As easily as if they were visiting between volleys, HPOutdoors co-host Dan Hruska shares with Ramsey a few important life events before and during the ongoing “reset.” How did HPOutdoors get started and how does Dan describe their relationship with the online community they’ve since cultivated? Why should Toronto International Airport Customs definitely be avoided if at all possible? What are some memorable places that duck hunting has taken Dan and what do future HPOutdoors plans entail?
Chatting About Current Events with Dan Hruska of HP Outdoors
Ramsey Russell: I’m your host Ramsey Russell, join me here to listen to those conversations. Guys, welcome back to another episode of Duck Season somewhere, we’re still in Covid mode. The whole world, every single person I know on earth is sitting at home. It’s like, life has just pushed a big old pause button, pause, everybody just standing in place, waiting on the world start spending again. Every boundary I’ve ever crossed, every international boundary is sealed up tight, nobody’s coming or going, but I’ve got a great guest tonight. I know a lot of, you all know Dan Hruska with HP Outdoors. Dan, how are you tonight?
Dan Hruska: Nothing too bad. How are you doing?
Ramsey Russell: Well as to be expected. Well, as to be expected to always a silver lining and I’m looking for silver linings with this big pause button, but it’s a curve ball of effort proportion.
Dan Hruska: Yeah there’s a lot going on and it’s hard to put the TV on and listen to what’s going on. Some of the times you don’t know what’s going on and you look out in your perspective area and what’s going on there versus the rest of the world and what to believe and what not to believe. It’s a really, really weird time.
Ramsey Russell: The truth is somewhere between what you see on television and what you see looking at your front door that’s all I know. We are in the information age, information has never been so available for so much of it to be so hidden. I don’t believe anybody I see on TV except I do believe most of Donald Trump’s tweets, sort of that. I don’t believe what these talking heads on TV always say. I always suspect them.
Dan Hruska: I think like all news they’re trying to get everything out first and it just seems like nobody really knows. You know they’re coming out with new information from Los Angeles right now that possibly 450,000 people might already have it and the death rate is lower than the actual flu. So if that’s the case then we did all this for a lot of nothing but then if that’s not true, then we should be doing what we’re doing and save lives.
Ramsey Russell: From where we were last month. It seems like it’s very infectious but the mortality much lower than they had predicted. But I still get this sense that they we’re not telling us everything they know, they’re just tell us what we need to know. But I don’t think they’re telling us everything they know.
Dan Hruska: I think the part is, yes, you do is when you see something on Facebook that someone wrote overseas and they’re working 18 – 19 hour days and sleeping for four hours and there’s no rooms and the in the hospitals and just everyone’s dying. And then, you look in my county right here, I think we’re up to 15 positive cases at 82,000 people in the county. And it’s just crazy. It is you don’t know what to believe and how safe you need to be.
Ramsey Russell: Or how they’re counting or who they’re counting is being Covid or anything like that. I am reading a book, The Great Influenza. It’s a great read but slow read about these pandemics. The great influenza of 1918. It literally was just the flu. But it was the super flu and the mortality rate was just unbelievable and all the shelter in place stuff, and not gathering in crowds, and everything. It really comes to pass. I was reading about a big parade up in Philadelphia that year. And it wasn’t the initial bounce. Initial bounce was caught from people like that man interrupted World War One. In fact, maybe it even changed the course of World War One when the Germans got it. They were on a major offensive at the time. But the bounce it is what really started running through the population. But they had this massive parade in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. They were told maybe I’ll cancel it, but they didn’t. And God there’s something like 4500 people died in the next 24-48 hours. You know the morgue could hold 40 people and they had over 200 stacked up like cordwood in the house. It was insane. I just know enough hearing about it in passing the first version of SARS or swine flu or some of this different stuff that’s going around, bird flu. You know you hear about this stuff and I’m just aware that Center of Disease Control and those kinds of folks are on guard for a major pandemic that could be as aggressive and fatal and long term as the pandemic of 1918.
Dan Hruska: And I don’t know what the parade was for because I know St. Louis was supposed to have a big one too and they ended up canceling it and they had no bump like Philadelphia had. So I’m not sure when the actual date was or what the parade was for.
Ramsey Russell: From what I understand and what I’ve learned so far, reading this book, it originated they think in Haskell County, Kansas. An old country horse doctor had some bad flu cases and then it just kind of died off. In the meantime you had major military bases assembling soldiers to mobilize over to Europe for World War One. And that became the vector, the soldiers distributed it, and moving around the country is how it spread so quickly. But once it spread, once you came in contact it was obviously rouge, I mean and what’s so crazy, it was affecting young and old, but especially the young, the middle age health is the most effective, same to it, it’s crazy. It’s just nuts and it’s a bad time, all this stuff and all this news and all this fearmongering going on TV is a terrible time to read an interesting book like this, you could start getting in your head, especially when you’re dumb redneck like me, no good enough to really not know much.
Dan Hruska: One of the things I thought too in China, they said what November, December is when the first one originated and it’s such a global world now. And I told my wife like we were over 4 – 6 weeks, like nonstop going back and forth and just couldn’t kick it, antibiotics all over the place to open kick it. And I told her, I was like looking back, I went through Chicago airport around Christmas time and she’s like, well it wasn’t here then. I was like, well if it was in China in December and it’s that bad, if it transmits that easy very easily, it could have went through an airport in Chicago, so who knows? But we’re not seeing it quite as hard as in other areas.
Ramsey Russell: Thankfully. I’m thinking, of course, I live four hours north of New Orleans. They got bad, they got real bad. And I guarantee there’s a bunch of folks from Rankin County, Mississippi that were down at Mardi Gras and could have, who knows that? I was over in Azerbaijan. We were hunting two miles from Iran and the time we were on our way home is when they got sealed off, and I really can’t remember hearing much or thinking much about this until then. Even then my wife and I were kind of kidding about, she’s like, hey, you know, take precautions on the plane and you’re in a foreign country, and so I did kind of find myself at the airport in Istanbul kind of skirting away from folks. There are a lot of folks wearing masks already. And I do remember when we landed, 2 weeks preceding that when I landed in Azerbaijan, you go through immigration passport control and then to go down to baggage, there’s a big escalator and they were sitting there and you had to stop and they were scanning you. So, okay, well, I didn’t think much about that. And coming back out a little – I washed my hands a lot. I’ll tell you that. Came home and then we went to the Eagles concert, and that was far as I went. I was glad they’re at Maverick Stadium, sold out house in Dallas. And we were all kidding about a bunch of old guys like me were all kidding about it, hey, don’t be coughing over this way. Well never mind. Probably killed all those germs but still how it’s changed since then and even though it wasn’t as deadly as bad and far reaching as they’ve led us to believe it could be. Some of it’s sensationalized media, it’s still a pretty bad deal. 184 countries have sheltered employees. And a lot of countries we go to, Dan, like Argentina. We don’t know when they are going to come back up. I have seen proposals that are not yet official, but I have seen proposals that airports are going to open in March of 2021. That’s a very nice and progressive and beautiful country. But you take the city of Buenos Aires, it’s the closest thing to New York City I’ve ever been to. It’s a lot of humanity and just short of 14 million people and a relatively small area, kind of like New York City. And somebody told me – one of the ladies who worked down there told me a few weeks ago – they’ve got 300 or 400 ventilators for 14 million people. So of course they’re worried if that thing were to hit, what would they do? I don’t know, it’s just take it by day. And on the bright side Dan you’ve got children, you’ve got small children.
Dan Hruska: I do, yup, I got twin girls, they’re six, and my boy’s going to turn five here in May.
Ramsey Russell: So are you spending your days doing lesson plans and home school?
Dan Hruska: Well, I guess the good thing is I don’t have to do lesson plans, but I have to do the teaching. So everything’s online and I go through and it’s kind of tough because the girls are in kindergarten, they have quite a bit to do for being in kindergarten. The genius mother and myself, going into kindergarten, we wanted them to be in separate classes, and kind of build their own little friends, and figure out who they are, and then maybe later we’ll bring them in the same class. Well, now we got twice the work to do, and so I’m sitting here with those two, and then still trying to teach my boy stuff, and still getting outside, and being dad, and having fun, and the rest of it. So it’s definitely life changing, my wife is a physical therapist and she works at the hospital here. There’s no visitors allowed. When she walks into her room she gets her temperature scanned when she walks out, she gets scanned and when she goes in the building and out of the building she gets scanned. She’s not on the actual floor when she goes in but on the actual floor when she comes on and needs the floor, they take her temperature.
Ramsey Russell: So she’s essential, she’s working?
Dan Hruska: She is working.
Ramsey Russell: Dad’s at home taking care of the children.
Dan Hruska: It’s the role up from 1918, right?
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. Well I know a lot of dads like that and it’s like I kind of wish my children were young like you. I said a million times: TIME. It’s like, I think that my personal life right now and my personal life the last 10, or go back 20 years, just work, work, work, and I wish I had time. I mean in a lot of ways is a big opportunity right now just different but we’re all so busy when the world is spending. We’re all just so busy. I have discovered and found things in my office and in my closet and in my garage and in my tool shed, so speak that was just forgotten about for a decade. And so it could be a little bit of opportunity. I asked a friend the other day – that’s the reason I’m asking you – does the school work in the lessons? Is it like mandatory? Do you have to turn it in or a kind of pass fail scenario? As long as you start to find something, do they get to go to the next grade?
Dan Hruska: I’m not sure about older grades like kindergarten. The teachers pretty much have the assessments already. But I know this coming Monday they’re going to start actually learning new material. So I’ll actually be teaching material rather than enrichment and review of what they’ve been building over. So it’s going to be a little bit different. But it’s kind of a pass-fail situation is what I’ve heard, at least in our state.
Ramsey Russell: That’s what I think it is. I got a good buddy of mine that’s got a seven and a nine year old that are both all boy, and rambunctious. His patience is about like mine, spiders. You know if you tore a fire cracker fuse off in half, it’ll be about that short. And I told him, I said, man, they’re going to pass the kid. He just signed that he needs to take them and teach them how to type or paint decoys or change the oil in your truck. That’s what kids don’t get to learn anymore in school teach them some valuable stuff right now, take this opportunity since you all are all at home and think about a crime to mower.
Dan Hruska: Well I tell you what that’s exactly. So you know, just stuff they don’t learn, they’re not allowed to be taught, as far as taking personal responsibility, and I’m just hammering that home. And another thing that the kids just don’t get taught is just anything about finances, right? So we are, every day we’re talking about it, I’m making them, you know, I got chores going on and they help out a quarter here, quarter their dollar, and I’m changing dollar bills for quarters, and dimes, and making sure that they understand everything and just show them how money doesn’t grow on trees and how they should not just spend every second that they get on different toys, and why we get upset when your toys are out because how much it costs. Just in the last week I’ve really been getting into it, it’s been change. You know, the wheels are spending a lot more than what they have in the past. So that’s one good thing about at home situation currently.
Ramsey Russell: I’ll tell you what, you just got a good side of luck or something right now, because you know, especially with all the talk going on TV with this Covid, and the economy, and sickness for folks. You know, my grandparents, I’m not that darn old, but I am, I guess I am getting little long in the tooth. But my grandparents, they went through the Depression. The real deal. My in-laws went through the Depression, the big one, and they all preached, save for a rainy day. Save for a rainy day has become a lost art on everybody. And I told my old son the other day, he graduates Mississippi State in December, going to start a business, he and his buddy. And I told him, I said, look man, you’re 22 years old you’re, just at that phase of life where this economy stuff right now really doesn’t affect you. So he and his buddies, by next week, jump in the truck, they’re going to do a four or five state turkey tour. They’ve done it every year, they got back just in the nick of time to graduate high school. But they went on that dead week before graduation and did a turkey tour, and it’s something they do every year. But I said son, as a business owner, you need to know that winter is coming, that winter is coming again. Every 8-12 years it’s coming. This time, it’s not going to bother you. Next 8-12 years down the road when that economy sinks and does whatever it is going to do, you need to have something socked away. And that boy, I tell you what, I got real lucky Dan. I say 8-12 years because I graduated high school in 1984. In 1987, I just know it because I’ve heard about it, it didn’t affect me I was too young. 1987 was a maker recession, stock market crash. And then I do remember 2000 when the tech bubble popped, and 2008 when the mortgage thing imploded. And that was really around the time. It was only tough because I made it tough because that’s when we pushed in our chips, went all in on GetDucks.com. Now here we are, 12 years later, longest and biggest bull market coming to an end in American history in 2020. I know that in 2028-2030 something, there’s going to be another one, it’s just a cycle. I think they ought to teach it in the school system.
Dan Hruska: For sure, no doubt about it. And I guess before we started recording, I told you about November, that I walked away from my job in the oil and gas industry, and so I’m going over my finances, and looking at interest rates, and looking at refinancing the house and moving stuff around. I’m like, man, there’s what, 24-26 million people in the last week and a half that filed for unemployment, like if they weren’t set up or didn’t think about this? And I know we weren’t taught that in school, you weren’t taught any of that, maybe a checkbook balancing, but not how to manage money. So I want my kids to make sure that they have a good understanding of that, and that’s something that I’d say that my parents really never talked about growing up either. So yes, I’m fortunate to be wearing that currently. And hopefully my kids are learning at 6 and 4 years old how to account for money and not spend every penny they got. Might help them in the long run.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, it’s very important and I guess it’s just if you’ve got a plan, say it’s a financial plan or just a plan for life, a plan for career, plan of subject have changed, budgets of subject have changed, but it’s just having that plan on having that direction to go into a good life lesson at any time.
Dan Hruska: Yup, if you have direction life is good, don’t get caught in the rat race, right? Don’t wait by for to a job and come home and not think about bills and figure all that out.
Who is Dan Hruska & What is Your Hunting History?
Ramsey Russell: Dan, tell me this. Who is Dan Hruska – beyond HP Outdoors – that I’ll come later. But where are you from? What do you do? How many years have you hunted? Who are you?
Dan Hruska: Oh man, that’s a fun question. Let’s see. So I live in northwest Pennsylvania, about 45 minutes south of Lake Erie, seven miles from the Ohio border. So my parents grew up in Pittsburgh. When my dad turned 18, he moved to California and my mom followed him when she graduated. So high school sweethearts, they are no longer together now, but that’s part of the story I guess. And I was born in Whittier, California, which is right outside Los Angeles, and when I was about three years old we moved back. My dad was a duck and goose hunter when I was little and I remember he had a 10 gauge and a 12 gauge semi auto. And I remember the 12 gauge – putting that up to my shoulders, like you know those videos that you see online when it’s way too big for you and just absolutely smashes your shoulder. That was my introduction to a shotgun, just shoot up into the leaves. Right. And I remember bringing birds home when I was a little one, and as we grew up, we always hit the deer woods, and he didn’t turkey hunt, but I remember him bringing back the ducks. And he’s home and I can’t get him to go out with me now and I’m like, what? Let’s go, let’s go somewhere. But so many times he’s in the deer stand, I’ll be freezing, and he let us walk back to the truck and turn it on and heat up, and then get back. All we do all day is sit with him from the minute we were, I’d say six or seven years old, we were up in the stand with him. So we did a lot of travel, fishing, growing up around here, and I actually live in the house that my great grandmother bought in the 60s. It was her summer home while she lived in Pittsburgh, and she was from Czechoslovakia. And you want to talk about a tough woman! Just talking about not wasting a single thing on your plate or anything man, I love that woman. Going through high school, I played three sports and always had time for deer hunting. My freshman year of high school, a couple of guys invited me on a goose hunt out at my buddy’s farm. They left about three rows of standing corn and it was snowing so hard we could barely see anything. So we had white sheets on us, sitting on buckets, and these geese were coming in. Like, we might have 4-5 decoys out, and these guys come in and we’re just – it was a mess man, we just crushed on a 10 – 15 yards maybe. And from there, I just kind of dabbled in it through the rest of high school. I did a lot of small game hunting and then through college, after my brother graduated out in 2004 from college, he really got into waterfowl hunting. His brother-in-law at the time did a lot of hunting, had a lot of permission around the area. So Christmas breaks we would just hammer birds. And in college I played baseball. So the whole entire fall, I went to David Wilkins College and Elkins West Virginia and did a lot of hunting there, a lot of deer hunting and not too much waterfowl. I didn’t have a firearm on campus. So just a little bow and arrow, and I picked deer every year, it was a good time and we cooked over the fire outside.
Ramsey Russell: What position did you play?
Dan Hruska: My freshman sophomore year, I was center field, and then I moved to right field. It was a good time, some of the best times of my life down there, it was real fun. And then I was in front of a Padre’s scout with me and one other guy, who ended up playing for the Yankees, and I blew my arm out in the fall before my senior season. But actually, yeah, it was All-Regional I’ve seen here that I played. So six months to a year recovery, I’ve thrown in three months, so a weird rotator cuff injury and slap lesion, all kinds of fun surgery. But back at it, really enjoyed it. Anyway, moving forward on the important stuff, got home and really got into the waterfowl hunting. So that was probably 2006-2007 is really when I started getting into it.
Ramsey Russell: And did your dad hunt then?
Dan Hruska: Not waterfowl. So white tail and every so often we go out to Colorado or Montana elk hunting. But that’s about it. So yeah, I enjoyed killing turkeys in the spring and we don’t open up till beginning of May, which is so late compared to everywhere else. But our population is booming so we really can’t argue anything and I have shot the white tails almost every year. And I loved duck hunting and goose hunting.
Ramsey Russell: Is that your favorite waterfowl?
Dan Hruska: Yeah, without a doubt.
Ramsey Russell: My father is a turkey hunt, I don’t know where he got it from. I’m not a turkey hunter, I’m just not, I just tried and tried some buddies of mine said, oh, you just haven’t hunted the right turkey yet. I’m like, man, turkey, just don’t do it. I tried, I’ve killed 10 turkeys, and I’ve killed some good ones. I need to kill the Miriam, which everybody says are pretty easy ones. Jake and I talked about getting together in Nebraska this year, scratching off the list, and I don’t have the World Slam, but it’s just not – I don’t know why it’s not important to me. I love to hear folks talk about, man, he’s, and I don’t know if he gets in their head or they get in his head, but he is diehard on these turkeys.
Dan Hruska: Nebraska is shut down to the out-of-state hunters.
Ramsey Russell: They are right now. But there is a chance because this Covid thing, it may not be what it was supposed to be. And talking about opening back up. There’s a real good chance coming May they’re going to crack open. Heard Jake tell me that the other night they’ve got a lot of their prey rock. They do turkey hunts and there’s a good chance to get a better salvage on May season. So stay tuned. It looks like it’s going to happen.
Dan Hruska: Yeah. You know your son was talking about their five state tour that they go on and I had had a buddy come over and borrow my Yeti because they built a sleeping bunk in the back of the back of this truck and they were going on a 10 day hunt through Kansas and Nebraska. Then Nebraska got shut down, so I think they’re just hunting local and West Virginia, maybe Ohio, and doing a short tour around here. But I know he was really bummed about that.
Deer vs. Turkey vs. Waterfowl Hunting
You get that atmosphere around the dinner table no matter what you’re hunting.
Ramsey Russell: I had a great outfit and associate down in New Zealand where Miriam’s have been stocked and they were at times thick as they could be. I know one time we were out on a farm somewhere over on North Island and it was like a big scraped up area, it’s just like a big dirt area. And I said, I wonder what they’ve been doing there. So they had a big turkey kill off and I said so what do you mean? He said, oh they killed 400 something turkeys, and dug a hole and buried them because they were agricultural depredations. And I’m like dang. He said are you a turkey hunter? And I’m like not like people think of turkey hunters but Avery and I actually talked about – or maybe I talked he listened – I said, you know what I’d like to do, would be to come over and do like a driven turkey hunt. You all got that many turkeys, put me on the edge of the tree line and then just come over and we pass shoot them. Now that would be my idea of a turkey hunt and I don’t know how it will go over on the Internet, but that would be fun I think. I could get into that.
Dan Hruska: And I’m talking about how turkey hunting doesn’t do it for you. Every time I shoot a duck or goose, there is a – that’s just a rush of adrenaline, right? And it’s kind of the same when you shoot a turkey or a deer, but you’re just in the blind and you get to laugh with people. You get to do it more than once and you don’t have the entire season of crap and then it’s all, you know, built up for one animal. So I don’t want to say a quantity over quality thing but just being out and enjoying a 60 day season is a lot more fun.
Ramsey Russell: I love the social aspect, I love the atmosphere, the duck camp atmosphere, and I’ve been in some fun deer camps and everything else. You get that atmosphere around the dinner table no matter what you’re hunting. But that, something like that camaraderie, that buzz going on in a duck blind, or down skinning a rack after the duck hunt with all the blinds, everybody just cutting up talking. I just, I love it, and anymore I don’t know if I’m getting older but I like it all. I like to pass shoot it, I like to decoy, I like to hunt geese, I like to hunt duck, I like to spot and stalk. I get the whole thing and I think it’s stages and phases, right? You know, I think we all start off and one thing, we step, and step, and I don’t think there’s just four steps. I think it’s just like a gradient of a dozen steps or more. But I do like to go out, like in Azerbaijan and then there’s one particular place down in Argentina. Part of the appeal is being in a blind by myself. You’re only hunting for 2-4 hours but you’re by yourself and in that element I’m absolutely at a state of hyper focus. That, for a person who has ADD, I don’t find anywhere else. I’m hyper, absolute hyper focused. And then when the truck pulls up, camp wagers come off and now I’m in that social mode but it’s just something about it. I’m really and truly, I shoot every duck comes in if I can. You know what I’m saying? I mean I’m going to shoot my six ducks if I get a chance if in Mississippi. I’m going to shoot my, whatever, 20 ducks down in Mexico. I’m going to play to the stopping point. But I can be happy anymore, I can be happy by myself, I can be happy shooting 2-3 ducks if I know that I play a clean game. Maybe you only come in with three ducks but you don’t have a chance to kill three, in scenes like that, I find a sense of accomplishment in that.
Dan Hruska: Yeah, and definitely in the game of chess, you know the whole empire is set up, and I’m making things work the way I want them to work instead of the pile picks and stuff like that. I’m at that stage now, and now being able to take the kids, and knowing that I only have a certain amount of time before they get too cold or lose interest, and maybe make some action happen. It is tough here in PA. You know, it’s just we don’t have the volume that other places have.
Ramsey Russell: But you can still play it, you still play a clean game. You play by those rules which are kind of the duck rules, but it’s your rules. I mean, I know guys that will not shoot a duck unless it paddles on the water that’s fair game. And I get it. I play by a little bit different rules but I’m just saying it’s just ducks, that’s what I love about it. Duck hunting is such a subjective experience. You know, you can put four guys in a blind together. Some of my best friends that I’ve hunted with a long, long time, and what they get out of that duck hunt, it’s a little bit different than what I get out of it, and that’s crazy. It’s a very subjective experience. I guess I love the duck hunt. Dan, HP Outdoors. Love the podcast. How long have you all been doing this and how and why did you all get started doing HP Outdoors?
HP Outdoors on Beginnings, Podcasts, and Social Media
I didn’t grow up around it, my dad didn’t teach me how to duck hunt or goose hunt, and I guess that’s kind of our whole goal through the whole thing is bridging the gap between new and veteran hunters.
Dan Hruska: Sure. So Josh Palm, who’s my business partner in there, we actually went to rival high schools here in Pennsylvania. Football and basketball and baseball, we played against each other and we’d get together. I don’t think we never hunted together through high school, but we would play on a legion baseball team where the three local schools that were the biggest rivals around would play together during the summer time. So, myself and Josh, and our buddy Trev became real close friends there. Now we hunt together quite a bit, at least when Trev comes home, he works over in London. But when I started getting hot and heavy in the waterfowl, he’s like man, I need to try that. So he ended up, he booked a hunt on Chesapeake Bay and I think the first one that came in was a wood duck came flying in and he shot it, and it was just like, yup, this is my game alright. So I don’t know how long he’s like alright man, just laid on me, what do I need? Just tell me everything because I’m trying to do this by myself and I just can’t figure it out, it’s taking way too long. So a couple of years go by and we hunted together a few times. It almost seems like it was – we started the company in 2011 and we started by making duck and goose calls – and it seemed like it was the same time, I don’t know if we were influenced by Duck Dynasty to try and get that going. When they really started blowing up I guess on social media and TV and all that, and they’ve been around for a long time. It seemed like everyone was in the same boat doing it right. It got to the point where with my job and then the kids here, Josh had a boy, and trying to stay up till 3:00 – 4:00 A.M. finishing calls and it was wearing on me. I was like, man, it’s not worth it. Well let’s start a podcast. I was like I have never listened to a podcast. I don’t know.
Ramsey Russell: What the heck is a podcast? Somebody said podcast a few years ago. I’m like, what the heck is a podcast?
Dan Hruska: So that was 2014 and he’s like, well he goes, when I work out, I don’t listen to music anymore, I listen to podcasts and then try and learn something new during that hour that I’m working out, right? Yeah, that makes sense. And I was like, well, what do you want to talk about? He’s like bullets, you know, let’s be mentors and people don’t have to go through what I went through. I didn’t grow up around it, my dad didn’t teach me how to duck hunt or goose hunt, and I guess that’s kind of our whole goal through the whole thing is bridging the gap between new and veteran hunters. So you don’t have to go through the 5-6 year of an awful learning curve of never shooting a duck in some areas, and getting out there, and having a better shot. That was 2014 and we’re still going, so that’s about where we are at.
Ramsey Russell: That’s a good very, very good descriptor of HP Outdoors, the way that you all present it, as mentors. I would not have chosen that word to articulate, but that’s a great word. Along those lines, if you all are mentors, how would you describe your audience, your listening audience? But moreover, what I see in HP Outdoors is you’re listening, always, you all have cultivated a really nice online community.
Dan Hruska: Yeah and it’s kind of crazy. When we started, I guess being around waterfowlers and going to shows and seeing things that you didn’t like and we knew what we didn’t want it to be. We didn’t want people coming up and asking questions and getting shot down or being told that they’re dumb for asking that question. So, I guess I’ve kind of taken on the role, they call me being hammered in the group, just because we don’t let people swear, we don’t let people just make fun of each other, and it gets wild in the off season a little bit, and you’ve got to play referee a little bit. But as far as if you’re going to be rude, you’re not going to be in there. And it’s a place to learn, we have a roll call by state so new people join and they can find their state. And I don’t know how many friendships we see being made and people saying HP happy hours. So these guys get together in the off season, and girls, a lot of girls are in there too, and they have a beer. They make plans for the ball in the wintertime and they’re getting out and crushing birds together and it’s really refreshing. On our part, a lot of work.
Ramsey Russell: It takes a lot of work. Look I’ve been to those camp rooms or those groups on social media that are just a free-for-all Wild West Dodge City. Does it take a lot of work on your part to police it and keep the ambiance, so to speak?
Dan Hruska: I think we’ve just been vocal about it from the start and this is our group. We have partners in the show and we’re not going to be a ragtag bunch that represents these companies. And it’s not too bad, every once in a while. I mean it’s been a long time since I’ve said anything like tone it down. But it gets to the point where I will just delete stuff if it doesn’t fit our standards, and people get mad, and if they need to exit, then they can exit. But it really is different than a lot of groups out there.
Ramsey Russell: I tell people to enter, it’s a big place, find your place on it, but if you want to come start to stir the pot, start trouble. I’m comparing myself, and tell you something, I killed my first duck when I was 18 or 19 years old, I shot a pair of them. I had been deer hunting. I like the deer hunting, you know my thing, I like deer hunting. I grew up wing shooting with my granddad and my folks, but by the time, right after high school, I was just the deer hunter and not very good one, and not very legal at the time. But I got out of deer hunting and one night before dark I shot a deer. He’d run off into a little patch, out in the middle of a patch, about 150 yards away and I was just letting it get dark, letting it cool off. I walked out there and got him, and all these ducks started flying in, and I was up in the tree, and they’re flying at eyeball level coming into roots and swamp behind it. And I want to say, that evening I got a little old deer and loaded him up and got him back to camp, skinned out, everything else, to take the next day. That’s a lot of work for an individual. Load up the whole deer and skin them, and go, you know, I didn’t want to do deer hunting next. After that I said, I’m going to go back, sit there before it darkens. I didn’t know much about duck hunting. I didn’t have a call, didn’t have waders, just went and sat on a little hump out in the swamp and it was pitch black dark, way past legal shoot time, I later learned. Right there in front of me, this duck took off and when I pulled the trigger, and boom, shot, pair of mallards fell. One shot, two mallards, and I was hooked. I thought, I wasn’t a duck hunter duck hunting. I knew what a mallard was and so throughout the next couple of years I’d go shoot some ducks, or hunt rabbit, or hunt deer, and just do whatever. I wasn’t a duck hunter 100%, I was just hunting a duck part of it. I went down to a big, big Texas ranch for white tail deer. I wanted to be a deer biologist. That’s where I went to college and I got a great job to go down near the border of Texas. And I’m still in touch with that biologist that hired me. And 107 sq. miles there were stock tanks. Every time the wind blew out of the north, ducks came in. We got to play around November, December, and duck season was open. And I went out and no decoys, no call, but I know it’s huge. I would just sit quietly and whenever the duck would fly by within killing range, I’d shoot him, and then the duck could rally for a little bit. I shoot a few more. Going back to the house where the first duck I shot when I was down there in Texas. I had to have been 21. I had to go look it up in the bird book. It was a hand gadwall. I’ve never seen a hand gadwall, it was a hand gadwall. All these years later, I know what that duck is now, I’ve come a long way. Just something about the Internet, I know that when somebody holds up a hand gadwall or a duck and asks a group of duck hunters what kind of duck this is? You know I mean yeah, I’m human enough, I can relate back to three decades ago being that young man. My daddy quit duck hunting, I had never duck hunted with my dad when I got into this thing and somebody’s got to teach people how to hunt. So I tell you what, the word mentor, that’s a real needed place right now because not only are a lot of people – a lot of dads are not hunting anymore – not duck hunting anymore to take their kids hunting. I can tell you, this kid could be raised by a single parent and the fact that he doesn’t know what a hand gadwall or this particular duck, he’s lucked into killing right now is no reason to throw them out of the fraternity, right?
Dan Hruska: I mean one of the worst things was that I worked with a couple guys, or used to work with a couple guys that you try and get him out hunting, their friends might have tried at one time, and that really wasn’t well done, like come on out, let me show you how we do it and maybe you’ll like it, right? If these people say they are my friends like that, but they’re somewhere across different states and they go out and try and say, hey, I finally went on my first solo hunt and I’ve seen this on groups all the time and then I’m not quite sure what this is. And then just a barrage of why are you pulling the trigger, blah, blah, blah. And, and then before you know it, their name is grayed out. So they quit that group and they’re gone. And just that one experience when we’re trying to recruit hunters is awful, right? People like me and you and our friends are trying to get people out and try and grow the sport. And then it all it takes is one person to make a comment and they’re done. So there’s that one person and if he ever talked to anyone else, it is an awful experience.
Rearing & Educating the Next Hunting Generation
And it’s like, as much time as I feel like I spent with my children hunting and fishing and doing that kind of stuff, it wasn’t enough.
Ramsey Russell: I can remember by comparison my own children. They cut their teeth on duck calls and they were literally infants changing diapers, that kind of stuff. They knew, as far as I remember when he was 4 or 5 years old, he wanted his first duck to be a Eurasian wigeon. That’s what he wants for his type of duck. A Eurasian wigeon.
Dan Hruska: Did he get one?
Ramsey Russell: No, it was a blue winged teal. He’s telling he killed Eurasian wigeon. But still they knew, somebody’s got to teach somebody and you get the net on the head. We need hunters. You know, and they’re going to be that young bunch after and next to you in a duck blind not playing by your rules unless somebody mentors them on what the rules are.
Dan Hruska: Yeah. And I totally relate to that, my four year old, he wants to kill all these wood ducks passing back through now and coming back home, get these boxes. And so my boy loves wood ducks. My oldest girl, oldest by 45 seconds. She loves green head, she’s a mallard girl, and then maybe she wants her first one to be a pintail. So it’s funny because we drive around all the time and I say let’s go drive the block and see what the animals are out. There’s a ton of deer around here, turkey, and we’ll get into some geese and ducks. There’s this one cornfield that is dammed not on purpose, but they ended up jamming up a low corner of it and you drive by and this spring is just packed. And I’m looking, I was like, what is that bird? And there was a pintail-mallard cross. And I was like, well two of you are going to be happy. I don’t see a wood duck, but there’s a pintail and a mallard combined and it just blew their minds. How does that happen? But my middle child, Sadie, just in the last couple of days, they always wanted these little cameras that I take pictures with every once in a while. And they got one of these little cameras and just the other day, actually yesterday, I let her take one of my nice cameras out, and she’s taking pictures that are blowing my mind. And I posted them online and told people to guess who took it, me or my six year old. To have people messing up who took the picture kind of makes me question myself but I’m also very excited to have her in the field and out. So tonight, again, I put the 72-200 on and she’s taking pictures, I saw the first goslings around here tonight, so she’s taking pictures of those and she has some real nice shots of the band of geese, and man, I’ll spend some to that, I pull off the card here in a little bit. But yeah, as bad as all this Covid is, and like you said, running the rat race, and just needing a downturn to reevaluate stuff, I want to say, I really enjoyed all the time I spent with my kids. Like it’s a big eye opener and seeing them come alive, of not just being through, I don’t want to say anything bad about public schools, but you know, really being the way life should be probably with your parents. Josh and I talk about that all the time. He just, his little girl is just over a year old, he’s like, man, this sucks, I don’t see my kids in the morning and I get home, we eat dinner and I put them to bed, and he’s like that, that’s not how it should be. So, we talk about it often and before I knew this hit, and it’s nice to see them enjoying and wanting to learn what dad does and what I enjoy. So I think I have a couple of hunting partners here in the future.
Ramsey Russell: That’s good. You know, because you’re going to blink and they’re going to be gone. And it’s like, as much time as I feel like I spent with my children hunting and fishing and doing that kind of stuff, it wasn’t enough. I feel like it should have been more, but I was busy in that rat race. I was running in that escalator and it’s just now, I mean, I look back the last – I couldn’t say there’s too much ago by seeing it – you know, about four weeks ago I realized, I got burned out, man, and I’m ready. I’m as ready as anybody for my neighbors, and myself, and everybody else to get back busy and doing what we do, and making money, but I sure am enjoying this pause right now. Just to rest and spend time with my kids. Duncan, my middle son is in Okinawa, we Facetime and we talk to him as much as we can over the Internet. Other two kids are at home right now and that’s nice. I’m enjoying that. I’ve seen more of them in the last month and a half in the last five years.
Dan Hruska: Yeah. And the one bad part about it is that my wife being at the hospital. Where my dad lives, we have like 95 acres here and he lives kind of on the other corner of the property, if you want to call it that. My kids walk through a little path and they’re right in his backyard and my wife not knowing if she has it for the incubation period of 4-14 days, or whatever it is, we’re trying to keep our distance and that kind of thing, to try and keep the kids away from him. So he’ll come over and we’ll be out here. But he’s about a year out of some bone marrow cancer. So as far as being vulnerable to anything like that, we can’t do it. So they’ll stop by, he’ll still get candy and all that. But I’m like, no hugs and just don’t cough on them. But yeah, he’s doing pretty good.
Next Steps for HP Outdoors
Ramsey Russell: Dan, you all have any long term goals with HP Outdoors? Now that you all have been doing this a long time? And have you developed any further goals? What do you all hope to accomplish down the road? Your message, your narrative? What’s your narrative of HP Outdoors?
Dan Hruska: We have a couple of ideas and just recently we started doing what we do now on our show, we do live interviews and we got some programming that we’re able to have the people listening, ask questions. So when we’re in the middle of an interview, they can throw out a question, and our guests can answer it right then and there, and it’s just a lot more interactive. So instead of getting hammered with questions after a show, and then trying to get someone on and answer that a month or three or four months down the road, people seem to really be enjoying that, so it’s pretty cool. I can’t divulge too much of what we’re working on, but we have a few things that we’re going to try and put out. I think people might like it.
How to Travel with Hunting Firearms
That was my first time hunting in Canada, yeah, taking a firearm across the border.
Ramsey Russell: Good. You got to constantly evolve. Here’s something up. One of the last times I heard from you, and I listen to your podcasts all the time, but one of the last times I heard from you, I got a text from you out of the blue, and you had a going through customs tale, just like I had been recently going through to Toronto. Was that your first time through Toronto?
Dan Hruska: That was my first time hunting in Canada, yeah, taking a firearm across the border.
Ramsey Russell: Boy, you picked a doozy to go through for the first time.
Dan Hruska: First of all, I didn’t understand how big the Toronto airport is. From where we landed to where we had to take off and going through all the doors and runways and everything else. I mean it took us a good time and I had an older gent with me too, and trying to let him keep up, but I mean just the massive size of that – wasn’t quite used to, and then everything going up was fine. The hunt was outstanding.
Ramsey Russell: Were you all hunting in Ontario?
Dan Hruska: No, we hunted in Saskatchewan.
Ramsey Russell: Okay.
Dan Hruska: Man that was a blast. So our plan’s to go back up in September and hopefully the border and everything else is open. Yeah, coming back I don’t even know this, guys, I go up and ask the girl – we’re almost through everything and I’m just waiting to do the final thing before I get to go to my gate, right? And actually I was like, I’m not trying to be pushy or anything. I said we take off in about an hour and I was like, I’m just for knowledge, and knowing, like how long does it usually take? And she’s like, oh, they’re looking through your stuff right now and once you’re done you’ll be able to go. And I think the guy that was looking through my stuff heard me ask that, and it just must have been a bad day for him. And he came and sat in the chair right next to her, talked to her and the guy next to him for about 45 minutes, and I’m, again, sitting right behind him. So I’m sitting there and I mean it was just pure BS, if you want to call it. So I’m sitting there and I went back up and I was like we’re leaving in our place taking alcohol. But is there something else that I need to do? They are like, no, just you’ll come up when you’re called. No. All right. So here we are. And the guy with me, I’m a very calm and just happy go lucky person at the time. So my buddy’s like, Dan, just sit down and let’s see what goes from here. And he’s like, where’s your paperwork at? And I was like I handed everything in, he’s like, you showed up to an international border without the correct paperwork. I should confiscate your gun and make you pay tax. I don’t know if you bought it here or not. And I was like, you have everything that I came with from Cleveland showing that I brought the gun into the country, and just going off, well, you need to go to the international airport and get essentially a passport for your firearms before you come up here again. So at this point we have about five minutes before our plane takes off, and I was like I’m not trying to be rude, but I said, what other paperwork do we need?
Ramsey Russell: 44-57.
Dan Hruska: So, he pulled out a piece of paper, he’s like you need to fill this out, and it was just name and what kind of firearm you had. And I was like, can I pull it out now? And he’s like no, you’re good to go. So that was after how long I’m waiting? So we walk out and I asked the lady at one of the desk, can you check on this flight, she’s like, that just left. I said it pretty well. But then the rest of the trip home was a debacle because they’re like – we flew out of Cleveland – and she said the next flight in the Cleveland is totally booked, you can be on the reserve list or we can book you for Pittsburgh, but if seats became available to Cleveland, then we won’t be able to get your stuff from the Pittsburgh plane on the Cleveland one. And I said, well I’m not going to stay the night here, I’ve had enough of this place. So they booked us for Pittsburgh and so the Pittsburgh and Cleveland flights had gates right next to each other. 48 of 50 seats got on the Cleveland flight. And if it was my buddy, we could have been to Cleveland, had no issue. So I called my dad and I was like, hey, can you make a power 45 minute drive to Pittsburgh and pick us up? I won’t get over to Cleveland at a later date to get our truck. So we get to Pittsburgh and none of our stuff was in Pittsburgh.
Ramsey Russell: This was coming home?
Dan Hruska: This was coming home, yeah.
Ramsey Russell: So that’s the cluster. I have been through lots and lots, and lots, and lots, of airports and I will never – folks, anybody listening – never go through the Toronto airport with firearms coming home. Don’t do it, avoid it, because it’s a cluster. I’m not a mellow yellow guy. My personality is not that, but I have developed over time this airport Zen, I call it, I’m just Zen. So I’m calm, and I’m focused, and I got my paperwork, and we go through the you know, if you’re in Canada, Toronto, Kenneth, they have a US customs and they got US agents there that I guess were getting paid some kind of $15,000 a year, way more than that. I guarantee they’re probably, everyone would probably make it $50,000 $60,000 a year. Plus they probably get some kind of a big allowance to be over there, I don’t know the details. So by the time we went through the whole cluster of that big long rat baseline, we had plenty of time. I wasn’t just panicking. I was focused but I wasn’t panicking until the guy said bring me around here. And he said, just have a seat. And I kept standing, he said, go have a seat. He had taken out his sandwich and poured a cup of coffee. I’m like, well, I have not got time to take a seat. So then he folds the sandwich back up and begins to unload every single bit of my gun case and my suitcase, unloading it and packing it up. I’m like what is this? And he had to call a lady because well you got partridges in your gun case, you can’t do that in Canada. I said, but you’re American. He said, what’s the Canadian rules? So he called the Canadian and she came and shrugged and he said, what about this? She just literally shrugged. I said this was unnecessary. And at that time I got so quiet. I think its scared me because I was so quiet. And he invited me to come back there. He couldn’t get it loaded and get it shut. He invited me to come back there. In which time the plane had been gone. We had an hour when we came here to see him. It had been gone 30 minutes and then we had to spend a night in a hotel, come through the next morning in Toronto, and I was coming through, and I tried to cut through another line. I ducked up under the rope or did something, and oh gosh, it was like five alarms went off, and everyone else peeled on out – they were behind me – and he just took off like he didn’t know me. Now I had to deal with all the cops and all the customs, try to very delicately explain, well, I’m sorry sir, but I missed my flight yesterday. I don’t want to miss it today. And then we went back there the next day, it was just the easiest, man. Yeah, no problem, it took five minutes.
Dan Hruska: We were supposed to rent the car and just drive. I mean we’d have been home in four hours. I was so mad at this point, but I forgot to tell you this part. So we got, I think it’s a pink slip and a yellow slip, maybe two yellow slips. When we boarded our initial plane, I only had one yellow slip and took it. So when I showed up to the gate to go to Pittsburgh, after all this happened, we’re like, where’s your yellow slip at? And it’s the one that says I have a firearm, I have ammo, you check whatever box and then you sign it, right? And I was like, well they took that when I boarded, they’re like, well you need another one. So this is as I’m one of the last people to get on the plane to Pittsburgh. My kids grew up in Pittsburgh, I know Pittsburghers, and we’re delaying the flight and the place, right? So I was like, well don’t you have another one here, I will fill it out and sign, they’re like, well we have them here, but not at the terminal, and bless this girl’s heart, this young girl, she’s like, I’ll go get you one. I mean they’re calling over the radios and stuff like that, we don’t have one here, we don’t have one here. And this lady, this girl runs out on the tarmac and she cannot get back in from outside. So she had to run all the way around the airport, this is like 45 minutes later she’s back. She’s sweating. She’s out of breath. She has the papers and I was like, I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to hug you right now but I would really like to. She just started laughing. By this time, they turned the plane off. The pilot came inside to see what the holdup was. So we’re like, I was like, I’m just waiting for one little piece of paper to say I have a firearm and I don’t have any animals. She’s like, all right. So we walk out and they were like, I’m sorry, they’re not liking your carry-on you have to go into the plane. I was like, I’m not getting on that plane until I see my carry-on go on there. I have, $10,000 – $12,000 for the camera equipment that I took by, I am not getting on that plane. So they had to open up the plane, put our stuff on. I saw it. We walk in with a pilot, we go and sit down and they’re like, you’re in the emergency row, I said that’s fine. So she had to go through the entire spiel of being an emergency row. We sit there and we’re sitting there about five minutes and just everyone is hating us right now, like it delayed everything, right. She comes walking back, smiling at me. I’m like, oh, here we go again. She’s like, the plane is not balanced, and you guys have to move. I was like, well you just get me home. So finally we took off and I was like, I can’t handle it anymore. So we got there and we get back to Pittsburgh, my dad is there, he’s like, where’s your stuff, when are you going to be showing up? And we went to the turn luggage area and none of our stuff showed up. So we had to fill out the paperwork and my gun came from Pittsburgh two days later and all my deer came from Cleveland three days later.
Ramsey Russell: Must be, and by federal law, the firearm is supposed to travel with the passenger with its owner, by federal law. And so, we have to play by the rules, they don’t. For anybody listening, I’m certain that the form that US customs ask you for when you were coming back through what is called a form 4457. If you travel with firearms, I’m speaking to anybody’s listening that is planning on travel with a firearm. You go to your local customs office, it’s near the airport, not in the airport, bring your firearm, make an appointment, and bring your firearm in a case. They freak out when you walk in with a gun that’s not in a case, and you lay it out, and they fill out this form. It’s just your name, your address, make and model, serial number of the firearm. They put a little rubber stamp and it’s good forever or until that expiration date is set but it’s generally good forever. And if you read US customs on policies, they recommend filling out that form not only for fire arms but for anything of value that is newer than five years old. So that way if you go into or come back from a foreign country, they know you’re not trying to skirt the taxation laws or something like that. But since 9/11, it’s mandatory. Now I’ve had clients forget it, not have it, you know, just come on through, anyway, at the peril of missing their flight, or complications, or arguments, or emotional breakdowns, which should do when people are giving you a hard time with nothing. But everybody, I have got probably a 4457 for every single firearm I own that I travel with. Then it gets real wrinkly when you go to South Africa because they want – you’ve got to have a 4457 – or even Argentina. If you bring your old firearm, you’ve got to have an US generated 4457 with the expiration date. If you just go Google 4457 online, you can print that form off and take it to Customs with you. But it’s got to have the right expiration date for you to enter into some of these other countries. So that’s the free educational spiel for the day. But it’s amazing. We’re going to Ontario this year and I have already decided I’m driving. I am not flying through Toronto for the remainder of my life. I will not fly to Toronto. It is a cluster fuck. Dan, that was your first time to Canada. What other opportunity have you all developed with you all HP Outdoors? I mean, you’ve cultivated a beautiful community, a great listening audience and it’s created opportunity for you all. You go to Canada, what else?
Dan Hruska: Canada, Big Kansas Outdoors, Ben, is a big category we do. He’s on the US Hunt List with you right?
Ramsey Russell: Yes sir, great guy, and great operation. And I’ve been to both of them. I have been up to Canada and to Kansas and it’s a fun time.
Dan Hruska: Yeah, he takes great pride in what he does. And man, he puts on birds and no bad training, I know that. So, Oklahoma and Arkansas, Maine, and just the number of invites is incredible. Not just from outfitters, just people in the group. Hey, you want to come out here if you want to come to Washington, Oregon, Utah, Montana, wherever? Like, just get out here, you know? And one of the best times was going up with some listeners up to Maine and Ryan Lily with Old Town Canoes and a couple other gents up there. They are coming to stay at my house and I have bunk beds in my basement, it’s finished. So a group of us go up, and it’s negative 26 when we woke up, it was negative 13 when we got to the ocean and paddled canoes out to an outcrop, and we shot a couple of Eiders, and it was during a bomb cyclone. So essentially a snow hurricane hit and we have a green jeans watching us the entire time. They actually called him to make sure that we were safe. And he’s like, I got to tell you fellas, it’s pretty crazy for going out there. There aren’t any emergency services, you know? So he’s like, I have a throw rope, so you better be careful. He went to talk about it, cold-cold time. And one thing I didn’t realize about Maine, you know, we’re up there and probably 20 ft. high from the water, and these birds are just buzzing us, and there’s golden eyes all over the place, and it was just incredible. And he’s like, hey, we got to get out of here in a little bit, and I was like why? This is beautiful, you know? And he’s like, well where we’re sitting is going to be underwater in about an hour. I was like, are you kidding me? And he’s like, no that’s a 20 ft. tide. He’s like, yeah, he goes, I guarantee this will be underwater. And when you see some of the oceans start freezing behind you and turn into slush, they’re like, yeah, it’s probably a good time to go. So, I think the wind chill is probably -45 -50 and they’re telling me you better cover up your face or you’re going to go home with a black nose. You know, I’m like, all right, well I trust you. So we got out, I have some pictures, and I’ll tell you what those guys are from Maine, when they get out in a long sleeve shirt and come and shake your hand it feels like a brick of ice. You can’t tie up your boots, your wader boots. I’m like, oh my, what are we doing? And we’re going to canoe out into the ocean right now with – 45 wind chill, this is crazy. You know, I’m frozen rocks but it was an absolute blast, and you’d go back, and the guy we stayed with, Ryan Dubay, is a chef by training. So he had lobster and prime rib, I mean it was a blast. So the friendships we’ve made and just getting to talk to people like you, friendships there, and just industry folks, and learning from people that have been doing it a lot longer in a lot more places and experiences.
The Global Fraternity of Duck Hunters
The best way I can describe what I do, and what you yourself are starting to do by branching out, and meeting more people, and traveling to new places, it’s kind of like walking through the pages of National Geographic with a shotgun and waders, and I love it.
Ramsey Russell: Duck hunters are such a big global fraternity and it kind of brings us right back to what we were talking earlier, Dan. It’s about if you grew up, you shot those Canada geese for the first time, and you shot some ducks and geese growing up in high school and college but now the world is so much bigger than your own backyard. Now you’re out there in a 24 ft. tidal surge hunting sea ducks, or you’re in a different part of the world. You’re up there hunting a barley field with Ben, or hunting those in some hidden pothole he’s got over in Kansas, you know what I’m saying? And it’s just cumulative, it’s like all these years since I shot that hand gadwall, I’m still learning, I’m still wild. I still show up somewhere I’ve never been and learn something about the history, about the culture, about the food. It’s like, it’s just so varied, and I’m addicted to it.
Dan Hruska: Well, I mean each time you meet someone, it enriches your life, right? I was out in Palco with some other industry folks and you have someone like Lee Kjos, I listened to your guys’ episode which is a lot of band talk and a lot of music talk. But Lee is, he’s something else, and to sit there and just talk about life with him for an hour by yourself man, I mean that’s invaluable. Just, it’s really special, and to think that you have that opportunity because you enjoy shooting ducks is pretty wild.
Ramsey Russell: I grew up reading National Geographic magazine, one of my grandmothers sent me National Geographic. I can hardly read them anymore because they seem to be another liberal agenda. But back in those days it just opened up this world. They had, maybe four or five stories, and it’ll be just all over the world, different cultures, different people in different parts of history. The best way I can describe what I do, and what you yourself are starting to do by branching out, and meeting more people, and traveling to new places, it’s kind of like walking through the pages of National Geographic with a shotgun and waders, and I love it. It’s just a big beautiful world and ducks are everywhere. And just by chasing ducks, I’m seeing the world, and I love it. Absolutely love it.
Dan Hruska: I’m sure when you go different places, like every time I go out and I’ve been somewhere, just a different state with someone, and I have so many questions. Why are you doing that? Like we did this back home, you know? What makes you do this, or move out there, and just like you said you’re always learning. I don’t know if I’m annoying with all the questions I ask and it’s not to be disrespectful or try to imply that I know something that they don’t know, but I’m just asking, you know, why are you doing that? Why is that set up over there? I don’t understand that. And when you have just different perspectives it’s like, I think that’s another piece of the puzzle that I’m putting together.
Ramsey Russell: So I tell you, you get fans that they’re not hearing what you’re asking because that’s just part of sharing. It is a part of getting to know each and everybody. And I ask a lot of questions. I got notes in my phone out. I set it up when I travel to new countries. And every year I go back, I just take notes. You know what I’m saying? I’ll ask questions. I’ll ask questions about history. I’ll ask questions about the name of that duck or just what they know about that duck. They don’t have to be a biologist. I’m thinking Azerbaijan, what did they know about a Red Crested Pochard and a hunter, you know, or down in Argentina about Rosy-billed Pochard. I mean it’d just a part of putting it together, and I love to ask questions because heck, I might write a story I made for my own edification. I just want to know this, you know about these birds, about these people and about their history. And I was in Russia one time, first time I was in Russia, and there was a young man, I can’t remember his name. I have to look back in my notes. They don’t put duck hunts like we do, they don’t have a duck hunting culture like we do. And he was very helpful and we kind of got along. I watched this guy, look, we shot some mallards down in an ice-rimmed creep. I was wondering how the heck we are going to get those things. You know what I mean? I was soaking wet up to my belly button from being in hip boots and belly button deep water, that’s fine. But I wasn’t going swimming for those things, and he showed up, and shrugged, and stripped down butt naked, jumped in the water. I’m talking ice cold water and grabbedthose ducks and threw them on the other bank, jumped up and warmed himself up and talked across the creek to us, and jumped in the water to swim back and put on his clothes. Three days later it was raining and I was with a group of Europeans that were off shooting shorebirds and it was fun to watch them through the window of this little camp truck. They do little bitty-bitty cabin on back of the truck, had a little bitty potbelly stove, I didn’t care about shooting shorebirds, heck, you know, why am I going to shoot shorebirds? But I took out my phone and started showing this young Russian some pictures, my wife, my kids, my home, my dog, American ducks or whatever, you know? I have found this to be, he knew I was asking questions, I’ve been kind of hitting around asking questions but he pointed one of those pictures and he spoke in English words. I’ve been with this guy for three days, I go, you speak English? And he said, a little, his wife taught English, well that was it, the ice broke and the Maltese loaded back up. We were heading back to the cabin and a big sedan pulled up, a guy stepped out wearing a three piece suit and a nice overcoat and the back door opened up. We piled out of the truck and my host, that young guy was pointing everybody to the sedan to go back to camp, and it’s my turn to, I stepped off the truck, he put his hand on my chest and said do you want to go to camp or do you want to go to the river? I haven’t seen the river. I’m like, I want to go to the river, I’ve seen camp, man. We went by the town he introduced me to his wife, her two college friends were in town. They all spoke English. Now we all four could have a big conversation. They were pulling stuff out of the refrigerator and the cabinet. That mama’s homemade jelly or the grandmama’s favorite something, or the pies, and all this stuff. We ate. Went to the river and we came at about 3:00 AM because it doesn’t get dark until very late up there and the outfit was freaking out. He didn’t know where I was. The motor, like holy cow. Where have you been? Like, I just got to see real Russia. And I had seen real Russia. And it all started by asking questions, showing an interest in him and his culture, and showing the pictures of mine, and it just was a big ice breaker. And I have learned to do that. I’ll share my life and get theirs and that is such a big exchange. I mean, trust me, no matter where you go in this world, people love that you take an interest in what they do and how they do it. And they open up and start sharing. And so I think that’s a great idea. I mean because I feel like I’ve got something to learn everywhere I hunt and it’s just part of life experience. Right?
Dan Hruska: I think one of the biggest eye-openers, especially talking with industry people and just these names that you know – the world champs and world champ colors – and I was like these people are so nice, you know what I mean? Like I think you look at the news and everything is doom and gloom, and doom and gloom, and it’s awful. Then just having some faith in humanity and getting out enjoying stuff is almost worth canceling cable and not caring what’s going on the TV. Because you can’t judge anything by it. Like you said, I’m sure those people were great people to spend the evening with.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. You know, and I almost add that damn social media, all the police-free for all social media because I was with a group down, an outfitter, down in Texas running gun outfitters this year. And I stopped by to the hunt with some folks. And we all got to talking. Fortnight left, we’re going back, we got talking to the guide. He got talking about something on social media, some of his clients, blah. I’m like, you know, I duck hunt with so many people over the course of the year, I’m telling you social media does something to people, to some people, not everybody Dan, but some people, it does something because I don’t meet those guys out in the real world. If I’m in a dirt blind, I don’t meet that guy, right? They’re just regular folks. I’m thinking on social media and it’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sometimes, you know, I mean really. It is a weird dance. Dan, I listen to your podcasts, that’s what made me think, I listened to the podcast last week. You had a couple of guests who were talking about Covid effects, and we’ve been all over Covid, some of the positive and negative things going on in our own lives right now. But how do you see? You had asked them and they brought some real nice perspective. I really enjoyed that podcast. I will tell anybody, go listen to the episode. How do you see this now? What’s going on right now? The uncertainty. But how do you see it? I know how it could affect industry manufacturers, product people, but how do you see it affecting you or your family or your audience or your group? What do you say going on it?
How Has Covid Affected Life & the Hunting Community?
I feel like this is a huge reset for our country because honestly some of the stuff was getting out of hand.
Dan Hruska: I mean on a personal level, just an adjustment to go to a store and see everyone looking like bandits, or you walk in and feel uncomfortable because you don’t know if the girl behind the counter thinks you’re going to hold the place up right? Like, it’s just a very awkward and anti-social situation that they can’t see a smile, they can’t see anything but your eyes when you’re all covered up, and it’s just a real awkward feeling. It’s not what we’re used to as a social country, we smile and shake hands and all that going on. But I feel like as far as our online community there’s a lot of people that are home and trying to navigate their way through this. But I think people are hopeful that either it’s not as bad as what they think it is or they’re looking forward to hunt in the fall and everything will be good by that. So I think our engagement is up. I think people are home and they’re able to be online. But I think people are really looking forward to things getting back to normal and that normal might happen great when season opens up. You don’t know, you know, we’ve never been here before, man.
Ramsey Russell: No, we’ve never been here before, but we’ve never been here before and I know it’s tough for everybody, but we’re duck hunters and I think one thing we duck hunters have in common, by nature we’re eternal optimists. You wake up in the morning and getting ready to go to bed planning to go hunting tomorrow and you already know the weather forecast is not too good for duck hunting. Nobody sleeps in. We all get up, go duck hunting. We know that we’ve got to be that way. Tomorrow is going to come. I don’t know when it’s going to break free. I don’t know when the world’s going to be “normal again”. I know I went to the grocery store last Saturday for the first time since the last week of February and it was different. I felt different. I just felt, I don’t know it’s just I couldn’t wait to get out of that place. And I just went there to grab some steaks and leave. Man, people were acting different and it made me uncomfortable.
Dan Hruska: Yeah. Well that’s, I think you know, part of that show last week. Barton was anything, went to the post office and the guy got within six ft. and the person behind the counter was yelling at him get back like he was highly contagious. It’s weird and you know I think one of my biggest concerns for people is when you talk about 24 million people being out of work and signing up for unemployment, you know the people out of work is higher than that. You know just getting back to normal and what businesses are going to look like. You know when once you go online with your business structure and people aren’t flying, and maybe companies are going to downsize, and how long is it going to take for people to get back to work and get that money to be able to buy decoys or buy a gun or go on hunts or whatever it may be. So, I don’t know. I think the financial situation could really be gruesome for a little bit.
Ramsey Russell: It could be, but this is America, you know I’m optimistic. One thing, I’m no financial wise, I’m certainly no economist, I can tell you. But I’m a business owner. And I’ll say this: that since we’ve been full time, it has been, it’s also about 12 years now, I don’t rest easy. I’m a warrior. I mean it’s a lot of pressure. Good times or bad. You’re always worried, right? I mean, I think all business owners would say they are you’re always scared the music is going to stop. But I look back since I graduated high school in 1984-1987. There was 2000, there was 2008. Now it’s 2020. But the distinction is, the economy was quite that in fact, the economy, the stock market, the Dow Jones is way higher right now than it ever was with President Trump taking office, despite this Covid thing, has taken a big stick in the boat. And so we don’t know how long it’s going to take for everybody to get back on his feet, for everybody to feel normal, for everybody to have to close the income, to go buy that new coat, or that new shotgun, or more shells, or whatever. But we’re hunters, and I would say take care of your family, take care of yourself, stay forward thinking, take advantage of the blessing right now, worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. Right now take advantage and be thankful to spend time because you have time right now with the people that matter most in your life. And then, you know, Mark Twain used to say, worrying is paying tax you don’t yet owe. Worry later because this has been a kick in the crotch for us. And it will be but what we know having been here, we know we’re going to have to work through it, it’s just going to take working through it and GetDucks.com is not going anywhere. We’re going to be here when the music starts playing again but until then we’re going to set up for tightening belts and do what Americans do, we’re going to plow ahead.
Dan Hruska: To what you’re saying, enjoy that time. I read articles and I know it’s not good for me mentally to always read that stuff, but I’m reading it, my six year olds are breathing out. So they look over my shoulder and I’m looking on my phone, is that saying more deaths? And I’m like, I do not need to be reading this right now. Like I got three beautiful, healthy kids in front of me and why am I worried about that? Like take care of your own. It’ll work out.
Ramsey Russell: So it’s going to work out. I just, you know, having grown up, especially in the Deep South with hurricanes and floods and the tornadoes. If you want to see America that bad, show me a crisis, America’ll rise to the cause – we always have – World War One, World War Two. I mean a hurricane blows in big flood down in Houston. Here comes the Cajun Navy. I’m saying we’re going to be fine. It’s just everybody’s going to have to just tighten up, enjoy your time, and work towards the future and it’s going to be okay.
Dan Hruska: I enjoy not seeing the petty news articles of people getting upset about such small things being a headliner. I’ve kind of, I told my friends and my wife before, when I see stuff like that and like I wish that – I don’t wish pain or anything to anyone – but I wish some of these people would be put in a situation where they had to reevaluate what matters. I feel like this is a huge reset for our country because honestly some of the stuff was getting out of hand.
Ramsey Russell: Does anybody really care what – pick an actor from Hollywood – thinks about anything?
Dan Hruska: You haven’t heard from any of them.
Ramsey Russell: And I hadn’t missed it, you know? Not at all. Right. You know, I hadn’t missed it one bit. You know, I love a lot of pro sports. I do love sports and I like to watch baseball but now, I don’t. I watch movies and I watch TV and I watch Netflix, but I don’t care what their politics are and I don’t miss it, you know? But anyway that’s a very good point to end on Dan. You made a very good point there. It’s all about what matters most. But anyway, Dan, thank you so much for coming on. Guys, thank you all for listening, you all can find Dan at @HPOutdoors on Instagram.
Dan Hruska: And everything went to Facebook if you want to join our Facebook group HP Outdoors Waterfowl podcast listeners group and there’s a couple, three questions, pretty much asking if you are mature enough to engage online. As we mentioned, we don’t put up with stuff and it’s – you know I don’t want to call it a safe space – but if you want to go and learn, and ask questions, and hear from people all over the country and the world, then come on in and we’d love to have you.
Ramsey Russell: Amen. Thank you Dan. Guys, thank you all for listening @RamseyRussellGetDucks. Thank you all, see you next time. Ducks Season Somewhere is produced by Ben Paige. Original soundtrack by our friend Cody Huggins.