The Outdoors. It is something that we as outdoorsman are all passionate about and something that we hold dear to our hearts. We often have some of the best times of our lives in the outdoors, whether it is in a tree stand or a duck blind, on a 4 wheeler or horseback. The outdoors are so ingrained in many of us that we rarely step back and think about what a big part of our life it really is. Recently, while on horseback in Southern Georgia hunting quail and it hit me…
Growing up in Western Wisconsin was a blessing for myself along with my 3 younger brothers. We kept pretty busy with each of us being 3 sport athletes. There was always a Football game to be at on Friday night or a Basketball tournament on the weekends and let’s not forget the baseball camps that seemed to go on year round. But when we got “free time” you can only imagine the trouble that the four of us got ourselves into. Needless to say, there was never a dull moment around the Miller household. Now this is usually the part of the story when I hear the “Oh your poor mother” line. And it’s true, we gave our mother more than one headache in our time. But in the midst of all this madness there were two things we could always count on: 1. that no matter how much trouble we got into, Mom still loved us and 2. my Fathers passion for the outdoors. And at the time I had no idea that my Fathers passion would have such an impact on my life.
The first true hunt I was ever on was a deer hunt during rifle season in the Wisconsin Northwood’s. Now my Dad was and still is an avid bow hunter but as most fathers do, he knew that I was more apt to get into the sport if I were a part of some action. Not to mention the tradition, since gun deer season in Wisconsin is practically a statewide holiday. I was only 10 years old but I can remember it like yesterday. I remember sitting in that old wooden tree stand, bored out of my mind watching squirrels, birds, anything that could occupy my attention for a minute or more when I felt my Dad’s hand on my head. As I turned to see what he wanted, I made a noise and alerted one of the biggest bucks that I have ever seen in the woods, even to this day. The 12 point brute took off on a dead sprint as my dad whipped up his old 30-06 with open sights and I witnessed one of the best shots I have ever seen anyone make. As I watched the monster buckle, and disappear through the woods I couldn’t help but shake with adrenaline. Now a lot of hunts may have ended here, but mine did not. I was so excited and had somehow relayed to my dad through my shaking body that I had seen the buck buckle and kick and I knew that he had gotten him. My dad then told me to keep an eye on where I saw the buck get hit. As he got down from the stand I was sure that I was not going to let him down. I stared at that exact spot until he returned to the stand. As he climbed back up he told me he did not think he had hit the buck. He found no blood and no deer. As I listened in disbelief, he told me to get down and go to where I thought I saw the deer buckle and see if I could find anything. I climbed down and walked to the spot that I had kept my eye on. As I got to there, I immediately began to search the area and without having to search too long found blood on the leaves. I immediately began to shake again as I hollered, “I found blood!” I wish I could have seen my Father’s face as I am sure he was smiling ear to ear and proud as could be as he shouted back, “Good, now follow it and see if you can track him down.” I felt like the ultimate outdoorsman as I followed the blood trail, shaking every step of the way and breathing harder and harder until… I looked up and there he lay! I am sure every hunter in the state heard me as I shouted back, “I found him, I FOUND HIM!!!” It wasn’t till years and years later that my Dad confessed his secret that he had already found the buck before he sent me on my task but I am grateful he did what he did because it was after this experience that I knew hunting was something I was going to do for the rest of my life.
Since that hunt, my passion for the outdoors has only grown. When I was 15 years old I got my first hunting dog. A chocolate lab that I named Easton. Easton has taught me more than I could have ever dreamed of teaching him. He taught me patience, kindness, persistence and dedication among many other traits. He is the best friend that I have ever known. He has been there for my best times and my worst times. He taught me that sports were not life as currently I was under the impression. He was there when I put down 40 points my Freshman year in our basketball home opener and I felt like I was on top of the world and he was there just the same when we lost my last high school football game and I felt like the world was coming to an end. No matter what was going on in my life, there was Easton loving and caring for me just the same. It is safe to say that without Easton I wouldn’t be where I am today with my dog training, my career or as a person. No matter how many birds I am able to knock down for him, it will never amount to the impact he has had on my life.
Then the outdoors played another big role in my life when I realized the girl who I had been dating was going to be the woman that I would spend the rest of my life with. Here is this girl who had not been in the outdoors much and certainly never hunted before in her life and somehow decides to date down to this goof who is an outdoor nut. And she took it all in stride. Instead of complaining when I would be hunting all the time, she asked to come along here and there and came to love the outdoors almost as much as I do. I recently decided that it was time to lock this life in and we got engaged. It only made sense that I used a puppy, our new English Setter “Breeze” to purpose.
As I am sitting on top of this horse, watching great dogs work in the outdoors where I love to be, it hits me… I have had great parents, some of the coolest friends a guy could ask for, brothers that would have my back through anything, a beautiful fiancé, a job that I love and a couple of dogs that light up when I walk through the door. And I can thank it all to my Dad’s passion. I don’t know if I have ever said this but Dad, I love you and I am thankful every day for this wonderful gift that you have given me. It is because of you that I am where I am today and I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
Josh Miller is the newest official member of the SportDOG team, having accepted a position as Regional Sales Manager in August of last year, but he’s been working with SportDOG™ through contract sales since 2008. Josh lives in Wisconsin and has been training dogs for the last 8 years. A few years ago, he started training his brown lab Easton to shed hunt, and the pair recently won the NASHDA World Championship. He is also the proud owner of a English Setter named Breeze.