My father introduced me to upland hunting as a young child. I remember sitting on the floor watching him get his gear ready to go pheasant hunting. I recall the smell of gun oil as he cleaned his shotgun and how it lingered on my fingers, knowing that in the morning my father would head out to western Kansas.
I longed to accompany him in the field and as I got older, I was "allowed" to tag along with my BB gun. Pheasants and duck hunts became the norm, except that I couldn't take the cold very well and, according to my dad, I talked too much. After college and a time in the Marines, I fell in love with upland hunting.
What aspect of upland hunting drives you most?
My passion is to be outdoors, walking in the morning of a crisp fall day, waiting for the sound of wingbeats and watching the dogs search for that smell of feathered game. It's not whether or not I leave with my bird vest full, but the experience. A limit of birds is not what drives me, but the beauty of the outdoors, the dogs, and the experiences I'm able to share with family and friends.
Any big hunts planned this fall?
A trip to the Cimarron National Grasslands was in order this year, but it's hard to find others to camp in a tent in the middle of winter in the desert grasslands of southwest Kansas. Instead, several trips to northwestern Kansas to hunt bobwhite quail, pheasants, and prairie chickens are planned. Along the way, stops will be made at Cheyenne Bottoms, where seeing a quarter million ducks is nothing but spectacular.
Chasing prairie chickens throughout the Flint Hills is always a challenge as these birds are tough to hunt. A trip to Nebraska later in the season to hunt quail, pheasant, prairie chickens, and sharp-tail grouse is being planned. Every hunt is different and exploring new public lands, whether it's close to home or not, is part of the adventure.
How has starting a Facebook and Instagram page, and being able to connect with the hunting community impacted your life?
Learning about Instagram from my daughters and discovering the vast social media bliss of upland hunting it had to offer has been positive. I have been able to show both hunters and non-hunters the beauty of the outdoors, and the chance for them to follow my upland adventures in the fields, woods, and water hunting birds. I have used both Instagram and Facebook to make connections and contacts with other upland hunters.
This has led to the exchange of information, hunting opportunities, and voicing the importance on conservation and land issues. I have become more involved in promoting the outdoors through conservation organizations. I've also learned a lot about photography and capturing all aspects of upland hunting, from the hunt, the dogs, the gear, to the landscapes, beauty, and simplicity of the outdoors.
If you had to pick one moment over the last few years that you would consider a high point, what would that be?
Introducing new people to hunting. I have made a choice to talk about and promote the outdoors, specifically upland bird and waterfowl hunting, to non-hunters. I have encouraged and invited several individuals each year to experience bird hunting. This includes taking them to my "honey holes", giving them gear and shotguns for free so they can continue pursuing hunting.
Teaching the ethics behind hunting, gun safety, and responsibility, as well as being there when they feel the rush of a covey of quail flush at their feet or the raucous cackle of a pheasant rooster as it sails into the wind. These experiences fulfill my responsibility as a hunter to pass it on, just as my father introduced hunting to me.
Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
Having been a law enforcement officer for twenty years, I am looking forward to retiring in five years at the young age of 50. I am looking forward to a very well earned new life of travel, relaxation, and enjoyment with my wife and daughters. I am also excited for the opportunities that hopefully unfold and lead me to experience upland hunting in different regions.
Maybe I'll be able to introduce would-be suitors or son-in-laws to the world of upland hunting. Not sure how my two daughters will react to their former U.S. Marine and Police Officer father taking potential husbands in the field with shotgun in hand though!