Friday, December 30, 2011


       With the New Year quickly approaching, I wanted to take a little time and talk about New Year’s resolutions.  Most people make resolutions to change things they don’t like about themselves, for example someone might make a resolution to lose 20 lbs or to quit smoking.  We sportsmen and sportswomen aren’t exempt from those types of resolutions; in fact quite a few of us could stand to lose a few pounds, myself included.  But those aren’t the type of resolutions I am referring to.  The resolutions I am talking about are related to whatever outdoor activity you choose to pursue.  My passion is bird hunting with pointing dogs and a budding interest in fly fishing, so here are my resolutions for this year in no particular order.

1.        After being deployed for almost all of the 2011 hunting season, priority number one will be getting my dogs into as many species of birds as possible.  This year I resolve to take my dogs on as many trips as I possibly can.  This will include a trip to either Montana or Idaho to chase Hungarian Partridge, a bird I have been dying to hunt for some time.

2.       Resolution number two is more training related.  This year my goal is to have my two year old Ryman Setter steady to wing and shot, and to bring my Pointer back to that standard as he has regressed in that department over the course of the last year.  This goal will likely be my toughest challenge, I have all the tools, launchers, homers, e-collars, ect what I lack is experience.  Luckily I have several friends who are excellent trainers and can guide me along as I take on this demanding task.

3.       My third resolution may seem a bit odd, but it is very important to me.   The only fault our dogs have is that they just don’t live long enough.  My goal is to do a better job of documenting what time I have with my four legged hunting companions.  A friend of mine lost his 14 year old Gordon Setter, Cookie this year.   Sadly he doesn’t have a single picture of her pointing or hunting.  That is something that I cannot abide.  When I am old and gray and my mind isn’t what it used to be, I want to be able to open my journal and photo album and relive old memories of hunts gone by.

4.       My last resolution is simple, ever since I moved to Colorado I have wanted to learn to fly fish.  I have been a few times but have yet to come anywhere close to learning how to cast properly.  I hope to not only learn how to cast, but to become somewhat knowledgeable in what flies to tie to be at least moderately successful at catching fish.  So if you see me on some remote Colorado stream, don’t be alarmed I am not really having a seizure, I’m just trying to learn how to cast a fly.

       So there you have it, my outdoor resolutions for 2012.  I hope I am successful in bringing these goals to fruition, as I am hopeful that you are equally successful in your resolutions.  May this year bring health and happiness to you and yours this holiday season.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Gift

Not really hunting related, so I hope you don't mind but I wanted to take a chance to talk about Christmas.  Christmas is wonderful time of year.  It brings friends and family together like no other time of year, and I love that aspect of it.   However, it can be easy to get caught up in the commercialization of Christmas and its deviation from which it was originally intended.  While it is perfectly acceptable to have a tree and exchange gifts, and decorate the house with lights and ornaments, and enjoy the company of loved ones that you rarely get to see.  I challenge you to remember the real reason for the season, which is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and best gift you will ever receive…..your salvation.  From my family to yours I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas with friends and family to include our four legged hunting companions.  Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Recharging the Batteries

The main reason I love being in the outdoors is the sense of escape from whatever is troubling me at the moment.  It could be anything from financial worries, or stress at work and at home.  But regardless of what troubles me I can always find solace in the unrestricted beauty that is nature.  Jose Ortega Y Gasset a Spanish liberal philosopher who penned the book “Meditations on Hunting “ was spot on in my opinion, when he wrote this little gem….. When you are fed up with the troublesome present, you take your gun, whistle for your dog and go hunting.”  Unfortunately my vocation does not afford me the opportunity to grab dog and gun whenever life sends me a curve ball.  My trips afield are few and far between and because of that, the memories of the sounds, images, and smells of a hunt have to carry me through to my next one.  Knowing that, for six months I planned my most recent trip to be full of memories to last me the final five months of my deployment to Afghanistan.   Here are a few of those memories.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Lucky Man

November has finally arrived, and I am about a week away from a well deserved 15 day vacation from Afghanistan. I was sitting here thinking about all the things that I have going on during my mid-tour leave. Things like my 11 year anniversary and our romantic getaway in Kansas City, Thanksgiving dinner, visits with friends and family, and my upcoming Quail and Pheasant hunting trip with a few good friends. And that’s when it occurred to me......I am one hell of a lucky guy. I have been married to Kristy for 11 years this November and she has put up with a lot. Everything from missed birthdays, anniversaries, and not to mention 3 years of running the house and raising three boys all by herself while I have been deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. After being gone for 6 months I didn’t think I stood a chance in getting approval to spend a few days to chase Quail and Pheasant with the dogs and a few good friends, but without any hesitation she blessed off on it. She is an amazing woman and I am lucky to have her.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Gypsy Autumn

I imagine that if your reading this, your a like minded individual. Someone who loves dogs, birds, double guns, and spending time with all three in the field. So it should come as no surprise to you that on these long middle eastern nights when I am far from home, I like to think about and plan my, for lack of a better term "dream hunt". My dream hunt isn't going to be about harvesting huge numbers of birds, you see numbers don't always tell the whole story. This hunt is going to be more about the process of healing and getting away from the drudgery's and stress of everyday life, and if numbers are the focus then I guess I would have missed the point.

My hunt would start in the "Land of Living Skies" otherwise known as Saskatchewan, where my dogs and I would test ourselves against the Hungarian Partridge and Sharp tailed Grouse of this Northern Canadian Province. There is something about the Saskatchewan Prairie that appeals to my soul. The province covers 227,100 square miles and the horizon extends for so long one might think they could see all the way to Alberta.

From Canada I would drop down south to hunt the prairies of Montana. Ever since I was a boy and first learned of the Lewis and Clark expedition I have been captivated by the idea of exploring that much land and the wonderful loneliness they must have felt as they travelled it. The romantic in me wishes I could have made that trip and seen just how beautiful this country must have been before man changed the landscape forever.

After Montana I would head east to try my hand at the Ruffed Grouse or the "King" as some would like to name this medium sized partridge. So much has been written about the Ruffed Grouse I think you would be remiss by not attempting to hunt this noble bird at least once. I am not sure what state I would chose to pursue the king. Most folks say that Minnesota is the top Ruffed Grouse–producing state in the U.S. But being a fan of the late Burt Spiller and his classic book "Drummer in the Woods" I would most likely be inclined to hunt Burt's home state of New Hampshire.

Lastly I would find myself back in my home state of Kansas, chasing Gentleman Bob and his companion the track star like Pheasants that seem to constantly baffle my dogs. I dont blame them though. I am without a doubt enthralled with the west and everything that comes with it. But I imagine I will always keep coming back to Kansas. Maybe its family that keeps me coming back. Or maybe there is a beauty to Kansas that I just can't explain. Either way it's home and always will be.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Waiting on November

The past few weeks have been harder on me than I care to admit. Time has been ticking by terribly slow, and this is worsened by the fact that my mind seems to be constantly dwelling on my upcoming leave. I have many things to look forward to over leave. Holding my wife in my arms again is high on that list, as is spending half an afternoon throwing the football with the boys. Shaking my Fathers hand and giving my Mom a big hug, is up there as well. I look forward to doing all these things and many more when I get back stateside. But most of all I am looking forward to my first real Father and Son hunt with Hunter my youngest son. Hunter is 11 now and is in his first year of middle school. A time in his life when friends, football, video games, and girls all become more important than dear ole dad. I'll accept this as a phase that happens to all boys and gladly take advantage of him asking me to take him Quail hunting with me this fall.

Hunter and I have never made it on a hunt together before. I was supposed to take him a few times on a Turkey hunt, but never got around to it. (Something I plan on remedying this spring) We have attended a few field trials together and we both enjoyed the time spent together. But I just cant wait to share with him my passion for hunting behind a good dog on a cool autumn morning. I hope that he loves the anticipation of walking in on a dogs point and experiencing the thrill and surprise of a covey of Bob's rising at his feet as much as I do. I fondly remember my first hunt with Grandpa and a few of his friends and how special I felt when they treated me just like one of them. I plan to make Hunter feel just as special as Grandpa and his friends did with me. And I sincerely hope that this is the first of many days to come. November just can't get here fast enough.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Top Five Reasons I Should
Have My Own Outdoor Television Show
1.   I’m incredibly good looking, just ask me and I will gladly tell you. Plus I think we can all agree we need more women in our sport. What better way to add the fairer sex to our ranks than by having my Brad Pitt like physique promoting it on television. (Eat your heart Harley Jackson.)

2.  Bird dogs are way better at hunting birds than I am. I figure most folks most watching bird hunting shows want to see decent dog work as opposed to me missing birds all day with both barrels, which I do with alarming frequency. 

3.  I’ve occasionally been known to get lost. OK I have gotten lost A LOT. I have a buddy who has yet to let me live down the fact that I once got lost in plot of WIHA in Kansas….one of the flattest places on earth. Each episode I could “accidently” get lost. The revenue from GPS advertisements alone would be astronomical.

4.  Tom Knapp is a world class shooter. But after watching any show with him in it or any other great shooter for that matter is terribly detrimental to your morale. I miss with such frequency that viewers of my show will think they are the next Tim Bradley or perhaps the reincarnation of Annie Oakley. This will lead to delusions that they could just clean house on out of state hunting trips. Can you say hunting lodge & tourism advertisements?

5.  And lastly did I mention my Brad Pitt like Physique?

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    The Old Man and the Boy

     I am sure most of you are familiar with Robert Ruark’s “The Old Man and the Boy”. But if not, let me give you a little brief insight into my favorite book by Mr. Ruark. In 1953, Ruark began writing a series for Field & Stream magazine entitled The Old Man and the Boy. Considered largely autobiographical (although technically fiction), this heartwarming series ran until late 1961. Many of the articles in the series were collected into a book of the same name, followed shortly thereafter by another companion book entitled The Old Man's Boy Grows Older. The stories were punctuated by the philosophical musings of the Old Man, who was a character modeled after both of Ruark's grandfathers, though based mostly on Ned Adkins, Ruark's maternal grandfather. In the stories, young Bob Ruark grows up hunting and fishing in coastal North Carolina, always guided by the Old Man. However, the pain of his parents' difficult domestic life and his relatively few childhood friends - Ruark, something of a child prodigy in school, was a loner - are tellingly absent from the stories. Today these two books are his best remembered works; his other novels are long out of print. Source: I was first introduced to this classic novel in 2009 during my second deployment to Iraq. I was extremely please to discover that the story came close to reflecting the experiences I had has a kid growing up in Kansas, and being taught by my maternal Grandfather to ethically hunt and fish. And I didn’t realize it at the time, but along the way he taught me quite a bit about becoming a man as well. I suppose most everyone had their own “old man”, but allow me to tell you a little about mine.

    Grandpa had a small farm about an hour east of Wichita, Ks. He worked as a maintenance supervisor at the local Archer Daniels Midland plant in my hometown of Fredonia, Ks but always had some sort of project going on at the farm. Cattle, pigs, goats, and of course coon hounds called that farm home. Some of my earliest memories of him are watching him cut and weld scrap metal into gates, fence corner posts and tons of other useful objects around the farm. Grandpa hunted deer but first and foremost he was a coon hunter that loved following the bawling of blue tick coon hounds through the creek bottoms that weaved their way through the Greenwood County landscape that he called home. My parents used to take me and my brothers every Friday to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for dinner to be followed by butter pecan ice cream and if I was lucky a quick coon hunt with Grandpa. On those many hunts that I tagged along I must have asked a thousand questions. But he was always patient and answered every question regardless of how ridiculous. . It seemed like there was nothing he didn’t know about. Perhaps Ruark was talking about my “Old Man” when he said. “When you are as old as the old man, you know a lot of things that you forgot you ever knew, because they have been a part of you for so long.”Robert Ruark, The Old Man and the Boy

    I don’t recall exactly how old I was when I got my first gun. Maybe 11 or 12 I really can’t place the exact age, but I remember the moment like it was yesterday. It was my birthday and my parents were having a party for me at our home. When it came time to open gifts, I unwrapped each and every one and thanked whoever it was from just like any well raised kid should. (thanks mom and dad) And just when I thought I was a done, a long white box was presented to me to by Grandpa. My fingers made short work of the package which soon revealed a brand new Daisy .22 Cal bolt action rifle. Like I said I don’t remember how old I was when I got that rifle, but I remember questioning in my head whether I was old enough. I took the gun out of the package and raced outside where I promptly sat on my haunches and leaned against the back of our house shouldering the rifle pretending it was a machine gun. (imagine Rambo type sound effects) What I didn’t know was that everyone was watching this from the kitchen window. I looked up and saw them, and immediately felt as though I had let him down. He felt I was old enough to have my own gun and here I was acting a fool not five minutes after receiving it. I vowed right then and there that I would do my best to make sure his trust in me was not a poor decision in judgement. “Any time a boy is ready to learn about guns is the time he’s ready, no matter how young he is, and you can’t start too young to learn how to be careful.” ― Robert Ruark, The Old Man and the Boy

    I was a blood thirsty kid, no other way to put it really. I am rather ashamed to admit that now, but at least I have come a long ways from the kid that wanted to shoot anything and everything, just because he could. It took far longer to outgrow the "It flies it dies" mentality then I'd care to admit as well. I still prefer a day, with a bird or two in my vest as opposed to coming home empty handed. But it's not the end all be all on whether I consider it a good day or not. These days dog work is primarily that deciding factor....but I digress. Grandpa wasn't a conservationist, at least I don't remember him that way. I don't recall him fretting over the declining numbers of Quail in our part of Kansas. That's not to say he didn't care, just that I don't remember him being concerned. But what I do remember is fishing a little pond in the pasture to the west of Grandma and Grandpa's house that was chock full of bullhead. I had brought that daisy rifle along for whatever reason, and being the blood thirsty heathen that I was. I was looking for something to shoot. I wasn't catching much off the fishing dock so I grabbed my rifle and rod and walked around the edge of the pond to find a spot that might prove to be more productive. While on my way to a better spot, I saw a rabbit hop out of the cover of a cedar tree, I flicked the safety off and shot him dead. And I had every intention of just leaving that rabbit lay. Later that evening I nonchalantly informed Grandpa of what I had done. His reaction made me immediately realize my Foley, and I soon found myself walking with a flashlight out to the pond to recover my rabbit. I learned how to skin a rabbit that day and I also learned that a man doesn't shoot what he doesn't plan on eating. “You might as well learn that a man who catches fish or shoots game has got to make it fit to eat before he sleeps. Otherwise it’s all a waste and a sin to take it if you can’t use it.” ― Robert Ruark, The Old Man and the Boy

    “Time just seems to fly away for a boy. That, I s’pose, is why one day you wake up suddenly and you ain’t a boy any longer.” ― Robert Ruark, The Old Man and the Boy
    Most of the memories that I have shared with you took place when I was no older than thirteen, yet they seem like they were just yesterday.  My "Old Man" Raymond D. Bumgarner was taken from this world on April 14th 2010.  Not a day goes by that I don't think of him, and I sincerely hope that never changes.

    Sunday, September 18, 2011

    Outdoor Memories

    Being deployed is hard.  You have the obvious things that make day to day life difficult. Things like separation from loved ones, living conditions, unbearable heat, dust, food (don't get me started on that one) and a plethora of other things that make life as a deployed Soldier uncomfortable.  Then there is the ones that aren't so obvious.  They differ from person to person but I am confident everyone Soldier has their own cross to bear.  Mine is being away from home during Autumn bird season.  I have tried this year to combat the inevitable deployment depression by planning my midtour leave to coincide with Quail and Pheasant season in Kansas.  Now, I told my Commander I needed that date due to my anniversary which just so happens to be the 18th of Nov.  So....technically, I'm taking leave to coincide with my anniversary, but lets not get into semantics.  In the meantime, between now and November I will just have to console myself by remembering hunts that have come and gone.  And, of course living vicariously through the photos and emails of friends out there chasing the upland birds that I love so much.  I can always find solace in my outdoor memories despite whatever hardships I may be enduring at the time.