Hailing from the coastline of San Diego, Victory Ranch member Ernie Wakabayashi has transposed his active lifestyle to an entirely new climate. A full-time resident at Victory Ranch with his wife Debbie, Ernie has developed a twofold admiration for upland bird hunting; the sport itself and the special pups that join in the hunt. As such, Ernie decided to sponsor a seven-month-old French Brittany, Finley. Together, a man and his best friend, they roam the fields in search of chukar, huns and ruffed grouse in the solitude of early morning.
Where are you from? Where is your primary residence?
Ernie Wakabayashi: We are originally from San Diego, CA, but we have been residents of Park City for the past four years, and recently became full-time residents at Victory Ranch.
What do you appreciate the most as a member of Victory Ranch?
EW: The solitude. And, of course, we appreciate the amazing staff at Victory Ranch. They were a big part of our decision to make the jump to VR as full-timers and now see them as part of our family.
San Diego and Park City are topographically distinct. What activities have you sought out at Victory Ranch?
EW: About three years ago, I met Harley Jackson through a fellow member and friend, Braden Hopkins. They brought me bird hunting, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Growing up in San Diego and surfing all my life, I never thought I would find an activity that would replace the high of surfing. But, bird hunting has that same exact effect.
As an avid bird hunter, you’ve grown particularly fond of hunting dogs. What inspired you to seek out your new French Brittany, Finley?
EW: Being a dog lover and having dogs my entire life, I have been mesmerized by their drive and hunting instincts. Simply watching these incredible animals do what they were bred to do is amazing; finding birds is often of secondary interest to me. I always knew I wanted a hunting dog but I felt I couldn’t give it the life that dogs at Victory Ranch have and deserve. So, when the opportunity arose to sponsor a pup, I couldn’t wait to begin the process with Harley. My wife, Debbie, agreed to the sponsorship under one condition: when the dog retires from VR, we will adopt and care for her in her senior years.
When did you get Finley, and how did you decide on her name?
EW: It took us almost six months to get our pup, but she came from a top French Brittany breeder in Minnesota. We named her Finley, or Fin for short, based on my love for fishing. And, if you look closely, she has the markings of a trout.
How is Finley acclimating to the Victory Ranch hunting climate?
EW: Only seven months old, Finley has already displayed incredible potential, and we are confident she will be a big asset to the Victory Ranch dog team in the near future. It’s also important to mention it’s not all fun and games with these dogs; Harley does an incredible job behind the scenes training them and providing the necessary nutrition and health care. Finley is certainly in good hands, and I’m looking forward to many years of memories and bonding time with her at Victory Ranch.
After a long day of hunting on the Ranch, with Finley by your side, what’s your favorite thing to do?
EW: Make a delicious fried bird, of course. Debbie loves Chukars, but I prefer Ruffies. My go-to recipe is the following:
- Cube the bird breasts
- Salt ‘n’ pepper them
- Dip in egg wash
- Roll in panko breadcrumbs
- Fry in cast iron skillet with olive oil and strips of bacon
- Add a splash of whiskey
Don’t overcook, and it’s as simple as that.
How does it feel to eat something you know you hunted yourself?
EW: I don’t think about it. Just good eatin’!