Rites of Passage – A Boy’s First Goose

 

A Vintage Still-Life Photograph Of a Canada Goose And A Remington 1100 12 Gauge Shotgun; Against The Concrete Blocks Of An Old Grain Silo. Circa 1971. Photo By Michael Patrick McCarty

First Goose, And a Favorite Remington 1100 Shotgun, Circa 1971. Photo By Michael Patrick McCarty

 

There are many “firsts” in the life of a hunter. Who can forget their first BB gun, a first bow & arrow, or the satisfying heft of that first box of shotgun shells of their very own?

And then there is the game to pursue. I cut my teeth on the ever present English Sparrows and Starlings, before graduating to a cadre of over educated pigeons in our old dairy barn. Soon I became fairly good at thinning out our local rabbit and squirrel population, with thoughts of bobwhite on my mind.

You could say that a Canada Goose, well, that was an entirely different brand of dreams…and the thought of actually killing a goose of my own was outside the boundaries of my young boy’s possibilities. That all changed one bright, sunny morning on a small farm not far from Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay.

I had spent the early hours with my father and younger brother, hidden in a pit blind amongst the remnants of a picked cornfield and a few dozen goose decoys. The action was slow, and I was restless, being a boy and all, and I decided that chasing squirrels in the nearby woods sounded like a much better proposition.

To be honest, I don’t remember if I had a crack at any squirrels, but I do remember, as if it were just yesterday, the unmistakable form of what seemed like an impossibly large Canada Goose gliding into a glistening farm pond on the far end of the property.

All thoughts of squirrels now gone, I remember doing my best Indian stalking imitation as I crept towards a small group of trees on one end of the pond. Barely able to still my beating heart, I could not help but hope that maybe, just maybe, this goose was mine.

I remember peeking my eyeballs through the brush and over the rough bank of the pond, but…nothing. My heart sank as I took one more step, and then suddenly, there he was, his body broadside, suddenly alerted, that all-seeing eye wide and gleaming.

I wish that I could tell you that I made a perfectly executed shot as he gained speed on those powerful wings and crossed sharply with a brisk and snappy tailwind at his back.

Truth is, completely flustered, I missed him cleanly twice as he ran along the edge of the pond, flapping for all he was worth like a fully loaded B-52 Bomber, finally connecting with my last and final round just as his feet were about to leave the ground. I pounced upon him like a starving coyote, beaming with pride and accomplishment and knowing that this goose was without any doubt the finest trophy in all the world.

Looking back, you might wonder, as I sometimes do, if my enthusiasm may have gotten the better of me, and maybe I should have given him a little more time to get fully off of the ground before taking those shots.

But then again, perhaps not.

After all, a young boy can stand a little edge, when it comes to a first goose.

Good Hunting!

Michael Patrick McCarty

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and Stormy.

A goose represents the rebel in all of us and because they’re wild and free, they have a certain quality that shines out and makes us wish that we were not bound to labor in life, but rather that we could drift as they do with the seasons.”Paul S. Bernsen, The North American Waterfowler, 1972

Just Another “I Should have never left the blind” moment

 

A Young, Bull Elk Wanders Up A Game Trail during The Middle Of a Hot Day In Western Colorado. Photograph By Michael Patrick McCarty

What’s An Elk to Do When It’s Over 100 Degrees. Well, Look For Some Better Shade, Of Course! Photo By Michael Patrick McCarty

 

No matter how long I manage to stay in my blind or treestand during daylight hours, there always seems to come the time when one must decide to stay, or go. I always have a twinge of hesitation at that first step away, knowing that whatever I am waiting for on that day may be just out of sight down the trail.

In this case, I had been bowhunting for elk in western Colorado, on a game trail that had been very good to me in the past. As you can see from the photo on my game camera alongside my hide, a small bull was there, for some time actually, but alas, I was not. I left the blind that day at 9:00 a.m. to check another spot, and mostly because past experience had shown that the elk would have normally passed by before 7:30 a.m.

Yet, I don’t suppose you can blame me to much for my indiscretion. After all, the animal decided to mosey by after 3:00 p.m on a blazingly bright afternoon, and when the temperature readout on the trail camera recorded a balmy 104 degrees. I was taking a nap at whatever shade was available at the time.

Go figure!

And so much for the best laid plans.

It is why it is called hunting, and not shooting, after all.

Good Hunting!

And may you have the patience, and stamina, to remain in your blind much longer than I.

Michael Patrick McCarty

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Americans’ Love Of Hiking Has Driven Elk To The Brink, Scientists Say

A Large Bull Elk Caught On Trail Camera On A Late Summer Evening In Colorado
Gone In The Dark, Black Night…Or Not? Photo by Michael Patrick McCarty

By Christine Peterson

Biologists used to count over 1,000 head of elk from the air near Vail, Colorado. The majestic brown animals, a symbol of the American west, dotted hundreds of square miles of slopes and valleys.

But when researchers flew the same area in February for an annual elk count, they saw only 53.

“Very few elk, not even many tracks,” their notes read. “Lots of backcountry skiing tracks.”

The surprising culprit isn’t expanding fossil-fuel development, herd mismanagement by state agenciesor predators, wildlife managers say. It’s increasing numbers of outdoor recreationists – everything from hikers, mountain bikers and backcountry skiers to Jeep, all-terrain vehicle and motorcycle riders. Researchers are now starting to understand why.

Read the full article here:

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*One can easily drop this article into the “I Told You So”, category and move on to other things, for in this case the warning signs of an elk herd under pressure have been flashing red for some time. Elk and elk hunting in the Vail and Roaring Fork Valleys, and perhaps many other areas throughout the state of Colorado, may never return to their historical parameters.

We have talked about the issue of declining big game herds quite often at Through A Hunter’s Eyes, although primarily about the worrisome trajectory of the Mule Deer. The loss of an elk herd may be even more concerning, for it clearly defines some serious problems in paradise.

But I think it would be safe to say that very few people had truly predicted the speed and velocity of the decline of this particular local elk herd. I can count myself as one of those.

I can only hope that a solution can be found, and implemented, before it is much too late for an easy turnaround.

The elk, are more than tough, and willing, when given half a chance.

Michael Patrick McCarty

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Nobody Here But Us Birds…

 

“And the fox said to the little prince: Men have forgotten this truth. But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.”Antoine De Saint-Exupery, From The Little Prince

 

 

A Young Elk Noses Up To A Hummingbird Feeder In A Backyard Garden During A Winter Snowstorm Near Carbondale, Colorado
Not Quite As Good As Mother’s Milk

 

A young elk tests out a hummingbird feeder in a backyard garden, somewhere near Carbondale, Colorado.

 

A Mule Deer Buck Noses Up To A Backyard Bird Feeder n Northwestern Colorado
Photo By Frank Donofrio

 

Not to be undone, a mule deer buck gets his licks in too!

 

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Some Wonderful Photos Of Fun Here:

 

A Late Night Postcard Of The Best Kind

Seasons Greetings!

Two Bull Elk Feed In Late Winter Snow

Winter is the Tough Time

 

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.

 

A Labrador Retriever In The Snow, Watching For Animals Hidden In The Trees

Watching For What Comes

 

 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 hay-field 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 hay fields, 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 Large Bull Elk Feeding In The Snow Of Late Winter, Somewhere In The Rocky Mountain West

Without Winter, No Spring

 

 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 bird bath, 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.

May the spirit of elk be with you!

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

 

An Illustration, Or Postcard, Of A Trophy Bull Elk, Bugling, With Foggy Breath, Silhouetted Against A Starry, Late Night Sky

 

 By Michael Patrick McCarty

 

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A Man Made of Meat – A Hunter’s Celebration

Tis The Season, To Yank Something Up The Hill, And Build The Hunter’s Fire

 

A Solo Rifle Hunter Drags an Elk Hindquarter Meat Up a Steep Hill in The Winter Snow While Elk Hunting in Colorado. Photograph by Michael Patrick McCarty
Bringing Home The Bacon. Or The Elk

Just in Time For Christmas Dinner.

Oh Joy To The World!

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Man in all his forms has been dragging something along behind him since he first stood upright and made his first staggering steps toward the horizon. Sometimes, it was a big hunk of life sustaining meat just like this.

They say that modern man hunts to fulfill some relentless though mysterious primordial need. Perhaps it is a way to reconnect with mother nature, to feel the wind on our face and remember our true place in the world.

I have another idea.

Perhaps we are just hungry!

Should We Get The Grill Ready?

By Michael Patrick McCarty

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“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

 

“One does not hunt in order to kill, on the contrary, one kills in order to have hunted…” – From “Meditations on Hunting”, By Ortega y Gasset

 

How Hunters and Anglers Won in the Farm Bill

How Hunters and Anglers Won in the Farm Bill

Wildlife funding, public access increased in new Farm Bill

 

(Dec. 20, 2018) — The $876 billion Farm Bill passed last week by Congress and signed by President Trump today included victories for hunters, anglers and wildlife. As the primary source of private land wildlife conservation funding in the country, the Farm Bill included incentives for wildlife habitat and hunter access. Congress also left out proposed riders to the bill that would have negative impacts on fish wildlife.

“Private working lands provide important habitat for both game and nongame wildlife,” said Aviva Glaser, director of agriculture policy for the National Wildlife Federation. “With shrinking habitat across the country and species in crisis, one of the exciting wins in this Farm Bill was the increase in wildlife funding. Over a five year period, there will be an additional $600 million-plus over and above current wildlife funding levels that will go towards helping farmers, ranchers, and foresters create wildlife habitat on working lands.”

Here’s how hunters, anglers, fish and wildlife win in the new Farm Bill:

  • Increased Access: The bill includes $50 million over 5 years for the Voluntary Public Access- Habitat Incentives Program – an increase of $10 million from the last Farm Bill. This program will help farmers and ranchers restore habitat and open up private lands for walk-in hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation.
  • Funding for Wildlife: The move within this farm bill to increase the amount of EQIP funds for wildlife means that there will be a dramatic increase in funding (from the current $60 million per year up to $175-200 million per year) that will go towards helping farmers, ranchers, and forest owners adopt wildlife practices to help species like bobwhite quail, cutthroat trout, and sage grouse.
  • Cover Crop Fix: Fixes a deterrent to adoption of cover crops in the crop insurance program; along with other provisions this should promote increased adoption of cover crops, which will reduce phosphorus runoff contributing to the kind of toxic algae which creates dead zones and fish kills in water bodies.
  • Public Lands: A proposed rider harmful to public land wildlife habitat was removed, which would have opened up roadless areas in national forests – backcountry hunting habitat – to forest development.
  • Salmon Protected: A proposed rider was removed which would have allowed the EPA to approve pesticides despite reviews from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service showing they would harm marine life including multiple species of salmon.

The Farm Bill passed the Senate 87-13 on Tuesday and the House of Representatives 386-47 last week. President Trump signed it into law today.

For more analysis of the Farm Bill from the National Wildlife Federation, view the National Wildlife Federation’s statement from Dec. 11, 2018.

Drew YoungeDyke

Senior Communications Coordinator

National Wildlife Federation

Great Lakes Regional Center

734-887-7119

www.nwf.org

Uniting all Americans to ensure wildlife thrive in a rapidly changing world

 

For An Inspiring and Hopeful Read, and For The Benefit of Wildlife on Private Lands, Pick Up a Copy of:

 

Elk On The Range

 

December 2018

 

 

Two Cow Elk Feed In A Sage Covered Meadow Below Snowy Cliffs In Colorado. Photograph By Michael Patrick McCarty
A Good Snack Interrupted

 

In the Rocky Mountains, elk are often most concentrated, and observable, on the lower elevations of their traditional winter ranges. Life is generally easier there, for obvious reasons.

Still, it can be the time of dangerous weather and increased predation, making it the most vulnerable time for elk survival. Without a doubt, the heavy snows, and other trials, will come.

 

A Spike Bull Elk Moves Alertly Through The Brush With An Elk Herd In Northwestern Colorado. Photograph By Michael Patrick McCarty

 

These elk look healthy and content, for now.

For when it comes to the fates, and ultimate survival, only the elk, and Mother Nature, know for sure.

Best Holiday Wishes For The Elk, and To All!

 

A Small Herd Of Elk Feed On A Sagebrush Flat In Western Colorado. Photograph by Michael Patrick McCarty

 

Photographs By Michael Patrick McCarty

 

Cow Elk On Winter Range in Snow

 

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Buck Fever In The Modern Age of Deer Hunting

 

A Young Wisconsin White-tailed Deer Hunter Reacts After Missing a Buck...By Pulling Her Hat Over Her Head and Texting On Her Smart Phone
Maybe I Can Text In Another Deer

By Michael Patrick McCarty

Apparently, the proper thing to do these days when you miss a deer is to quickly cover your head with your hunting hat and reach for your nearby smartphone. Or at least this young Wisconsin hunter thought so.

Can you say buck fever?

buck fe·ver

noun

NORTH AMERICANinformal

 nervousness felt by novice hunters when they first sight game.

Not to fret, young deer huntress (yes, this is a young lady here). We’ve all been there, some more than once, whether we will admit it or not.

 And to think, in my day you simply froze in complete, unmitigated panic until the animal walked off,  and then hung on to the nearest limb with all of your arms and legs and with everything you had for an hour or more.

So you did not fall out of your treestand… As if your life depended on it…Because if you were high enough in the tree, it probably did.

 At least that’s what I’ve heard…

You?

 

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“He grouped his last five shots right in the center of the bull’s-eye. Then I showed him my technique of scattering shots randomly around the target because, as I explained, you never know which way the deer might jump just as you pull the trigger.” — Patrick McManus, The Hunting Lesson, February 1983

 

One That Did Not Get Away

 

 

A Wisconsin Big Game Hunter Poses With a Large Trophy Buck White-tailed Deer
Now That’s Something To Text About!

Mark Miller from Mauston,  Wisconsin and a deer of a lifetime. I don’t know if he had any buck fever, but there is certainly no ground shrinkage here!

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A Journal of Wild Game, Fighting Fish, and Grand Pursuit