Tag Archives: Elk

“An elk is a “game animal” with a lot of game. He believes strongly in equal opportunity, for he will take on all comers with hardly a care…

Should you decide to enter his backyard and hunt him, you can tread lightly and show little effort, like many, and experience small success, like most. Hunt him big, and you can peg the throttles until the rockets burn out.

He can take it. Can you?” – Michael Patrick McCarty

Elk and Elk Hunting by Hartt Wixom

Elk and Elk Hunting: Your Practical Guide To Fundamentals and Fine Points by Hartt Wixom. With information on elk history and lore, myths, tactics, scouting, bugling, horses and elk, the elk camp, meat care, and more.

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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Elk: A Postcard Book (Postcard Books) (Paperback)

The elk is perhaps the most enduring symbol of the high country of the American West. These 20 postcards, selected by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, feature breathtaking photographic portraits of elk in the vibrant natural habitats that sustain them.

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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.

You might also like Elk On The Range or The Hushed Silence of Winter Storm.

Some Wonderful Photos Of Fun Here:

 

Wild and Crazy: Photos from the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards (Hardcover)

The funniest photographs of wildlife from around the world collected here in one must-have book that is perfect for animal lovers of all stripes.

When the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards announced a contest for the funniest animal photo, they received entries from all over the world. Now authors and original award founders Paul Joynson-Hicks and Tom Sullam showcase the best of the best—as well as some never before seen—to present the most joyful photographs of wildlife ever printed.

A pelican losing its lunch; an elephant falling on its face; a meerkat having a rough day… You’ll love this light-hearted, upbeat book: The images will make you smile, but there’s a serious side to this endeavor: the authors hope to raise awareness for the need to protect wildlife, and the habitats they call home.

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Elk On The Range

 

December 7, 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.

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

 

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For More About Elk Range and Management, We Can Recommend:

 

Where Elk Roam: Conservation And Biopolitics Of Our National Elk Herd (Paperback)

As one of the world’s largest and most social deer species, elk are of immense interest to wildlife enthusiasts.  Their 500-800-pound tawny bodies, sweeping antlers, and fascinating behaviors draw millions to seek them in national parks and other public lands.  So valued are elk for viewing, sport, and table fare, that over the past twenty-five years elk were transplanted from the West to five Eastern states and Ontario, Canada.  These reintroductions helped restore a treasured animal that as recently as two centuries ago roamed from Atlantic to Pacific coasts and Alaska to Mexico.
 
Where Elk Roam provides an inside look at the field studies and conservation work of a federal wildlife scientist who for twenty-two years served as the National Elk Refuge’s wildlife biologist, coordinating winter feeding of 8,000 elk and tracking their births, deaths, and annual migrations throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. It brings to life the joys and rewards of working with elk and other magnificent species–including wolves, bears, and mountain lions–and it entertains and educates while also moving readers toward active participation in conservation.

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Caution – Elk Crossing!

 

A cow elk prepares to cross the road next to a caution sign in the snow in Colorado
It’s Always Best To Give An Elk The Right of Way. Photo by Michael Patrick McCarty

 

No one truly knows how many elk are killed each year on Colorado highways, but one thing that is known for sure – the trend is rising steadily upward.

It’s a sad statistic, resulting in immeasurable losses to an invaluable resource. And of course, elk versus vehicle collisions are no laughing matter. The encounter can be, and often is, deadly for drivers and passengers.

The fall and winter months are the most dangerous times, when large groups of elk travel great distances though traditional migration corridors, often congregating near food sources in the lower elevations. Unfortunately, most of the major roadways are located here too.

So, you might ask, what’s a driver to do?

Well, to quote an oft-turned phrase – speed kills. Simple as that.

We would all be wise to slow down and enjoy the ride. Be aware, and on the lookout for this otherwise unmissable creature in the shadows of the night.

Give an elk a brake, today…for tomorrow.

You will be eternally glad, that you did!

 

By Michael Patrick McCarty

 

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And For The Discriminating Gourmand’s Among You, Pick Up A Copy Of:

 

Quick-Fix Cooking with Roadkill (Paperback)

From the author of The Original Road Kill Cookbook, which has been in print for over twenty-five years and has sold over 200,000 copies. This title is targeted towards the same audience as Jeff Foxworthy, whose 2009 AMP day-to-day calendar You Might Be a Redneck was the tenth best-selling 2009 calendar and sold more than 225,000 units.

Move over Rachael Ray. Smash car driver and redneck culinary authority Buck “Buck” Peterson follows up The Original Road Kill Cookbook with more than 50 new roadkill recipes inside Quick-Fix Cooking with Roadkill.

Created for culinary cruisers on the go, each recipe can be prepared in less than 30 minutes after its roadside procurement. Consider ditch-divining recipes such as Perky Jerky, Corned Carnage and Cabbage, Freeway Frittata, Backed-Over Baby Back Ribs, Pavement Panini, and Tar-Tare.

Also included are sample tasting menus for breakfasts, lunches, appetizers, dinners, and holiday meals, as well as entertaining tips on where to shop, how to tell when an animal has given up the ghost, and how to pair your roadkill with wine.

Nothing is left to chance, except your next culinary roadkill junction. So, when there’s a fork in the road, why not pick it up and eat what’s found nearby.

New From:$9.94 USD In Stock
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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

 

Mallmann on Fire: 100 Inspired Recipes to Grill Anytime, Anywhere (Hardcover)

Featured on the Netflix documentary series Chef’s Table

“Elemental, fundamental, and delicious” is how Anthony Bourdain describes the trailblazing live-fire cooking of Francis Mallmann. The New York Times called Mallmann’s first book, Seven Fires, “captivating” and “inspiring.” And now, in Mallmann on Fire, the passionate master of the Argentine grill takes us grilling in magical places—in winter’s snow, on mountaintops, on the beach, on the crowded streets of Manhattan, on a deserted island in Patagonia, in Paris, Brooklyn, Bolinas, Brazil—each locale inspiring new discoveries as revealed in 100 recipes for meals both intimate and outsized. We encounter legs of lamb and chicken hung from strings, coal-roasted delicata squash, roasted herbs, a parrillada of many fish, and all sorts of griddled and charred meats, vegetables, and fruits, plus rustic desserts cooked on the chapa and baked in wood-fired ovens. At every stop along the way there is something delicious to eat and a lesson to be learned about slowing down and enjoying the process, not just the result.


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A Colorado Rifleman’s Trifecta

 

You could say that Ian Dean, of Colorado’s Western Slope, had a very good hunting year in 2018.

In fact, I would say that you could run out of adjectives before fully quantifying his self-guided success during the recent big game seasons.

Applause, and congratulations, on an epic year on the public lands. We can’t wait to see what you come up with on future hunts…

 

 

A Hunter Poses With A Trophy Pronghorn Antelope Buck, With Sage Flats All Around. Taken While rifle Hunting In Northern Colorado. Posted by Michael Patrick McCarty
Something To Wrap Your Hands Around

 

 

A Hunter Smiles About His Trophy Mule Deer Buck, Harvested While Rifle Hunting In Western Colorado.
Mule Deer Can Make You Smile

 

A Big Game Hunter Poses Behind a Trophy Bull Elk, Harvested While Rifle Hunting In Western Colorado
Antlers That Reach For The Sky

 

 

“Proof lies waiting in the eye of the hunter. The torch has passed to the young guns among us; may they have half as much fun, had I…” – Michael Patrick McCarty

 

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Good Things For Those Who Wait,

Or,

The Way It Ought To Be

 

And To Reminisce About What Once Was, We Can Recommend:

 

The Bull of John Plute – An Elk of History & Epic Proportions

The John Plute Bull. A former Boone Crockett World Record Elk. Found now hanging at the Crested Butte, Colorado Chamber of Commerce
A Legend in Elk Genetics; A Dark Canyon Monarch. Photo by David Massender

 

By Michael Patrick McCarty

…An elk bugle echoes down and around us in the half-light of early morning, as the towering walls of Dark Canyon take over the skyline. The high, whistling notes are nearly overcome by the falls above, the waters now airborne, flying from the cliffs towards Anthracite Creek. We catch our breath as we climb up the Devil’s Staircase, towards the great unknowns of the Ruby Range and the perils of the Ragged Mountains…

No, this is not the scene of some campy, dramatic flick, as mysterious and foreboding as it may sound. But it was the backdrop, with some poetic license included, of a monumental event in the big game hunting world. It is here, in 1899, that John Plute of Crested Butte, Colorado looked down his rifle barrel and laid down one of the largest set of elk antlers ever recorded.

He has quite a history, this bull, and I can only imagine that his story only survives because of luck and some divine providence. It is said that Mr. Plute was a good hunter, and he often traded wild game for the goods that he needed. More than likely, he was usually not too concerned about the size of a bull’s headgear. Perhaps, in this case, he was.

He was also known to be a colorful character. An inveterate bachelor, a miner, and a mountain man, he traded the head to the local saloon keeper in payment of an overdue bar bill. It later passed to the stepson of the saloon owner, who dragged it out of storage and submitted the first unofficial measurement of its antlers in 1955.

The formalities took a little longer yet, until it was officially recognized by the Boone and Crockett Club as the new World’s Record Elk in 1961, The final score came in at a jaw-dropping 442 3/8 points.

Photographs simply don’t convey the magnificence of this specimen, and you can barely fit it within the view finder anyway. In person it is very nearly overwhelming, and it takes some time to evaluate its true size as the eye struggles to gain perspective.

The rack at its greatest spread tapes at over 51 inches, with 7 points on one side and 8 points on the other. One antler has a basal circumference of over 12 inches, and two points are more than 25 inches long. When first mounted many years after the kill, it was fitted with the biggest elk cape to be found. It was probably not quite big enough.

I have been fortunate to hunt some of the nation’s top trophy areas, and I have come across some big bulls in my time. A 325″ class bull is bigger than many elk hunters will ever encounter; a 350″ elk will really get your attention. I have yet to ground check a Boone and Crockett class elk, though it has not been for lack of trying.

Once, on a Colorado bowhunt, I very nearly harvested a bull that most certainly was approaching that magical 400 point plateau. The memory of that guy can still keep me up at night, and I doubt that I will ever forget the sense of awe he installed within me. I can hardly imagine another 40 or 50 inches of bone on top of his skull.

The Plute bull was the World Record for over 30 years, and many thought that it would never be beaten. The glory days of elk hunting appeared to be long gone, after all, …or were they?

In 1995, the elk hunting world shook once more when an antler buyer purchased a head that he had seen in the back of a pickup truck. Killed by an Arizona cattle rancher in 1968 and never measured, it was eventually determined to be bigger than the bull of Crested Butte. Even then, it only beat out the existing world record by less than 1/2″ of total score.

Obviously, Mr. Plute never knew just how big his elk really was. It does not sound that it would have mattered much to him anyway, though I probably should not speak as if I know. Very little has been passed down about his everyday doings, or his end.  Some have said that he died while breaking a spirited horse; others have said that no one really knows. Perhaps the truth of his ultimate fate is lost upon the winds and snow fields of the wild lands that he roamed, like many men of his era. In my way of thinking that only adds another layer to the legend, and to the mysterious nature of a place that once held a bull such as this.

It is impossible to know the full extent of this elk’s legacy. No doubt his genetics still warms the blood of his countless descendants, banked for the day when they can fully express their immeasurable potential. Who knows how many elk like him, have lived, and died, without being seen?

The head now hangs at The Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce, which might seem an ignominious end to such an important animal. Perhaps it may not be the best place to honor him, but I do not get to make that kind of choice. For most, he is a curiosity and a fine tourist attraction, though I doubt that the uninitiated can grasp its true significance.  For my part I am grateful for the opportunity to admire him in any way that I can.

The Dark Canyon of Anthracite Creek has yet to hit my eyes for real, but it will. I am drawn to it, curious too, and my hunter’s eye wants to see what it will see. Hunt there, I will,  just to say that I did. I hope that John Plute would approve.

Most of all, I would like to think that a giant elk like him still roams those mountains. In my dreams I see him there, hanging back in the dark timber just out of reach of mortal men, suspended on the edge of time and the longing of hunter’s soul.

See you out there!

 

The John Plute Boone & Crockett World Record Bull Elk. Now Found at The Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce in Colorado
A Proud Achievement. Mount On Display At The Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce

 

By Michael Patrick McCarty

 

“All the sounds of this valley run together into one great echo, a song that is sung by all the spirits of this valley. Only a hunter hears it”. – Chaim Potok, I Am The Clay, 1992

 

You Might Also Like The World Record Stag of the Woodlands, About Bowhunting For Woodland Caribou.

 

If you would like to read more about trophy elk and mule deer, we suggest that you acquire a copy of Colorado’s Biggest Bucks and Bulls, by Jack and Susan Reneau. We generally have a copy or two in stock. Feel free to Email us at huntbook1@gmail.com for a price quote and other details.

 

Hunters Specialties Carlton’s Calls Mac Daddy Herd Pack Elk Combo (Sports)

The Carlton’s Calls Mac Daddy Herd Pack Elk Combo by Hunter’s Specialties includes the Mac Daddy with INFINITY LATEX bull elk call, the Estrus Squeeze Me Elk Cow Call and Carlton’s Premium Flex Double Reed diaphragm call for an ultimate elk hunting set. Also includes The Complete Elk Caller DVD to learn to call like the pros.

New From:$50.00 USD In Stock
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Elk Hunting the West-revisited (Hardcover)

Mike packs his latest volume with new information about trophy western elk hunting. Learn tips about photography, hunting in grizzly county, caping, packing and more!

New From:$29.99 USD In Stock
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Some Basic Mountain Mulemanship

 

To The Mountain Horse

 

“His sire was Spain; His dam, the Nez-perce. Legs forged on granite anvils; Heart forged by the mountains.

Kin to the bighorn With clever hoof and infinite eye. Drinker of the wind, the dawn-singer, Kin to the elk.

Enduring, gaunt, rock-worn, Lacking titled rank or registry, His labors win the noble heights And the consort of eagles.” – John Madson, From The Elk, 1966

 

A Pack Mule Poses in Front of the Colorado Snow-Covered Peaks, While on an Elk Hunting Trip On Red Table Mountain, Near Basalt.
Mule Over Mountain – A Stunning View From Red Table Mountain Near Basalt, Colorado. Photo by David Massender

 

There is no better way to hunt elk or mule deer in the high Rocky Mountains than by horseback or mule, yet working with pack animals is fast becoming a lost art. Still, there are still some diehards out there, so hats off to all of you pack-in hunters.

Mountain hunting holds a certain romance and allure all its own, and a large part of the experience depends on how you get there. Some prefer horses, others say that mules may be better. But then again, I think I will stay out of that argument.

Still, from what little I know about mules, they always seem to be playing chess when everyone else is playing checkers. They are definitely smart, and so sure-footed too! As many of you know, that can be particularly comforting when your life literally depends on the careful placement of hooves on stone.

Check out this short video for some basic tips.

 

– Video courtesy of Dave Massender. See Dave’s Youtube Channel Here.

 

——————————————————–


 

Posted by Michael Patrick McCarty

 

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We can highly recommend:

 

Packin’ in on Mules and Horses (Paperback)

For those who yearn to pack in the wilderness country of the West, either on their own mules and horses or those of a professional packer, here is a book that takes the mystery out of back country packstring travel.
By teaching you the tricks of the trade, professional outfitter Smoke Elser show how your trip will be easier and more enjoyable by knowing more about the animals used and why and how they carry their loads as they do.
Whether you’re an expert of a dude, Smoke’s packing system will get you into and out of the back country safely and efficiently. Best of all, you will start to become self-sufficient and resourceful, important aspects of any wilderness travel. The book is laced with instructional photgraphs and sketches, presented in an open, attractive format.

New From:$16.88 USD In Stock
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The mule alternative: The saddle mule in the American West (Perfect Paperback)

From Scientific American
…a must-have for anyone with an interest in the subject is Mike Stamm’s The Mule Alternative. Modest in appearance and presentation, The Mule Alternative is packed with insight into mules and the history of their use in the United States. Stamm discusses the viability of the mule through the letters and diaries of historical figures. A unique approach to say the least, but one that works very well indeed. Practical and poignant (many of the historical passages concern the ravages of war and exploration) by turn,The Mule Alternative has the ability to hook and hold the reader’s attention. History buffs and equestrians with an affinity for the mighty mule will be delighted with this book. –This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From The New Yorker
Wildlife biologist Mike Stamm began research several years ago into a number of questions concerning the historic use of mules during the settlement of the Old West. He wanted to know why many early westerners preferred mules to horses as saddle animals: how mules compared to horses in terms of endurance, hardiness, surefootedness, longevity, and manageability, and why mules have fallen into relative disfavor today. Using historic diaries of early travelers, including mountain men, traders, soldiers, and settlers. Stamm puts together a remarkable testimony in praise of the saddle mule. Stamm includes excellent historical photos and maps in this book. His research will be useful to both mule and horse owners and everyone interested in transportation during the settlement of the West. –This text refers to the Paperback edition.

New From:$18.99 USD In Stock
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The Way It Ought To Be – Elk, Boys & Men

A Close-up Photograph of Elk Tracks in the Melting Snow - A Hunter's Dream
Something Big Dead Ahead

 

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 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.

 

A Small Herd of Cow Elk On Alert During a Heavy Winter Snowstorm In Western Colorado. Photograph By Michael Patrick McCarty

 

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 Big Game Hunter Packs Out a Heavy Elk Hindquarter in the Snow in Western Colorado. Photograph by Michael Patrick McCarty
Just A Few More Yards To Go For Dad

 

By Michael Patrick McCarty

 

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A Young Boy and His Father Race Through The Snow To Get In Position As a Pack of Beagle Hounds Pursue A Running Cottantail Rabbit. A Vintage Lithograph Poster From The Game Art Collection of the Remington Arms Co. Inc. Artist Bob Kuhn. From the Collection of Michael Patrick McCarty
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Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder (Paperback)

“I like to play indoors better ’cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are,” reports a fourth-grader. Never before in history have children been so plugged in-and so out of touch with the natural world. In this groundbreaking new work, child advocacy expert Richard Louv directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation-he calls it nature deficit-to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as rises in obesity, Attention Deficit Disorder (Add), and depression. Some startling facts: By the 1990s the radius around the home where children were allowed to roam on their own had shrunk to a ninth of what it had been in 1970. Today, average eight-year-olds are better able to identify cartoon characters than native species, such as beetles and oak trees, in their own community. The rate at which doctors prescribe antidepressants to children has doubled in the last five years, and recent studies show that too much computer use spells trouble for the developing mind. Nature-deficit disorder is not a medical condition; it is a description of the human costs of alienation from nature. This alienation damages children and shapes adults, families, and communities. There are solutions, though, and they’re right in our own backyards. Last child in the Woods is the first book to bring together cutting-edge research showing that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development-physical, emotional, and spiritual. What’s more, nature is a potent therapy for depression, obesity, and Add. Environment-based education dramatically improves standardized test scores and grade point averages and develops skills in problem solving, critical thinking, and decision making. Even creativity is stimulated by childhood experiences in nature.

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By (author):  Richard Louv

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In The Hushed Silence of Winter Storm

 

A Young Mule Deer Buck With Fresh Snow On His Back, Patiently Waits Out A Fast Moving Storm In The Colorado Rockies. Photograph By Michael Patrick McCarty
Laying Low and Hanging Out.

 

A Small Flock Of Canada Geese Walks Through A Field Of Snow And Grass, Searching For Food In A Rocky Mountain Winter Storm. Photo by Michael Patrick McCarty
It’s a lean, Yearning, Time of Year

 

A Trophy Mule Deer Buck On High Alert While Quietly Feeding During A Colorado Winter Snowstorm. Photograph By Michael Patrick McCarty
Hard to Hide Those Antlers

 

A small Herd of Cow Elk Weave In And Out of the Falling Snow During a November Storm in the Rocky Mountains. Photograph  by Michael Patrick McCarty
Out of the Storm

 

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Silence & Solitude: Yellowstone’s Winter Wilderness (Hardcover)

Powerful, brutal, beautiful, and at times, enchanting, winter in Yellowstone National Park is a world unlike any other. It is a season both abstract and profound, where super-heated water erupts into arctic air, where wildlife pushes snow in a constant struggle to survive, and where silence and solitude dominate the park’s deep wilderness. Photographer Tom Murphy has experienced Yellowstone’s winter wilderness as few others have, skiing far into the backcountry with heavy camera gear, an uncanny ability to weather cold and snow, and an artist’s eye for the sublime. His photographs reveal a majestic land where the air is clean and clear and where a wolf’s throaty howl carries for miles on a still day.

“Silence & Solitude: Yellowstone’s Winter Wilderness” shows us the splendor and force of Yellowstone’s long cold. In 130 photos we begin to understand the lives of the wildlife that must endure it; we begin to feel the inspiring power of a landscape still wild and pure; and we see nature’s beauty in things great and small. These photos are accompanied by Murphy’s thoughtful words that take us into the time and place of each image. The captions allow us to smile at a fox’s serious hunt for a mouse, to understand why bison stand stoically in geothermal steam, and to marvel at a sudden shift of subtle light that brings breathtaking grandeur to a nondescript little tree and just as suddenly takes it away.

As popular author Tim Cahill observes in his foreword, “These are photos that mirror a man’s passion, and I know of nothing like them anywhere. Murphy’s photographs are not simply stunning or striking: they are also knowledgeable and even wise.”


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