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...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Golden Hour

It's the last moments of light of the day.  It''s when the deer start to sneak to their favorite alfalfa fields or when the rainbows sip the last terrestrials of the day.  Most times we are too busy enjoying the hunt to reward the day with a photograph.  Some days when the light is just right the camera actually catches what we all know as the Golden Hour. 

Here's Abby in the "Golden Hour" during a dog training
session on the high prairies of Colorado.

til next time...

Sunday, July 15, 2012


I don't have much free time these days to enjoy anything to do with the outdoors as of late.  Hence the huge slow down in blog posts in recent months.  So with limited time to train the dogs I have to make every session count.

Over the last few years a few members from our dog training and trialing cub, Pawnee FSC, raved about quality of the B & P shotgun shells.  Not that I never believed them, I just never got around to trying them for myself.  That all changed a few weeks back when I order a few mixed cases of #5,6 and 7.5's.  I've been able to test these shells out for myself at our last few training sessions.  All I can say is wow, these shells kick ass. Do shells make you a better gun?  I say yes.
B&P Shotgun Shells

When training a field trial spaniel the most effective retrieve is a long retrieve.  It's easier said than done.  But these B&P shells deliver an effective punch at a long range.

Thanks to B&P to making our training session just that more effective.

til next time....

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Nice Little Father's Day

What better way to spend my first Father's Day camping with baby Sebastian on his first camping trip.  While some of the fun a camping trip was taking away with the recent fire bans.  We had fun none the less. The little guy was a gem and we can't to go camping again.

Nichole and Sebastian
Taking in the sights
"Who me"? 
Jefferson Lake
Some of the accomidations
Our "camp fire"
Little Bear
Father's Day gift

til next time...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Monday, April 30, 2012

Why I Hunt

William Tapply said it best but today I will tell you why I hunt.

I have an intense drive that comes out when the days grow shorter and the mornings start to cool.  I cherish the time spent in the great outdoors.  I enjoy the camaraderie with friends and family alike. I have an intense passion for the dogs I follow in the field.  And this is all brought together when the game is brought to the table. 

But where did I get my passion for everything related to springer spaniels, 16 gauge shotguns, wood ducks, grouse, pheasants and deer?

I know where and I have an older brother and cousins a like who will give you the same answer as I;

My Dad.

It wasn't mandated that I hunt by my father but it was rather strongly suggested by the shear overexposure of the hunting culture.  Hunting is something we, our family and in particular my Dad, just did.  Growing up, I longed to be old enough to carry my own shotgun on those magical Saturday mornings.  I tagged along behind both my Dad and brother for as long as I can remember.   Looking back on those days is what got me hooked on this pastime.  Back then I always wished I were old enough to pursue the game and when I became old enough I wished that the sky would be filled with ducks, geese and rising roosters.  I hoped that a big buck, just like the big six pointer my Dad shot "on the old railroad tracks back in '64," would cross my tracks.  I still have those visions of grandeur while afield and I know where I got them from.

6 Point Buck taken by my Dad in the fall of 1964

For as long as I can remember hunting was, and is, a significant part of our lives.  It has only been in recent times that I have began to understand a deeper meaning of hunting and what it has meant to me.  It has brought patience to an impatient person, it has brought dedication and sense of direction to a wandering soul and it has has brought balance to a hectic world.  Many times has a hunt brought solace to hard times.  And for all of this is why I'm thankful that I hunt. 

At the beginning of this year's hunting season I started to feel an overwhelming guilt that I was entering a new season knowing that my Dad wasn't.

This was the first hunting season in well over 55 years that my Dad was unable to hunt due to illness. The future looks clouded with uncertainty but we have the memories and we'll continue to talk about the past adventures as if they happened last season. 

Since I moved to Colorado, I haven't had many chances to get out in the field with my Dad as much as I would have liked.  Over the last few years I tried to go hunting with my Dad every chance I could.  In the last few years I have made a few trips back East to help re-live the memories of the past.

Those trips will be forever etched in my mind.  As will the million other memories of my Dad through hunts, life and everything in between.

Over the last few hunting seasons,  I tried to savor the time afield and perhaps reflect just a little bit more about the hunts of the past because those hunts are the foundation of my passion. 

I'll continue this odyssey as its beginnings started with my Dad long before I started to hunt.

That is why I hunt.

I originally wrote this passage in the fall of 2010.  That was the first autumn that my Dad did not hunt due to illness.  For some reason I never felt comfortable posting this until now.

On April 16th my Dad passed away after a three year battle with several illnesses.  His love for the outdoors was known by everyone who knew him.  I will always remember that he passed that love down to his sons and I'll pass that down to my son. 

He will be missed.  

A few of our memories.

til next time...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Here's a recent photo of Mia that a good friend and photographer Drake Busch took.  Mia is a unique dog with a great personality.  She's on the mend after 2 knee surgeries in 10 months.  She's cleared for full go and we'll be in the training fields here soon. 

til next time...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Huntin' Buddy

I've been a little slow on the blogger front as of late and I have a very good reason why.  On February 6th my wife and I welcomed our first child, Sebastian Richard Ortiz into this world.  As you can imagine, our life has been turned sideways.  Our world will be forever changed in the best way ever.  Before long we'll be camping, fishing and hunting together.  Life is grand and our plans our big but for now we'll enjoy these sleepless nights.

The girls meeting their little brother, Sebastian,  for the first time.

til next time....

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday Sunrise

My Sundays are always mixed with a little bit of hunting, training and working.  For some reason it's one of my most inconsistent and busiest days of the week.  One we week I'll be working and the next week I'll be driving up to a group training session.  No matter what the day calls,  I'm always listening to one of the best collaborations of music on KBCO with the Sunday Sunrise morning music program.  It's the right music for the day. 

til next time...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Living Vicariously

With my self-imposed conclusion of the current upland season, I've been extremely jealous of those who are still chasing birds until the season closes next week.  But that envy quickly turned to pride as I learned my 11 year old nephew, Ben, took his first wild rooster last weekend.  Ben has been steadfast in the pursuit of his first rooster.  The current conditions and bird populations have not made this quest any easier.  In the end, Ben was not only able to take his first bird, he quickly followed his feet with the second bird of the day.

A day's brace
So here's to living vicariously through an eleven year old.  His passion for the sport has made his family proud.

Congratulations Ben on your first of many birds to come!

til next time.....

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Throwing in the Towel

It's hard to believe that I'm calling the official end to my upland season.  Yes, there are three full weeks of our Pheasant season but sometimes you know when to call it.  Why you ask?  With out getting into details the girls are going to have a baby brother here in just a few weeks. 

This past season has been a good one.  Bird numbers were slightly down and Mia was on the shelf so it's really hard to say this was the best ever.  The shinning light on this season was the consistent and good dog work put on by little girl, Abby.  

In the meantime, we'll be hitting the training fields as much as we can in preperation for the spring trial season.  But for now, the towel is tossed and the waiting game begins.

Here are a few photos from my last hunt.

Ben and Pete getting ready

"Children of the CRP"



Pete and Ben
til next time...