By Molly Kirk
Photos by courtesy of Alvie Culanding
Each month in the Hunting Notes from the Field email, we at the Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) highlight one of our constituents and the role hunting plays in their life. Are you an avid hunter who would like to be featured or know someone who would be great to feature? We’d love to hear from you! Just email email@example.com and let us know!
Name: Alvie Culanding
Hometown: Virginia Beach
Occupation: I am a Captain with the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office and a few of us in our organization live the outdoor traditions. We work for Sheriff Ken Stolle, who founded and chairs the Virginia Sportsmen’s Foundation. I have yet to come across a person who is as passionate and committed to the sport in the commonwealth as Sheriff Stolle, who has opened many doors for myself and others who want to be a part of the experience and lifestyle.
How did you get interested in hunting?
It sounds extreme but, if it were not for hunting, the DWR, and the great outdoors of Virginia, who knows what my family dynamic would be today.
Up until the point until my father Alberto retired in 1985 from the Navy, my teenaged brothers, Junior and Jon-Jon, and I did not have much of a relationship with him in terms of common interests. After finding work, Dad was befriended by a coworker named Wayne. Wayne was someone who look like he would not take a liking to my family. He had long red hair in a ponytail covered with a ball cap. He was older, and from what I understood lost a leg in the Vietnam War and walked with a prosthetic. But we credit Wayne for introducing us to Fort Pickett and deer hunting, where we have many exciting memories with our original hunting buddies Uncle John and Bernie, with whom we own property and continue to hunt with to this day.
Many seasons we would go without so much as seeing a deer in the woods and we didn’t care. It wasn’t until we started paying attention to our scent that we started to become successful at harvesting deer. We were learning and experiencing the sport together as equals, not so much as father and sons. For the first time he wasn’t just my Dad; he was my hunting buddy. For my father, it helped connect and build a relationship with his sons and in turn strengthened our bond as a family. My late mother Virginia recognized the bond it created between father and sons, and she supported our time together when we went afield.
Since then, we’ve hunted white-tailed deer, sika deer, bear, turkey, and geese in many places such as Back Bay, False Cape, Oceana, Camp Pendleton, Dam Neck, the Great Dismal Swamp, Northwest, Fentress, Chincoteague and private properties in Southampton, the Eastern Shore and North Carolina.
What do you love about hunting?
We created our own group called the Pogi Hunt Club. ”Pogi” in the Filipino language Tagalog means “handsome!” We are a tight-knit family, all of whom are military and first responders. We’re pretty diverse—to look at us, you think, ‘Wow!’ You see just about every shade of color in our group. But it’s just like-minded people coming together for a sport they love.
We introduced our children to the outdoors, and the same thing with nephews and nieces. It’s all about passing on the tradition. We take advantage of Youth Day, and that helps spread the word, because they tell their friends about it, and we’ll take them hunting too. We’ve done a lot in terms of sharing our passion for hunting and getting other people involved.
You do not see many like me and my family hunting in the Commonwealth. But hunting here in Virginia opened its arms to my family, which is why we continue to do it 35 years later and pass it on to our children. The camaraderie and fellowship are what this sport is about regardless of demographics. In that respect, we are grateful to the many we have come across who have helped and embraced us into this lifestyle.
Being like-minded in the love of the outdoors and fair chase for game to nourish our bodies is something only an outdoorsman can appreciate. That’s why I believe it is important to share the opportunities with as many people as we can to keep this lifestyle and tradition going. Many times, I reflect and wonder if it were not for hunting and the outdoors, what our family would be like, and I truly cannot envision a life without it.
Who was your hunting mentor?
One of my mentors I look up to in the sport is Keith Grubbs. He was featured in North American Whitetail and harvested one of his biggest bucks in Albemarle County. We have had many discussions on the many trophies he has harvested and the tactics he’s used to tag them. His knowledge and experience have helped with our successes in the woods but more importantly our responsibility to the sport and game we harvest.
Along those same lines, my grandparents highlighted the importance of not wasting any parts of the animal early on, which I know many hunters take for granted. They would help clean and cook the deer. Mom and Dad use them in many Filipino fusion dishes, some of which many of our friends love to eat, such as venison poke and sashimi.
What’s been your most memorable day afield?
One of the Pogi Hunt Club, John Conza, is responsible for our ability to hunt on the Eastern Shore and provided the opportunity for my Dad to harvest the biggest buck of his life to date. When my father put hands on his trophy, he said, “I can die happy now!” It was one of the most cherished moments I had with my Dad out in the woods and I have John to thank for that.
Are you an avid hunter who would like to be featured or know someone who would be great to feature? We’d love to hear from you! Just email firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know!