Albert Pecora – Personal

Albert is the son of Sandra J. and Dr. Albert M. Pecora, Jr. (deceased 2003).  He grew up in rural Huron County, Ohio and graduated from St. Paul High School in Norwalk.  As a teenager, Pecora spent much of his time hunting, trapping, and fishing with his father.

Instead of seeking a job as a teenager, Pecora earned much of his college tuition by growing beef cattle on the small Pecora Family farm. He sold beef by the whole, side, and quarter to customers in the Lorain and Huron County area. The beef operation was the learning experience that led to Pecora’s dream to own his own business.

Albert is married to Jennifer L. (DeGraaf) and they have a daughter, Avangeline Carmela Pecora, who was born in 2006.  In addition to spending time with his family, Albert enjoys gardening, tending his fig trees, and perfecting his cooking skills. Hunting remains his passion.

A Story about My Dogs (well.., my wife’s) by Albert Pecora

In 1969 my parents moved us from Amherst, Ohio to the countryside, located outside the town of Wakeman, in Huron County, Ohio. They chose a 25-acre property located on the Vermillion River, which flows into Lake Erie, approximately 11 miles to the north as the crow flies.

At that time we had field bred English Springer Spaniel, Wendy, and soon after our move, dad purchased a male springer (Sebastian). As things go, Wendy soon delivered a litter of pups. We kept one and named him Winston George. I think my mother conjured the names for most of our animals, dogs included.

As a young boy, beginning at about age 5 or 6, there was never a time when I declined an invitation to tag along with my father and watch him shoot pheasants, woodcocks, and quail over his three springers. Back then, they were all wild birds. After the harsh winters in the late 1970s wild game birds were gone in our area. When I was 12 or 13 I shot my last wild pheasant over Winston when he was in his final years.

We did no bird hunting during my teenage years. Old Winston did very little other than make his annual and arduous trek to court his scrawny three-legged girlfriend who lived on the farm down the road.

Dogs were always part of growing up. After the springers, we had various other breeds and mutts. No true hunting dogs. It was not until I was away at college, after 1984, when my dad revived his interest in springers and bird hunting. In 1980 he bought a 100 acre property about seven miles south of the homestead. He took the land out of cultivation, established wetlands and potholes, and planted wild grasses. Dad was a bit of an amateur naturalist. When the hunting seasons were closed for deer, ducks, pheasant, etc., he would spend much of his free time cataloging birds, wild plants and flowers, butterflies, salamanders, and other sundry critters on what we still refer to as “the property.” He often gave plant and wildlife tours to various people and groups.

In any case, in the late 1980s, English-bred Springers were all the rage in the Pecora family. My dad’s springer revival started with Lewellyn (Lew) followed, soon after, by Gwynndd (Gwynn). I do not remember where Lew came from, but Gwynn was bred by Jim Karlovec of Flushing Star Gundogs in Columbia Station, Ohio (www.flushingstar.com).

Me, well I was off starting my life‑so I had little opportunity to experience the dogs with my father. After a 4-year stint working as an archaeologist in Lexington, Kentucky, I returned to Ohio to attend graduate school in 1994. It was during this time when I again had the opportunity to tag along with my father and shoot ducks, pheasant, grouse, partridge, and woodcock. We made trips to Montana, North Dakota, and Louisiana and, by then, my parents had a camp in the Adirondacks. This was a gorgeous 100-acre tract with two natural lakes flush with a native brook trout. It was also surrounded by expansive public hunting ground loaded with grouse, woodcock, bear, and, according to a family friend and exceptional deer hunter, one or two deer.

It was also during this time when my dad gave Gwynn to me. He was 8-9 nine years old, but still an active hunting dog who never failed to disappoint me on Ohio’s public hunting grounds. I never saw another springer in those fields, but we were nearly always downed at least one rooster and the occasional woodcock and that was usually my fault. Gwynn always flushed more birds than that. He hunted close and tight in a rummaging sort of fashion.

Gwynn and Taff

Gwynn and Taff

When I was around 35, I was still single. I was working on my Ph.D. dissertation and building my business. Living with my old dog, who kept in shape my running alongside my bicycle every evening after school or work, I was living a good and free life. Gwynn was always with me in the field while working on archaeological projects. On one of my dissertation archaeological sites, Gwynn would pass his time by finding and retrieving antler sheds. When it was hot, he would often find a place beneath an active shaker screen and allow himself to be covered with the cool screening material.

I had a few girlfriends off and on, but that was never a priority at this time in my life. My late grandfather marveled at the freedom I had by not being married at age 30. He was convinced I would be single forever if I made it that far and thought it a good thing!

One Saturday, while working at an archaeological site north of Columbus, Ohio, a young woman I had met a few months earlier after a duck hunt in Louisiana called me on my cell phone. She asked if I would be interested in going out. I responded with “how about this evening?” After a nice dinner at my favorite Calabrese restaurant (the Pecora’s hail from Calabria), she suggested we go back to my place to meet the dog I told her about.

Now listen, I never knew a girl who did not treat my dog well. Some may have loved him, I do not know. But there was a clear and obvious bond between my date this particular evening and Gwynndd. That bond never waned- so I kept her around and married her (Jennifer Lee [DeGraaf] Pecora).

For several Octobers I would meet my father at his camp in Long Lake, New York for grouse and woodcock. Gwynn was pretty old by this time, but not old enough to leave at home. One day we stopped at one of dad’s grouse covers and I decided to leave Gwynn in the truck as we hunted with two or three of dad’s dogs. Halfway into the cover, I found that Gwynn had somehow escaped and found his way to me. He immediately began to “scoop up” woodcocks (the one’s my dad’s dog’s had missed) in his unique way.

This was Gwynn’s last big hunt. He still had the spirit, but his strength and stamina were greatly diminished. I called my dad one day and told him I was interested in another dog. He was not willing to give anything up at that time, but told me he would talk to Jim Karlovec. A few months later, dad called to tell me Jim had a “5-year old” English bred Cocker Spaniel for me, beautiful jet black with a white blaze on his chest.

My first experience with field-bred cockers was in North Dakota a year or two earlier.

Stan (real name "Shadow")

Stan (real name “Shadow”)

They were small, came in a variety of colors and hair textures and, to be frank, I initially did not believe they were actually hunting dogs. They were too cute and petite! But, boy, they were awesome in the field. More than that, they were fun, personable and affectionate- not unlike a springer‑ but more so and in a different way.

In any case, my father called me later to say to say he had the black cocker for me. It was a Thursday, his normal day off, and he suggested I come up on the weekend to get “Taff.” My father was excited and so were Jennifer and me. I had to work that Saturday, but I would make the trip on Sunday.

I was on the Ohio River assisting Dr. Jarrod Burks with a geophysical survey that Saturday. I returned home that afternoon, excited about Taff and ready for a beer.When I arrived, I met my wife in the driveway.After a hug and a kiss, she told me something had happened to my father and that he was in the hospital.Initially I was worried, but that happens to older people.I chugged a beer or two on my front porch when it occurred to me that something was wrong.We decided to hop into the truck and make the two our drive to my parent’s home.Halfway through the trip, my mother called to tell me my dad was gone…a massive heart attack while working in the yard after a good morning shooting clays.

To this day, I have the vivid memory of the sweet fragrance of that Baker’s muskrat scent while peering over my father’s shoulder as he demonstrated the proper way to make a muskrat set with a No. 1 Victor Stop-loss along the bank of the Vermillion River behind our home when I was seven or so. The importance of the “stop-loss” for rats was drilled into my head by the old man…”they will literally wring their legs off without the stop-loss,” he would say.  Just as vividly, I remember fishing with him on the same river bank when I was five years old. He sat me on a large rock above a small pool with my Zebco™ fishing rig given to me the previous Christmas by my Uncle Angelo. That day I caught a bucket full of rock bass as I watched my dad cast his fly rod. I remember thinking he did not know what he was doing because he didn’t have a bobber or a worm on his hook! He was larger than life to me in every way. He’s all gone now. Only memories… and the cockers and springers.

My father’s last gift to me was Taff, who I thought was five years old but turned out to be nine. He was awesome, though, super well-trained, fast and a wonderful companion for my wife and me. We called Taff the “biggest little dog in the world.” He had huge paws, huge bulging muscles, a big block head and snout, oven mitt-sized ears, and the largest set of maleness I’ve ever seen on any dog.

During the October after my dad passed, my wife and I made the last trip to Long Lake after my mother decided to sell our camp. The trip was devoted mainly to cleaning the place out, but we of course brought the dogs and my gun. It was grouse season and I was not about to pass one last opportunity. My wife tagged along as we sought out a few of my dad’s favorite grouse covers. It was also my first time in the field with Taff‑ and he was awesome. In one small cover, about two acres in size, Taff flushed a grouse. When the bird went up, Taff “hupped” without command and made a beautiful retrieve on command. He returned to the cover on command and flushed six additional birds, “hupped” after each flush, and retrieved the two additional birds that fell. Half way through this unprecedented (for me) grouse shoot, my poor wife had to trek back to the truck for more shells. What a day and what a dog and what a wife! Thanks dad!

Gwynn soon passed at 14 or 15 and Taff died several years later at around the same age. Gone now are two of my favorite dogs, great companions, and an important link to my father. They came to me late in their lives, but they were perfect at the time. Both were stellar hunting dogs‑ both made me look damned good in the field.

Knows a chicken from a game bird

Knows a chicken from a game bird

Like great people, dogs are not replaceable. But today we (including our daughter Avangeline Carmela) have a cocker (Stan) and a springer (Ceaser), both from Flushing Star Gundogs. Both were within 1-2 years of old pups when we bought them.Stan is 11 now and slowing down. He is mostly a companion, but still has a good nose. When he was around 3-4 years old, Stan decided he was gun-shy. I have no idea how or when this occurred, but he would hunt his heart out and bolt back to the truck after every shot. I learned to always be relaxed with cockers and springers. When something goes wrong, you always make it worse when you exhibit stress or anger.

Having a gun-shy dog is disappointing and stressful. But I was committed to work with Stan. I did so by taking him into public hunting land near a public gun range. We started one day at a considerable distance, but within ear shot of a near constant barrage of gun fire with the accessional big-bore shot. Each day we would move closer. We did this for several weeks before I noticed Stan no longer reacted in any way to a shot. When hunting season started, I committed myself to shoot only when Stan found and flushed a pheasant. In any case, Stan no longer has an aversion to gun shots.

Ceaser, Greg Buchko, Albert Pecora (2009)

Ceaser, Greg Buchko, Albert Pecora (2009)

Ceaser is now 7 and one hell of a springer, black and white, long legged and muscular. He runs like a rocket and is tireless. I always thought that he had the look and personality of my dad’s dog Lew, and was surprised to learn from Jim that he comes from the same lineage. Pretty cool! Jim has bred Ceaser twice and I’m promised a pup when my family and I are ready. This time I think we might go for a cocker but would be more than happy with a springer.

The springers and cockers were brought to me by my dad. Today, I could not have them were it not for my wife. She’s the one who runs them daily. She’s the one who tirelessly picks the burrs after every hunt. I love those dogs.

 

Hunting and Fishing Pictures

 

Florida Panhandle

Florida Panhandle

Bull Red Florida Panhandle (2012)

Bull Red Florida Panhandle (2012)

 

Snapper- Eleuthera (2013)

Snapper- Eleuthera (2013)

Not my hound

Not my hound

Jeff Olson in Minnesota

Jeff Olson in Minnesota