had been my passion for a couple of decades, more often than not with bow and arrow as the weapon of choice. I’d hunted more than a few of Colorado’s limited-entry units with a fair amount of success. And my overwhelming concern had always been the pursuit of the big bull – the bigger the better.

He filled my dreams and consciousness and became part of my daily motivation for living and working in Colorado. I would find him, and I would launch a broadhead deep into his chest. Of course, with that event, fame and fortune would soon follow.

I have always paid attention to “The Book”, and to who shot what where. I wanted very badly to be one of those fellows with the 27 record-book entries, who had just returned from Montana or Mongolia, or that private ranch many hunters drool over. You know the ranch of which I speak, the one with a Boone and Crockett bull on every other ridge. I wanted all of it, the recognition from my peers and the life that would come with my great success. The more entries the better and as fast as possible. I ran for the goal and rarely looked back. I can’t say nothing else mattered, but by god it was close.

Then, one long-awaited day, I found myself hunting a special-permit area in Colorado. It was indeed the land of the big bull, a trophy area of epic proportions and about as fine a spot as one could hunt without paying the big money. The animals were there. I had a tag, and I would fill it. I would take what was mine and move on.

I hunted a grueling 10 days. The terrain was rocky and mostly open, with occasional brush patches and stunted cedars. It looked like a moonscape compared to the timbered high country I was used to hunting. Getting close enough for a shot was tough, yet I was able to pass up smaller bulls and often found myself within arrow range of elk that would make most hunters lightheaded. They made me lightheaded. They were the biggest-bodied elk I have ever seen, with towering, gleaming branches of bone. They looked like tractors with horns.

As so often happens in bowhunting, however, something always seemed to go wrong. I made so many stalks and had so many close calls, the events are just a blur. I eventually missed not one but two record-book animals. Each time a shaft went astray, I screamed and wailed with self pity, cursing my rotten luck and the useless stick and string in my hand. The prize was so close, yet always so far away.

Toward the end of the season, I glassed a small herd a couple of miles below me. Two were big bulls. One had cows, and the other wanted them. They were bugling back and forth and generally sizing each other up. I hurriedly planned a stalk and rushed downhill toward my dream.

I stalked and weaved and became enmeshed in a moving, mile-long skirmish line. More than once I slipped between the two animals as they worked their way through the brush and cedars. I saw flashes and patches of hide but was never able to loose an arrow. I knew that within  few minutes a monstrous set of headgear would be laying at my feet. I felt I had been waiting for this moment all my life.

Soon the largest bull swung into the open sagebrush a couple of hundred yards below me, followed closely by a small herd of cows. Words cannot describe his magnificence. He was one of the finest specimens of elkness I have ever seen, with muscles that bulged and rippled under his skin. He was a bull of unique and exceptional genetics with a massive and perfect rack that appeared to stretch behind forever as he laid his head back to bugle. He was certainly at his absolute prime and, if the truth were known, perhaps a bit past it and didn’t know it. He took my breath away. Then I remembered why I had come.

Meanwhile, the smaller and closer of the two bulls had become even more vocal, and soon it became obvious he would pass very close to me on his way down the hill. He was not quite as large as the old bull, but he was big enough all the same. My bow was up and my muscles taut as I began my draw – and suddenly he was running and he was gone. I watched spellbound as he broke into the open and headed for the elk below us.

It was one of those unexplainable moments when time stands still, and you become something more than yourself. I could have been a rock or a tree or an insect in flight. I was at once both an observer and participant in the great mystery, a part of something far larger than myself.

The air was electric and my body tingled as the two warriors squared off. The cows felt it, too, and crashed crazily over the ridge. It was as if they knew something extraordinary was going down and wanted no part of it. The bulls screamed and grunted wildly at each other from close range, with quite a bit more intensity than I had ever witnessed. And suddenly they were one. They would have made any bighorn ram proud, as they seemed to rear up on their hind legs before rushing and clashing with a tremendous crack. I watched as they pushed and shoved with all their might, a solid mass of anergy and immense power surrounded by flying dirt and debris.

They showed no signs of quitting. Soon it dawned on me that they were too preoccupied to notice what I was doing, even though there was virtually no cover for a stalk. My legs carried me effortlessly over the rough and broken ground, and I was giddy with the exhilaration of the end so close at hand. The larger of the two was obviously tiring, and I remember feeling a pang of sorrow for an animal that would soon be beaten, probably for the first time in a very long time, and would now have to slink off humiliated and cowless.

They pushed and they struggled and, for a few moments, seemed to have reached a stalemate as I neared bow range. The old bull hesitated, then pushed, and when the other bull responded, the old bull spun like a Sumo Wrestler, took the uphill advantage and charged. I stood dumbfounded as the two hit the top of a shallow ravine and disappeared from view.

When I reached the edge of the drop-off, the fight was over. The old bull crawled slowly out of the ravine, managing to keep the only two trees between us all the while. He moved sorely and looked like he had just survived 10 rounds with Mike Tyson. I was probably the least of his problems.

I found the other bull where I knew he would be. I sent a shaft his way and ended what remained of his life, although his fate had already been sealed. A very long tine had done its job as well as any arrow ever could.

I collapsed by the side of that marvelous creature as if I were the one who’d just been beaten, and in a way I had. I stared off into space, confused, a little angry, and barely able to grope around in my pack for a gulp of water, half laughing, then crying. I don’t know how long I remained there before a distant bugle brought me back into the moment, reminding me of the work at hand and the long uphill walk back to my truck.

His head hangs in my den now, and I still stare at him in wonder and amazement. When my friends and family ask why I didn’t have him officially scored for the record book, I usually mumble some vague and incoherent answer, as the right words never seem to come.

For some reason, antler measurements have ceased to matter to me. It has something to do with realizing animals are much more than the sum of their parts. Hunting and the hunted remain a significant part of my life, but my reasons for hunting, and my life in general, have changed in some way I have yet to fully understand. Perhaps more than anything, I realize just how much I love to hunt. And that in itself is more than enough reason for doing it.

The bull’s proud head on my wall will always serve to remind me of that special place I have visited and hope to never forget.

I am, and will always be,  forever humbled. Perhaps you have been there yourself.

 

—“Michael Patrick McCarty, longtime bowhunter, buys and sells rare tomes and texts from his bookstore in Glenwood Springs, Colorado”

Originally published in Bugle Magazine, May-June 1999.

Bringing Home The Bacon

Heading For The Freezer

Home butchering and processing of venison and other fish and game is the only way to go if you want high quality wild meat on your table.

Never done it before? Don’t despair – you can do it.

You’ll be glad you did!

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Food Freedom, and Home Butchering Too!

Michael Patrick McCarty

Perfectly Grilled Elk Steaks – It’s What’s For Dinner

“Aim Small, Miss Small”

Tuning Up The Mighty-Mini .17 Caliber

October 12, 2013

Michael Patrick McCarty

It is that special time of year again, and for many of us it can never come quite soon enough. The promise of a weather change hangs suspended in the air and the hunting season – our season – is just around the corner. For some lucky soul’s it has already begun.

It’s time to oil up that favorite rifle and send a few well-placed bullets down range. Of course, people of our persuasion rarely need an excuse to do a little target shooting, and there’s never really a bad time to brush up on the exacting skills of fine marksmanship. Besides, it is also a constructive way to get some sun on the face and some fresh air for the lungs, and it delivers a lot of bang for the buck in the fun department too.

Yet there is a most serious side to the right to keep and bear arms, and it becomes more and more obvious every day. There are those around us who obsessively scheme to take our arms away, and they constantly pick at the edges of The Constitution and The Bill of Rights. They are a constant reminder to the fact that like any critical muscle in the body, a right must be exercised to remain toned and ready.

Let us never forget that it is an inalienable right of all free citizens of the United States to keep the firearm’s of our choice, for the simple reason that we can. We earned it, or at least some of our ancestors did. My father shed blood for it – and for us all. Perhaps your family did too.

It is the quintessential sobering thought. This reality means that it is not always just about hunting or shooting, for to hold a gun in the hand is a great responsibility. When in doubt just recall the images of the founding fathers, who were more than happy to record their opinions on the matter under threat of quick arrest and certain death. Their foundational actions have always held the obvious solutions for times like these.

I, for one, do not take their words lightly, and they continue to ring loudly with ultimate truth and inexorable consequences. How could anyone disregard the forewarnings of George Washington or Thomas Jefferson, or the thousands and thousands of patriots who laid down their one and only life for the life of liberty?

They also fought with unending fervor for the rights of those who simply wish to touch off a few harmless rounds in the privacy of their own backyards.

I sometimes think about these things with each tightening pull of the trigger, as well I should.

In the realm of what really matters it is an easy choice, after all.

“Live free or die” truly are words to live by.

“Use it or lose it” is not just a catchy phrase.

“Aim small, miss small”, I say, and pass the ammunition!

It’s time to get a little hunting in too.

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“To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of people always possess arms, and be taught alike especially when young, how to use them.” (Richard Henry Lee, 1788, Initiator of the Declaration of Independence, and member of the first Senate, which passed the Bill of Rights, Walter Bennett, ed., Letters from the Federal Farmer to the Republican, at 21,22,124 (Univ. of Alabama Press,1975)..)

“Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American people’s liberty teeth and keystone under independence … From the hour the Pilgrims landed, to the present day, events, occurrences, and tendencies prove that to insure peace, security and happiness, the rifle and pistol are equally indispensable . . . the very atmosphere of firearms everywhere restrains evil interference – they deserve a place of honor with all that is good” (George Washington)

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Michael Patrick McCarty

Food Freedom, and Rifles Too!

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*”Aim Small, Miss Small” is from the movie “The Patriot”, starring Mel Gibson.