Hunting holds a significant space in Tony Kent’s life and he loves helping new hunters step into the sport.
Roy resident Tony Kent has a family friend who lets him hunt on their property out in west Ogden. The area is a mixture of grassy plains and wetland which is the perfect habitat for pheasant, duck, and dove, all of which he hunts. He’ll load up his boat, his spread of decoys, and dog and set out with the intention of bringing home food for his family.
Hunting was a rite of passage and his dad started him out duck hunting. He would go with his father, uncle, and brother. “I’d be the dog so I’d swim out and get the ducks for them.” Perhaps his experience retrieving helped him consider what life would be like with a hunting dog.
“I really started getting into it when I was 14. I told my parents I wanted a hunting dog for Christmas. It was all that I wanted. They said no, absolutely not. Then Christmas came and out in the front yard there was dog food and a kennel!” He was going to pick out a dog from his Uncle Garth.
His Uncle Garth Robinson is a born and raised Roy resident who hunts with German wirehair dogs. He told Tony’s parents they could bring Tony over and pick out a dog since he had a couple Tony could choose from. Tony picked out the one that he liked the best and his uncle told him “Go ahead, she’s yours.” Tony recalled, “At the time I didn’t realize, but it was one of his favorite hunting dogs and he didn’t say a word.” He gave him the dog and that was that.
Tony fell in love with hunting as his Uncle Garth took him out and taught him what he knew. “He was my main role model when it came to hunting birds. He taught me how to train and work with dogs and how to shoot well. It became an addiction, an obsession.” Tony worked really hard at learning how birds work and learning what to look for while hunting.
“I got made fun of a lot when I started,” he chuckled. He was scared of the shotgun recoil and he wasn’t leaning into it at first. Tony explained beginners go through the learning curve to become decent pretty quickly. However, getting incrementally better after hunters know the basics takes time. “You learn what ducks like, how they like a spread, how they like a call done, and what they come into.”
Nowadays, Tony’s favorite thing is introducing new young hunters to the sport by taking them out with him. He usually takes a young man and his parents out hunting for the youth hunt for water fowl. He explained, “There are a lot of people who want to hunt, they just don’t know where to start.”
Having a mentor is the biggest thing in getting comfortable with hunting. His Uncle Garth made a huge impact on Tony’s life and he wants to pay it forward. “I’d rather take them out on a boat and not hunt and run the dog, run the calls, and run the decoys. That’s my favorite thing.”
Tony said the best way to learn is to ask questions to someone with more experience, and frankly this advice is applicable to any hobby, trade, or even potential career! Just don’t ask where hunter’s secret spot is, that elicits a negative response. Hunters will share tactics any day.
He said forums and Facebook groups are a great way to get connected with hunters. He recommended checking out the Utah Water Fowl Association Facebook group and the Utah Wildlife Forum. “It’s a very big community.” He said you could have twenty guys volunteer to take new hunters out.
Tony raises and trains German Shorthairs today. He decided to hunt with dogs because he had a friend who hunted with Labradors. “I was intrigued by watching the dog work.” Dogs will have their nose to the ground as they run along and suddenly stop dead in their tracks. Their nose will point right towards the bird and they’ll stay that way until you flush the bird from its hiding spot. “It’s amazing to watch how good they are, how hard they work, and they want the bird just as much as you do. The worst thing in the world is to miss a bird. They will look at you and try to figure out what went wrong. What did you just do? How did you miss that? I did my job, how did you not do your job?”
His relationship with his dogs goes beyond hunting. In fact, Tony and his wife give credit to their dog Soulik for their marriage. Their relationship was off up until Dezi had her litter of puppies, which included Soulik who is a part of their family today. Tony invited Katie over to see the pups and they have been together ever since. Soulik has been Tony’s best hunting dog and best family dog he’s ever had. Dezi passed away last year and this will be Soulik’s last hunting season before he retires so they will get another puppy next spring.
Tony and Katie have three children who love the dogs too. Ellie who is six, Owen who is three, and their youngest Lilah is two and a half months. Tony has taken Ellie out hunting with him before but Owen definitely seems more interested. Recently he came out to greet Tony as he got home from hunting saying “dad I wana go choot birds” as he was holding his nerf gun.
Their interest in hunting is at different levels but they both love to eat what dad brings home. Their favorite is dove and Tony usually prepares them in his jalapeno popper recipe. “They’ll just sit there and eat a million of them!” His early experiences of eating wild game were not the same at all. “My dad took us back and he made duck nuggets and it was probably the worst thing I’ve ever tasted in my life.”
As they hunt, their goal is zero food waste. He works hard to try to use every part of the bird or deer. “I teach my kids to be thankful for the animal. It’s not just a sport; it’s not about going out and trying to blow everything away. This is producing food.” He makes sausage out of the duck meat and they eat on it throughout the entire year.
Sometimes success isn’t determined by bringing home animals. Tony’s most memorable hunt was shortly after he lost his friend Jed Russell in a car accident in 2006. “He was one of my best friends and he would take me out duck hunting quite often. Right after we lost him, my Uncle found out I was struggling quite a bit so he took me grouse hunting in Idaho. I didn’t see a single grouse. Everyone else got some but I didn’t see a single one.” Grouse hang out in the upper regions of the mountains so Tony hiked to the summit of a mountain with an expansive view. “I remember sitting there with Dezi lying on my lap. She was tired.” He remembers looking out over everything and knowing that everything was going to be ok. Being out in nature away from everything evokes a very pure feeling. That experience helped him realize that’s what hunting is really about.
Tony’s Dove Poppers
Cut jalapeños in half and remove seeds. Fill each half with cream cheese. Place a thin slice of dove meat on top and wrap it together with bacon. Fry in a cast iron skillet until bacon is done but not crispy.