Long Hollow Road
The 1st Long Hollow Bird Dog was a Yellow Lab owned and handled by a diehard Pheasant hunter in the 1980's that called himself my Dad. For decades, annually he and his friends met up at hunting camp like a religion. They combed the draws between wheat fields with their untrained flushing dogs. With no regard to their day jobs or their families, bird Hunting was an annual obsession...
- Ryan Fortier
Long Hollow Road will lead you to a quiet cabin built by the most hospitable, hard working, family man I ever knew. Craig Culbertson was a wheat farmer, husband, father, coach, friend and all around good man. I cannot say the same about my own father, but I can say that my Dad's obsession with bird hunting, led me to my very first Pheasant hunting trip down Long Hollow Road when I was 12 years old.
Rewind a few years. As the story is told, my dad and his buddies were exploring the Palouse for Pheasants. Somehow they ended up lost and sleeping under their truck at the end of a road, in a rain storm. At some point they were noticed by the land owner. The sympathetic farmer proceeded to offer up his barn to this diehard group of young bird hunters and that is how the tradition of Pheasant hunting down Long Hollow Road began. For many years to follow my Dad and his friends were invited back to the wheat farm annually by Craig Culbertson and his family, for some of the best Pheasant hunting and Deer hunting that Washington State had to offer.
Although I have a few vague memories of a Brittany and a Vizsla somewhere along the line. It was Labrador Retrievers that my father chased upland birds with traditionally. What I also remember is that the Pheasant numbers were so good back then, that a poorly trained, average gun dog, could make a bird hunter with a monster ego, look like a hero. Without going into too much detail about my childhood. When I was 12 years old my Grandpa felt compelled to pick me up one day, drive me from Redmond Washington to Colfax for my very first hunting trip and for a rare visit with my Dad.
A more vivid memory is that of a Black Lab named "Sheen" dog that was owned by my Uncle Mark who was my Mom's brother. Uncle Mark had been in an accident where he had fallen asleep at the wheel in his early 20's and was a paraplegic. That did not slow him down from his passion for Duck Hunting and Fly fishing however. Mark was an avid outdoorsman and I have fond memories of blowing duck calls, throwing the ball for his Black Lab, riding around in his wheel chair and trips to the lake.
After my first trip to the Palouse at just 12 years old, it was the hospitality of the Culbertson family, the wheat farm itself, the extraordinary game birds, the adventure, the shotguns, and the bird dogs that left a life long impression on me. In addition to all the positive memories, there were plenty of opportunities for my young open mind to see and experience things that in my heart, for some reason, I just knew were not right. Early memories of hunting with my dad and his friends were often a lesson in my life about who I did not want to be, and what I did not want to do... Learning is always a combination of dos and don'ts. There are always people in our life that we can emulate in order to learn what to do. On the contrary, there are those people in our life that are an obvious example of what not to do. My father was that person for me. I have felt for many years that all the bad experiences and bad dogs I was fortunate to hunt with as a kid, led me to my ongoing desire to be better.
As I grew into my teenagers years, with my mother moving further from reality, I found myself with no other option than to finally go live with my Dad in Idaho. This move did not create less turmoil in my life but at 14 years old I began to find sanctuary in being in the field with dogs, bird hunting, hanging out with my friends, riding dirt bikes and playing sports. This was an opportunity to do more of that and I think I was just ready for change. I remember my first real experience in training dogs was actually well before I had my own. A couple summers I spent working on a dairy farm and acquiring dogs out of the local paper to train and sell, so that I could save up enough money to buy my very first Shotgun. I had no idea what I was doing but I was willing to try. My first dog training video was a how to by George Hickox sponsored by Innotek. George's southern accent and his mild manner, along with the many great dogs he shared, left quite an impression on me. I also remember somehow getting a hold of an old VHS tape of the National Bird Dog Championship at Ames Plantation. This was all so mind blowing to me at the time. I was just a teenager whose only experience bird hunting was with untrained dogs and men who only cared about shooting limits. This different perspective created a wealth of possibility in my mind and my life's course would be changed forever.
By default the first two dogs that I actually owned were Labrador Retrievers. Labs are what I knew, I was comfortable and familiar with them and I was an upland bird hunter, but I was also interested in waterfowl hunting. After that first exposure to those old VHS tapes my curiosity about Pointing Dogs began to grow and is still growing strong 30 years later. But back to when I was right out of High School. I don't recall how I first heard of an AKC Hunt Test or Field Trial. But that apparently sounded like something I wanted to do. I had a female yellow lab that was capable of running in an AKC Junior Hunt Test. So I attend my first event, she passed, I got my first orange ribbon and the rest is history.
To be Continued...
These our some special dogs. Owned, Trained and Handled by the greats that came before us. We are the grateful beneficiaries of all their hard work and dedication. We can only hope to have an opportunity to pay it forward and continue raising the bar. These dogs are a representation of the generations of greatness that have lead us to the current bloodlines of Long Hollow Bird Dogs today.