Thursday, August 14, 2014

Simple Pleasures

It seems to me that today’s kids have so many distractions in the forms of video games, internet, cell phones (hell this list could go on and on) that they are missing out on the simple pleasures of life.  I have a 14 year old son that is completely and absolutely obsessed with football, and from overhearing him now and again I suspect a girl named Trinity fits in that list of priorities somewhere.  The past few years I have been working diligently to get him to go out with me so I could share some of my passions with him.  He’s a teenager and I understand he has other priorities, so I don’t push too hard which leads to me getting stood up a lot, but every now and again he joins me for a day behind the dogs, or wet wading the Arkansas River casting stimulators to brown trout, and when he does, I truly believes he enjoys it.  It may not be nearly as fun as playing football with the neighborhood kids, or as exciting as texting girls at odd hours of the night, but I think he enjoys it and I sincerely hope that I am teaching him that enjoying life’s simple pleasures can often be one of the most pleasurable things there is.
I’ll give you an example…  My son was recently gifted a nice little TFO 5wt and reel because he had slowly been showing an interest in fly fishing with me.  Conveniently I was just introduced to a pretty nice little mountain creek that isn’t too far from home that would allow us to be able to fish the morning and yet he could still be home in time to play football or text Trinity.  Perfect for a little day excursion… We set a date for Saturday morning and when the day came he was almost excited as I was.  We have had quite a bit of rain the past few weeks and most of the water around us is pretty stained and fast so I thought this creek might be a good idea as it is tail water and is usually clear when the other local water isn’t.  However when we arrived at the creek it was quickly obvious that they were letting water out of the dam that feeds this particular stretch of water, and the creek was far from fishable. I was extremely disappointed because I REALLY wanted today to be the day that fired up his interest in fly fishing, but the creek was very muddy and most likely dangerous to wade.
Not being one to give up easily I suggested that perhaps we walk along the trails that border the creek and scout out pools to fish once the water cleared.  To my surprise he quickly agreed and we immediately set out hiking up the creek for a good 3 miles or so taking pictures, and keeping track of pools that we thought we would be productive once the water cleared.  We walked along just talking and enjoying one another’s company.  The subjects ranged from Lewis and Clark to Broncos football and a whole myriad of subjects in between.  We had been walking for a bit when he suggested that we stop and build a small campfire and cook the hotdogs that we had brought along to cook for lunch.  I selected a nice shaded spot under a cedar just a few yards from the bank of the creek as location for lunch, and I set him about the task of finding a few rocks while I dug a small hole in the soft sandy soil that would serve as our fire pit.  Next I had him make a small fire ring around the shallow hole I had dug, and set him out to find an assortment of small sticks and larger sticks to feed our fire.  Once he had everything we needed for our fire, I pulled the waterproof matches and a bit of fire starter from my pack and showed him how make a teepee out of the sticks and before long we had a small fire going that would be perfect for roasting hot dogs.

For the next hour we just sat in the shade and listened to noise of the creek as it rushed by on its way to join the Arkansas River just a few miles from where we sat and enjoyed one charred hotdog after another until we were both full and content.  Afterwards we continued to feed our little fire and watched in silence as the little flames jumped and danced with the slight changes in the wind.  It didn’t take long till the little fire had consumed all of our offerings and it was time to pack up and head back to the truck for the ride home.  I showed him my method for putting out a fire which just simply consists of wetting the coals with water from the creek, then adding a layer of soil, more water, and finally one more layer of soil.  The rocks were returned to their original locations and I explained to him that we should always try to leave nature as we found it.  The conversation back to the truck was nothing but plans when to do this again and I couldn’t have been happier…

Friday, June 6, 2014

Roosters At The Fort by Craig Kulchak

Last September, I contacted Craig Kulchak about his then soon to be published book My Mountain Grouse I had asked if he would be willing to let me read his book early and do a review here on Solace Through Solitude. Craig graciously agreed and I did my best writing a review that would do the book justice. Since then, Craig and I have corresponded via email on variety of topics; everything from the usual topics of bird hunting and fly fishing to more personal things such as: my upcoming change of station to Alaska and the many opportunities I would have there for outdoor recreation.

A few months ago, Craig informed me he was working on another book about his time spent pheasant hunting with his three boys and their gang of Setters on the Fort Boise Wildlife Management Area or has as he likes to call it, “The Fort.” Craig asked me if I would be interested in possibly doing another review for him and of course I jumped at the chance. What you will find below is my humble attempt at doing just that.

Roosters At The Fort is the third book that Craig has written in the outdoor genre describing his time spent bird hunting with his classic Setters and casting dries to eager trout close to his Boise, Idaho, home. Roosters At The Fort; as the title suggests, is a book about pheasant hunting at a wildlife management area along the banks of the Snake River near the Idaho and Oregon border that has a particularly special meaning to the author. The book covers nearly three decades of pheasant hunting with his sons Nate, Matt, Kip, a few close friends and their pack of classic Setters.

Anyone that has hunted a particular piece of property or fished a certain section of river for that length of time can fully understand the love one feels for that land or water. Craig’s love of the Fort is blatantly obvious as you read the stories of his boys and Setters gunning the cattails of the management area. And, who among us cannot relate to having a perfect love affair with a place we gun? Roosters starts out with a great description of the Fort Boise Wildlife Management Area and the  incredibly interesting beginnings as a military fort built to protect the profitable trading interests of the Hudson Bay Company in the early 1800’s, to the fort’s conversion to a wildlife management area in 1959.

This book, like Craig’s previous work “My Mountain Grouse” is primarily written from his meticulously kept journals over a course of 26 years of what amounts to some great pheasant hunting with his sons and their Setters. As someone who struggles to pick up the pen rather than a beer at the end of a long day afield, I can certainly appreciate his dedication to those journals. The book is short but sweet at 148 pages, yet contains 5 chapters of truly enjoyable reading of his time spent gunning The Fort.

The first chapter covers the early years he spent hunting there and tells many a great story about shooting over his first two Setters, Anneca and Beth. His love of these two dogs and the very real pain that still exists from their loss clearly shows in his writing. This is something I am sure many of you can fully relate too...

The remaining chapters are filled with the stories of hunts behind the Setters that followed Anneca and Beth and allows you some insight into how he introduced his sons to upland life that Craig so obviously cares about. As with his last book, this one is littered with journal sketches which are reminiscent of the sketches that accompanied many of the Old Hemlock books. There are also a few poems from the author as well as some from other more well known writers like William Somerville. These in my opinion, only add more substance to an already enjoyable read. As of this writing, we are 89 days away from grouse season. If you are like me and are searching for a summer read to help satiate your desire for bird hunting, this my friends, may very well be the ticket. Roosters At The Fort can be purchased now at

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Smoke On The Wind by Doug Deats

I first came across Doug Deats through a Facebook group called Bird Dogs and Fly Fishing.  Doug stood out among some of the members of the group as a man that had been there done that, but did not exude the arrogance that sometimes accompanies men that have a lot time and experience in their field. As a matter of fact Doug is quite the opposite of arrogant and is always more than willing to share his years of experience in a way that doesn't make doesn't make you feel stupid or inadequate.  Not to long ago Doug had shared a few stories that he said was going to accompany a book that he was putting out later this year, and after reading a few of those stories I knew I had to read the book and that those that did would be in for a real treat.

Smoke on The Wind is a collection of short stories and essays that mostly take place along brookie filled trout streams and the grouse woods of central Virginia, and a few other special places.  There are a few recurring characters in the book that will find their way into your heart and with rumors of a second book coming I hope we continue to see them.  My favorites are the brown dog and a young boy who's excursions into the wilderness remind me of my own adventures as a boy.  Their story runs the gamut from slingshotting nightcrawlers from the edge of the bank to the waiting mouths of eager trout to enduring the loss of the family farm that they both love so much.  There is a realness to the book that if you are an avid outdoorsman you will recognize right away.  Doug does a phenomenal job of relaying the sights, the sounds and the smells of mornings on the water or in the woods and after reading a few of these stories you will feel as though you are almost right there along the side of the brown dog and the young boy.  And frankly not enough writers do that any more in my mind.  My personal favorite essay from the book is entitled Whippoorwills and Wood Piles and it contains a lovely passage that I will share below that in my mind speaks volumes about what lays in store for you should you purchase this book.  

"An old-timer once told me "You can tell a lot about a man by the way he stacks his wood."  Ever since then I have told a lie about who I am by the pains I take in the task." Doug Deats

If I was forced to say anything negative about the book it would only be that it is too short at 91 pages and contains a few spelling and grammatical errors that escaped the editor.  But seriously who among us cannot say that we haven't done the same.  I mean come on have you read this blog!!
The bottom line is that this book is a great read and it gives you a wonderful insight into the mind of a man that is clearly pouring out his soul to the reader in those 91 pages.  If you are interested in purchasing Smoke on The Wind you can do so by following the link below.  Also keep in mind that Doug is currently working on a second book please stay tuned in here for another review for when that book comes to market.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Pheasant Chili Verde

As much as I enjoy hunting for the obvious reasons of spending long hours submerged in my love of nature or the challenge of shooting a Blue Grouse that is traveling off the nose of a staunch Pointer at speeds that are rapidly approaching Mach 1.  Possibly the greatest benefit of hunting is self sustainability.  There is truly something truly special; an almost religious experience when preparing a meal from meat that you personally procured while fulfilling that inherited urge to hunt.  While writing this post I was reminded of a story from the Bible that seemed appropriate.  (forgive me as I paraphrase) The disciple Peter had went to the roof to pray when he suddenly became hungry and wished for something to eat.  He fell into a trance and heaven opened in front of him, there before him was a large number of four footed animals and birds of the air.  When suddenly a voice told him "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat." (Acts 10:13) I could go on but perhaps that's a post for another time. 

I have always loved to cook and I enjoy it even more when the ingredients are from animals that I have killed or vegetables from my small garden.  Ever since I started this blog I wanted to do a recipe post.  So without further adieu here is one of my favorite recipes for pheasant.

Pheasant Chili Verde
1.5 pounds tomatillos
5 garlic cloves, not peeled
2 jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed, chopped (I used 5 because I like a bit of spice)
2 Anaheim or Poblano chiles
1 bunch cilantro leaves, cleaned and chopped
3.5 pounds of pheasant cut into 1" cubes
Olive oil
2 yellow onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 Tbsp of chopped fresh oregano
2.5 cups chicken stock
Remove husks from tomatillos and rinse well.  Once they are rinsed take a sharp knife and cut them in half and place them flat side down on a foil lined baking sheet  along with 2 chilis and 5 unpeeled cloves of garlic.  Place in oven and broil until the skins of the tomatillos and chilis are blackened. (roughly 8-10 mins) Remove from broiler and let cool.


Take the pheasant and cut the meat into  1" pieces and put in a bowl with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper.  I like to add a bit of adobo seasoning to the meat as well.  Heat a large cast iron skillet with a bit of olive oil and fry the pheasant pieces until golden brown remove from skillet and then set aside.  With the skillet still hot take the chopped onion and garlic and fry in the remaining oil until soft or roughly 5 minutes. Remove the onions and garlic from the skillet and place them in a crock pot along with the pheasant pieces.


Toss the cooled tomatillos and garlic (skin on) into a blender.  Take the chilis and remove the skin and seeds and add to the blender along with the cilantro and jalapenos.  Turn on blender and mix all of the ingredients until they finely chopped and mixed.

Pour the green chili sauce over the meat and onions and add the oregano and chicken stock and stir well mixing all of the ingredients in the crock pot.  Heat on low for 3 hours and serve with warm tortillas or Spanish rice.


I truly hope that you enjoy this recipe.  Feel free to take and add to it as you see fit.  I have a tendency to like spicy food and this particular recipe reflects that.  You can easily reduce the spice by removing the chilis or reducing the number of jalapenos.  Also if you try the recipe please leave comments as to what you liked and what you disliked. 



Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Year In Review

     Towards the end of every year I like to reflect on the past season and recall the good days and the not so good days. A journal is certainly a good tool to look back at the time we spend in the field. A journal is particularly good at reminding us of the little facts that slip with away with time. Details like the numbers of flushes in a season, or the number of points by a young dog, and especially informative specifics like what type of flies you were using on that 40 plus fish day on the river last spring. Another way to help us relive those days on the water and in the woods is photography. I am personally especially fond of this method of commemorating time spent out of doors. I like to be able to look back through my photos and remember exactly how beautiful that grouse was in my hand with the peaks and valley's of the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop. Or simply to remind myself of how much different a shade of red that one quail was compared to the others that I artistically laid out on the fence post. Photos are especially important to the fly fisherman as the majority of them release their catch and rarely bring a fish home for the table. First and foremost a photo is nice for a fisherman because it is PROOF, but in my mind its more than that. Most fisherman want to be able to release the fish as quickly as they can and with the least amount of stress placed upon the fish. This rush to get our quarry back into the water doesn't leave us with a lot of time to admire the creature we have struggled so hard to acquire. Photography allows us to marvel at the beauty of the fish long after its been released. So now that 2013 has relinquished it's moment in the spotlight to the new year, I challenge you to document your time spent in the woods or on the water. Whether it is with a journal, a camera, or both makes no difference. But I assure you the investment will be well worth your time.  Below are a few highlights from my season.  I hope you enjoy my memories as much as I enjoyed making them.

A beautiful Greenback Cutthroat caught in a special mountain creek.  The pool this fish came out of was roughly around 10,500 feet in elevation and had some of the most spectacular views one could possibly imagine.

Me with the above fish.  It rained on me heavily that day but the fishing was too good to call it a day. 

The last day of a Blue Grouse hunt with a couple new friends.  We camped for 4 days in the mountains on this trip.  It rained on us every single day we were there. 

This was the results of my the best day of the year.  Not in sheer numbers of birds shot but of the quality of the day.  I took one bird over each my dogs that day and as you can see the view isn't to shabby either.

Kolt taking time to enjoy the view.

This year Hunter accompanied me out to the local preserve and he was able to take his first bird over a pointing dog.  I hope for many more days just like this one.

Scaled Quail are a fun and challenging bird to hunt.  It took me two years to finally shoot one over one of my dogs. (note the red on the bird on the right)

This might be one of my favorite images of the year.  It was incredibly windy that day and the wind was blowing the birds feathers way up and in mind ruined the image.  I cropped the blowing feathers out and ended up with this.

My good friend Jesse and I had the pleasure of fishing with Gary Thompson this year on his drift boat on both the North Platte in Wyoming and the famed Bighorn in Montana.  Jesse is hooked up in this photo with the biggest fish of the trip.  (He's smiling because I am yelling at him not to lose the fish!)

Probably my best fish of the year. Caught on the North Platte River in Wyoming on a squirrel tail leech.

Jesse releasing a beautiful rainbow caught on the Bighorn.


Again I hope you enjoyed my memories of the 2013 season and I hope that you will take the time to record your time afield so that you too can look back and enjoy them many years after the fact.  

Saturday, September 28, 2013



As a kid from Kansas my upland adventures were almost always centered on Quail hunting. However, as an adult, my career in the Army has taken me to Colorado, and it's here that I have fallen in love with the mountains and the Grouse that inhabit the sage choked, high country meadows of the Rocky Mountains. This love affair with Grouse and the fact that I have always enjoyed reading about them has led me to pursue the collecting and reading of all sorts of outdoor literature, especially books about Grouse.  In outdoor literature it is common to see writers writing about Ruffed Grouse hunting - especially in the Eastern half of the United States.  It is however, far less common to see writers writing about the many types of Grouse that inhabit the Western half of this country.  So when I saw Craig Kulchak posting on Facebook about his upcoming book "My Mountain Grouse" and realized that the book would be focusing on Western grouse in the mountains of Idaho, I just had to read it.  I contacted Craig via Facebook and asked him for the opportunity to review the book and post my review here. He was gracious enough to allow me the chance to do just that.

Some of my favorite outdoor books are nothing more than the author going back through many years of his or her journals and chronicling the details of their days afield and then taking those same adventures and sharing them with like minded folks.  George Bird Evans’ classic “Grouse & Woodcock in the Blackwater/Canaan” is a prime example of this type of writing.  “My Mountain Grouse” is another clear example of why this style of writing is so enjoyable.  Each chapter takes the reader back in time on a short hunt through the mountains of Idaho.  Craig does a superb job of describing the sights, sounds and smells of the hunt in a way that  makes you almost feel as though you are actually taking part in the adventure.

But what really impressed me most about this book was that in almost every chapter the author was accompanied by one of his three sons, if not all three of them.  As a father of three boys, I understand the difficulties and the hardships involved in taking your children hunting with you.  We fathers share a keen desire to have our children be successful and to enjoy the hunt as a much as we do.  In the end, we want them to enjoy spending time with us and it is more than obvious that Craig went to great lengths to ensure that the boys had a good time when they were afield.

By far, my favorite part of the book was Craig telling the story of his son Matt's first bird.  In bird hunting, a young man’s first bird is always special and to be a part of that even if only vicariously, is something to be treasured.  This book is full of moments like that and I am confident that the reader will love each and every one of the boy’s firsts.

                                                         Matts First Bird



“My Mountain Grouse” wouldn't be a Grouse book without Grouse and Grouse dogs.  Like myself, the author has a love for classic Setters. Throughout the book he uses these noble gun dogs to pursue the Blue, Ruffed, and Franklin Grouse that occupy the beautiful mountains outside Boise, Idaho.  Blue Grouse are one of my favorite birds to hunt and there is no shortage of action in this book when it comes to gunning these birds.  If you are a fan of Blue Grouse, this is a book you will thoroughly enjoy.  In addition to Blues there is plenty of dog work on Ruffs and Franklin Grouse as well.  I have never hunted either of these birds and the wonderful photography that is showcased throughout the book enables the reader to understand the type of terrain that he or she will encounter when pursuing these birds.  The book is also filled with several of Craig's Journal sketches that to my eye, are very much influenced by the sketches of George Bird Evans and are almost as enjoyable as the writing itself.

All in all, "My Mountain Grouse" is a transfixing memoir of a man’s upland adventures with his three sons; Matthew, Nathan, and Kip and their ever present companion gundogs. It is an adventure that any upland enthusiast would be sure to enjoy.

My Mountain Grouse can purchased at





Thursday, September 12, 2013

Boys Becoming Men...

My passion is bird dogs and bird hunting, yet sadly I cannot remember the first gamebird that fell at my shot. I am however blessed with vivid memories of following coon hounds with my grandfather.  The most pleasurable memories I have of hunting with my grandfather was when I hunted not only with him, but with him and his friends.  There was something special about being included in the group of men who smoked cigarettes, chewed tobacco, and stole snorts of Dr, McGillicuddy's from the toolbox mounted in the bed of the truck. 

This weekend I was blessed to have been apart of young mans first introduction to hunting Blue Grouse in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.  I can only hope that the few days spent together in the mountains chasing the sometimes elusive grouse was enough to instill a lifetime of love of for the birds, the dogs, and the men that chase them.  My greatest hope is that years from now he will remember hunts with his father and the men that accompanied them, just as fondly as I remember the hunts with my Grandfather and his friends.