You were recently introduced to Mountain Man Toy Shop of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which purveys of all kinds of tools and other fun stuff for the modern day outdoorsman. It’s proprietor, Corey Milligan, is also the founder and owner of New West KnifeWorks, where he’s been making some of the best cooking knives on the market for over 15 years.
Corey was kind enough to take some time out to dish about knives, throwing tomahawks, and living the good life in the mountains.
THINGS IS COOL: How did you get from making knives to Mountain Man Toy Shop?
COREY MILLIGAN: Expanding from just making kitchen knives to the MMTS was really easy. The original drive was good old-fashioned customer demand. All summer long in our kitchen knife store in Jackson Hole, customers were coming in looking for hunting and pocketknives. We had space next door become available, so it was an easy decision. With my 20 years of experience manufacturing kitchen knives, it was easy to use that knowledge to start making other types of knives. Some guys often think kitchen knives are kind of girlie and not tough compared to hunting and pocketknives, but the opposite is true. Kitchen knives in a real professional kitchen get a harder workout in a day than most hunting knives get in a year. So making badass hunting, pocketknives and other mountain tools is no problem. Also, we are in Jackson Hole where we are hitting it hard in the mountains all the time. My friends and/or I are hunting, fishing, climbing, skiing, white water paddling, search and rescuing, ski patrolling...everyday on the highest level. We know how tools need to work and will break them if they don't.
T.I.C.: Why tomahawks?
C.M.: Why not? They are just nothing but fun. It is my goal to mainstream throwing tomahawks in the backyard just like throwing horseshoes. The sound of a tomahawk sinking into a wood crosscut is incredibly satisfying. I think there is some perception of risk but they are no more dangerous than throwing horseshoes as long as you use a little common sense. The perception of risk is also what makes them fun.
Tomahawks have a rich history in Jackson Hole and for mountain men. Besides the rifle, it was the mountain man’s most treasured tool for its utility as a throwing or, more commonly, hand-to-hand weapon and as a general camp hatchet. There is also a rich history from the early days of Jackson Hole industrial tourism in which the "rubber tomahawk shop" was the classic tongue in cheek description of tourist stores. So having these badass handmade tomahawks instead just fits right into Jackson Hole’s evolution into a super high-end destination. The hand-forged nature of our "hawks" also makes them beautiful pieces of metallurgy. They’re collectible for hanging on the wall as an art piece.
T.I.C.: How would you describe mountain man style?
C.M.: It's my hope with MMTS that we are giving a nod to the classic mountain men of old—the trappers, explorers and cowboys who discovered and settled Jackson Hole--while also celebrating the real and true mountain man lifestyle that is alive and well in Jackson Hole and across the West today. Most folks I know are here to live the good life in the mountains, whether it’s playing in the mountains on skis, snow machines, bikes or horses. Somehow, ski bums and cowboys can drink whiskey and PBRs together at the bar and end up talking about the glory of their day in the mountains instead of getting in a fistfight. As far as what folks wear, the organic combination of western wear (Kinco work gloves, Carhartts) and technical mountaineering wear (Patagonia puffy) is pretty cool. If you are from here, it is pretty easy to spot a local.