On the banks of an unnamed Montana river absolutely loaded with ducks and geese, Ramsey Russell meets with true friend “Redbeard” Ryan Yarnell after a couple challenging duck hunting days. A couple years in the making, the 2 hunting buddies got way more than they’d bargained, stories to last a lifetime and incentive for another hunt together. Life sometimes happens, but it’s all about playing the hand you’re dealt. Yarnell’s story is living proof. Like hyper-planing over real skinny water down a beautiful Montana river, you never know what’s around then next bend during this episode, but will feel the pounding heartbeat of the absolute hottest up-and-coming brand in waterfowl apparel.
A Great Montana River Hunt All to Ourselves
Ramsey Russell: I’m your host Ramsey Russell, join me here to listen to those conversations. Welcome back to Ducks Season Somewhere in Montana with my friend, the notorious Redbeard that I met years ago on another road trip. Far flung in the pitch-black dark, I meet a guy, jump into a black Dodge, he goes burning down a road at a 1000 miles per hour, bobbing and weaving through the beam of his headlights around pronghorn, mule deers, and laughing, and talking, and telling stories the whole way, and we hit it off immensely. We’ve been hunting a incredible river, we fall off in the river yesterday morning well after daylight, we got to be able to sleep and run down this river and I found out why, because the sun is up and we start tearing down this wide mountain river, Cottonwoods, and Russian olives on the side, just a blur. We’re rolling down this river and he goes over the motor, he’s yelling, we’re in six inches of water, hang on in case I hit something, and we’re just tearing down this most beautiful river. And I’m telling y’all guys, just listen, I’m talking for tens of miles there ain’t another hunter in sight. We got it to ourselves, and we see a handful of ducks here, and a handful of ducks here, and a handful of ducks here, and a handful of ducks there, and then we round the bend and there they are. We set up and we have a great Montana river hunt. I mean unbelievable. Never mind the fact we got a hole in our boat and the boat started filling up with water on the sandbar. None of them ducks come back because they got just tens of miles to land somewhere else unpressured except for where they were when we found them. But nonetheless, I want you all to meet my good buddy, Ryan Yarnell.
Ryan Yarnell: Hello Ramsey.
Ramsey Russell: Good to see you again. We’ve been talking for two hours. Warm enough. How have you been?
Ryan Yarnell: I’ve been good, my friend. Thanks for having me on here.
Ramsey Russell: We talked about this trip for 2, 3 years.
Ryan Yarnell: Well, we tried to do it last year and COVID got me. I had to miss you.
Ramsey Russell: Man, I forgot about that. I was just on the outskirts of Bozeman when you called up and say you got COVID.
Ryan Yarnell: The morning we were supposed to meet, I woke up shaking in bed 5:00 A.M.
Ramsey Russell: But you can tell me now that that was legit? You ain’t just making that up?
Ryan Yarnell: No, that was legit. It actually kicked my rear. It was quite the sickness. But I recovered, it took me 7 or 8 days, I recovered. After I got out of quarantine, I think the day I was free, I drove straight to Oklahoma and went duck hunting.
Ramsey Russell: Montana is an incredible place. I mean, until it gets real cold wintertime up here, I think I’m jealous. Of course, I stopped by, not this past summer, the one before, we come passing through. Me and a college roommate of mine come passing through and hung out with you for a few days. I got to admit now, all during COVID – I mean, I’m talking Tiger King batshit crazy, shelter in place like cavemen, in COVID – was all posting stuff on the Internet, and you were posting these hellacious pictures of white-water rafting, and I mean upside down boats, and people hanging on for dear life to Class Five rapids. And you said, hey, when you come back here, I’m going to take your boat riding. And I finally called you – I was a little worried for the whole summer driving up here – and I finally called and said, Ryan, I mean, seriously man, I don’t want to like spill my beer or nothing, I’m kind of worried about that. You said, no, no, no, you ain’t got to worry about that.
Ryan Yarnell: We’re going to do a different kind of river running.
Those are my earlier days as a younger man.
Ramsey Russell: Let me tell you this, look, you’re a duck hunter. That’s how we hit it off, duck hunting in every proportion.
Ryan Yarnell: Absolutely.
Ramsey Russell: And we could talk about the time we met in Alberta. I remember a young couple riding with us in that black truck of yours, me and you and them. And just, I mean between the four of us, we had something to talk about the entire time.
Ryan Yarnell: My buddy Owen.
Ramsey Russell: Owen was with us. And do you remember that young couple, actually on a date. The last time I duck hunted with you, I killed a banded specklebelly in South Carolina. Boys tried to claim it, that wasn’t happening. And there was video proof of it. That was the best part is when they got to see video proof of who shot that bird.
Proposal in a Duck Blind
Ryan Yarnell: You might have been the only one that shot.
Ramsey Russell: I think I was, but I don’t blame them for trying to claim it. I mean it was kind of weird, it’s like I almost got teary eyed when Mason proposed to that girl.
Ryan Yarnell: That’s right. Took a zip tie and zipped out a ring to the leg of the specklebelly. And yeah, that was quite the event actually watching at a duck blind. That’s a first for me.
Ramsey Russell: Because they got out there and the guy was like, did you shoot that bird? She goes, yeah, I shot it. He said, well it’s banded. She goes, oh my gosh, you’re kidding? And then when she come out there to get it, Mason took the knee to propose and she’s like, oh my gosh, and we all got emotional like a bunch of old men. But I never forgot the look on her face; I don’t care what she says, there was a small bit of disappointment.
Ryan Yarnell: I bet she was hoping she had a band. Well, what was good is, I think there was eleven of us in that blind that day, and everybody knew that except for her-
Ramsey Russell: Except for her.
Ryan Yarnell: -that he was going to propose. But I’m with you. I think when she got the ring she was like, oh sweet, a ring. But the specklebelly was good. That was good. That was an awesome day.
Ramsey Russell: You ain’t from Montana?
Memories of Texarkana Duck Hunting Days Gone By
Guided hunts, killing the snot out of mallards and I didn’t think nothing of it.
Ryan Yarnell: No, sir. I am born and raised Texarkana, Texas. The black gumbo mud of East Texas. That was kind of a blessing, I was raised – my daddy was an outdoorsman, a duck hunter, only a duck hunter really. No deer. We squirrel hunted, we dove hunted but he was a hardcore duck hunter. And being raised where I was in Texarkana, Texas, we had access to Arkansas which is a twin city, and we hunted all over East Texas, and Western Arkansas, really all the way to Stuttgart, Bayou Meto and all those places. The White River before it was a refuge. Bayou Meto was still guidable. As we mentioned, I talked about that once, I grew up, my uncle would — he was a businessman and he would hire guides and we’d have hunts, guided hunts with his clients, and I’d get to go as a young kid with my father, and all the group and we were hunting Bayou Meto. Guided hunts, killing the snot out of mallards and I didn’t think nothing of it. I never realized —
Ramsey Russell: You never appreciated it for what it was back then.
Ryan Yarnell: No. Lord, I just knew I was going hunting with my dad and my uncle John and whoever else that we hunted with. And later in life, obviously, I was hunting Bayou Meto boat races and everything else and it wasn’t quite the same, hunting ducks. I mean obviously the competition was great, and we enjoyed that, and it helped us become duck hunters but I was very fortunate for that matter. My daddy was an outdoorsman. He was a killer, he was a duck hunter and he’s 78 years old, he’s still getting after it. It’s a little role reversal nowadays though. I say they dragged me as a kid, but now it’s like dragging kids around taking them. Where’s my calls? Where’s my light? Where’s my ammo?
Ramsey Russell: Talk about growing up hunting back in those days with your daddy. Tell me a story. Tell me one of your favorite memories from back in those days.
Ryan Yarnell: Well, I don’t know if it would be one of my favorite memories or one of my worst memories, but I have a lot with my old man. He was good, he took me everywhere from 9 or 10 years old on, I think my parents divorced when I was about 11. And I live with my dad from 12 on pretty much, I lived with my father, and he dragged me everywhere, bass fishing, duck hunting. He would get me out of school, I can always remember, they’d call me 10 o’clock in the morning, they say call me the office, Ronnie daddy’s going to pick you up today, y’all got something to do, he’s gone pick you up at noon.
Ramsey Russell: And you knew what y’all had to do.
Ryan Yarnell: Yeah, I know we’re going on the afternoon duck hunt and that was always exciting. I mean that was middle school, and then all through high school. Of course, when I got my driver’s license, I was going on duck hunting myself and he was probably wondering if I was going to go with him. But some of my favorite times thinking about that, my dad, we had access to some pretty awesome old farms and stuff, and old Hardwood Bottoms. The Saline River was one spot that we used to hunt, and it get up – it rained and Saline river get out of its banks, and it’d flood these Hardwood Pin Oak Bottoms, and I can’t remember how many mornings we’d go in there. We’d just park a truck walk in and it would be maybe a foggy morning and we’d sit, I’d be impatient – I’m 13, 14 years old impatient. And my dad said, just wait son, that fog will lift. Sure enough, that fog would lift and there they were, mallards circling, and he’d get them on in there, and we’d kill them, do our thing. It wasn’t always easy hunting with my old man. I don’t think I’ve mentioned to you before, hunting with him.
Ramsey Russell: Wait a minute. You told me this story yesterday while we was hunting – it didn’t have nothing to do with my hunting style, did it?
Ryan Yarnell: You just hear the safety click off and the shooting, oh there must be some ducks here. Ramsey’s fixing to fire. I knew it was my turn to shoot after I heard your first shot go off. It was similar to that.
Ramsey Russell: How did your daddy teach you to shoot?
Ryan Yarnell: He didn’t necessarily teach me. Yeah sure, we went and shot cans, and maybe we shot some skeet here and there at camp, but as far as duck hunting, from 10 years old on I got my first shotgun. I got an 870-wing master, 20 gauge when I was 10.
Ramsey Russell: You still got that gun?
Ryan Yarnell: I do. And I got it for Christmas. I’m still fascinated with it from time to time, with these boys, big Berettas, high end over and hunters whatnot, and it kills them just like anything else does. Nonetheless, I got that gun and with this you can still shoot lead then too, mind you. So this was when I was 10, I don’t even know what year that’d been because I can’t remember. But I’m 43, I was born in ‘78, y’all do the math. My daddy would call and I always knew I’d hear his band. He was adamant about looking down, don’t look up, and don’t move. Oh yeah, he’s calling the ducks now. He always had the advantage. He’s a lot like you Ramsey. He’s going to get the first shot but he never said get ready son. You just heard them bands fall when he dropped his calls and you heard that safety kick off and that’s when you started looking up, trying to find where they were. Usually had an idea of the direction to look obviously, but he was a good shot. He’s still at 78 but he was a heck of a shot growing up, and it was pretty awesome to hunt around him. It was frustrating at times, but, he was —
Ramsey Russell: Part of being a kid.
Ryan Yarnell: Absolutely.
Ramsey Russell: Was it just y’all, or did you have your uncle and some other folks involved?
Ryan Yarnell: For sure we had my uncles, my cousins, they all deer hunted as well. So when I was probably, oh, I must have been 14, 15, and my grandfather, who I named my son after, you met my son there. He was a deer hunter, not a duck hunter ever. I don’t know that he ever went, but he was a deer hunter, so he started taking me and my uncles and all that. But as far as the duck hunting, my dad was kind of the duck hunter, and my uncles and them did it too, took their kids. We’d all go together, always, opening weekend Arkansas we all hunted together. I can always remember going out scouting, looking, riding the lakes, reservoirs, wherever we were hunting, the timber. Good memories for sure. I’m probably the only one left in my family that — well, hands down the only one left in my family that hunts to the scale that like you and I hunt.
Ramsey Russell: Right. Which is a lot.
Ryan Yarnell: And yourself, you’ve been hunting, how many years now?
Ramsey Russell: I don’t know. Probably longer than the age of a lot of listeners.
Ryan Yarnell: Fair enough.
Ramsey Russell: Just an old man, too much. How did you go – I mean, I know we’re in Montana and you’re in Montana, we’re going to get to Montana – but how did you go from Arkansas to Texas? Texarkana is right there on the line.
Ryan Yarnell: It is. And I was born and raised.
Ramsey Russell: Is it more like Texas or Arkansas? I’ve always wondered, never been through Texarkana.
Ryan Yarnell: I mean, yes, Texarkana is Texas boys, and they’re going to say Texas. It’s like myself, my whole family, Yarnell family is from Arkansas North, Little Rock, all that area. They’ve been there for a long-time, generations. My great grandfather was the Sheriff of White County, Arkansas, which is the largest county in Arkansas. His name was Pits Yarnell. I always thought that was a tough ass name.
Ramsey Russell: That’s a tough name.
Ryan Yarnell: But that being said, my family is all from here. My daddy was raised in Arkansas. Grandfather went to the war, the whole deal for that time period for World War II, he got a great story on himself. But at some point after the war, grandfather came back, job took him here, there, and everywhere. And I ended up in Texarkana, Texas, and that’s where I was born and raised, and I do claim to be a Texan even though I’m partial Arkansas.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah.
Ryan Yarnell: It was the best of both worlds. We had that Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. All right there from Texarkana, the Red River, the Sulfur River, we hunted and fished everything around there, the Little River in Arkansas, but that was home, still it’ll always be home.
Ramsey Russell: What do you do down in Texas? What led you to Texas? How did you end up like in college? That’s what I’m getting at: college age down in Texas.
Ryan Yarnell: So, I went off to college station, my brother —
Ramsey Russell: I just learned, let me interrupt cause I’ve known you a while, we’ve talked a lot like this – I just learned just the other day that you majored in Landscape Architecture or something.
Ryan Yarnell: Well. Yeah, I did, I tried to, I never finished college. But in high school I was in FFA and all that. Well the high school I went to, Texas High and Texarkana had a Horticulture Program as well. And I had an awesome Ag teacher, his name was William Little and he was really into horticulture too. And man, we had a greenhouse and all kind of stuff. We just got into — my grandfather was big in the farming just, we’re big into gardening, farming in his little piece of land he lived on. I just always fascinated by it, again, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents because my parents were divorced, my dad and I lived right behind him in an old rent house or whatever that my dad had bought. My dad worked full time. It was just those days, with no babysitters. You think about those times, I mean, my grandparents, like, you got out of school, you went home, and you went to your grandparent’s or somewhere to stay out of trouble. Guess what my grandfather did? He had me out there in that garden. He’d give you a shovel, go dig me a hole, you get done and they fill it in. They made sure you didn’t have any energy to be tearing up anything else. But that being said, I got down to college station, I graduated high school in ‘96, I was down in college station and trying to do my thing down there, trying to be a Texas Aggie. Spent a lot of time at Junior College, I spent a lot of time on academic probation, got into the music scene.
Just the Right Music Intro
He said, well, I just kind of judged by your accent, no offense, and figured it needs some swamp stomping music, kind of Southern.
Ramsey Russell: That’s what I’m trying to lead up into for now. I started this podcast a couple of years ago driving down the road one day thinking that I need a song. I know a lot of podcasts just kind of rip off songs, and do this, and do that. But there’s too much liability that I don’t want to do it anyway. And how the hell you can find somebody for a song? How do you find, snap, Redbeard! I’m going to call Redbeard, I’m going to call Yarnell. And next thing I know, 15 minutes later, I’m on the phone with Cody Huggins, and two days later I got y’all here to hit the entry. I’m like dang. He said, well, I just kind of judged by your accent, no offense, and figured it needs some swamp stomping music, kind of Southern. And it’s perfect. I mean first cut, I’m like, damn, I love it. But you knew this guy.
Ryan Yarnell: Yeah, Cody Huggins.
Ramsey Russell: He’s just one of your buddies, I mean, just one of many buddies you got.
Ryan Yarnell: He’s in Blairsville, Georgia. And he’s one of the fishiest dudes I know. You got to pick up a fly rod and catch fish anywhere. He puts it in the water.
Ramsey Russell: He and his wife fish a lot, don’t they?
Ryan Yarnell: Yeah, I think he’s been getting her into it more and more. But Cody is a friend. He was a manager for a band called the Wild Feathers, just some boys, actually, one of them boys I went to college with. But he got to working now for Ryan Bingham and Ryan was a friend – a longtime friend as well, and through that Cody and I became good friends, and I cherish Cody. He’s, like I said, I consider him a great friend. And when you called me and you were looking for some tunes – Cody’s an incredible guitar player. That’s what you said, hey man, I need like an intro outro kind of deal, and I was like, hey man, I know just the guy. At least it was a good start, and it looked like it turned out it was a good fit for you, also good for that.
Ramsey Russell: How did you fall into, I mean, I don’t got no rock and roll musician buddies or people, I can’t just call up for a favor like that. I mean, how did you fall into this? You got to be an aggie, and landscape architect, and you’re tuning guitars for folks. How does a guy do that, Ryan?
Ryan Yarnell: I mean at the end of the day it wasn’t so much work as it was. The guys that were playing music got free beers so we made good friends with them. Because we were poor college students at the end of day, yeah, for sure. It was kind of funny how it all started, I mean in the day, everybody’s just kind of playing here, playing some bars. Just whereever we’re getting some free Bud Light or whatever cheap beer they wanted to give, and it turned out some of the boys were quite talented and they became stars. And some of them washed out, some of them stayed with it, but at the end of the day they were all just buddies. Music or no music, they were all really just — a lot of those guys became good lifelong friends. I still keep up with most of them. Some of them like I said, are extremely successful and some of them are still successful in their own right and they’re doing good things. But it was an interesting time, we had a good time with it, to say the least. The Texas music scene blew up and then I just happened to be there.
Ramsey Russell: And this is like before what you call red dirt Texas music?
Ryan Yarnell: Yeah, the Oklahoma red dirt music at least for me, I didn’t even know of any of that. They kind of came into that scene towards the back end of my time, towards the end of that time, and those became great friends too, the Oklahoma Crew, the Cross Canadian Ragweed and stuff like that now are different bands. But at the time, we were all just buddies having a good time and taking care of each other, living life at the moment. I mean, I can hop on a tour bus and I might end up in two weeks somewhere, and end up on a different tour bus coming back, trying to get back to college. Or hell, tour bus, not a van or a suburban, I mean, one guy had an old — some of these guys were running around an old Winnebago’s, like old RVs, they were driving around touring in. I mean, it didn’t matter. We’re just having a good time, living in the moment.
Ramsey Russell: It sounds to me like it was just an extremely in the moment, but extremely authentic environment. I’m a musician, I have a good time, I tuned guitars, it’s free but light, we’re all having fun, it’s just authentic. It ain’t like nobody started saying, well, I’m going to be the next David Allan, I mean, just going and doing what they love to do.
Ryan Yarnell: You can bet I wasn’t very musically talented and you say I tuned guitars. I was putting strings on them, hoping I can get some strings on it for somebody. I’m hoping I didn’t have too many Bud Lights and I put the right string in the right place. I’m not even a guy that would drink a Bud Light in today’s world necessarily, but I’m a Budweiser man if I had to choose one.
Ramsey Russell: Back in those days I was a free beer man.
Ryan Yarnell: Absolutely. My beer, your beer, free beer, that’s what we drank. And yeah, Ramsey, it was very organic. Nobody was trying to be, it wasn’t like we were running around like, hey, let’s hope these guys become a big man.
Ramsey Russell: I mean, that’s just it. Like you said, some of them kind of washed out and went on about their lives, some of them went on to future stardom. But in that environment, you describe that, I’ve heard you describe on the river banks while we’re riding around, nobody just had this freaking tunnel vision to be a rock star. They were just doing what they love to do that. That’s what I’m getting at.
Ryan Yarnell: You bet.
Ramsey Russell: They just love to do it. And they were doing it and loving it while it lasted and if rock stardom came, so be it. But that ain’t how it started, is it?
Ryan Yarnell: No, I mean I maybe some people, but not the boys I was running with; life was fortunate to Bill. I mean, I think some of these boys, like any job and I won’t speak for anybody and in general, but I’m sure there’s plenty of these guys out here that are like, they probably don’t want to play music anymore, but it’s what affords them to live a life.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. You look back in the rear-view mirror of your life and you did that, you had the little stages and steps along the way. But some of them just kind of outgrew it, some of them went on to be – I mean, Ryan Bingham went on to be somebody.
Ryan Yarnell: I mean he’s had great success, he made some good moves, he had good mentors. He’s a good human being, I can speak to that.
Ramsey Russell: I’ve heard that despite Hollywood and his music career and everything else, that he’s just a former bull rider that just a regular guy, man.
Ryan Yarnell: In today’s world, we’ve remained very good friends and I couldn’t speak nothing but highly of him. I think, he’s a good father, he’s a good man, and good for him, good for his success. I think Season Four Yellowstone aired tonight — there ain’t a TV where we’re at. So we’ll binge watching this winter, I know what we were texting each other about what happened at the end of the day. But all these guys, even like Cody Huggins for instance, I mean, Cody is a young guy, an aspiring musician himself. He’s got a couple of his own albums out, but he’s just incredible human, he’s a great manager for who he works for. And that’s good things, I applaud all these boys. None of these jobs are hard to live on the road. Kind of like what you and I do in a different scenario. But I mean, I’m being on the road away from home away from families, it’s not an easy lifestyle. You sacrifice a lot to do what they do.
The Class Five Rapid Ride
At that time, I didn’t know what I was doing. I got six customers in a boat and I’m in the back of it with a paddle.
Ramsey Russell: How did you go from a music scene in college to Montana and doing some of your past careers? I mean, you weren’t just lollygagging down these little riffles of water. You were Class Five. Hell, diving with a rubber boat full of passengers into the — how does somebody go from just growing up in Texarkana to just hanging out with folks loving music, and being in that scene, to going down Class Five rapids all over the world?
Ryan Yarnell: Well, for starters, I guess I was in some — I mean just before I ever got to Montana. So I’m in college station Texas, my younger cousin who’s like my brother, my cousin Nick, he calls me and — we’d go during Spring Break, we’d go canoeing on the Buffalo River in Arkansas and stuff. I’d take buddies from college, whoever, my cousin Nick, and my uncle even would go, and we’d go to the Buffalo River and canoe for three or four days during Spring Break, during college, do something different. And anyway, my cousin Nick went one year, or two years maybe we went, and he called me one time and it was summer school. I was taking it for the 50th time and it-
Ramsey Russell: Only took me 49.
Ryan Yarnell: Yeah, yeah, exactly. No, I think I was on my second time of taking it and it’s humbling, right? And he calls me and he said, hey man, I’m in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, I’m a white-water rafting guide. You got to come down here, you would love this, I’m not kidding. I’m thinking, okay, I’m going to pack all my crap in the car and I’m going out to Tennessee. And that I did and this – no lie here – I had a credit card that I probably had never paid a bill on. I’m sure it was close to maxed out because when I got to Tennessee, it was out. I got enough gas, I got to say, and it wouldn’t run anymore, and I thought, so I made it to Tennessee. I got to the company my cousin was working for and it was — I spent a couple of weeks there – best I remember, long story short, the owner of the company, he’s still a great friend of mine to this day. Smoky Mountain Outdoors was the company I went to work for. And Daniel Jeanette, he I took a ducky down the river two or three or four times, a little inflatable kayak, they call them duckies. And he needed a guide that day and he said – they started calling me Tex because I was from Texas, there was a couple of Ryan’s working there and they started calling me Tex – and he said, “Tex, you’re on the schedule,” and I was a nervous wreck. It was a Class Three river, but I mean, it could have been a Class 5000 river. At that time, I didn’t know what I was doing. I got six customers in a boat and I’m in the back of it with a paddle.
Ramsey Russell: And were you telling them about paddling down the Buffalo River?
Ryan Yarnell: No, I don’t think I was saying much of anything but go forward, go backwards, and try not to hit rocks; I ain’t quiet often. So I was a nervous wreck but I’ll never forget the owner of the company, Daniel, he stood there, and it was, if you swam as a guide, it was a case of beer, and if you flip your boat, it was two cases of beer. So that means if you fell out, you had to buy all the guys a case of beer, and if you flipped, you had to buy for everybody in the guide quarters. You had about two cases of beer and I’ll never forget —
Ramsey Russell: Tough to do with a maxed-out credit card.
Ryan Yarnell: He pointed down that boat and he said, I guarantee you owe two cases of beer when this trip’s over with. I thought, way to instill confidence in me. I did not, I did not owe any beer, and I made it down the river, and I took to it like a fish in water. We were raised on the water, my family. We spent every summer at the lake and swimming, this, that, and the other. We weren’t rafting but I know how to canoe. All that being said, I got down the river and I seem to do okay at it. I seemed to be a pretty decent little river guide. Well I came back every summer ,blah, blah. And so I spent a few years there. From there we went to meet some – he was married to – the owner of that company was married to a woman from Peru, and some of her friends came over from Peru. They became river guides, we met them. This may have been my second summer, third summer guiding, and I can’t remember exactly the years but long story short, all of a sudden, they were like, hey, there’s this – her brother came, he was a National Geographic photographer – and he’s like, there’s white water all over the Andes and blah, blah. And I didn’t really know much about that world. You bet it’s some of the best white water in the world. And I took and I had run the Gauley River in West Virginia and these rivers all over the Southeast, there were quite a few. I started cutting my teeth in other places and I was building confidence and I drank the Kool aid, boy, I thought, I’d run these rivers by golly. I’ve got it on these places. Oh man, I can go anywhere. And I went down to South America, and buddy, I got my hand slapped quick. I was down there on the headwaters of the Amazon. I was in the hole – I’ve never really been out of Texas. I’ve been to Mexico a few times over the border in college, I ain’t never been anywhere. I mean we was poor folk. Peru was – I told my dad I was going to Peru, he said, somebody in trouble? Like what are you going to Peru for? So I learned a lot down there, those guides were extremely knowledgeable. They had been running rivers down some of the best white water in the world with much less than we had been doing in the U.S. as far as equipment-wise, things like that. These guys were studs and it was humbling. It’s probably best move I ever made in my career because from there I went to – just started going from river to river to river. I never went back to college, never finished. I just kind of pursued a career in white water for almost 16 seasons, I think. I did 15, 16 years, something like that. Yeah, I missed one season due to drought, I think, like 2007, there was a drought out west. Anyway, I got back and I started going to California, and just started running water in the Sierras, and from there, it just kind of expanded. So got it all over U.S., East Coast, West Coast, I was fortunate to get down to South America and do some boating down there, and at the end of the day, it kind of got me to where I am in the world today. I make a joke about whitewater. Whitewater is a place where you trust your boys and girls, guides, friends, whatever, boy or girl, but mainly with your friends, your guy friends. I always say you trust him with your life on the river, but you couldn’t trust him with your girlfriend off the river. I trust this guy to save my life, but I wouldn’t let him take my girlfriend home from the bar. She might be his girlfriend at the end of that trip.
Ramsey Russell: Is whitewater what brought you to Bozeman?
Ryan Yarnell: No, snow skiing.
Ramsey Russell: Snow skiing?
Beast of the East
And at the time we were kind of chasing that adrenaline, chasing that bigger water, commercially run water, and it was fun.
Ryan Yarnell: Yeah, and just the mountains in general. So I spent a number of winters in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. So through all that tour in whitewater, we kind of had these cycles, we’d be on chasing the rivers when they ran. We’d go out West in the spring, boat California, and then in August that would kind of dry up because it was free flowing snow melt rivers, water gets low, then we would go to West Virginia in the fall. And that’s Gauley season, that’s kind of the biggest river season. Everybody from all over came for Gauley season. Six weeks they release water Thursday to Monday every week for 22 days of water for six weeks, and everybody would come. It’s the Class Five dam released, “Beast of the East” they call it, the Gauley River in West Virginia. And so we’d all go there and then from there we’d boat around the southeast with rain and stuff in Appalachia, it’s kind of subtropical rainforest. So you’d run all these creeks and rivers that ran, and for fun, not guiding, we just go fire up some waterfalls or creeks or whatever it was. Then I go home and duck hunt.
Ramsey Russell: I was just fixing to ask you because that — it seemed like the perfect seasonal work, you made money, you made tips and then the river guiding season kind of come into duck season.
Ryan Yarnell: That’s right.
Ramsey Russell: And when you say you went home, you went back to Arkansas, Texarkana?
Ryan Yarnell: Texarkana, East Texas. When I go home to my folks, posted up there and I would usually stay until usually the end of January. So pretty much from —
Ramsey Russell: Neck deep skiing.
Ryan Yarnell: Yeah, December 1st to January 25th, or whatever, and then by February 1st I was back in Jackson Hole and I would ski until the spring. Now, some of those years I spent more time in Jackson. I think I missed one duck season my whole life that I can remember, where I missed one complete duck season.
Ramsey Russell: Who was she?
Ryan Yarnell: Yeah, unfortunately I don’t remember her name. If my wife’s listening, she’ll appreciate that. At the end of the day, I got really into snow skiing and snowboarding, I was snowboarder. But I spent one full winter in Jackson there. So anyway, that’s what we would do. So you go to Jackson, and that’s where I went, we’d ski, then Spring run off. You’d look where the water was the highest, what river was running the biggest, and that’s where I’d head. And at the time we were kind of chasing that adrenaline, chasing that bigger water, commercially run water, and it was fun. I had a great crew to run with those years.
A lot of people come to Bozeman seeking a life, not so much a living, but a life.
Ramsey Russell: How did you end up – because as long as I’ve known you, which ain’t been that long – Bozeman, you’ve been a Bozeman guy. We all came up — we did a beer drinking float tour down, down one of the rivers around —
Ryan Yarnell: The Yellowstone.
Ramsey Russell: The Yellowstone, and man, I learned to cast a little bit and-
Ryan Yarnell: A little fly fishing, did a little swimming.
Ramsey Russell: Did a little fly fishing, did a little swimming, did a little beer drinking, did a little more beer drinking. And what was so cool was out there fly fishing, me and you, and my buddy. You just got to talk about hippies and cowboys. And I never have forgotten that conversation because Bozeman is like this perfect mix. Historically a cowboy country, not really, but it is kind of where, if you imagine it, Yellowstone takes place – the movie. You got this big influx of a lot of folks looking for, just, a lifestyle. We talked about that in a podcast last year. A lot of people come to Bozeman seeking a life, not so much a living, but a life. And as a young man a decade and a half ago, you did that. But you would talk about that hippies and cowboys mix. What’s it like, what is that part of the west like? Because you were talking about how the cowboys in a certain way, or the locals, and then the influx of other folks and outside thoughts, and it’s just this perfect mix right now.
Ryan Yarnell: Well, it’s like you said, people seeking a life, the same as me, I was looking for a place.
Ramsey Russell: Life’s too short not to have a life, we all got to make a living, but we’ve got to have a life.
Ryan Yarnell: Yes. And I was looking for a place to put roots down in Montana. At the time – Bozeman’s grown a lot, I’ve called Bozeman home for 15, 16 years where I say I got my mail there. Therefore, the first ten years, I was never home. Or for the first eight years I was rarely there, just in the winters. Instead of going to Jackson, I was going to Bozeman. But that being said, it was enough town, it had just enough, it had a target, like it had a Walmart for that matter, it was a little more of an established place. Jackson’s expensive, it’s unaffordable. It’s one of the most beautiful towns ever. But it wasn’t a place I knew I was going to sustain a lifestyle. I was living in a house, a two-bedroom house with ten ski bums. That’s what it took to be there. But Bozeman was a little — I could live in a house in a three-bedroom house with three people, like that was the difference, the rent and cost of living. My father fought fires and was a trail crew cutter and so for the Forest Service in 1960 to 1965 in Montana, or 1964, somewhere near them dates somewhere in the early, early sixties. And when my parents divorced when I was a kid, when I was 11 or whatever, we drove to Montana. He had not been back since ‘65. We drove there in my dad’s ‘83 Dodge Ram Charger, which became my first truck, actually. And we spent a good bit of the summer in Montana. We drove Jackson Hole. I’ve been in, remind you, East Texas. We didn’t have a lot. Our family vacations consisted of going camping at the lake or going hunting. And so that being said, we drove up there, I fell in love with Montana. We were up near Glacier Condon, Montana. All the places where he worked, spent time, never went to Bozeman or anything like that. We were in the Missoula area, up North of there and stuff. And so, I just kind of always really dreamed of Montana. I really did. And so when I was 27, there was a drought, like I said earlier about the rivers and stuff. And so that Spring, I said, I’m moving to Montana. I packed up my stuff, and I had a little Toyota Tacoma, and I had everything I owned in it. And then my girlfriend at the time, we drove up to Montana and put up a tent in the woods. I lived – I remember it snowed and snowed, and she finally left and she went off.
Ramsey Russell: I can’t imagine why.
Ryan Yarnell: We were kind of on our way out. She was going to grad school over in London. And she went and did her thing, and here I was doing my thing, and eventually got a job, this, that and the other, got enough money to get a house and get deposit for rent. And I just established myself and it wasn’t easy, it was also an expensive place.
Duck Hunting in Montana vs. Arkansas
So it was hard not to go home. The camaraderie of just my hunting crew was hard to get away from.
Ramsey Russell: But you’ve been in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, appreciate that moment. And when you were duck hunting – is that kind of where that whitewater air, when you come out to Montana, living in Jackson Hole, ten ski bums in the off season – is that when you started hunting in Montana? Or did you also hunt back home all time? When did you start duck hunting in Montana?
Ryan Yarnell: I didn’t start duck hunting Montana until – I was still going home for duck seasons, even when I was going –
Ramsey Russell: I don’t blame you.
Ryan Yarnell: – coming home, well, I didn’t know how to hunt Montana that well. At that time, I had not explored it. Yes, people hunted dry fields and things like that. I mean I didn’t, never even think about hunting anything but water. How I was raised, we hunted water. You hunted cypress slews, you hunted ox bows, you hunted rivers, timber, and so I started hunting little creeks and stuff in Montana. I was shooting golden eyes and this, that and the other. And I didn’t have a dog, nothing like that. I’d just go, I met some people that had some duck hunting places, and I started going home for less and less amounts of time, back to Arkansas. I was driving home every year for duck season from Montana, wherever I was, I was driving to East Texas. And then hunting Arkansas and east. I really didn’t even hunt Texas much anymore in those latter years. The Game Wardens was after me. Well, that might be a joke. I’ll let y’all decide. But at the end of day I really focused on Arkansas because, I mean, it was right there, all the old farms we had access to, I was still hunting places like biometer. We have a camp, my family, we can just have an old trailer up on the Cache River and the White River bottoms and I was just up there running a 25-horse power, 15 ft warrior, running around in the timber hunting ducks, and it was still really good compared to kind of where that’s at these days too. But slowly I started transitioning, and learning more, meeting people. The hard part about home was I hunted with a great group of guys, there’s still something to grow and who you met. I mean I hunted with some awesome boys. They were killers, there was a good group of us. We were pretty die hard. Everybody, we started going to Kansas, Oklahoma, we started branching out of Arkansas, and hunting these other public land places, and everybody had mud boat service drives, and we just started really getting after it. So it was hard not to go home. The camaraderie of just my hunting crew was hard to get away from. And so, but long story short, yes, to get back to Montana, I started building a crew in Montana too. Now, most of them were goose hunters and I was still a duck hunter. So I’ve kind of learned a lot of the duck hunting areas on my own or with friends that are willing to go with me. I do a lot of good goose hunting with a lot of great guys, some of them you know, and we’re blessed on the hunting we have.
A Long Way from Bozeman in a Sinking Boat
I mean, what do you do when you’re a mile and a half from nowhere in knee deep water, with a boat taking on water, and an outboard that won’t really get up on a plane to drain that water off?
Ramsey Russell: The thing I’ve noticed is, short amount of time we’ve been hunting and got to know you, you don’t just hunt right there in your backyard. Montana is a big state.
Ryan Yarnell: You bet. I’ll try to hit it all.
Ramsey Russell: We’re a long way from Bozeman right now. I mean, you’re like, we talked about getting together this week for a year or two. And then a day or two before I showed up, like we’re going here, meet me here, and we’re a long way from Bozeman.
Ryan Yarnell: We are. And I love to explore, as you’ve seen. I have a nice jet boat a buddy of mine and I own a really awesome jet boat together. We put a little hurting on the boat, our first outing, we can get into that in a minute. I’ll let you strike that conversation. But Ramsey, I have looked forward to this for a number of years. We’ve been trying to get this hunt together and here we are. And it will be an unforgettable first hunt.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, it’s unforgettable.
Ryan Yarnell: I’m sure you would agree. We didn’t do much hunting. Maybe we did a lot of hunting, but we didn’t do much shooting. I don’t know, what do you think, I mean, what do you think of the overall?
Ramsey Russell: I think I’ve been in Montana for about a little over a week and I saw more ducks yesterday when we rounded that bend than I’ve seen in aggregate. They’ve just got so much river. I mean, 20 miles stretched, unencumbered by hunters, to go and lay up and do their thing on the way out. We saw five or six places. I’d love to been sitting right after daylight this morning, but we couldn’t get there because not only did we tear a big gaping hole in the bottom of your boat, but when that thing ain’t up on plane skimming across the water on six inches, that means that jet prop is down towards the gravel and the muck, and we tore up the impeller. So even if we could have welded the boat, we didn’t have a motor. If we could have fixed motor we wouldn’t have had a leaking boat. It didn’t take it us, it took you 30 minutes and us another 30 minutes to get the boat unstuck.
Ryan Yarnell: Yeah, I mean obviously, I mean-
Ramsey Russell: Because if we left it deep enough water it would have sunk.
Ryan Yarnell: -so I beached it. So we could hunt because obviously the number one importance is trying to hunt. We’re 12-15 miles downriver from the boat ramp. And there’s not another boat ramp, for a little way anyway. But yeah, best option is to park in the shallowest water you can so we can only fill up so much. We don’t have to worry about it floating away to say the least.
Ramsey Russell: I wasn’t worried until we got about a mile and a half, two miles from the boat ramp.
Ryan Yarnell: And the impeller blew out.
Ramsey Russell: And the impeller blew out. And I’m in knee deep water which is slippery on the bottom, trying to navigate this thing. And I don’t know how fast that current was going, but fast.
Ryan Yarnell: Yeah, I’m like, we got to drag the boat.
Ramsey Russell: Now that we don’t slow down a little bit, we’re taking on water more than the bilge pump. And I’m thinking, what are we going to do here? I mean, what do you do when you’re a mile and a half from nowhere in knee deep water, with a boat taking on water, and an outboard that won’t really get up on a plane to drain that water off? And neither one of us smoke, so how are we going to even light a fire if we got to spend the night on this damn river. And it kind of dawned on me and I looked up and think, okay, we’ve got about 45 minutes of that sun behind that ridge right there. And what are we going to do?
Ryan Yarnell: I said we’re giving up, we’re going to nurse her and we did, we had to do a few assessments. We had to do a few things.
Ramsey Russell: I don’t look at yesterday as a failure, it was a huge adventure. I mean to see that stretch of river that we saw with the bald eagles, and just motoring down to eyeball level with them, to the tundra swans that was flying up. We kept seeing them everywhere up and down the river and man, the Canada’s coming wave after wave after somewhere. We managed to get a couple of them, and the mallards, we both agreed, with the one play we got on that big old flock of mallards, we just got greedy.
Ryan Yarnell: We did. We tried to get them all in.
Ramsey Russell: We could have knocked out that three pack, wheeled around like, oh, heck, no, not when you got seventy of them kind of sort of looking to come.
Ryan Yarnell: Well, just to be honest with everybody, I mean we were shooting 28 gauges, we’re shooting small gauge guns were, and granted you can with the right ammo, you can shoot them birds that like —
Ramsey Russell: I don’t feel the least bit under gunned with that 28 gauge.
Ryan Yarnell: I don’t either.
Ramsey Russell: We’re both shooting ball shot shells number four or whatever. I was shooting number four, I think he was shooting three-inch five.
Ryan Yarnell: I was shooting three-inch fives.
Ramsey Russell: There ain’t no way you could have done that with anything else available for 28 gauge, but I have shot.
Ryan Yarnell: Well, you killed a – I watched you smack a Lesser out of the sky 40 yards with two and three quarters.
Ramsey Russell: It’s nothing. It ain’t the gun, it ain’t the Indian. It ain’t the era of the Indian or whatever you call it. It’s just the Indian and the era. Number four shots. It was a great pattern. And that’s a very light gun. Especially I was thinking, if I got to carry this thing back to the truck after we sink this boat, I’m going to be glad I got that big 12 gauge over back, leave my gun in a sunk boat.
Ryan Yarnell: No, you’re right, though. I mean, I couldn’t say enough about that.
Ramsey Russell: I mean, nobody had a really sinking boat on the first hunt.
Ryan Yarnell: We didn’t think completely, and we did get back, and not to sound overconfident to everybody – in my mind, I kept looking to you, “We’re going to get there,” and you’re like, “I don’t know, man,” I said, “We’re going to get there.”
Ramsey Russell: Well, I kept looking at my boots —
Ryan Yarnell: — but when we got there —
Ramsey Russell: — I was glad I had my waders on.
Ryan Yarnell: Yeah, when we got there, I looked at you, and we were like, I’m glad we made it.
Ramsey Russell: Did you have any idea that the hole in the back of that boat was that big?
Ryan Yarnell: I did not. And I think —
Ramsey Russell: You could have filled a 55-gallon drum, I don’t know where that water comes from, but it was a lot of water coming out of the boat.
Ryan Yarnell: Well, it dawned on me before I blew the impeller out of the motor, it dawned on me that when we were on step and we’re running wide open, the boat was draining. And it dawned on me that the hole obviously was in the back of the boat because the water was running out. So, previously I thought that I gassed it under the boat. Long story short, boat got a hole in it, motor blew up or the impeller blew up, we were able to nurse the boat back, and we did get it out, and we got home.
Ramsey Russell: It’s a shallow river anyway. That’s why you got these jet boats. But when that thing, that river is running 2000 cubic feet per second below normal. And I mean you were hitting mile long stretches or more —
Ryan Yarnell: Of shoals.
Ramsey Russell: Of shoals.
Ryan Yarnell: Yes.
Ramsey Russell: It’s like really way below, way shallower.
Ryan Yarnell: Well, we’re in a big drought out west. As you well know, I mean we both — I just spent the last month —
Ramsey Russell: Even in good years, that ain’t the first time you ever had a hole in that boat?
Ryan Yarnell: No, sir.
Ramsey Russell: And it happens.
Ryan Yarnell: It does happen.
If Hunting and Nature Don’t Humble You Sometimes, You’re Doing it Wrong.
I mean, you don’t river hunt without tearing stuff up.
Ramsey Russell: And I hunted the Mississippi River for years. I mean, you don’t river hunt without tearing stuff up. That’s just comes with the territory. That’s why you pack extra tools and extra stuff and a plan B.
Ryan Yarnell: Ramsey, I mean you’ve been doing this a long time. I mean, you run it hard enough, you do it hard enough, you’re going to break something and that’s just part of hunting. And that’s actually some of my favorite parts of hunting. I was raised by men that whatever it took to get to them ducks, that’s what they’re going to do. When they had to walk five miles and they had to blow up an outboard motor to get their long story short, we got there and we hunted them. Same thing you and I, we were going down the river, you’re like, man, we find ducks? And I said, I promise we keep going, we’re going to get into them and sure enough, I didn’t really know that, but I hope that —
Ramsey Russell: We were sitting in the truck doing something when we got back, and some other men from North Carolina pulled up, we’ve been talking to them at dinner and whatnot here at the hotel. We told them about our day, and they told us about theirs, and they said, well why don’t y’all come with us in the morning? It ain’t a whole lot of birds where they’ve been hunting cause I ain’t got to jet boat to get down that part of the world. But we had a good time, met a couple of good dudes. It really reinforced kind of what duck hunting’s about in terms of the people. I mean we just hit it off for these boys went and had dinner, had lunch, I feel like I made some friends for life for these guys.
Ryan Yarnell: Their hospitality was amazing. They really did. They invited us into their boat, and as you and I said, we couldn’t have done the same for them. I couldn’t put that many people in my boat and run through a shallow river. But they sure enough took us up on some open water and they made it, they opened their everything to us and it was amazing. And I’m with you. I feel like we made some lifelong friends
Ramsey Russell: We did.
Ryan Yarnell: And there’s some great stories and the hunting hasn’t been great. But it’s 65° in Montana in November and we’re going to do it, but we got to swap a lot of stories. Absolutely, cause it ain’t always about the hunting or about the killing as we watched some beautiful sunrises and some sunsets, and we watched a lot of seagulls.
Ramsey Russell: I got a friend over in Eastern Montana now. And Tanya said the other day, and how succinct, this was leading up to this trip, because she goes, if hunting and nature don’t humble you sometimes you’re doing it wrong. And that really, truly kind of sort of is it. Nobody likes to get kicked in the balls, but it happens.
Ryan Yarnell: You bet.
Ramsey Russell: Now you just pick yourself back up and go back at it. I mean, that’s what it is. I mean, I didn’t look at yesterday as a defeat. I got to hunt a beautiful part of the river. I got to hunt with you on this hunt we’ve been talking about for years. We did survive. We did have some cold beer waiting at the boat ramp and nobody got hurt. Dogs made it back, we made it back, the boat’s loaded up, the boat is repairable, and we’ll go do it again, and I’ll have something to bust your balls about the rest of my life.
Ryan Yarnell: I’ll never live it down. But I’ll tell you this much. I bet we’ll remember that just as much as we would if we went out there and it was an easy hunt and we smashed them. We’ll remember the story behind what happened on that first hunt and you will never let me live it down again.
Ramsey Russell: But I’ll be back. That be our first hunt, but it won’t be our last.
Ryan Yarnell: I hope not.
Voormi: Functional Art
It’s just the product line, the intelligence has gone into it, but also the humility.
Ramsey Russell: I mean it kind of hurt today, they were talking about, they really wanted a lot of birds where we were, and I said, I know where. You can’t get there from here, not with this boat. But anyway, Ryan, I don’t want to end this conversation without talking about the whole conversation about the people, and just life in general, and experiences that you’ve accumulated in a very short amount of time really because you’re a young man. Just living in the moment, and taking life as it comes, and loving life, and loving what you do. And I think that’s a lot to be said for that. You’re a glass half full kind of guy. But when I met you up in Alberta, I don’t remember what kind of hunting clothes you was wearing. I don’t remember what I was wearing. But a year or two, about two years ago you called me up and had started working with some folks, and met some folks, and you sent me a hoodie, a zip up hoodie. And I was telling them boys – I get asked a lot about it – I mean when you wear something all the time. Duck hunting, I’m going to say, since you give me that hoodie, I probably put about 350 days on it. And unless I’m in Mexico and it’s 90 degrees, or Africa – I want to take it to Africa, it gets cold out there in the morning. They get 9 degrees, but it starts off at 25 or 30 – that high hoodie, it’s always packed. It’s always in the truck. That Voormi wool blend or something other. But that’s kind of becoming a big deal. I want to talk about that because to me, the gear itself is badass. It’s just the product line, the intelligence has gone into it, but also the humility. I mean, it’s almost like this humble product. It ain’t in your face. It ain’t throwing at you. It ain’t telling the world that if you don’t wear me, you ain’t a duck hunter. It’s just this really, really good functional art – the first time I put it on, I had to try it. I mean, I’m wearing this wool pullover and I can drop beads of water – I’m showing the boys at the bar tonight – I can drop beads of water on it, repels it like Teflon. It’s a really good product. Let’s talk just a little bit about this Voormi because it’s – I love it. I just absolutely love it, I love everything about, I love the people, I love where they’re coming from, I love the mission, I like the face that they put on it for the hunting and fishing and I really like that hoodie.
Ryan Yarnell: Well —
Ramsey Russell: You tried to give me something else. I’m like, I don’t need, no, I need this right here is all I need.
Ryan Yarnell: You say you love it, I love it too. And I feel blessed. These guys – I kind of stumbled into this, as life has been for me. I lucked into something else great. I stumbled into this and the owner and I became fast friends, he offered me a job. He kind of, he created a position for me more or less, and it seems like it’s worked out very well for everyone so far. Voormi is a USA made – we make everything down to the yarn-level, everything, right here in the United States of America. Technologically advanced wool product. I mean, we stay beyond the sea of sameness, we take a different approach to the textile world. We’re bringing something to you, made at home, surface hardened wool, water resistant, built for the elements, mountaineering, skiing, hunting, fishing.
Ramsey Russell: Wool is a superior product.
Ryan Yarnell: We wouldn’t be here without it.
Ramsey Russell: In terms of warmth in terms of comfort. What I like about that wool – and this just coming from a Southern boy up here in this part of the world, here’s what I like about wool that other materials don’t allow you, is a range. A comfort range of – I wear it because it’s 30° in the morning and I may take off a couple of layers, but I still got it on that high when it’s 70 degrees. And I’m not sweating, I’m comfortable. It’s got a very, very high range. But the thing that strikes me about y’all’s product, that smart wool or whatever you call it, it don’t itch. Wool itches, this wool doesn’t itch. What is it about that?
The Hunting Wear that Walks Softly but Carries a Big Stick
What’s it like to an animal, what’s like to a duck in the sky or a goose in the field, that’s the approach we’ve taken with our concealment patterns.
Ryan Yarnell: Well, it’s a super wash wool. We’ve just taken it not to get into that too much of the technology behind it, so to speak. We’ve just taken a different approach of how we’ve developed, we’ve put the nylon and polyester things like that next to skin where you’re not as itchy, wicks your moisture away, it puts your moisture where it needs to be. We’ve put the textile where it needs to be, so to speak. Instead of just the same old wool where it’s either nothing, it’s scratchy, or is wearing you out. A lot of people are allergic to it, it’s uncomfortable. No, we just took a different approach, we took the technology that we have and we made it the best we could make it, I mean, so to speak. I couldn’t put it in better terms besides the fact that just everything’s put where it needs to be, so to speak. And so far, they have done a great job in my opinion. I mean Voormi, the functionality of it as you’ve seen is, it’s lights out. I mean, the fact is you can wear it, I can be wearing our tree lined hoodie for instance, I can have it on, or our Tech T, or our long sleeve Tech T which is just our thin layer ultra-light wool shirt. And then I can put on a tree lined hoodie and then say, I put on a two pocket Sports and City. It’d be 15 degrees outside in a decent wind, let’s say for instance, I can run on that without a shell or anything without freezing to death. I can also possibly just have to take off this two pocket Sports and City, and get up to 50° outside 45°, and I’m not layering up and layering down. I’m not sweating to death. I don’t feel bogged out. I don’t feel wet and stuffy. A natural fiber just for instance, in the low light, in the highlight, is light. Most textiles out there in the hunting world are plastic. There are UV plastic with a print on them. Well we’re dying our stuff at the yarn level and then we’re stowing it in so our concealment patterns are solid colors. So if you put that, say in the sunshine, and you stand there in the woods – think of it like this. When you’re a kid, or even as an adult for that matter, when you’re in the deer stand, for instance. We’re going to take away from waterfowl – we’re going to go to deer hunting. When you’re in a deer stand in the South, and you’re looking, and it’s getting daylight, you keep looking like, is that a deer? Is that a deer? And you keep looking, and yeah – that’s my dog that’s stunk up the room.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, it sure did.
Ryan Yarnell: You can smell that dog. Thank you, Clyde. We might all pass out in here in this podcast. Duck dogs work hard. But you think about that when you’re in a deer stand, you’re looking and you keep thinking it’s a tree, you keep thinking it’s a deer, keep thinking the deer, and it turns out it’s a bush when it gets daylight. Well I mean, that’s that approach of wool. Most of the camo we see in the world today, it’s sold to the human eye. Every time you look at it, man, that looks good. Well who cares what you think looks good? What’s it like to an animal, what’s like to a duck in the sky or a goose in the field, that’s the approach we’ve taken with our concealment patterns. And so, in that low light situations, there’s no shine, there’s no sheen, it’s wool, it’s a natural fiber, it’s dull, it looks just like that bush. It just blends and all of a sudden it appears the sun hits it. Same thing, it dulls the sun down instead of reflecting. Its pretty incredible technology. We’re on the good things. We got a lot of good things coming down the line as you well know.
Ramsey Russell: You do have some concealment patterns, but you also have solid. And your concealment patterns and you’re solid – when you start getting that earth tone. I mean I’ve always told you, you can pick any camo pattern on the market and it is spot on for a short range of habitat. But for a guy like me wants to grab a jacket, favorite jacket, and take it from Argentina material grass, all the way up to the Arctic Circle, man, I’m covering a lot of different habitats, a lot of different stuff and I found that, y’all’s concealment patterns, y’all’s solid cutters tend to – it’s more universal. That’s what I’ve seen. I think you’re really onto something. I know you got, y’all are a system. You’re not a jacket, you’re not a coat, you’re not a one trick pony. Y’all got a system right now and I know that your system is growing as we’re talking. Man, it’s got me extremely excited for what’s coming down the pipe.
Ryan Yarnell: You better not. And I can’t say too much right now, but as you know, we’ve discussed a little, we have some awesome things coming down the pipe, some awesome technology with our waterproofing and things like that. So real exciting stuff, and another motto we have is authenticity with humility. And it really holds to be true, obviously.
Ramsey Russell: But why is that important as a brand? Why? Because it is a hyper-marketed era, everybody is running a different plate than authenticity and humility. There are brands out there, I’ll just say it without saying, there are brands that I’m ashamed to wear. I feel like an elitist prick wearing some of these brands because the way they run their companies. Why is it important to y’all to be authentic and humble?
Ryan Yarnell: Well for starters, I want to say, I hope that we never – you or I – neither one ever feels that way about our brand. But I think it’s important because there’s not enough humility in the hunting world today, with social media and this that and the other, I’m guilty too at times. I mean, nobody wants to be the guy that comes up dry every day either, but at the same time it’s pile after pile pick, or this after that, and I’m not dogging any of that because I make pile picks too. I like, I mean who doesn’t want to go out and be proud of getting it done and killing them, but at the same time, there’s got to be some humility in there as far as a brand recognition. We’re not trying to go out, we don’t want anybody to feel like an elitist or anything different. We want to build – we’re coming from this standpoint, at least from my opinion. And I think that my company as a whole, we’re trying to build a quality product, we’re trying to do it right here at home, and we’re trying to sell it to the consumer right here, whoever wants to wear it, and we don’t care where you come from, what you do. We want to build your product and sell you something that’s going to last you a really long time and hold up to the elements, and we don’t care what club you belong to, or who you hunt with, or what you do. We want you to have something awesome on and we wanted to provide for you what it needs to do. We want it to perform the way it needs to perform in the elements and hopefully it helps perform for you to get the job done when you’re in the woods hunting, or in the field hunting, and or if you’re steelhead fishing, fly fishing, I mean, we have lifestyles. We travel and leisure, hook and bullet, I mean mount on mountain, for skiing, mountaineering, hiking, trail running, we have some of the, we have the probably some of the thinnest ultralight wool shirts made on the market, our River Run hoodie.
Ramsey Russell: Some of them I’ve tried I don’t feel almost like a synthetic fiber, they’re so light.
Ryan Yarnell: And it’s wool and it’s got a natural SPF 30 into it. It’s got natural antimicrobials in it because it’s wool, so it doesn’t stink like synthetics.
Ramsey Russell: I’ve been traveling since September 11, that’s a big deal.
Ryan Yarnell: And I don’t smell you.
Ramsey Russell: No, that’s a big deal, I take a shower once a week believe it or not.
Ryan Yarnell: But you know what I mean, like, put that into archery hunting. You don’t need all these anti-smell shirts – put that wool shirt on that you’ve been wearing, maybe keep it in a bag with like, marjoram and stuff. I keep it in a bag with sage and leaves and whatever. It’s just where it stays. But that being said, you don’t need to put a spray stuff all over in this. The thing is we’re just trying to build a quality product for the average hunter to get out there and use – for any hunter for that matter, anybody who wants to wear it.
Ramsey Russell: Well, I love your product. I wear it, and I wear it, and wear it. And I’ve actually got one piece, what do you call? 11-9? I saying it right there? What’s that little hoodie I got?
Ryan Yarnell: 11-9.
Ramsey Russell: I don’t hunt in it. I could, but I don’t.
Ryan Yarnell: That’s the church clothes.
Ramsey Russell: Man, that’s my church clothes. I want to keep it nice. I’ve told you I’ve hunted with that high effort lower two years straight on these big road trips and did it look worn or?
Ryan Yarnell: No, I was actually scoping you out. How many days Ramsey —
Ramsey Russell: Honestly. Now, honestly, minimum 300 days, I’ve worn that thing.
Ryan Yarnell: Now, I can sit here and go back and forth, you and people be like, oh that’s what they’re saying. Look, I mean if you look on Ramsey Russell’s Instagram page, it’s in almost every photo. I know you put it to the test more than I have on that piece of garment. And there’s not one hole in it.
Ramsey Russell: Not one hole.
Ryan Yarnell: You told me right.
Ramsey Russell: It’s not peeled, it’s not holed. It’s like this morning, we stepped outside and been raining, threat of rain, could have rained, I didn’t worry about it. I had a light overcoat, had that hoodie up and I’ve worn it enough now to know that unless it’s a frog choker, like a deep South rain. But up here in this rain, my head ain’t going to wet.
Ryan Yarnell: It will shed that moisture. And that same shed.
Ramsey Russell: It’ll still be warm.
Ryan Yarnell: I didn’t even carry rain jacket.
Ramsey Russell: It’s a layer.
Ryan Yarnell: That’s it. The humility part you’re talking about. Well, look, I mean as we learned yesterday or day before, whatever day was it. Nature is humbling in a lot of ways, it certainly is. We went for a jet boat ride, we found a bunch of ducks, next thing you know, the boat’s sinking and we didn’t kill any. Exactly. I’m like, hey bud, you said, I’m glad I waited two years for this. You might want to wait five years for the next one, like, but that’s what I mean, back to that whole authenticity with humility. I mean, nature is humbling whether you’re skiing, whether you’re rafting, whether you’re fishing, whether you’re hunting, it can be very humbling the elements.
Ramsey Russell: It is. I’m just going to go back and reinforce it. It always speaks volumes to me in this day and age when a brand – to borrow from Andrew Jackson – walks softly but carries a big stick. Because too many times it’s the opposite, know what I’m saying? It’s a complete opposite. You see these brands come out and they’re swinging big sticks all over the world like a bull in a china shop, and it’s a flop. On the other hand, there’s a lot of smart and a lot of intelligence, and a lot of consumer awareness going into a product that has served me extremely well. I mean that single piece of hoodie is the one most indispensable garment I wear period. And it don’t matter. And yet it’s coming from this real humble, walk softly carry a big stick, and I mean and I just love to see it in the brand. It excites me, it feels so freaking authentic.
Gratitude for this Path of Life
I had a great time doing all of these things we’ve discussed, but all in all one constant that’s been in my life has been waterfowl hunting.
Ryan Yarnell: Well, as I said before, I’ve become good friends with this crew at Voormi, and for me it’s my family, it’s my extended family now. The owner and I are very close. His children, they all work for the company, his wife, and then the rest of the crew that we all work there. I mean there’s only 15 of us I think, total 14 of us worked for Voormi, and we’re a tight knit group. We all carry a lot of hats, we pick up each other’s slack, they pick up a lot of my slack – you can come back because I’m out here, doing the show on the road and trying to – where I’m getting at with this is I’m trying to say we’re doing this organically, we’re not out there throwing out videos and doing all this. Someday hopefully we get to that point that we need to, but I’m going out shaking people’s hands, I’m looking them in eye, I’m talking to them just like you, I’m saying, put this on, wear it. If it sucks, you tell me, and next thing you know, we have an incredible return rate on customers. I couldn’t say enough about the company without the product, the people I work for: incredible. The man that pays my check, that signs my paychecks is, he’s been a mentor, he’s become a good friend, he’s a good hunting buddy, he just happens to be my boss too. So absolutely, you’ve met him, and that’s why I’m very grateful for where this path has taken me in life. The Lord blessed me in so many ways. I got a incredible wife at home, a healthy baby, a good job, and a big puppy. I mean, I got his daddy, Boss, a lot of people know him, he’s 10 and now I got this 17-month-old, 90-pound Great Dane that they call The Lab laying here, and he’s on his way to becoming a duck dog, goose dog. I feel very grateful for the path life has chosen for me. Where I’ve ended up from where I’ve been. I mean, I’m glad I didn’t die on some classified river somewhere. I sure push the limits a lot. I had a great time doing all of these things we’ve discussed, but all in all one constant that’s been in my life has been waterfowl hunting. And because of that I met people like you, I’ve got the job I have, I still have a great connection with my own father over that. I got a brother down in Austin Texas, I haven’t mentioned him. I got a brother got –
Ramsey Russell: Speaking of your dad, he called yesterday while he was out on the sandbar, the boat was driving beats we were trying to do. He said, you can’t believe it, if I tell you.
Ryan Yarnell: Yeah, I mean, my old man is 78 years old, he still duck hunts hard. He’s at duck camp right now, they’re still running around the woods looking for where we’re going to hunt for the season. I got a brother who’s down in Austin, we’re 10 years apart, he’s got four kids there. One of them flies F-16’s, is training to fly F-16’s in the Air Force, one of them is red shirt freshman quarterback at University of Pittsburgh, and he’s got two little ones and they’re just doing little boy stuff, and again he doesn’t hunt that much. I’ve been begging him to get out on the hunt, we’ll get him back into it one of these days, he’s busy with raising a family and he’s got his own career. But overall, I have to say, like I said, waterfowl hunting has been a very positive constant in my life and it brings a lot of joy. I think I look forward to raising my son who blows — my son is 17 months old and the kid blows a duck call more than I do, probably better than I do.
Ramsey Russell: I did not say that.
Ryan Yarnell: Maybe he can learn how to blow the goose call cause I’m really bad at that, so if he can get on that one now.
Ramsey Russell: Ryan, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it, and I had a good time, and I will be back as soon as you get the hole in the boat well shut.
Ryan Yarnell: As soon as I get home.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, I had a great time, as always with you man. I laugh every time I’m around you and it’s very positive experience. I appreciate you being on the podcast, appreciate you having me out here in Montana and I’m already looking forward to the next one.
Ryan Yarnell: You bet Ramsey. Thanks for having me and thanks for coming.
Ramsey Russell: Folks, y’all go check out Voormi, just go check it out. Y’all know me. It’s the real deal, you can contact my buddy, Red Beard, Ryan Yarnell @RyanYarnelloneroad?
Ryan Yarnell: @RyanYarnell406.
Ramsey Russell: Ryan Yarnell 406 on Instagram. Thank you all for this episode of Duck Season Somewhere. Don’t forget to subscribe, and like and comment, and rate, and I bet you’re going to want to share this episode with some of your buddies. See you next time.