Saturday, October 4, 2014

Partial Thoughts

It's been almost a year since I've last posted on this blog.  Not for the lack of trying though.  I started this blog more as a journal than a daily update or bantering about my outdoor life.  But with everything in life, life does get in the way from time to time.  I have a few posts that I never could find the words to finish and I have many more that I could not get the opening sentence done.  Call it writers block or call it the lack of something meaningfully to say.  I call it partial thoughts as to look as the glass is half full rather than half empty.

I've been out fishing, upland hunting, big game hunting, dog training and field trials over the past year.  I had stories to tell but with no words to portray my adventures.  But such is life so to get back on track I'll post a few pictures to hopefully tell the stories.


Abby waiting to get called to the line.

Rifle Season


Hard earned birds

Brace of grouse

Steel City Conservation Club



Happy Seby and Happy Momma

Seby and his first fish..sort of.

Elk Camp
til next time...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Long Road to Healing through Willie, Hunting and Family

When I started this blog I had every intention to write about our dogs and how they interact with our upland life.  Along the way some of topics veered off course from time to time.  Whether it was a vacation to Spain, some fly fishing exploits or tales about a big game adventures, all of these stories are from me, my heart, my soul.  But sometimes life can interrupt our greatest of outdoor intentions.

On October 4th, I was awoken in an early morning hour with a phone call saying that my newborn nephew Max passed away.  Shock, grief, anger, disbelief, confusion and overwhelming sadness are some of the emotions that our family felt as we began to deal with this great loss.  We later learned that our beautiful little Max passed away from SIDS.  While we may never learn why, we learned how and no matter what, the pain that comes with this loss is devastating.

It's only been weeks since this happened but the healing process has started and we all know it will be a long journey with many peaks and valleys.  How we deal with loss can vary from person to person and from family to family.  How my family is dealing with this is through some time-tested and true measures: the soothing sound of Willie Nelson, the solace and solitude of hunting and the reliance in family.

First, the guitar picking sounds of Willie Nelson graced us as we began to look deep into our souls. Willie has always been a source of family pride and his distinct sound has guided us through the lows and highs of life.  Pretty Paper can be heard on a yearly basis as we decorate the Christmas tree. Whiskey River has started plenty of nights out on the town.  Willie's version of Sunday Morning Coming Down was played by my Dad in his red truck many times as we headed down Genesee Rd on our way to our cabin.  I look back at a few of those trips and saw my Dad's need for soul searching and that song always spelled a cure for him.  Always on My Mind brings us back to those that we left for all the wrong or right reasons.  Me and Bobby MeGee by Willie might be our all time favorite cover song as it had been played so much on a cassette tape from the late 1980's that it wore out.  Seven Spanish Angels by Willie and Ray Charles strikes a cord as my sisters, cousins, aunts and grandmother all consider themselves angels as their Spanish pride erupts.  Pancho and Lefty by the Highwaymen always brings a smile to our faces as our feet tap to the familiar harmony. Willie's rendition of  City of New Orleans was the first song I heard as I began my move from NY to CO.  I will always remember the lyrics "good morning America, how are you" as the most inspirational words to someone seeking a new beginning.

The days following October 4th, Angels Flying too Close to the Ground was the hardest but most appropriate song I could bring myself to listen to.  That song said it all, as our heartache hurt like no other pain.  It still hurts and will always hurt.   But how we carry ourselves as time moves on will be easier when we hear the voice of the red headed stranger echo through our soul.

I've previously written on how hunting has impacted our family but now more that ever hunting is finding its rightful place.  Like a ship that has guided off course,  a hunt can be a useful tool to "right the ship."  It's hard to explain, but for those who hunt for the right reasons, they understand.  The great Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gassett once said "one does not hunt in order to kill, on the contrary, one kills in order to have hunted."  While this might be too deep for some, if you look at the simplicity of hunting this quote is clearer than the day is bright. Hunting is more than that the kill, it's more than the thrill. It's the primal need to have the focus and determination to complete the task at hand.

Whether it be chasing elk in the Rocky Mountains, following springer spaniels in the grass fields of eastern Colorado, busting brush in search of ruffed grouse, sitting in a duck blind on the Niagara River or driving deer through the swamps and pine groves of West Almond, NY, I can tell you that there will be some healing.  Just the time alone with your thoughts as you immerse into nature in the pursuit of game can clear your conscience.  And just as the cold clear air as it fills your lungs when you climb that next ridge to see what lies beyond can sometimes give you the reflection and insight of the hunt as well in life.    While we might not get out as much as we wanted or we might even have to cancel a previously planned trip or two, so is life.  Hunting will always be there for us all as it has been in the past. It's just one way to heal but for us it's an important step though this long road.

We have a large family.  At times our family has been close and at times it has been distant but such is family.  When it comes down to the finish, it's family that will be there for you.  No one can argue with the strength of family.  Family will be always be there and when they can't, they will find a way to extend their support.  Family will be there to pick you up when you have fallen, family will be there to sing your praises when you succeed and family will be there when the family has been broken.  The strength of family will come though as it has in the past and it we will find fortitude from each other.

Healing with family may come in the smallest gestures or events.  Whether it be a drive through the country on a beautiful fall day or sharing a simple meal.  It's the smallest of life's events that can get you through the toughest of times.

Many times it's the youth of a family that keeps the family together and whole.  Coming from a large family, the young have grown and have been replaced by the next generation but we always rely on the evolution of our family.  We are all connected by DNA but we all share the connection of strength and perseverance.  We are family and we are hurting but we will always remember the beautiful soul of our loving little Max.  He left us too early but his memory will help us heal as we rely on the sounds of Willie, the solace of a hunt, and the strength of family.

til next time....

Friday, November 1, 2013

Elk Hunting with Dad.

A friend found a few videos from an elk hunt in 2007.  This was my Dad's first and only big game hunting trip to Colorado.  This shows the lighter side of a hunting camp and the humorous side of my Dad.
 I often think of my Dad this time of year during hunting season.  Nothing brought more joy to him than being in hunting camp.  I'll treasure this video as it might be only one of him at hunting camp.

Side Notes:  I should probably clarify my Dad's "Attica" comment.  He was a NY State Trooper at  the time of the Attica prison riot and worked there in few assignments throughout his career. 
The "propane" reference was from when he took a nap in the camper that day and the propane hose was leaking.  

til next time...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Bulls, Blues and Babies

Nine miles per hour over the speed limit. 

That's what my Dad always preached.  He was referring to driving on the highways to avoid getting that dreaded speeding ticket.  Well, I've received a few of those tickets over the years but it's been a while since that piece of yellow carbon paper sat in my glove box until the due date.  

But it's these days as a new father, a business owner and an avid sportsmen that it seems that life is starting to cruse by way over the speed limit of life.  Living hard and playing hard is what I have always have known.  Forty hour work weeks are considered part time in my family but there are life events that always seem to put our hectic lives in slow motion.  

A few months back I contacted an old friend through Facebook to see if he was interested in joining me on a fall muzzle loader elk hunt.  It's been years since I've last seen this friend but I thought he we be game for a hard DIY elk hunt.  We never hunted together in the past but I wasn't worried about that.  This friend lives and breathes hunting like I do.   Emails and texts were exchanged to organize the tags, the gear lists and what to expect while we were out afield.  And before we knew it I was picking him up at the airport.  

The hunt started out with a brief scouting trip the day before the opener.  Some fresh sign was noticed but what got our blood flowing was when we saw a mature bull elk getting up from a bed within 100 yards of our path.  There is nothing like getting close to what brought you to that 10,000 ft mountain than seeing the game you are in pursuit of.  A restless night of sleep was in store as we confirmed the excitement of the impeding hunt. 

The opener brought some more sign and a few animals moved as we crept through the rain soaked dark timber.  The second day started out with some instant action as we had a huge animal, most likely an elk, move from the willow brush in front of us as the day light moved in.  We took it slow not wanting to ruin any potential action with any over aggressive moves.  

As day light glistened off the grass meadows our ascent up a ridge was interrupted with an elk bugle that was close.  A bugle was returned from my call and a few more exchanges brought a massive animal within 65 yards of our location.  I'll spare the readers the details of the shot but the 6x6 bull elk was down within 3 minutes from when he first bugled. 

6x6 Bull Elk
A few photos and congratulations were exchanged but the hard work started as we had to pack the elk out back to camp.  
Heavy Pack

By 4pm the last pack hit the tail gate of the truck.  We then raced the meat down to processor as the next days temperature wasn't great for aging meat.  Another quick pursuit was in store for the next day but we quickly decided that any elk taken would defiantly but us in a bind as our time on the mountain was running out.
Billy & Mia

Our attention turned to grouse as my older pup Mia was brought up to our hunting area by a a few friends and family that were grouse hunting.  The first bird flushed only minutes as we casted Mia off in the broken timber.  Before we knew it we quickly had three birds in hand.  And it seemed the remainder of our limit happened just as fast as we headed back to camp to celebrate the days take. 

Max Ramiro Ortiz

 Our last morning in the mountains brought smiles to our faces and I read a text: "It's a boy!" It was a text from my brother to inform the world that his son Max Ramiro Ortiz entered this world early that morning.  With all that happened in the previous 3 days this was a fitting end to a hunt that I will soon not forget.  It seems you need a lot of things happen in a few days’ time to make life slow down so you can enjoy it.

til next time...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Spring Creeks

This past July 4th holiday I was fortunate enough to head back east to my wife's hometown in Central PA.  It just so happened that not too far away from her parents house is a plethora of spring feed limestone creeks that are loaded with wild trout.  I also had a brand new 7ft 3wt Sage fly rod that needed to be tested out.  I was lucky enough to spend parts of three days chasing the wild browns and broos trout in these creeks.  It sure was a good time visiting family in PA!

 til next time...

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

First of Many

 This past weekend I took Sebastian along for a little fishing.  I'm positive that he'll be back on the water here soon.

til next time...

Monday, May 6, 2013

Training Day

Long time no see, hear or post.

It's been a while since I dug in and wrote a blog post.  With a year old baby, now a toddler, and a booming business to run, I've been running out of time in the day when it comes to keeping up on the blog.

We had chance to take the little guy out to experience a little fun in the outdoors while training the dogs.  It's getting harder and harder to get out to the training fields with the hectic ins and outs of life.  With the little guy in tow we had some fun while getting some much needed exercise for the girls.

Here are few photos from the days action.

til next time...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Full Circle

    There’s always a beginning to every journey.  The main intention of this blog is to relay the upland adventures with our beloved English Springer Spaniels.  Before there were stories about trialing dogs, pursuing Blue Grouse in the Rocky Mountains or chasing Pheasants on the prairies of Eastern Colorado there was a time that were deer hunting was fuel to this author's time afield.  

    Before there were cell phones, I remember anxiously waiting for the phone to ring on the third Monday night in the month of November.  That third Monday was the traditional opening day of the shotgun deer season in Upstate NY.   When that phone did ring, it was a call from a pay phone outside the Sure Save corner store in Angelica, NY.  The call was my Dad giving me the report from that days events.  The calls were quick due to the line of hunters with the same intentions.  But those calls did quite my curiosity on who got what or who missed what or who saw what.  Back in the early 1980’s there weren’t many deer running around so the call often sounded like “ Tommy took a big doe, Tommy John took a small doe and so and so missed a big buck” and I asked “what about you Dad” and that was followed “I could have taken a small doe but I passed it up”.  To me that was code for he’s waiting for the chance to take a big buck.  When that week was up I couldn’t wait to see the take from the opening week.  I was always mesmerized by the size of the deer’s hooves and the tongue that always out of the deer’s mouth.

    The place where all of the deer hunting took place was out of an old farm house near the town of Angelica, NY.  A group of friends and hunters from Lackawanna, NY, put a few dollars together in 1960 and started the Steel City Conservation Club. The club was named in honor of the unofficial nick name of Lackawanna as it was home to the one time large and bustling Bethlehem Steel Plant.  All of the original members of the club at some point worked at the plant.  The old farm house was now turned into a hunting camp and is often referred to as “the farm” or “the cabin”.  The locals and other hunting camps always knew us by “Steel City” as a sign has always adorned the front of the building. 

    This past deer opener saw a resurgence of hunters in camp.  Over the past few years attendance has weakened due to the “in’s and out’s of life” such as health issues, time issues and hunters living to far to attend the annual festivities.  Fourteen hunters packed into this small house to celebrate this annual right of autumn.  A few new faces and many old faces came together for 3 days to laugh, eat, drink (after the hunting of course), hunt and laugh some more.  The usual shenanigans of deer hunters started right away as the beer and whiskey fueled the camaraderie of camp.  The stories of old flowed as new stories unfolded right before our eyes.  Many stories of the old started with lines like “remember when” and the the new stories started with “I can’t believe that just happened”.  Such is life in deer camp.

    This year’s deer opener was on my calendar for many months as I longed to back in the familiar cabin since I have missed the last few due to life in general and the fact I live 1600 miles away.  I had a particular importance to head back to this year due to the recent passing of my Father this past spring.  You see, my Dad was the person who loved this old cabin and the memories it brought.  He loved the deer opener as is was a time to reacquaint with old faces and hunt deer as he only knew how.  This cabin was the fabric of my Dad’s enthusiasm for the outdoors.  And when it came to deer hunting he only knew one way and that was to drive deer.  Never mind waiting around for that deer to hopefully walk in front of you.  It has always been about creating your luck by lining up posters and pushing deer through the swamps, pine groves and wood lots.  It’s a time and true tradition that caries on to this day as camp had three bucks and one doe hanging by the end of the opening day.

    The day became extra special as a close friend who decided to come to deer camp for the first time.  Most hunters start hunting at a yearly age and then carry on tradition through life.  But this hunter decided to try his hand at hunting at the mere age of 36.  And to think, deer hunting was an after thought and I can clearly remember him saying “I’ll only shot a big buck or something like that”.  We’ll "something like that” happened and something just so happened to be the biggest buck taken in our camp’s 51 years of deer hunting.  Some bucks have come close but this 9 point had good mass, height and width.  We would later learn that it scored 145 green points.  Those who hunt deer in Upstate NY know that is as good as it gets when it comes to quality.

    In these three days, it was evident that there was more to hunting than the size or quantity of any trophy.  To this particular group of hunters, this time was a celebration of the past, living for the moment and looking forward to more good times.  And no one would have been more proud to be here in this camp than my Dad.  He would have loved to laugh and joke about the past.  He would have loved to see the take of opening day.  He would have loved to have seen camp look and feel like the old days.  But for those who were in camp for those three days know that my Dad was here and that made this time even more special.  That’s why it’s important to come full circle in life from time to time.

til next time...

                  Here's a few photos to tell the story of deer camp.  Make sure to turn up the volume.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I had a feeling

Like many other fishermen and hunters I always have visions of grandeur as a hunt or trip approaches.  I day dream of the pursuit and ponder the success of the take.  But the weeks and days before this recent hunt I truly had a feeling that my hunt would be successful.  At this point in my outdoor life a successful hunt is not always measured in the size of the trophy or how fast the limit was taken.  A successful hunt is one that brings a lasting memory and sets precedent for future hunts.

It's always nice to fill a tag but it's especially nice to fill a tag with purpose and meaning.  The purpose you ask is the bountiful meat that will be brought to the tables of those who shared in this hunt.  The meaning was evident to me as I knelt down next to the harvest and thought of what brought me to this place and time.  There were many memories and thoughts in those few seconds.  Overwhelmed by the moment I thought back to the feeling in which I had prior to this hunt.  The feeling of success brought a smile to my face as I shed the emotion of the moment.

til next time...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Back in Action

It's been 21 months since Mia has hunted wild birds.  Both of her knees have been reconstructed with in a 9 month period.  The last surgery was about a year ago so she's had a full year of rest and recovery.  She's been in the training field since last March and it's been going well.  We've seen some soreness in her left leg right after some intense runs but she always recoups within a day.  

Yesterday was our first run at wild birds with the opening of the Dusky Grouse season.  I was a little apprehensive watching her crash through the mixed sage and aspen.  Within a short time of sun up we were in birds.  Her intensity went higher with each covert we hunted.  Mia hunted like she only knew how, fearless.

Each covert we hunted had birds in them but not like in the past.  Numbers of grouse are defiantly down in this area due to the recent drought.  The lack of berries showed how dry it was in this area.

Each of the guns had a brace of birds to their credit with many more birds escaping to live and prosper for another day.  We called it a day at 11am as the heat of the day set in.

This hunt was one of the most relaxing and fulfilling hunts that I have ever experienced.  Was it from good dog work? Was it from great camaraderie? Was it because Mia was finally back in action?  Was it because it's finally fall?  Yes, all of the above. 


Grouse Egg Shell


Adam and Pete preparing for the next day's hunt.

Home for the night.

Sun coming up on a new day and season.

Ben with his brace of Grouse.

The preferable "tailgate" shot.

Mia is still the boss.
  til next time...