Category Archives: Ethics and The Sportsman

“A peculiar virtue in wildlife ethics is that the hunter ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct. Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his own conscience, rather than by a mob of onlookers. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this fact…Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching- even when doing the wrong thing is legal.” – Aldo Leopold

Ethics and Traditions of Hunting

The Gift – A Young Deer Hunter Joins Up

A Trophy White-tailed Deer leaving a field, and like most whitetail bucks, never very far from brush and cover.
No Sound. No Mind. No Time


The young whitetail buck bounds proudly into the field of newly planted winter wheat and stops, and I know that I must remember to take a breath. Just moments before it had magically appeared from the heavy shadows at field’s edge. I saw first its jet black nose, then it’s eyes, followed by searching ears, and horns.

For some mysterious reason I had been staring intently at this very spot amidst the tangle of heavy vines, the bright green leaves of sassafras trees, and the yellow of remnant persimmon fruit hung on bare branches. It is as if I already knew, somehow, that I would see a deer this morning, and was simply waiting for its arrival. It’s a huge moment when you are thirteen. Why it’s as big as the world.

Just before daylight I had wedged myself into the crotch of an old, dead tree on the more open side of a small, protected field. It was more than cold with a biting, mid November wind, but the tree was big, protecting, with thick, comforting limbs radiating from its base. It was like a fort, and it was great fun just to sit there, hidden, listening.

Morning in the eastern deer woods has a rhythm and cadence all its own. Once heard, it remains indelibly recorded on the heartbeat of your mind  I can still hear the stirrings of squirrels and small creatures in the dry leaves and forest duff below, the twittering birds, the scornful proclamations of Blue Jays and wandering crows above. I miss it so.


A Gray Squirrel Noses Around The Leaves And Pine Needles and Forest Duff For Food
Now Where Did I Put That?

I remember feeling that the buck knew I was there, would be there…watching. Perhaps he had seen a small, slow movement from me, or perhaps he just, …knew. Will he come? Even If he suspects nothing there is little reason for him to continue across an open field on a bright, sunny morning during gun season, with plenty of heavy cover in the trees of the wood lot behind and around him.

I wait. The buck hesitates for a brief time, an eternity, and then trots calmly and purposely along the edge of the trees towards me. I am paralyzed. Though mostly ready, I’ve not yet had time to assess the situation or remember my role in it. My feet are only about six feet from the ground, and I know that he will see me and swap ends quickly if I move too fast. Still, I feel that he knows I’m there and can not change his course, and can somehow see himself moving, thru my eyes, as he crosses in front of my stand.

It’s now or never, and in one motion I come from behind his track and start to swing my shotgun bead towards his shoulder. He stops as if on command, as if this is his part in the choreography of a primordial dance, and this is the selected spot to place his feet. His body is perfectly broadside, with his head turned towards me and up, his nose shining in the sky.

There is no sound, no mind, no time, just our breath frozen in the air as I settle behind the gun. He waits patiently, gracefully, and completely at peace with what is about to come his way. Both parties share something all-knowing yet incomprehensible, without judgement. It is agreed. We have done this before and may do so again, god willing.

I don’t remember pulling the trigger, yet It ends as it must if you are a hunter. A life taken. I am too young to comprehend the full meaning of the act, yet somehow I know there is something more. It is an end, perhaps a beginning, I do not know. The circle complete, we are bonded. It is a gift of the deer and it is sacred.

I pray I will not forget, both then, and now.

“No Sound. No Mind. No Time…A Hunter’s Mind” – Michael Patrick McCarty

A Vintage photograph of a Young Boy Hunting Near a Woodpile
Wait Long Enough And They Will Come


*Few moments in my hunting life have held more importance, my first whitetail buck – a sleek 6 pointer. It was 1971, and I was Thirteen. A hunter, I am.


A Best Memory


By Michael Patrick McCarty

You might also like our post How It Ought To Be Here.

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A Pheasantful of Memories

A ring-necked pheasant, in all it's colors of glory.
JanTemmel / Pixabay

Where would we be as outdoorsmen, and as human beings, 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 it. 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.

A rising ring-necked pheasant towers toward the sky

Michael Patrick McCarty

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“If Christmas came on the Fourth of July and it also happened to be your birthday, you might have some idea of what a first pheasant is like on a clear, crisp Maryland day, with the hills behind, and the tender-green meadows reaching out to black-green blotches of trees, and nothing very much to do but watch a couple of expert dogs work over the noblest Oriental stranger we have in our midst, while two mellowed old gentlemen do not interfere with a boy’s passionate effort. They were not shooting; they had been there before. It took me another thirty years to find out how much fun you have not shooting if there is somebody else around who wants to shoot it more than you do”.

-From The Old Man and The Boy by Robert Ruark

A hunter and a young boy hunt upland game

See our other favorite Robert Ruark Quote at the bottom of our post Here

*We generally have for sale some collectable copies of Ruark’s books. Please email for more information.

Read More About Black Canyon Wing and Clay HERE, and a recipe for marinade.

Shotguns, young gunner’s, and Pheasants Forever!

Wondering what do to next with your bird? Try This:

Pheasant Burritos

  • 2 pheasants (cut into pieces)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup fig, plum, or apricot jam
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in a little water until soft, then chopped
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 2 dried ancho chiles, with stems and seeds removed and then ground
  • 2 minced garlic gloves
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 8 large flour tortillas

Brown pheasant pieces on both sides in broiler or hot skillet. Boil remaining ingredients(tortillas excluded) in a covered sauce pan. Add the pheasant and cook on low heat for 30 minutes or until done. Let cool, then pull the meat from the bones and set aside. Stain the sauce and return to heat. Reduce over medium heat by about 1/3. salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with warm tortillas, topped with pheasant meat and sauce.

Enjoy with your favorite extras and wine, then prepare to get ready for your next pheasant hunt.

*This recipe taken from At Mesa’s Edge: Cooking and Ranching in Colorado’s North Fork Valley by Eugenia Bone.

It’s a lovely read about life in this unique area of northwestern Colorado, with some wonderful recipes using the area’s plentiful bounty. It includes some wild game recipes too.

We have some copies for sale if so interested.

the front cover of At Meas's Edge: Cooking and Ranching in Colorado's North Fork Valley by Eugenia Bone with some pheasant and wild game recipes
Eating What You Catch

The Way It Ought To Be – Elk, Boys & Men

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A close-up photo of elk tracks in the melting snow
Something Big Dead Ahead




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 curiosity, 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 endured 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 a opportunity 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 opportunity. 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 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 its teeth. Even in death, they want to become part of its 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 a while, 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.


A solo hunter packs out a heavy elk hindquarter in the snow in colorado
Just A Few More Yards To Go

By Michael Patrick McCarty

You Might Also Like To Read Jim Kjelgaard: Patron Saint, or A Pheasantful of Memories 

Teaching Your Kids About Hunting

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Teaching Your Kids About Hunting


A man and his young son walk the grasslands while hunting birds and upland game
Carrying On a Family Tradition


Children and hunting are two of the greatest joys in life. What better way to have the best day than combine your two favorite things? While teaching children about hunting might prove to be challenging, it is also one of the greatest lessons you can teach your kids as well as one of the most rewarding for you. Here are a few tips to get started.


Put Safety First

Hunting is dangerous, so when teaching your kids, make sure they get the message. Teach your child the responsibility of handling weapons, and practice with them before hitting the woods. Remind your kids that hunting might be fun, but it isn’t a game.


Get the Gear

You and your child should be outfitted for the hunt, from your boots to your hat. Don’t forget lots of orange (see the safety point above). Purchase quality gear from trusted retailers like Carhartt, and enjoy it for years to come.


Be Patient

Remember what it was like when you were learning to shoot a gun or throw a ball? Your child will be experiencing the same things as you teach them about hunting, so be patient. Also, don’t withhold praise. If they are doing a good job, let them know.


Be a Role Model

Children love to do whatever adults do. It’s the plight of childhood. Be the type of hunter you want your children to be. Part of being a great hunter and role model is keeping a positive attitude. Whether the deer get spooked or the shot isn’t aimed perfectly, stay composed and positive. There will always be more deer, but you can’t replace a moment to teach your kids about positivity.


Teach Conservation

Hunting isn’t just about bringing home the venison. Hunters are conservationists, and that plays a huge role into the sport. Teach your child about harvesting only what they need as well as the balance of giving and taking. Explain how hunters play a role in population control and what you can do to ensure these animals, as well as the land, trees and vegetation, are still around for their children.


Connect with the Outdoors

Hunting is more than making a kill. It’s about connecting with nature. Encourage your kids to take everything in, from the birds chirping to the wind in the grass to the vines growing up the tall oaks. You could even take a minute to enjoy nature and discuss the hunter’s role in maintaining the ecosystem, from keeping the balance to not disturbing nests.


Make a Tradition

While we love passing down a good hunting tradition, you can also use this time with your kids to create new traditions. It will make the hunt even more special to the kids, and it will be a great tradition they can pass down to their kids.


Look Forward

Children are the future of hunting. It is our responsibility as adults, mentors and parents to teach them the right way to hunt. This way the tradition of hunting can be passed down through the generations.
We love hunting, and we hope the next generation carries on our longstanding traditions for years to come. Good luck with your young ones, and don’t forget the camo!

Posted By Michael Patrick McCarty

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And of course, get your Carhartt on!