Boom! And welcome to The Big Honker Podcast’s Jeff Stanfield and the World-famous Andy Shaver (who’s the side-kick is still open to debate). The pitfalls of becoming small time mayor, the thrilling storm chases, calling the shots, scaling Stanfield Outfitters when the cackler migration changed, how The Big Honker’s success has changed their lives, the future of hunting, The First Family of Waterfowl video series and lots more, we cover ground like a wide-open freight train running through west Texas. A long-time listener myself, learned a lot about them didn’t yet know, mostly that they’re a couple genuine, down-to-earth Texans that hold the people they see in the mirror fully accountable.
Hunting Origins in the Waterfowl Industry
Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere and in the studio today, I have got the one, the only Jeff Stanfield and his sidekick, world famous Andy Shaver of the Big Honker podcast. How’s it going guys?
Jeff Stanfield: Doing great.
Andy Shaver: Good, other than being called a sidekick.
Ramsey Russell: Well, who’s the sidekick? You all partners or what?
Andy Shaver: He’s Robin, definitely.
Ramsey Russell: I hear you.
Jeff Stanfield: I don’t know about that. I think that Andy is definitely the promoter of the podcast and he’s the one that was his idea, so I’ll go along that I’m the sidekick on this.
Ramsey Russell: I just can’t fathom imagine you wearing a robe and tights now, Jeff, I ain’t going to lie to you, that’s TMI for me.
Jeff Stanfield: I see a lot of them up there.
Andy Shaver: I think, what works with our show is that, I think we both feed off of each other very well.
Ramsey Russell: You all do. And you all are father, son? Right.
Andy Shaver: Yes.
Ramsey Russell: Have you all always gotten along like that?
Jeff Stanfield: I don’t remember me and Andy ever being crossed that I can ever remember.
Andy Shaver: No, it’s always been pretty smooth sailing.
Ramsey Russell: Wow. I want to back up a little bit and talk about who you all are. And I have been a long time listener years and years and I ain’t caught every one of your episode but that you all got a lot of episodes. But I have been a long time listener and Jeff preceding the podcast you own Stanfield Outfitters out there in Texas, you all guide. Before that I want to talk about the Jeff out in the West Texas that was a hunter. How did you get into hunting? I want to hear about your hunting origins in the waterfowl industry.
Jeff Stanfield: My father Ron Stanfield, who passed away about 3 years ago from lung cancer was a fireman in Wichita Falls and my dad was a fun dad, he was not the word cleaver type for the older people that listening, he was more of a – him and my mom got divorced when I was 5 years old, but my dad took us fishing and hunting, coach, kid, baseball, so we were from a single parent home for a while, my mom remarried when I was 11 or 12. But I was in a single parent home basically for probably the time I was 3.5 on, but my dad was always there. So I never was lacked for a male figure in my life. And my dad would take us out of school, me and Tony when we were little and we would go duck hunting all the time. And my dad loved to duck hunt and he was not very good at it when we were younger, looking back now, but as we got older, he got better and we had better places to go. But I grew up duck hunting back on the point system. Now, we had a limit of 100 shells was the limit when I grew up, it wasn’t 10 teal per person or whatever, it was 100 shells –
Ramsey Russell: That would be self-imposed limit of a 100 shell.
Jeff Stanfield: Yes. When we shot the 100th shell that morning we were done, there was days we killed seven ducks, there was days we killed 60 ducks. So my dad was not what I would call an outlaw, but he didn’t believe really in stopping at the limit always. And I remember one morning as a kid, I was probably 11 or 12 years old, we shot 26 canvasbacks, the three of us. But that was how I grew up duck hunting. I grew up hunting ducks with my dad and when I got older, I hunted ducks a lot and the duck season – duck hunting in the 80s went from a 10 bag limit on the point system to 3 birds. And we started goose hunting because we could kill 3 goose instead of 3 ducks, we started goose hunting and learned to goose hunt on our own and when I was in college, me and Tony both were in school, I had a hunting lease and we lost and on our YouTube series, “The First Family of Waterfowl” that just came out last week, we talk about this. We were going to lose a lease because we couldn’t afford to pay them and we were in college, we didn’t have any money, we’re both poor kids. And so we started guiding hunts and selling hunts and that was 30 years ago, this summer 30 years ago is when we started our business.
Andy Shaver: Over on the canvasback, so if they want to come after on, they’re going to have to get him out of this urn over here.
Ramsey Russell: Well, there’s got to be a statute of limitations on stuff like that. Things were way different back in the 70s, we’ve all got to accept that things were way different in a lot of different regard. But Jeff, when you said your dad, you remember him now, in hindsight that maybe when you all started hunting together, he wasn’t that great a duck hunter, is it because he started duck hunting as a way to take you and your brothers and whatnot out to spend time?
Jeff Stanfield: No, he liked to duck hunt. Dad grew up in Southeast Kansas in an area now that has tons and tons of ducks and geese. But when he was a kid, they didn’t have a lot of ducks and geese, but he hunted, he quail hunted, he coon hunted, he hunted, he loved to hunt and up until about three years before he died, dad wanted to goose hunt every day still, he couldn’t get enough of hunting ducks and shooting ducks and geese. But he loved to hunt and so he took us and instead of hunting with his buddies, he took his two sons hunting and I could never thank him enough for that because that instilled my desire to want ducks to be around ducks and to hunt ducks. I was 12 years old, I wrote an essay, when Ducks Unlimited had an essay contest. What is so incredible about a marsh? Well, what and me and dad sat down and we wrote this incredible essay one day and I shipped it off and whoever won, they took two kids out of each flyway, got to go to Canada and got to go band Canada geese and they flew you up there and stuff. And I wish I could tell you I won that but I didn’t because that would make that really a hell of a story.
Ramsey Russell: Have you still got that essay somewhere?
Jeff Stanfield: No, we sent it to Ducks Unlimited. But I would give anything and next time I talk to David, I’m going to see if there’s any possible way they ever saved any of that, I’m sure they didn’t. I would love to have that. And they sent me an autograph, David Moss lithographic painting deal. But that, so it was instilled to me at that young age, but I loved it. I mean, I absolutely loved it. And every time it snowed when that snow started to fall, my dad was at the fire department that day, the principal would come over at intercom. Can Jeff and Tony Stanfield? Please come to the office, go down to the office, we’d get in the truck with dad, we’d go duck hunting.
Ramsey Russell: Was it hunting just stock tanks and stuff like that out there in Texas?
Jeff Stanfield: Well, it’s funny. Yes, it was. Some of it was hunting right around Wichita Falls. We hunted a dairy down by Texas and there was a lake below it and we hunted that dairy and at that time they took corn and they fed the cows corn, but they rolled it different. So when they shit, it just came out and was in piles, there’s shit, there was corn everywhere and we shot the piss out of the ducks and I mean, they would come off that lake in waves. I mean, I didn’t go through, I wasn’t one of those kids, we didn’t have very many hunts that we didn’t shoot 20 plus ducks. Every duck hunt I was on as a kid growing up on was 20 plus a lot of 50 duck shoots, I mean, I was on a lot of great duck shoots, we also had some winters back then.
Ramsey Russell: Was the hunter shell limit per person or per group?
Jeff Stanfield: No, per group, we had 100 shells. Dad reloaded, he reloaded hot fixes. And I’m going to tell you, I learned a lesson as a kid one time, paper holes are good unless they get wet.
Ramsey Russell: That’s right.
Jeff Stanfield: And he reloaded 6, hell, I was reloading when I was 10 years old I reloaded, me and Tony both did, but we reloaded all the time and we would take 100 shells with us and as a family, federal used to have them more plastic cases, do you remember that? You’d open up and you could hold 100 shells in them and put them in your boat, that’s what we had as a plastic, black plastic case you could carry and you put 100 shells in them. And when we ran out and shot 100 that was into the hunt and there were some mornings we were done by 8 o’clock in the morning, some days we hunted till 10 o’clock. But most mornings we shot 100 shells.
A History of Hunting Leads to Guiding Waterfowl Hunts
I was too stupid when I started to realize when you become an outfitter, you don’t get a hunt no more, you’re the guide.
Ramsey Russell: Where did you go from being a duck hunter with your dad and brother to Stansfield Outfitters?
Jeff Stanfield: Started hunting out here in this area. Now, we hunted also out here in these play of lakes, I was fortunate, my dad and some other men hunted out here, so I got to hunt on these play of lakes, it’s funny where I sleep at every night, I shot my first goose 12 miles south of my house, he was not even 12 miles, probably 7 miles south of my house when I was in 5th grade our first goose hunt.
Ramsey Russell: So, you’re in Wichita Fall still?
Jeff Stanfield: No, I live in Knox City, but we hunted out here. As a kid, I got to hunt out here growing up, I got to hunt on the Wagner Ranch. I mean, I got to hunt, my dad trained dogs and I got to go on a lot of really cool place and hunt. But my first goose I shot is a lake, I drive by everyday scouting. And I would have never thought when I was a kid on them growing up, something I love to do, I would get a make a living out of. But when I was in college, me and Tony were going to lose a place to hunt and the guy let us guide on it. And I ran an ad in the Dallas Morning news and it just kind of rolled it in. The first year we hunted maybe we didn’t start guiding hunts till January and the season ended about January 15th the first year or two and then the next year it grew and then the next year we went to a hunting show and for the last 27 years, this is all I’ve done other than be a city judge, I’ve been a full time, all I’ve done is being a hunting outfitter.
Ramsey Russell: Are you still a judge?
Jeff Stanfield: Yes, at court today. I’m done December 31st is my last day of being judge.
Ramsey Russell: Well, I called you earlier today and you said you’re leaving the courthouse and I didn’t want to be personal and nothing like being pulled over.
Jeff Stanfield: I was having a good day, everybody else has a bad day when they go to court, I was having a good day, it was just another day for me.
Ramsey Russell: Now, were you ever a mayor?
Jeff Stanfield: I was mayor for 10 years.
Ramsey Russell: In Knox city?
Jeff Stanfield: Absolutely the worst job a human being can have is to be a mayor in a small town.
Ramsey Russell: Why?
Jeff Stanfield: Well, it doesn’t pay, it pays zero. And if you go anywhere in town and an older person says, mayor, that means you better run.
Ramsey Russell: It’s never a compliment, is it?
Jeff Stanfield: No, it’s worse than, being a mayor is worse than anything, you could possibly be in a small town other than being on a school board when you have some kind of crisis in town, that’d probably be worse.
Ramsey Russell: What’s it like being a judge?
Jeff Stanfield: Well, that’s easy. It’s not the same thing as it used to be because there’s so many laws to protect the criminals. I mean, the cops, they’re the bad guys all the time now and I use common sense, I’m pretty easy going, I’m good on people, people make mistakes, you get a traffic ticket, it shouldn’t be the end of the world, it shouldn’t keep a mama from being able to put food on her kid’s plate. I mean, you just work with people and try to be nice to people, people are honest with me, I’m as easy going guy, if you lie to me and I’m not have no use for you.
Ramsey Russell: You’re talking about Stanfield Outfitters, is that just like, hey, I love the duck hunt, I’m going to become an outfitter?
Jeff Stanfield: What do you mean?
Ramsey Russell: Is that why you found the Stansfield Outfitters?
Jeff Stanfield: I did it because I was too lazy to get a real job. I was going to school to be a coach.
Ramsey Russell: Well, look, man, being a guide, an outfitter is not easy work, it’s not as easy as it seems, getting up going hunting is easy but it’s a lot of work involved, but man, when you’ve got to take care and babysit and produce and feed and house and scout for a lot of people, man, that’s a lot of work and there’s so many variables that you can’t control to deliver that, you just got to go out and do it.
Jeff Stanfield: You’re selling yourself every day. When I first started, it kind of fell in my lap, I enjoyed hunting, I liked to hunt and so I become a guide so I could have a place to hunt, I was too stupid when I started to realize when you become an outfitter, you don’t get a hunt no more, you’re the guide. I had the same problem with all the young guys do the guide, they think they’re getting to hunt, you’re not hunting, you’re guiding and we turned it into being from one group a day and me and Tony taking turns taking people out to having 2 other guys, we went from running one group a day to running 3 and 4 groups a day in a year. And that when we started running 3 and 4 groups a year is when I quit guided hunting and I become an outfitter basically. I was scouting, I was going to the post office, I was going to the bank, I was making sure we had this done and that done and this was organized. And then I met Michelle Andy’s mom and we got married and when we got married, she said she wasn’t going to teach, she was going to take care of all the hunters. And we built a kitchen and a dining hall and we went from running 3 groups a day to running 5 groups a day. And then we’ve got ladies working for us cleaning rooms, you’re selling T-shirts and hoodies, you’re feeding 50 people a day some days and you’re ordering food, you’re having to make sure everybody comes in to work. And your 100th day in a row of hunting is still somebody else’s first day to be at the lodge on vacation and you got to treat it that way and it just kind of morphed into what it is now. And now we have about 20 to 25 full time employees that work during waterfowl season.
The Reality of Duck Hunting as a Profession
I want to be a duck guide that sounds fun, it’s not really work, but the duck hunting industry is not even hunting, it’s hospitality.
Ramsey Russell: Well, you bring up a good point. A lot of people listening, young guys, especially that love to duck hunt and say, well, I want to be a duck guide that sounds fun, it’s not really work, but the duck hunting industry is not even hunting, it’s hospitality. All of a sudden you’re running a hunting version of the Marriott. And to me it’s a very stressful situation, do you ever find yourself stressed out, Jeff?
Jeff Stanfield: Not like you think I would be probably because I’ve gotten past that.
Andy Shaver: 10 years ago. Yes.
Jeff Stanfield: Yeah. Now, no.
Ramsey Russell: Andy, when did you come along into duck hunting with Jeff or were you duck hunting before then?
Andy Shaver: No, he married my mom when I was – so they married in 1997, so I was 9 turning 10. And then, so I just started tagging along and it became a passion of mine. And then I remember when I was 12, 13 years old, I started kind of tagging along and then during Christmas break and New Year’s from school all the guys would go home or they’d take those days off and I would beg Jeff to book a group and Ron his dad, my grandfather, we would tag team and he would provide the transportation and I would get to kind of run my own group, so to speak. I’d sit next to him and he’d tell me when to call the shot because that was the one thing I wanted to do at 12 and 13 years old was to be the one that called the shot and he would kind of poke me in with the flag and that would let me know that it was time to call the shot and I was tickled shitless.
Ramsey Russell: What was the shell limit when you came up, Andy?
Andy Shaver: It was legal. Whenever I finally got into it, so they started mining their Ps and Qs, whenever it became a business.
Ramsey Russell: You really have to. Well, there’s a lot of scrutiny in this industry and duck hunting lends itself to errors. I mean, like you sit on five ducks and Mississippi fly away and a flock of ring neck comes through that can get sideways quick.
Andy Shaver: We specialize in goose hunting and for the longest time it was five darks, only one could be a speckle for the longest time. And you’ve got clients out there that don’t know, a speckle belly from a Canada and then you shoot into, you’re full on specks and then one sales, there was one speck mixed in with a bunch of Canadas and accidents happen, but you just try to mitigate it.
How Has Goose Hunting Changed Over the Years?
And winter lack of food or drought, whatever, I mean, there’s something every year changes and the area is different than it was a year, every year is different.
Ramsey Russell: Jeff, how has the goose hunting changed out there around Knox City since you grew up hunting to now or just since you started your business to now? Is it still the same?
Jeff Stanfield: When I grew up and out here in the 70s and the early 80s, the goose hunting wasn’t as good as it is today. But from the time I grew up and got into the hunting business from 1986 when I got out of high school in 1993, when I started really guiding, there was a whole lot of geese that showed up in the country. There’s a lot of different thoughts of this, one of the things that affected it was, we had start planting peanuts out here, every irrigated piece of ground out here had peanuts on it or early 80s or the late 80s and early 90s. And we had a huge cold front one year and a lot of birds left Eastern Colorado, the small Canadas and they came down here. So we had a million small Canadas, so when I first got in the hunting business, we were shooting all them small Canadas that Toby and them were shooting that the guys were shooting up in northern Oklahoma. They were in Knox and Haskell County. Well, then we had the drought in 2011 and we lost a lot of our small geese. And I’m saying this right now there’s no food this year other than irrigated crops anywhere in the Midwest right now, hardly in most places from here through Nebraska, places that have dry land, crops aren’t going to make a crop this year.
Ramsey Russell: Most of the United States is basically in a drought, that much is sure.
Jeff Stanfield: And so the place is like, all our peanuts are irrigated, so we’re going to have peanuts here, we’re going to have food and we’ve got water, they may have to fly 20 miles. There’s some place right now that’s the last four or five or six or seven years has held a lot of small Canadas that aren’t going to have any geese this year, it’s going to happen and I don’t know where it’s going to be or who it’s going to be. But we had that thing happen here where we had a drought in 2011 and 2012 and 2013. And so our small Canadas went to Lubbock and Amarillo and up to Fort Cobb and some of them other places in Oklahoma, well, that same thing that we had dealt with is some of these people are going to deal with this year. And so we lost a lot of small Canadas, but we got tons of beautiful specks here and we’re still shooting Canada geese, it’s not like we did, but we’re killing specks now and we’ve started shooting a lot of sand hills. But we have more geese now than we had when I was a kid growing up here, but we don’t have as many small Canadas as we had in the year 2000.
Ramsey Russell: A lot of those birds since the peanuts are gone or are not as much, they’ve shorts stopped further up the flyway, hadn’t they?
Jeff Stanfield: Yeah. And winter lack of food or drought, whatever, I mean, there’s something every year changes and the area is different than it was a year, every year is different. I’ve been doing this a long time and some years, we’re shooting a lot of ducks or a couple of years ago, we shot a lot of cranes right around the lodge last year, we didn’t shoot any cranes around the lodge. Some years, we’re shooting a lot of geese north of Knox City and the last 4 or 5 years we haven’t. So, every year is a little different and it’s that way, but basically our stuff is kind of the same year in and year out. Well, that’s what I’ve seen change is just the amount of small geese and that’s going to come back again, it’s a cycle and I thought Ramsey, I thought about this, I’ve been hunting a long time, not Mount Saint Helens that erupted in like 1981, 1982,1983, right? I want to know, looking back now that had to change the flyway for a lot of birds. The ash and all that stuff that was in Wyoming and Montana and Idaho, those birds had to have gone somewhere else during those times.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah.
Jeff Stanfield: And we had to have a colder winter that year than we normally do because it blocked the sun for a lot with the ash people out here, freaking crazy when I say this, that had to have some effects on the waterfowl hunting in that year.
Ramsey Russell: It probably did. I just know that hunting out on the front range in Colorado, a lot of those guys describe 15 years ago, 20 years ago that the cacklers, the little Canadas came through and boogied on out and primarily what they shot were big honkers and now they’re just eat up filthy with the cacklers that have quit coming down, have quit flying south for some reason, I guess. Well, the peanut industry.
Andy Shaver: The lack of winter, lack of snow cover in my mind.
Ramsey Russell: Very well could be.
Andy Shaver: I mean, if you cover up the food source, they’re going to boogie. But geese are smart animals and they’re not going to spend any more resources than what they need to. So, if they can stop in eastern Colorado or hell I mean, now we’re hearing that they’re stopping in Montana and a guy in Canada sent me a picture last year and January, they still had a bunch of little geese and speckle belly. So they just had been winter to drive them.
Ramsey Russell: Well, what’s so weird is when you get up to places like Montana or Wyoming and it is for a southerner cold, cold by southern standards and they’re still waiting on birds from further north, that just freaks me out. I’m like, man, it’s cold out here and they’re waiting on birds to come down, they haven’t got their birds yet, be it Canada or duck either one and it seems to be getting later and later in the year anymore.
Andy Shaver: Yeah, it’s all snow driven.
Jeff Stanfield: We don’t have snow anymore.
Ramsey Russell: Jeff, what percent of your hunters are – and I know you’re pulling hunters from throughout the United States, but what percent of your hunters are Texans and what percent come from elsewhere approximately. And I’m driving to a question because Texas to me has always been a unique environment that practically every Texan I know, don’t think anything but hey, Stanfield has got some geese and let’s book a trip this weekend. Texans will fly off and book, book a local guided trip somewhere. I mean, for as long as I can remember versus people I go to – I’m here in Mississippi, people are going to book a trip, they think, well, I might go out to Stanfield next year, let’s go ahead and organize a group and plan like a trip because it’s a trip. But it seemed like Texans just will jump all over the state booking trips when people got birds, I mean, is that right? Have you seen similar?
Jeff Stanfield: Half my hunters are going to come out of Texas and half of them are going to come out and out half of them, 90% of them are going to come out of Dallas from Fort Worth area, corporate stuff. I’ve got groups of guys that have been hunting with me for over 25 years and they’re getting old because I’m getting old.
Ramsey Russell: Are they across the board, like the same group that will book a dove trip, will come out there and goose hunt with you later or do you have like, binomial, some people going dove hunt, some people going waterfowl?
Jeff Stanfield: I’ve got some groups that hunt with me 4 times a year that’ll dove hunt with me and they’ll do a pheasant hunt with me and they’ll do 2 goose hunts with me and I’ve got guys that do that and they’re going to throw in a deer hunt, we got a lot of really – I guess I shouldn’t say reliable, very loyal clients that do all their hunting with us, call me about everything hunting related. And then I’ve got guys that will call me, somebody is going to call me on December 21st, 22nd to go to hunt on December 28th, 29th or 30th, every year, I get phone calls the last couple of years we’ve been sold out of everything and they’ll get mad with me, why didn’t you call me? I don’t know, I’m not going to call everybody that ever hunted with me, that calls me the late in the year, I’ve got a book and I keep up with the date when everybody books and I check each month compared to each year so I can keep up on trends and stuff. But bottom line is when November gets here, I hope to be sold out. Last year, I was sold out of everything we had by about Thanksgiving, I had days here and there, but by then I was sold out and it sure is nice to not have to come home and get on the phone and have to call people and do all that, I enjoyed being booked up that early. Now, there’s a lot of guys out there that are booked up, well, they’re running one or two groups a day, we do a lot of things between pheasant hunting, duck hunting, dove hunting, deer hunting, hog hunting, well, I have a lot of different irons that I’m covering, so I’m on the phone a lot doing things. But like by Thanksgiving last year, we were sold out of everything we had till April, I think, it made it a lot easier for me because I didn’t have to worry about getting on the phone all the time. But half of my hunters come from Texas, my other half of my hunters come from everywhere, we got a ton of people from California that hunt with us. I’ve got a ton of people out of Louisiana that hunt with us. A lot of Indiana, Illinois, more and more east coast guys because they’re getting burned on their hunt.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, highway is declining, it sure is. And for a Mississippian what the trip and I was young, I was in college that introduced me to the concept of there’s waterfowl else outside the state of Mississippi was going down around Katy, Texas to shoot geese because back in the day we don’t really have goose hunting in Mississippi, resident birds, yes. If you’re that kind of guy, you can’t go to places you shoot light geese in the Mississippi Delta. But we’re duck hunters and if a guy wants to go shoot geese, you pretty much got to go elsewhere and that led me to Texas and that was life changing to book a trip and go down to Texas to shoot geese, it changed my life. Well, I went down there to around Katy, Texas up in that prairie, Katy, Garwood up in that area to shoot snow geese. Like you read about in Field and Stream magazine and study hall. I mean, some people call it study hall, it was really detention. But yeah, it just captivated my imagination, ended up booking a trip and going down to Texas and man, it’s like, wow, this is fun and I could see where a lot of your clients would come to take advantage of that great goose hunting.
Andy Shaver: Now, that’s all parking lots.
Does the Love of Hunting Ever Fade?
…being careful to put something you love to do and make a career of it because it tends to become work then. And there’s a lot of truth to that, it changes you.
Ramsey Russell: And it sure is. One of the biggest roost in that whole region right there was paved or put into a shopping center, I’ve heard. Let me ask you all just for both of you all, Andy you too, how has being in this business and running that level of hunts? How has it changed your madness towards ducks? Do you all still duck hunt? Do you still want a duck hunt or are you still mad at ducks?
Andy Shaver: I mean, I’m not mad at them, I wouldn’t say, I definitely don’t hunt in my free time if I’ve got a day off, I’m not going to go sit on the slew or –
Jeff Stanfield: You drove to Oklahoma last year.
Andy Shaver: Well, that was supposed to be a burner –
Ramsey Russell: Should have been there yesterday.
Andy Shaver: Yeah, exactly. And I guess that is a good question because I did do that. But regularly, if I’ve got a day off, I’m going to stop to sleep in maybe once or twice a year, I’ll fun hunt. But yeah, it’s definitely different, it’s more business like for me for good or bad, you’ve got your routine and you kind of stick to it. But yeah, I mean, it’s a business and it’s a job I’m supposed to go out there every day.
Ramsey Russell: I read somewhere –
Jeff Stanfield: You want my answer, Ramsey?
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, I do want your answer.
Jeff Stanfield: I doubt, I don’t know that I will ever pull a trigger on a duck or goose again in my life. I really don’t know if I ever will.
Andy Shaver: Yes, you will.
Jeff Stanfield: I don’t know.
Ramsey Russell: Damn, Jeff.
Andy Shaver: You will too.
Jeff Stanfield: I don’t know. Now, I’m not saying I wouldn’t go and film a hunt and sit in the blind and visit with people, I don’t know. But if I don’t ever shoot another duck or goose, I’m not going to be sad.
Andy Shaver: I think now, Jeff likes duck hunting way more than he likes goose hunting. So, if we get 5 years ago, 2018, 4 years ago, whatever, we were wet here, all of our lakes were full, the peanut fields had sheet water in it and we had a lot of ducks and Jeff hunted more that year than I’ve ever seen them because we were shooting field mallards and that’s Jeff’s Jam right there. So, if we have another wet fall, which knock on wood that we do and there’s sheet water everywhere and we’ve got puddle ducks in the fields and Jeff can set in an A-frame and not have to put on waders, Jeff’s going to be all about it, I’ll bet anybody that right now.
Ramsey Russell: What about it, Jeff?
Jeff Stanfield: I wouldn’t bet my kidneys against that because that does sound fun, but killing bird is not as big a passion to me as it was a long time ago, I love to see birds, I love to watch my guys hunt. I’ll sit in the mornings and watch hunts until I have to go do something else. But I scout every morning and one of the things I love to do is sit and watch us hunt and I like to get as close to the spread as I can, I get calls from Andy all the time, move your damn pickup, turn your headlights off, do this, do that because I get too close sometimes. But I like to blend in and get as close to them, I’ll park under a pivot 100 yards from the blind, if I think I can get by with it.
Ramsey Russell: I think to myself sometimes that if I never shoot a duck it’ll be too soon. And when I’m in a blind with clients as I often am I, I see that I don’t like shooting ducks or as passionate about it as they are or maybe they’re wanting to shoot those ducks for a different reason than I am. But I love to be there, I love to do it because it’s familiar, it’s hell is what I do. And so I guess I will shoot a lot more ducks in my life. But there are times I feel like I’ve shot enough, you know what I’m saying? And I just appreciate the different aspects of it. I mean, truthfully, I would just assume filming with my iPhone, every other play is pull the trigger, I find myself doing that.
Andy Shaver: I bet I don’t go through five boxes of shells in a year and if I find any, I’ll shoot then obviously, but when I’m with clients very rarely will I – I’ll have a gun just for cripples or something like that, if I think that it’s going to fly away before my dog can get it, but I don’t shoot on days that I have clients. Number one, I’ve got a dog and he’s a buck, he’s a bucking bull till we get about 6 to 10 birds in him and then he calms down. But I don’t want to be pulling on that check cord and then be trying to shoulder a gun and even before I had him, I didn’t really shoot just a whole lot. Where I enjoy it is, I’m putting that bird where I want it to go before I let everybody else pull the trigger.
Ramsey Russell: Right, that make sense.
Andy Shaver: I’m the conductor, I’m the one that’s really pulling the strings here, you’re just a monkey with a gun.
Ramsey Russell: You’re doing everything but pulling the trigger, I can appreciate that. Oh, wow. It’s a question, I felt because people get into this business because they love to hunt and they love to shoot ducks or geese and then you get into this business, you’ve been in this business for a long time and things begin to change, I think it does change. I remember reading something, one time from out of Leopold talking about being careful to put something you love to do and make a career of it because it tends to become work then. And there’s a lot of truth to that, it changes you.
Andy Shaver: It does. But I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I think, people, I think they need to find their passion in this world and go chase it down and be aggressive with it and if it’s hunting or cooking or coaching football, whatever it is, find your passion and it becomes work and it does change your relationship with that passion. But I mean, hell, it beats sitting in the cubicle taking phone calls for AT&T and I’m not bashing anybody that is listening that takes phone calls for AT&T. But I mean, find your passion and stick with it, if you can.
Ramsey Russell: Jeff, you remember the time I came up to you in Dallas, you all were working the show, I was working the show too. I saw you down, I want to say hello, this was years ago, it was a long time ago. And I decided I was going to bust you balls and I come up and you didn’t even know who I was, I asked you, I said I want to book a trip and come shoot wood duck, he said, oh, we ain’t really got no wood duck said, well, no, hell no, I want to come shoot wood duck, man. You about flew off on me about that, you all apparently don’t shoot a lot of wood ducks down there.
Jeff Stanfield: We shoot zero. We killed maybe and I don’t keep stats and, well, I used to keep stats when I was younger of everything we shot and every species we’re at and I’ll bet you in 30 years that we have not killed 10 wood ducks, probably 5.
Andy Shaver: I missed one of my clients, a couple of years ago, we missed a wood duck and I think it was like opening weekend of big duck season because once goose season gets here, I don’t get a whole lot of duck hunts, but I was guiding the duck hunt that day, so that makes me believe that it was probably opening weekend of big duck season and had one come in and he got away and that was the first time that I have ever called a shot on a wood duck.
Chasing Ducks to Chasing Tornadoes
Who in the hell gets in their pickup truck and runs to a tornado instead of away from it.
Ramsey Russell: Wow. Change the subject, you all are out in West Texas? Tell me about storm chasing. Who in the hell gets in their pickup truck and runs to a tornado instead of away from it.
Jeff Stanfield: Jeff Stanfield.
Ramsey Russell: How in the world did you get into that?
Jeff Stanfield: I grew up in Wichita Falls and we had a horrible tornado when I was in 5th grade, day I will never, ever forget. Everybody has something in their life they remember, I remember the twin towers falling, I remember the space shuttle blowing up and I remember April 10th, 1979 and I love storms and I love storm movies and I love everything about storms and this is the first year I have not seen a tornado or been in a tornado warning, probably in 25 years because I’ve been chasing them for 30 years and I love them.
Ramsey Russell: How close do you get to them?
Jeff Stanfield: As close as I possibly can. I’m probably going to die chasing a tornado, it’s probably what’s going to happen because I get pretty stupid sometimes I like to get as close as I can and I have been very close, I’ve gotten so close with the guys on my truck wanting to get out.
Andy Shaver: Just make sure your life insurance is paid up.
Jeff Stanfield: And I have a lot of that.
Ramsey Russell: Have you been close enough that it starts pulling your truck sideways or something?
Jeff Stanfield: I was in a storm west of the lodge between Guthrie and Aspermont about 8 years ago, me and coach Steele, a good friend of mine and the wind was blowing bad, I was under a – I had to punch a cord to get to the road, the road was jacked up and it’s the only way I could – I had to get in front of the storm and I was trying to get in front of it before it hit Knox City because it changed direction and I’m kind of the voice for our weather here and I wanted to make sure I got there in case something happened. And the mesquite trees on the left side of the road were blowing into the center strap and the mesquite trees on the right side were blowing in. So the winds were coming from both directions and we got into hail, that was probably between golf ball and baseball as hail and it knocked out all my mirrors blew them up, broke both of it the same time. And actually my ass was puckered up. I bet I spit cotton out of my ass for three weeks after that, I was moved. And that time really scared me and then I was up by Amarillo two springs ago and I got into a rain wrap storm by Las Brisas or one of the little towns over there. And the tornado was probably a quarter of a mile away from me and I couldn’t see it and it started shifting my way and it made me kind of nervous and I put my truck in reverse and went back as fast as my truck would go in reverse, going back. But most of the times I don’t get scared, but I usually try to stay on the safe side of the storm. But as long as I can see the storm, I know where it’s going, it doesn’t bother me, I’m more concerned about getting hit by lightning standing outside, taking pictures than I am worried about –
Ramsey Russell: What are you doing while he’s doing that Andy?
Andy Shaver: Shaking my head.
Jeff Stanfield: Andy ain’t never going to go storm chasing.
Andy Shaver: Number one, I’ve got two small kids and I don’t have a lot of free time. The idea of taking off at 12 o’clock and driving 200 miles so that you can be ready for when the storms pop off at 5 o’clock and then chasing them to whenever it gets dark at 8 o’clock and then driving home, that seems like torture to me.
Ramsey Russell: Is that what you do, Jeff? I mean, you see the weather forecast for 200 miles away and say, okay, I need to be on a high plane where I can see everything and when one pops down, I’m going to go to it. Is that how –
Jeff Stanfield: 200 miles, the sun went down before and I’ve been in New Mexico.
Andy Shaver: That sounds terrible. It sounds awful. He’ll be in Kansas, he’ll have 5 hours to drive, it’s 08:30 at night and he’s 5 hours away.
Jeff Stanfield: I have a very interesting life.
Ramsey Russell: So, going through that storm at that time, it was so bad that’s just what kind of inspired you to get close to them?
Jeff Stanfield: I just liked them after that. It was amazing. The structure of it and the smell. I’ll never forget the smell and the sound and sitting in that closet and everything shaking and shit.
Ramsey Russell: What’s the smell like? Ozone?
Jeff Stanfield: Dirt. It smells like a fresh plowed field just fresh dirt. And the sound as loud as you could imagine, like a freight train coming through your living room.
Ramsey Russell: I don’t know, man, I’d rather see your video than be that close, I’m with Andy.
Jeff Stanfield: I enjoy it and I’m going to tell you, it’s not a small fraternity of people that do that. When I first used to storm chase before the internet, I’ve done it forever, there would be people out but it wasn’t nothing like it is now. You go out now storm chasing and they’re literally, I’ve been in a line of a possession like a funeral possession, but it’s a storm chasing it’ll be 10 miles long of cars. You can’t believe the falling and this year there wasn’t a lot of it because we had a horrible spring this year, that’s the thing of a drought, people, I hate storms, well, when you hate storms and you get your way, this is what we have, we have a drought, we need thunderstorms. And that’s what we haven’t had this year and it shows with the way the weather is right now.
Ramsey Russell: Heck, it just seems like with these long processions, these funeral processions of people chasing it that just invites disaster, all of a sudden I need to back up and I can’t back up because there’s 5 trucks behind me eyeballing, you ever get worried about that?
Jeff Stanfield: Yeah, because people are idiots and that’s why I have a four wheel drive that I chased in because I get off the road. But there’s a bunch of dumb asses, they have no business being out there, a lot of them and I’ve gotten on to a bunch of them before. The worst are the foreigners.
Andy Shaver: A lot of Chinese people looking at these tornadoes and if you believe the stereotype, they’re already not good drivers.
Jeff Stanfield: Yeah, I was outside of high school a couple of years ago and I come over a hill on 380 there’s this guy parked in the freaking middle of the road and I jumped out and I go, what are you doing? And he didn’t speak very good English and I told him, I said, you take your ass and get off this road, you’re going to kill somebody. I mean, anybody that just happened to live there that normally drives down that road, they’re not expecting someone to be sitting there and that’s the kind of crap we deal with, with them idiots.
Close Calls Chasing Storms
I mean, it was a beautiful storm, beautiful tornado, great structure, great vantage point, it was awesome, but that’s probably as close as I have been to a tornado that I could see.
Ramsey Russell: What’s the closest call you’ve had Jeff, the one where you pulling cotton out of your butt that time or something up cushion and that didn’t deter you from getting closer?
Jeff Stanfield: I got on a tornado storm west of Alba, Oklahoma a couple of years ago and hell, it was probably 8 or 10 years ago that day, we saw nine tornadoes that day, but we saw sisters, twins, 2 vortex, big tall tornado, beautiful tornado and it crossed the road in front of me probably at a quarter of a mile both of them did and they wiped out two houses in front of me and I feel bad for people that lose stuff. But the highway patrolman had blocked the road at the intersection and I waved at him and went around him and I got the storms crossed me and then there was another one and they had the road blocked off there and I crossed them and I went north into Kansas chasing it. But I stayed behind it probably a quarter of a mile the whole way and you can see them. I mean, it was a beautiful storm, beautiful tornado, great structure, great vantage point, it was awesome, but that’s probably as close as I have been to a tornado that I could see. I’ve duck down before and had some telephone lines and stuff all down in front of me not very far when I was closer than I wanted.
Ramsey Russell: How much closer could you get than a quarter mile or would you get?
Jeff Stanfield: Oh, that was probably about as close as I’d get. I don’t want to get killed in one, that’s probably how I’ll die, but I don’t want to die that way. But I’ve been pretty damn close. But I was safe, those storms, both of those, I was safe, they were going away from me and I let them get across the road in front of me and then I went to the intersection and I turned and went north and they crossed the road in front of me again and I went behind them, I was a quarter of a mile away the whole time. But I’m going to tell you something, there’s professional guys that get killed chasing storms because shit happens, it’s mother nature. And I mean, there’s guys that are a whole lot better chasers than me that have been killed by this stuff. I worry more about them dumb ass kids running or I mean, they don’t know what they’re doing, just running around on them roads, not paying attention, watching the storm run off the road and hit a bunch of people and that’s going to happen. There’s too many kids chasing storms when I say kids, I’m referring to anybody under 30 but there’s too many people out chasing storms nowadays, it’s just going to take one person to not be paying attention to where they’re driving and to wipe out a bunch of people because it looks like a parade of people on the side of the county roads with cameras, taking pictures of these super cells and these wall clouds.
Ramsey Russell: I don’t want to be nowhere around here. Of course, here in Mississippi we got trees, you can’t see them like that. And I tell you what, there’s tornado alleys all over the place around here and when they come through every few years. The only thing you really know is if you look up and see a funnel cloud or hear the sirens go off, there’s no chasing them and I don’t get a bathtub or nothing, but it’s a bad deal, it just comes out of nowhere in this part of the world.
Jeff Stanfield: Yeah. I’m not a seller type of guy, I like to be where I can see.
The Big Idea Behind Big Honker
…at the time there was 4 generations of Stanfield of hunters out here and I always knew we had a story to tell.
Ramsey Russell: Change the subject. Andy, when and why did you conceive the idea of Big Honker Podcast?
Andy Shaver: I don’t remember what year I think, I guess 2018, it was the off season and kind of, I don’t know. I’d always known that we had a story to tell out here always, I’ve always known it. And about 2 or 3 years before 2018, when the Duck Dynasty craze kind of happened, we were talking to different production companies about having our own TV show and then those fell through and I knew that we’re unique in how long we’ve been doing it and that it is a family business and I’m raising my boys in this, at the time there was 4 generations of Stanfield of hunters out here and I always knew we had a story to tell. And it was the off season and I was kind of thinking, well, all right, we didn’t get a TV deal a couple of years ago, so what can I do to get our name out there? And I had just started listening to podcasts, I listen to podcasts a couple of years, but I never really thought about doing it. And then, I was reading a book on Instagram and how to leverage your Instagram account and all the algorithms and all that crap and there was a section on it about podcast and I was like, well, there’s no sense that we can’t have a podcast, I’m fairly literate and Jeff is a good storyteller and I thought if we coupled Jeff’s storytelling ability and his ability to bullshit with people and my ability to kind of be the Xs and Os guys if you will about hunting and calling and stuff like that, I thought, I think we’d have a pretty complete show. So I went to Apple Podcasts, the podcast store and I just typed in waterfowl hunting and there was one or two at that time and one, hadn’t posted in a couple of months and one even longer than that and I thought to myself, there’s a market here, there’s a niche that we can tap into. So I came out to the lodge a couple of days later and I told Jeff, I was like, at first I said, he probably should have a podcast and then he said, well, why don’t we just do it together? And then thank God for YouTube because I figured out what all we’re going to need to do this and the steps that it takes and started YouTube and how to start a podcast that night and it was in March whenever we released the first one and that’s just gotten away.
Ramsey Russell: March of 2018.
Andy Shaver: 2018. Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: Jeff, did you know what a podcast was when he approached you?
Jeff Stanfield: Had no clue.
Andy Shaver: Because it’s around that time, 2017 or 2018 Rocky Leflore called me and said something about being a guest on a podcast, I’m like, what the hell is a podcast?
Andy Shaver: Yeah. And you should have seen his dad Ron when you told him what it was, that was very difficult to explain. So we just dumped it, it’s a radio show on the internet and he would tell his buddy at the coffee shop that we had a podcast and they didn’t know what podcast was, but I wish we would have started a year sooner just looking back. I wish we would have started a year – I wish I would have had the idea a year sooner.
Ramsey Russell: But so your goals when starting were just humbly enough a way to organically market Stanfield Outfitters and you all’s family’s history.
Andy Shaver: Yeah. And it was that and I listen to Howard Stern and I listen to, there’s another guy Joe Rogan and I was always fascinated in their ability to get the biggest people to open up and that was what I wanted. I wanted to get the biggest names in waterfowl to open up about not only their journey in waterfowl but just their everyday life. And because that’s what’s so interesting about people, is just the stuff that they don’t really find very interesting about themselves, but that’s what people like. And I thought if I could get a show like that and if I could get guests that were willing to kind of get beyond the Xs and Os of how to blow a goose call and talk about real life stuff that it would be fun. And I hope that that is what we have done here. Yeah, I wanted to be the Howard Stern or Joe Rogan of waterfowl.
Ramsey Russell: It never ceases to amaze me and I mean, I guess my life is very similar to you all, I find myself in the company of duck hunters a lot and just regular people, just regular 40 hour a week, go home to their family people have got a story. And I think I grew up in a generation, sitting around the breakfast table listening to my grandfather and my uncle and my dad or grown men that tell stories and I loved it and that’s what I see in the world of podcasting is everybody’s got a story. And if you can just get them to open up and talk about it, it’s very relatable to everybody else, we can all relate to it, we all connect to it some kind of how and that’s what leads me down, that’s what led me to you all listening to Big Honker Podcast, you all don’t always have how to or big name people, some of my favorite have been just regular folks, just regular folk that get up and do what we all love to do, which is duck hunt and that’s what compels me the most about it. How has Big Honker – you’re starting off just wanting to do something a little organic marketing, how has it exceeded you all’s expectations?
Andy Shaver: Oh Jeez. It’s beyond anything, we went to the Dive Bomb Squad fest this last weekend and the amount of people, the handshakes and the pictures and hey, let me buy you a beer. It’s weird because I grew up watching the big people in waterfowl, the Fred Zincs of the world and all those people and I don’t know, I kind of had imposter syndrome for a long time because I didn’t really realize what we had built until it was way bigger than what I thought it was. I mean, I thought, if I can get a couple 100 people to listen to Jeff and I ramble for an hour, an hour and a half or find a guest interesting, then that’s good enough for me, but it is way bigger than anything I expected. And the coolest thing is, is the relationships that we have formed since starting the podcast. I mean, I spent a weekend with Lee Kjos, drinking beer and bourbon and talking about shotgun shells that would have never happened, had this not happened, had we not started this. We’ve had you on our show 3, 4, 5 times I would have never known about the gypsies in Romania and how they stole the nail of Christ and that’s why they got a free pass on thievery for their entire life, I would have never met so many people had we not done this? And I tell you what, it’s made me a better communicator, it’s made me better in the blind, it’s given me more stories to tell and it is far exceeded, not just the listeners that we get, not all of that, but just the relationships that we’ve been able to make because of the podcast, that’s been the best part.
Ramsey Russell: That’s a damn good answer, Andy. I feel like, part of what compels me in the own podcast space, which it’s funny like you were talking about yes or years rock stars in the outdoor industry, they were on outdoor television, they were in magazines and both of those 4 are dead. And I heard somebody say the other day, I think on the Joe Rogan podcast that the podcast space is bigger now than radio ever was.
Andy Shaver: Yeah, it’s huge. It’s huge and it’s going to continue to grow. But yeah, and it’s going to continue to grow. I feel bad for the traditional guys that had a show on outdoor channel or the magazines, it’s a dying enterprise. I mean, it really is, it’s dead and gone from the way that I grew up. I talked about this recently, July was always a fun month because you got the Max Berry Wing magazine, you got the Cabela magazine and it was all waterfowl and that was the kickoff for the season. But I don’t even think I get those magazines anymore. And just the way that people reach hunters has drastically changed. And I would watch hunting shows but I wasn’t hard core about it, I would watch some of the bigger name ones, but I mean, if you got a fairly good camera and some good hunting and a cheap editing software, you can start a YouTube channel and reach more people than the outdoor channel will in a year.
Ramsey Russell: Well, it really wasn’t even a 100 years ago that all the families got together and turned on that big wooden radio and listened to a little orphan Annie or whatever, you know what I’m saying? I mean, that was just not even 100 years ago.
Andy Shaver: Isn’t that funny how that now it’s back. I mean, now, people are driven to radio.
Ramsey Russell: But all these technology get eclipse, they get eclipse and you hear podcast is happening but what comes next, we have no idea, you know what I’m saying? But the way people communicate, like, there’s a lot of downside. You hear people say it all the time that, all the social media is ruining things, but I don’t know necessarily that it’s completely ruining things. I really enjoy kind of enjoy the algorithm selects who flies up on my wall because I live in this little echo chamber that I enjoy. Another word just like, listening to radio XM Radio great. I got to listen to your format, I’d rather put on iTunes and listen to what I want to hear right then, what I’m feeling right there and that’s the same thing about a podcast. I may want to listen to a murder mystery, I may want to listen to a retired Holiday Inn executive, you see what I’m saying? I can pick and choose right now on the fly what I want to listen to and that is an amazing medium.
Andy Shaver: Yeah, what you’re in the mood for and that dominate. But you’re exactly right that this is – social media has changed things, you can argue back and forth, is it good or bad? I don’t know that it’s either, but it’s definitely different. And like you said, is good to social media but there is a negative side. And when people participate in our sport, only for that little dopamine kick that they get whenever they post a good pile picture to Instagram, I would say they’re probably in it for the wrong reason. But people are seeing through that now too with the way things are changing, I have noticed that pile pictures don’t do as well on social media. They did really well for a long time, but now people kind of – they want to hear how – they want to envision how you shot that big old fat green head or how you coaxed in that nice barred up speck. People enjoy the story more than just that big, look here, we killed 75 geese and 20 ducks in 7 minutes.
Witnessing the Evolution of Duck Hunting
But it’s more of a hunting experience, dead ducks are part of a duck hunting experience, but they’re not the only part that lures people to go into some of these destinations that we now offer.
Ramsey Russell: I asked Jeff the other day on the telephone when I was setting up this appointment, how duck hunters had changed, coming through the ranks for the last 30 years or whatever at Stanfield Outfitters. And because in the 20 years I’ve been doing getducks.com, I have seen a transition and the thought process or what that the objectiveness that people want when they go to somewhere like Argentina. Obviously, the volume is much bigger than here in the United States. But it’s more of a hunting experience, dead ducks are part of a duck hunting experience, but they’re not the only part that lures people to go into some of these destinations that we now offer. In fact, God, I spent all that time down in Argentina this year and yeah, everybody wants to shoot ducks, but enough is enough, it’s just changed. Whereas 20 years ago, the number one question people would ask is how many ducks can I kill? And now that question may not ever come up, there’s a guy sitting in camp for 5 days having the time of his life. Times change, man. And to hear your point about big cordwood piles of dead ducks, I think people are evolving, that doesn’t impress me anymore.
Andy Shaver: And I think COVID changed quite a bit of that, I think we were locked down for so long and people are still locked down, God bless them. Texas is full, so don’t come here if you’re listening. We noticed that our first year where we were out, which we never really locked down out here in the boondocks, but we would get guys from the Fort Worth Metroplex area or Louisiana and they would come out here and you don’t have to wear a mask and you can be within 6ft and you can have dinner with your uncle that you haven’t been able to see in 9 months. And I think COVID kind of made that rubber band snap back in the way that we’re seeing right now. Will it snap back to the big piles and smiles? I don’t know, but I do think that what we’re seeing right now is everybody is just kind of breathing again and just not having to worry about COVID, in my mind.
Ramsey Russell: Jeff, how has Big Honker Podcast its trajectory and becoming the number one, how has it changed your life or the way you think or the way you approach things?
Jeff Stanfield: Well, I’ve been going to hunting shows for 28 years probably and I never thought anybody would ask me for a freaking autograph, I can tell you that much.
Ramsey Russell: Does it embrace you to do that?
Jeff Stanfield: Yes, it is. But it’s very humbling too. It’s just a whole different world. I mean, I’ve known most of the big players in the waterfowl business for years, my name knew him pretty well, a lot of them, a lot of them are no longer with us, but a lot of guys and it’s a whole different deal. Like Andy said, when you’re sitting there hanging out with Lee Kjos, that’s a different level of what a cool dude. And just sitting in lawn chair, sitting there visiting with you for two days, like your best friends forever. He’s a great guy and they’re a great company bosses and the sponsors we have are just amazing people. We go to Squad Fest at Dive Bomb and Dive Bomb sponsors this and visit with Cody and Asher a bunch, then you go to Pacific and Alex is there and he’s one of your friends and Alex at Gundog and the Dirty Duck guys and just every single person that we deal with on business every day and I’m going to leave somebody out, I know, but we get to hang out with these people and these people are our friends and you text them and you call them and then clientele is different now because you got a lot of guys that are just true waterfowl hunters that we’ve picked up on and then you’ve got guys booking hunts that never waterfowl hunt, but they listen to the podcast because they know somebody that’s a teacher that was on our podcast and they started to listen to it and they go back and they listen to all of them and it’s changed our life, it has, it’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened to Stanfield hunting and Andy, come up with this idea and I didn’t know what a podcast was and it’s changed our life. I mean, and now we’ve got a YouTube series coming out that’s gotten tons of interaction.
Focal Points: Authenticity & Transparency
But if you’re not incredibly honest with your audience, you’re not going to build one, they can sense honesty and I just wanted to lay it all out there for good, bad or indifferent.
Ramsey Russell: I’m going to ask you about that in just a minute. I want to talk about it, it’s on topic. But before we get off a Big Honker podcast, do you ever find it – I don’t like the word celebrity, but let’s just call it celebrity? Do you ever feel it overwhelming, just constantly putting yourself out there? Because I think that the reason social media and podcast being a kind of a social media platform is so successful, like in the interest of Stanfield Outfitting is because I’ve met you one time at a show, I’ve talked to you on the phone, I’ve been your guest. But I feel like I know you because I’ve listened to so many episodes. I feel like beneath the veneer, you take a magazine or a television show and it crafts something that may or may not be reality versus a podcast that I listen to 2 or 3 times a week at two familiar voices and in every conversation you get a different topic. I mean, you’re bearing your soul out there and people, see it and they connect with you at that level because it’s very transparent, I think it is.
Andy Shaver: That was one thing that was my focal point. Whenever I started this, I listen to Howard Stern, I listen to Joe Rogan, they were extremely honest about where they were in life and what they had done and what mistakes they had made, successes that they had had. But they were incredibly honest and listeners, even though it’s through a radio and they might not be able to see you, they can smell 3 day old stale horse shit from a mile away. And if you’re not being brutally honest with your listeners, they will tune out. And if you’re not giving them the good, the bad and the ugly, they’re going to quit listening. And like you said, keeping it fresh and different ideas and you do bare your soul. There’s so many arguments that Jeff and I have had not arguments but just a different way of seeing the world and you realize like you’re not alone that there’s other people out there that see things the way I do the way Jeff does or neither. But if you’re not incredibly honest with your audience, you’re not going to build one, they can sense honesty and I just wanted to lay it all out there for good, bad or indifferent. You’re going to get an unfiltered opinion on whatever subject it is that we’re talking about and I didn’t want to tip toe around things because people can sense when you’re being fake.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, I agree with that. You got to be authentic, you’ve just got to be authentic.
Andy Shaver: We’re going on 4 years now, how long could you carry on an act? If you’re not who you are day one, like what are you going to do? You’re just going to completely abandon who you were for the first 2 years of the show because you can’t keep up with the lies and the propaganda anymore, well, then what’s your people going to think? And they’re two years into listening to you being one way and then you’re like, oh, crap, the jig is up, I might as well just come clean and they’re going to jump ship then too. So you might as well just be honest.
Ramsey Russell: Jeff, you’re the same person, I guess in person as you are on Facebook, as you are on your podcast and you said something the other day on it just struck out to me. You made a post about the person in the mirror and that’s kind of what we’re saying right here, I mean, you can lie to the world but when you look in the mirror, it’s all on you, that’s who’s responsible.
Jeff Stanfield: Yeah. Don’t blame anybody else for your problems. You want to know why you’re not wealthy and you want to know why you don’t have friends, you want to know why you keep losing your job, you want to know why you’re a billionaire look in that mirror because that’s the son of a bitch out there that’s caused you all your grief and all your happiness.
Andy Shaver: I saw a great quote the other day that said, “Don’t get mad at the results you didn’t get from the work you didn’t put in”.
Ramsey Russell: That’s a good way of putting it.
Andy Shaver: Don’t get mad at it, you didn’t put in the works, so don’t get mad at the results that you didn’t see, you are in life probably where you should be.
Ramsey Russell: Well, that’s what’s wrong with America today is the fact that too many people, feel like the American dream fail them when in actuality, they fail the American dream. It all goes back to looking at that point of the mirror, you know what I’m saying? We’re all accountable, I was raised to be responsible. And self-responsibility is an asset, not a liability.
Andy Shaver: And we’ve all got, listen, I was very lucky in my life. I had a very good childhood, I was given an opportunity at a young age to do something that I’m still doing now. Do people have hard times? Absolutely. But there’s no better place than here in America to overcome adversity, you’re not going to be given any more opportunities anywhere else than you are here in the Great United States.
Ramsey Russell: Well, point in case I sell duck hunt for a living, you all do too, podcasting and hitting that commitment because you’re talking about being honest with your listeners you can’t skip. Your listeners, if they know you’re going to air on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, boom, they’re tuning in, man. And if you start skipping a week or two or three, you’re being dishonest with them, they’ve entrusted their time to you, you’ve got to honor that, it’s reciprocal and you were mentioning earlier about a lot of these podcast, you looked at hadn’t posted in a while, man, that takes work to do that, man, it takes work.
Andy Shaver: And you have to be consistent and if you’re not consistent and your listener doesn’t think that they can rely on you, we don’t have a set schedule Monday, Wednesday, Friday, but we are three a week. It might be Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. It might be Monday, Monday, Tuesday, Friday or something like that. But you can count on 3 episodes a week from the Big Hunker Podcast. There’s people, they’ll start a podcast and then they’ll release one episode a month, well, people are going to forget about you by the time your third episode rolls around.
Sacrifice to Attain Your Dreams
…it’s a beautiful world out there and there’s something for everybody. But you have to be willing to put yourself out there, you have to be willing to sacrifice.
Ramsey Russell: Andy or Jeff, either one, you started this podcast very simply enough and just kind of went into it with maybe no expectation, but just to get your name out there a little bit more. Looking back now with the immense success that you all received, do you have like an expectation or a goal for a greater good beyond just selling Stanfield hunts or sponsorships. I mean, is there a greater good or a cultural value you think you can lend to the sport of hunting or to humanity in general?
Andy Shaver: I hope that people will realize that they can chase their dreams and they can attain it if they’re willing to make sacrifices for it. We talk about that so many times, we are not your traditional family, we’re not 9 to 5, Jeff and his brother have made immense sacrifices over close to 30 years to get Stanfield into what it was. But I see one thing that we talk about quite a bit and we’ve seen a lot of it, especially here we’ve seen in Texas, the mass shooter. There’s so many people that are disenfranchised, they’re miserable, they’re on antidepressants, the best part of so many people’s day is when they can go to the bathroom on company time and take a shit and look at their cell phone for 15 minutes, that’s the best part of so many people’s day. You know, this Ramsey because you’ve traveled the world. It is a beautiful place. And if you commute to work for an hour in the morning and then you’re in a cubicle from 9 to 5 and then you’ve got to commute an hour back home and then you get home at 6 and then you got a wife and kids that are yelling at you for not spending enough time, it’s a beautiful world out there and there’s something for everybody. But you have to be willing to put yourself out there, you have to be willing to sacrifice. If you’re in a job you hate, you got to be willing to put some money away and figure out your exit, get something that you like to do, but if I could preach to anybody, that it is a great big world out there and there’s a lot of interesting people and you can do what you want to do if you’re willing to make the sacrifices that are necessary. But if you want to take the easy route and do what we see here a lot in America and that’s sit on your ass and blame somebody else for the results that you didn’t get, well, I don’t have much to say to you.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, I’m with you there, Andy. Jeff, tell me about The First Family, I’m excited for you. Tell me about this latest project you all got called The First Family.
Jeff Stanfield: Well, Andy had this idea that we need to do a YouTube series and we hired a kid that worked for us a couple of years to do social media and I thought, I want to do a real series with a real cameraman and the quality and step it up and do what we can. And Ricky Keller we got with him and Rick does a lot of video stuff and Rick came down and stayed with us a couple of weeks this year and he filmed around the lodge, our family. But we didn’t want it to be a whack them and stack them video, there’s thousands of them, we wanted it to be a video of our life and our lodge and what it takes to run a hunting business. And we got a bunch of that and we’re learning and the first episode came out on our YouTube channel, The Big Honker Podcast, it’s called the First Family of Waterfowl, which I’m sure we’re going to get shit because there’s probably somebody’s family was doing something before us. But we are the first family of – And we put it all out there and the first episode come out Thursday and it focused on how we started our business and how it all kind of came together and the second one comes out on Thursday at 7 o’clock, the second episode comes out and it’s going to be more about hunting on that one. And the third one is going to be at the podcast and family stuff and I have no idea what the 4th episode is going to be yet. But whatever we come up with, but it’ll all be out within the month, all 4 episodes will be out and we’re starting season 2, we’ll start filming August 30th and we’re going to be filming dove season, the started dove season and we’ll go all the way through all the waterfowl this year, a bigger budget, more days with cameraman here and crew here and doing more episodes next year and hopefully later down the road, you’ll be able to turn on Amazon Prime, Netflix or Hulu and you’ll see my fat ass on your TV.
Andy Shaver: I think they’re too woke, but we’ll see.
Ramsey Russell: Wearing a Robin uniform.
Jeff Stanfield: Next season, we will have season 2 out and we probably are going to have a Patreon season 2 also account that’s going to show stuff that we’re not going to have on the other one’s family oriented kind of to a degree, this one here will be a lot more behind the scenes and we’ll have a pay deal $4, $5 dollars a month and we’ll release stuff on it all the time, that will be behind the scene stuff.
Andy Shaver: So that we can monitor who’s watching it, that way, we don’t have a bunch of 10, 12 year olds watching some of the debauchery that goes on at guide meetings. But yeah, like Jeff said, it’s going to be more of a – we’ll have our regular first family waterfowl season and it’ll have a bunch of stuff, but then we’ve also tossed around the idea. So let me tell you the guide meetings, they get pretty colorful and I think it would be fun and maybe nobody will watch it, I don’t know, but you don’t know until you do it. Our thinking is if we monetize it and make it 4 or 5 bucks a month or whatever, your 10 and 12 year olds, unless they have mom and dad’s credit card, they’re not going to be into there. So we actually do have some morals here at The Big Honker podcast regardless of what you’ve heard crazy crap you’ve heard on our show.
Ramsey Russell: I believe you. I really think that being able to get behind the scenes of all the inner working that goes on, it’s like, in the outfitting business, in the hunting business, the clients show up and they come into the lodge and they go into the field and they eat Michelle’s cookies or what’s put in front of them. But it’s kind of like going into a restaurant, they get the restaurant experience, they don’t see what’s going on back in the kitchen or everything else, all the drama that goes on to making that be what it is. And I think that coming behind the scenes with cameras, I think it’ll be entertaining as hell, I really do. I think it’d be fantastic.
Jeff Stanfield: There won’t be any of this pre-made up bullshit crap like we’ve seen on other hunting video family shows, this is the real, it’s going to show you what it’s going to be like and there’s a lot of things that happen. And somebody asked me at the show this weekend, I can’t remember it was and he got somewhere and I don’t know how to say the name of the place, but he guides at a place and they run 8 people a day, they run one group a day and they got two guides, they take turns and he was talking to me. He goes, I can’t imagine that you all have 30, 40, 50 people there and you all running 4 and 5 groups a day and how everything’s organized and blah, blah. Well, you know what our clients, they don’t see how disorganized it is 99% of the time because we cover that up. But I can tell you there’s a lot of disorganized shit that goes on sometimes to make things work. People when they see –
Ramsey Russell: There’s so many things you can’t control, you control the controllable and then you have to deal with everything else, that’s just how it is.
Jeff Stanfield: Boss told me, he said it’s voyeur TV, people want to be voyeurs and watch stuff from afar and think they’re a part of it, that’s true.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. I think that’s going to be fantastic and I’m looking forward to seeing it. Jeff, do you believe in Bigfoot?
Jeff Stanfield: That’s a damn good question, Ramsey. I’ve seen my brother go home with some ugly women from a bar that could have been from Bigfoot. I believe in ghost and I believe in aliens, scientifically, yes, I do believe in Bigfoot, but common sense tells me as many game cams as we have and shit, some of them would have footage of it, but then I see, I think it was Tim Wells’s video, was it Ted Wells or Tim Wells?
Andy Shaver: I guess Tim.
Jeff Stanfield: Tim has a video of him hunting up in the Cascade mountains in Washington and there’s some son of a bitch runs by that’s 8ft tall. And unless Shaq was in a monkey suit running around through there and could run faster than a grizzly bear, there’s something there. So, I don’t know. Most of the people I know or that we’ve talked to that have Bigfoot experiences also probably a good chance they sleep with their cousins that kind of knocks them out. I’ve known two people that’s had Bigfoot experiences that I know, I trust, I love, I think the world of them and they’re not bullshit top artists. So I’m going to have to go with them. I’m going to say, yeah, there’s something there.
Thoughts on the Future of Waterfowl Hunting
I think that private land will still be hunting, I think the states that are red states through the middle of the country, the Central Flyway, I think they’ll be hunting all you want to. The people that live in Washington, Oregon and California, I think your hunting days are numbered.
Ramsey Russell: Okay. The last question I’ve got for you all is how do you feel about the future of waterfowl hunting? You’ve been in this industry for a long time, you’re now in contact with the heartbeat of waterfowl hunting industry and waterfowl hunters, times have changed in the Texas panhandle elsewhere in the last 30 years. But how do you all feel about the future of waterfowl hunting?
Jeff Stanfield: I think 50 years from now, if we’re allowed to hunt in this country still that we live in a state that you probably still will be able to hunt, I think that I – this sounds horrible, 20 years from now, I don’t think you’re going to be able to hunt on any public land that’s owned by the federal government, I just don’t see it happening, unless we get a big change in the world and in politicians, I just don’t see it happening. I think that private land will still be hunting, I think the states that are red states through the middle of the country, the Central Flyway, I think they’ll be hunting all you want to. The people that live in Washington, Oregon and California, I think your hunting days are numbered. I think that hunters are going to keep hunting, there’s a lot of young people that hunts, the demographics have changed, there’s a lot more minorities hunting now and there’s a lot more women that are hunting now and I think that’s a wonderful thing, we met a lot of nice ladies at Dive Bomb Squad Fest. So I think that we’re going to stay steady on the numbers of hunters, I think it’s going to become less politically correct to hunt and it’s already not politically correct to hunt unless you’re in places in the country. But I think that hunting is in big trouble on federal land and in liberal states in the future.
Ramsey Russell: What can we do to change it?
Andy Shaver: The narrative. I think if the wrong narrative of hunters get out and I think if the blood thirsty killers and thank goodness, like we had talked about earlier, that kind of taken a back seat. But I think if the wrong narrative gets out about what hunting actually is and especially waterfowl hunting, it’s such a history rich activity, there’s so much history. I mean, I’m looking at a guy at Dieter catalog here and it’s got all these old wooden decoys in it and there’s so much rich heritage to what we do and I think if we could get the right narrative out about how the passion that’s behind it and it’s not all guys that are just these blood thirsty bubbas running around the woods with a gun, I think we’ll be okay. But I think that if the wrong thing gets out there, I think we could be in a lot of trouble 50 years from now.
Ramsey Russell: I worry about it, I’m not going to lie to you, I worry about it. When I look at the hit, the decline in hunting quality and opportunity in the past 25 years since I was in grad school to now and I imagine, okay, it repeats itself in the next 25 years, what’s there left? Where is left, what’s left? Politically, I mean, we seem irrelevant politically, more and more people care less about it and I wonder and I mean, hell, we got Republicans right now trying to repeal the Pitman Robertson Act, which is the backbone of the North American Conservation Wildlife Management model. I mean, what the heck, this world’s gone crazy and I worry sometimes I’m just curious what you all thought about it?
Andy Shaver: And we’re so far away from being the sole provider for our own meal, for our own protein for our own meat and I’m not saying that, I eat duck and goose hardly ever. But back 50 years ago, I’m sure that there was a big proportion, I’m sure there’s a big swath of hunters that ate what they killed that year. And now everybody can go to a grocery store and get their protein. But as things get easier and it becomes food just kind of magically appears at your doorstep, people get further and further removed from what it actually takes to get that meal. And that doesn’t do hunters any favor because we know full well, what it takes to eat that tasty venison or Jeff doesn’t like duck and geese, but the easier things get, the less people are going to hunt, I’m afraid.
United We Stand, Divided We Fall
So the majority of the negative comments that I get come from other hunters, but I don’t understand why they don’t want that information out there.
Ramsey Russell: Have you all ever had you run in with anti-hunters pursuant to the podcast or your outfitting business?
Andy Shaver: No, I tell you the biggest hate mail I get is from other hunters and that’s –
Ramsey Russell: Really, for what?
Andy Shaver: We did a bit on turkey reaping and I can’t tell you and I got called a Marxist, Communist, Fraud because I kind of have some issues with the art of turkey reaping. And then we had Lee Kjos on and he shared with us the amount of dove that die each year from lead poisoning, it’s a staggering number, I think once a top of my head is 15 million dove die each year from lead poisoning. I had several people message me that I am only giving the antis fuel to stop dove hunting and to stop hunting in general. So the majority of the negative comments that I get come from other hunters, but I don’t understand why they don’t want that information out there.
Ramsey Russell: I think we got to be honest with ourselves as hunters, we got to be honest with ourselves, it’s an imperfect sport. I mean, I know it’s important, you know it’s important, it’s good for humanity, it’s good for wildlife, it’s good for habitat, but that there can be some downside that could be improved upon. And I said that, you think about this, you’re from Texas, I’m from Mississippi, but even in the United States, even in California, anti-hunters are a vocal minority, it’s funny you should say that because the biggest times I’ve had my teeth kicked in social media or emails and I still get some pretty damn painful stuff from anti-hunters. But it pales in comparison volume wise to the other hunters, they disapprove of liberal limits in Mexico or whatever. Man, if I’m having a great day and I just say, well, I need to get my teeth kicked in today, all I got to do is go whole 5 pintail drakes up from Mexico and post them on the internet “Boom” my day is ruined if I let it be. And it could be the same as long bow versus recurve versus crossbow versus scope rifle versus shotgun versus hunting with dogs, it’s a million different ways. This brand decoys, that brand decoys, this camo pattern, it’s just fractionalized and we’re all just kind of in the same life boat, we all need to be pulling together, united we stand divided we fall.
Andy Shaver: We can post a video of us shooting 12 singles and 12 different clips and we would get somebody that would mock us for shooting singles and then we could post a rain out video two days later and we would get people bitching at us for shooting 15 out of a flock. So we’re very hard on one another unnecessarily.
Jeff Stanfield: And what I tell them when they get on to me, thanks for watching.
Andy Shaver: Thanks for watching.
Jeff Stanfield: Tell them to piss off. I don’t really care. I actually enjoy the banner of jacking with someone by ruining their day.
Andy Shaver: We had somebody message us because we named our YouTube series First Family of Waterfowl. They messaged Jeff, they said, yeah, we’re really looking forward to the series, but to be honest, you could have done a whole lot better job naming it. Like, son of a bitch, what world are we living in?
Ramsey Russell: Jeff, you ever want to go Sopranos on somebody?
Jeff Stanfield: I’m at the age now where I find it more entertaining to piss them off than it does make me mad.
Ramsey Russell: How old are you, Jeff?
Jeff Stanfield: But I really don’t get that mad much anymore and I don’t worry about a lot of stuff, a lot of other people do because things I can’t control, I’m kind of getting to age now that I don’t -I’m becoming my dad and it used to wear me out when dad wouldn’t worry about shit that I would worry about.
Andy Shaver: Shrug his shoulders, pisses me off whenever you do that.
Jeff Stanfield: I’m kind of getting that way now on certain things. Things we can control, I get pissed off when we fuck up, I’m telling you right now. Things we control that aren’t done, right, I do not like, the things we can’t control, I don’t worry about, I don’t lose any sleep over it at all, but when people get mad over stupid shit, like the name of our series and all kinds of things, a lot of times I laugh at it, I really do. And if a hunter wants to call up and spend an hour of their day with me jacking with them, I’ll keep him on the phone for an hour just to piss him off.
Andy Shaver: I don’t have a whole lot of creativity in my body. I mean, for God’s sakes, we named our podcast, The Big Honker Podcast and we’ve got a Big Honker Lodge, so it’s not like I’ve got just a bunch of these great ideas bubbling up in my head and naming something is actually quite difficult. So when it came time to name this First Family of Waterfowl series, that was the hardest part. We spent two months just with terrible names. If he didn’t like that name, I’d hate for him to see some of the ones we threw away.
Ramsey Russell: I think it’s a great name for what it’s worth, I think the first family of waterfowl is a great name because really and truly to me right now, you all represent a very positive and very conspicuous voice in waterfowl, be it YouTube or podcast either one, I greatly respect what you all do and love to keep up with you, man. I just think it’s great
Andy Shaver: That means a lot because there’s sometimes I read messages and I’m where Jeff was 20 years ago and it just flies all over me and my whole night’s ruined and –
Ramsey Russell: Haters going to hate, Andy, that’s just life, man. People are going to hate you and nothing you can do about it. I had a government supervisor, one of the smartest things anybody ever told me in federal government worker 16 years wouldn’t wish it on nobody. But he called me in his office because I’ve been doing some dealings out with the county with somebody else in the agency US Department of Agriculture and he called me his office and shut the door and he said, look, I want you to call that guy and I want you to say this and say that. I said, well, no, he said, well, you got to. He said, Ramsey in this world, you’re going to make enemies despite yourself, don’t ever go out of your way to make one on purpose. And I said, well, no true words have ever been spoken. You’re going to make enemies despite yourself and there’s nothing you can do about it, but just keep on doing what you’re doing, which is obviously working good for you.
Andy Shaver: Yeah, it’s just the mind is a tricky thing because you can get 200 positive interactions, then you get that one negative and that’s the one that keeps you up at night.
Ramsey Russell: No, don’t worry about it, keep pushing. You all got any closing thoughts or comments?
Andy Shaver: We don’t. We really appreciate your time and I tell you, this is one of those things where if you’d have told me in 2017 that I’d be doing, I wouldn’t have believed you. But getting to spend time talking to you and having you on our show so many times I probably wouldn’t have believed him. But we appreciate what you do because you are a very positive voice in the waterfowl world and it’s a special fraternity that waterfowler are in. And I pray that this work continues to grow and we appreciate what you do and we look forward to having you back on our show some time. And listen, it’s middle of July, August is coming up hunting season, the best time of the year is right around the corner, don’t worry about it.
Ramsey Russell: That’s the best news, it’s coming. Honestly, Andy, I had you on sooner, but Jeff’s been teasing me for the last couple of years about getting together for a hunt, he was going to fly somewhere and join me one October day and I said, I’m going to record Jeff, then when I realized that ain’t never going to happen, he’s going on vacation to watch the beautiful wild flowers of the fall foliage or get some cool air or something like that and then he’s busy running a hunting empire. And so I said, well, I’m just have to call these boys up and record them here like this on the phone.
Jeff Stanfield: But I’m going to tell you something, Ramsey, it’s an honor because I have got to spend the last couple of days with the two most interesting people in waterfowl you and Lee Kjos are probably two of the most interesting cats in waterfowl. And so I’m honored, I’ve got to spend time with you all both this last week.
Ramsey Russell: So, well, I’m flattered, Jeff because really and truly, I say this with all sincerity, I love what you’re doing and I wish you continue success. I keep up with you and have for a long time and I’m really proud to call friends.
Jeff Stanfield: Maybe one day, I will come hunt with you somewhere.
Ramsey Russell: Good.
Jeff Stanfield: You will get full mallards lined up next week, October and it’s driving distance, I’ll come shoot some with you.
Ramsey Russell: Counting on it, I’ll do it.
Andy Shaver: You don’t need any driving distance, you just haul off and go.
Jeff Stanfield: Well, that’s true.
Ramsey Russell: It’ll be somewhere between Texas and the Canada border, I promise you that, just straight north and we’ll find each other. But folks, Jeff, Andy, thank you all very much, I have enjoyed it greatly. I always want to sit down with you all and hear some of the backstory of the Big Honker Podcast and Stanfield Outfitters and I’m looking forward to watching The First Family of Waterfowl. “Boom”. Folks, thank you all for listening to this episode of Duck Season Somewhere, you all check out Big Honker podcast, I bet all of you all listen to it anyway. But if you don’t go check them out, see you next time.