Situated in a landscape predominated by long-leaf pines, pecan orchards and peanut fields, everything sprouting from soils the color of rusted farm implements, southwestern Georgia isn’t the duck hunting universe’s proverbial epicenter. But it’s exactly where Ramsey Russell fell in with the right group of friendly folks to experience a real Georgia ring-necked duck hunt, deer hunting, and genuine Deep South hunting camp hospitality. Seated around the table after a monstrous breakfast, in a charmingly old farmhouse that for decades has been a family hunting camp, Chase Gibson and Caleb Jackson describe their duck hunting roots, how they hunt ducks in Georgia, and more. Shaun Harris then tells the story of one of their most illustrious long-time hunting guests, the infamous Nut Duster from Hell. Great hunting camp episode, proving once and for all that you’re always among great people while at hunting camp anywhere.
Georgia Hunting Camp Visit Entails Ring-necked Duck Hunting, White-tail Deer Management Bucks, World-class Southern Hospitality and Great Eats
Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere, and I am just about to wrap up the North American Tour before Christmas. I know y’all ain’t listening to this ‘till later, but it’s getting close to Christmas. I’m getting close to being home. Been on the road a while, and I am in Georgia. I’m closer to Alabama right now than Atlanta, but I’m in Georgia. And came over here, and scratched it off my list, and got to duck hunt, got to shoot. And one of my buddies asked me, “What the heck you going to Georgia for, all them Georgia boys come to Mississippi to hunt ducks.” I said, “Well I ain’t never killed a duck in Georgia, and Duck Season Somewhere means everywhere.” So I came to Georgia. I’ve got with me today, Chase Gibson and Caleb Jackson, a couple of local duck slayers and mostly deer hunters, I think. But how you boys doing today?
Chase Gibson: Man, we’re doing good.
Caleb Jackson: Good, Ramsey, good.
Ramsey Russell: Thank you all for your hospitality. And we’re over here also with Shaun and Amie Harris, and they’re listening real close by, but Amie actually set this thing up. I met her at SCI, she knew you all, you all knew me. And somewhere when she became aware of this little whirlwind tour I’m doing, she said, “Well, if you’re passing through Georgia and want to come duck hunting, come do it.” I said, “Well, I think I will.” But introduce yourself, Chase, introduce yourself: who you are and where you’re from and what you do.
Chase Gibson: Chase Gibson. I’m originally from the coast of Mississippi down in Biloxi, and I went to Mississippi State and I met Heather, who is now my wife and Shaun and Amie’s daughter. So we got married, and we live in Starkville. I’m a civil engineer by trade over there. So we live and work over there, and Heather works for Clark Beverage, doing a distributor. So we like it up there in North Mississippi, and we’re down this way a good bit, hunting and hanging out in Georgia.
Ramsey Russell: Did you duck hunt growing up?
Chase Gibson: Yeah. We did. We hunted down in Delacroix, Louisiana down south of Chalmette and south of Slidell down there. And we did a bunch of that. I mean, you’ve been talking about it. It’s crazy how that marsh has been eroding, and it’s just not as good as it used to be.
Ramsey Russell: Times have changed. That’s correct. Times have definitely changed. What about you Caleb? What’s your story?
Caleb Jackson: Ramsey, I live right around here, locally. Webster County, Georgia. We farm here.
Ramsey Russell: What do you farm?
Caleb Jackson: Peanuts and cotton.
Ramsey Russell: Georgia peanut farmer. Did you grow up duck hunting? I mean, I know you duck hunt now.
Caleb Jackson: Yeah, we shoot wood ducks in beaver ponds. That’s what we do here.
Ramsey Russell: Well, I mean Georgia is not right in the middle of a Flyway. It’s kind of in between the Atlanta Flyway and the Mississippi Flyway and to give you all some background, I’m driving in yesterday, and I mean, we’re talking longleaf pines, cotton fields, peanuts, pecans, not swamps, not delta. These are small creeks and drainages along the way in here. This ain’t a duck Flyway here. But you all did grow up duck hunters. There are ducks everywhere. We were talking about that this morning. Everywhere there’s water like that, beaver pond is at least going to have some wood ducks. What did you mostly grow up hunting?
Caleb Jackson: Small game to start, like everybody does: squirrels, rabbits, and that kind of thing. And then bird hunting. And the older I got, I got my dogs and that kind of thing, so deer hunting and bird hunting.
Ramsey Russell: Who got y’all into hunting?
Chase Gibson: So my dad’s sitting here, Keith Gibson. I grew up hunting down in south Louisiana, and that’s just what we did, and that’s how we grew up, hunting, and we used to have a camp down there. We used to wake up, and we would drive. He would put me in the back of the truck and make a little bed back there, and we would drive from Biloxi to the boat ramp, launch a boat, go duck hunt, drive back, do it the next day, just back-to-back to back. So that’s what we grew up doing. He was the one who got me into it.
Welcome to Georgia Hunt Camp
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. You know, I drove up yesterday and as I’m getting here, I think to myself there ain’t no way this is like a duck camp, there’s got to be like a deer camp or something like that, and we pull up and make introductions. I guess I got here about 3:00, 3:30. And you know the interesting thing about Georgia is you got a one-day duck hunting license, small game license, one day, twenty bucks. It’s nothing. I think five-dollar, ten-dollar stamp. It’s nothing, just one day, okay, that’s great. Then we get up, and Keith was getting suited up to go deer hunting. Man, y’all were talking about, “Deer, deer, deer, do you want to shoot a deer?” I’m like, “Yeah, I want to go shoot a deer.” I called my wife. I texted her and say, “Hey, get me a big game license.” And that’s where they kind of get you a little bit, but it ain’t crazy. And boy, that action yesterday, that was an action-packed hunt. What was the name of that blind we went to?
Chase Gibson: Little Rascal.
Ramsey Russell: Because it looks like a Little Rascal playhouse. It’s got an easy stairway, just a nice slow stairway going up to it. We parked the truck in a slot, and we walked over fifty yards, went up the stairwell, got to the Little Rascals camp house. The first thing I noticed, before I even looked out the window, the first thing I noticed was distances. I mean boy, that the feeder’s this far, and the left hand side is this far, and the second ridge is that far. I mean it was just all mapped out good. Then I start looking at to get my bearings and all them food plots is full of deer.
Chase Gibson: Yeah, we get up there and Ramsey looks at me, he said, “Man, there’s a bunch of deer in the field right now.” He said, “Man, y’all got a lot of deer around here.” I said, “Yeah, well, you know you were coming in.” And we were talking yesterday before Ramsey got up here, he said, “You know, I don’t know if Ramsey would want a deer hunt. I know he’s killed deer, he’s a duck hunter though, you know.” So he shows up and we say, “You want to go sit in a deer stand?” He said, “Man, I’d love to go sit in a deer stand. I’ve been killing ducks every day.” So we went up there, and we had a good little hunt. I’ll let you take some of the story here. But we had a good experience.
Ramsey Russell: No, it was an exciting hunt, because your dad-in-law Shaun says, “You can shoot does off your license. I need to shoot some does, and we got some small management bucks if you don’t mind doing that.” I’m like, in the whole time he’s talking, I’m just putting more bullets in my pocket going, “I’m your Huckleberry, I’m your guy. I don’t care about no trophy deer, but I’m your guy.” I’m thinking, “Man, it’s going to be something else.” And so I brought a whole bunch of bullets, had to put my snuff can in another pocket, so it didn’t rattle too hard on them bullets walking in. And that was an exciting hunt, and we saw a bunch of does, a lot of spikes, and you told me you’d seen some little old eight points, little management bucks come out, and sure enough, they came out and you tell that part of it, because you were like, ”Well, I don’t know, you can shoot that deer if you want to, we can wait a little bit.” The whole time you’re talking, I’m getting ready.
Chase Gibson: So one, we’re sitting there and Ramsey said, “Man, I hope one of those eight points comes out.” And Shaun had seen them yesterday, three of them. I said, “It’ll come out 25, 30, 5:45 I bet. So 5:33 or something. And Ramsey looks and he looks at me and he goes, “There’s a buck right there.” And I sat back, and I looked at him, I said, “Yeah, you can shoot him.” And as I’m saying that, I said, “Well you can wait if you want.” Ramsey is ready to roll.
Ramsey Russell: I’m ready and I pop my elbow up, kind of easing him out of the way and taking deep breath.
Chase Gibson: I said, “Man.” He looks at me and goes, “You ready?” I said, “I’m ready brother. Boom let him roll.” So I was looking at him and he runs off up in the woods up in there, and I said, “Ramsey you hit him good.” He said, “Man, I thought he would have folded right there.” I said, “Yeah, I think you hit him good though, he tucked that tail and he ran.”
Ramsey Russell: Well, you could hear the bullet, and it wasn’t a gut shot. You could tell it was right there where you want to get them, right there in the wheelhouse, and what I saw, because you always get a little kickback on that scope, but I saw the deer throw his back feet up, saw him tuck down, as he was disappearing off the ridge, I noticed he wasn’t like dragging a shoulder, so that looks like a pretty solid hit. But I’m used to really, that’s a 300-magnum I’ve been shooting for longer than you are years old. I’m going to tell you right now. I got that gun back in 1989. It’s “Ma Bell” we call it. Back in the day of Telephone Company Ma Bell, you know, reach out and touch somebody. And I’m really used to when I touch that trigger off-I don’t shoot it a bunch, a couple of trigger pulls a year-but I’m used to just seeing white belly staring back at me through the scope when it settles down. And he hopped over. He didn’t go far, so then you said, “Well, I’m going to get Caleb and Whelan.” I said, “Well, I met Caleb, but who’s Whelan? Which one’s Whelan?” He goes, “The middle-sized dog.” I said, “Oh.” So you show up with a Boykin, and I ain’t never seen a blood trailing Boykin. Not that we had to trail far, it didn’t go but about seventy, eighty yards, but you know, he ran up in the woods and then came back out looking at you.
Caleb Jackson: He’d found him. He had already found the deer.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. And there’s a drop of blood, and there’s a drop of blood, looks like a little piece of lung, and I said something to you. “No, I’m just following the dog, he knows where it is.” When we got there, he was standing right on top of it. It was a perfect little management buck, wasn’t it? It didn’t have no brow tines, about three year-old Shaun said, no brow tines, little old scrub rack.
Chase Gibson: Perfect buck to kill around here. And we got a lot of deer walking around here like that need to get it, and Ramsey was more than happy to take one out. It was a great hunt. Whelan did good, he came over there, and Caleb can tell a little bit, but he kind of quarters like a bird dog looking for those deer. He ran right up in there and man, he was right on him.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, that was a very exciting hunt. And I really, I knew you all had a lot of deer over here, but you all got a lot of deer. I mean just sitting around breakfast this morning, we heard about two or three deer getting whacked with a pickup truck. I think I’d have to put one of them big Texas bumpers on here or something or drive a tank.
Chase Gibson: Yeah. We had a couple of deer coming out this morning from the duck blind. They were standing in the middle of the road. But this part of the country, there’s just lots and lots of deer around here.
Ramsey Russell: It’s perfect deer habitat. It’s pine country, a lot of timber harvest, a lot of timber management, a lot of spraying, which is what Shaun does. It’s a lot of good deer habitat, so they ought to be thriving here. But what about the ducks? It ain’t just tons of duck habitat.
Georgia Duck Hunts and Ring-necked Ducks
Chase Gibson: Well, we got a little place down, and we’re in Stewart County, Georgia right now. Terrell County is where our duck hole is, and it’s a natural pond, about sixty-acre pond, and it’s got some food in there, and some years we got a bunch of ring-necked ducks on it, and we’ll get a bunch of wood ducks, and we’ve killed some teal, and we heard some quacking ducks today. I mean, it just depends what’s coming through. We had some geese, we saw some geese today, but it’s a good little area. And so this morning we get out there. Nice morning, it’s clear, and yesterday morning it was real foggy. So we get out there, and we had us a little set up, and we wind up getting a couple ring-necks come in and kill us a couple ring-necks. So we didn’t get skunked, that’s the main thing right there.
Ramsey Russell: I’m the easiest guy you ever hunted with because my only objective is to kill a duck. More ducks is better, but a duck: check, I’ve killed a duck in Georgia. That’s what I told you. And the truth of the matter is, it was perfect that we shot a Georgia ring-necked ducks instead of wood duck. Because that’s kind of y’all’s state duck is a ring-necked duck. And I was wondering to myself this morning why that is. Because when you get up there along the Atlantic seaboard of the Carolinas, North Carolina, especially, a lot of ring necks. We shoot a lot of ring-necked ducks in Mississippi too in that deeper water. At our camp, I’d call the official Willow Break duck a ring-neck, we shoot a bunch of them at times, but they seem to be predominant here in Georgia. Most people I know are shooting ring-neck and wood ducks. I mean your entire spread Caleb was ring-necked duck decoys, a few wood ducks and a Spoonzilla.
Caleb Jackson: You have to have a Spoonzilla!
Ramsey Russell: But a lot of ring-necked duck decoys out there. You even had some old carry-lite decoys you painted up for ring neck.
Caleb Jackson: Yes, I painted them up. They were all mallards and turned them into a black and white duck.
Ramsey Russell: Was this morning a pretty typical hunt?
Caleb Jackson: Pretty much was.
Chase Gibson: Yeah. And we’ve had some times down there, those ring-necked ducks will pile up and we’ll have a hundred, two hundred ring-necks, and you get three or four passes with two hundred ring-necks. You know, you’re working on a limit quick. So I mean, it’s just catching it right, down here. So it’s a good little spot, it’s a cool spot, it’s a fun hunt. We’re glad we got to cross off number 39 for you.
Ramsey Russell: Georgia. State Number 39 to kill a duck. Ring-necked ducks to me are interesting species because technically they’re a diver. But in this part of the world, they do like what I think of as puddle duck habitat. They like willows and button bush and trees and swamps and stuff where you’re going to see wood ducks, where you’re going to see gadwalls and wigeons when you got them. I mean they’re really adaptable like that. I don’t know why, maybe something to do with their diet, but I do like to shoot ring-necked ducks. It’s like if I had to pick a species in North America that I just really like to swing through on and pull the trigger, it’s a ring-necked duck, because they’re fast, they’re fun. They don’t make a pass over the decoys pretty often, like two hundred ring-neck ducks, we’d had us a shoot this morning.
Chase Gibson: Yeah, I tell you, we’ll get up in there sometimes, last year even when we got two hundred ring-necked ducks coming in, it sounded like a fighter jet coming through there. It’s some kind of fun though. I mean, I just assume shoot a ring-necked duck than anything. I mean, I love shooting them. They’re fast, fun shooting, and they humble you sometimes though.
Ramsey Russell: We had that one pair break off of that full pack come in, and I shot the left, Caleb shot the right, knocking both down. But your dog Junior, when I found that one, it was still swimming just a little bit briefly. I seen him swim up in that bush and come right out with him. But, tell me about that because that was a significant bird for him.
Georgia Duck Hunting with Boykin Spaniels
Caleb Jackson: Today would have been what was Junior’s first real duck hunt.
Ramsey Russell: Real duck hunt. What constitutes as a non-real duck hunt?
Caleb Jackson: Well, I mean training, HRC test and that kind of thing. Today was the first time he actually went with us hunting, on a real hunt.
Ramsey Russell: You’ve got three Boykins, and Char weighs fifty pounds. She’s kind of a small size petite lab. And I was noticing walking back up, when we got done picking up decoys, Junior’s every bit as big as she is. He’s a big Boykin. But I got to look when you had all three of them out there. They’re all about that size.
Caleb Jackson: They all are.
Ramsey Russell: Is that standard for a Boykin? I think of Boykins as being almost like a poodle sized dog, you know like a lapdog. I mean those are sizable dogs you got.
Caleb Jackson: Thirty, forty pounds for male Boykin is probably the standard.
Ramsey Russell: How long have you been raising Boykins?
Caleb Jackson: I never raised any of them, but we got our first Boykin ten years ago I think.
Ramsey Russell: Why did you choose a Boykin spaniel?
Caleb Jackson: They would probably tar and feather me for saying this, but just because of the color. I had chocolate labs forever, and we lost our last old chocolate lab, and that’s what I had forever, from birth I had those chocolate labs. And we decided we wanted to try something different, get a spaniel, and I like the Boykins because of their color.
Ramsey Russell: But they’re very versatile. I noticed, I mean that dog, and I’ve raised Springers for many, many years. Our family did, and I love a spaniel’s personality, eager to please, and I know a Boykin has webbed feet just like a Springer. So they swim and do stuff, but you don’t hunt just the few ducks y’all got around here with them birds, you do a lot of upland, everything else.
Caleb Jackson: A lot of woodcock hunting, quail hunting.
Ramsey Russell: Talk a little bit about that Caleb.
Caleb Jackson: Woodcock hunting? You got to have weather for them too. It’s got to be cold to get them down here. It’s a fun hunt. Just find the thickest, nastiest swamp. You need to wear hip boots in to wade in. That’s where we find them.
Ramsey Russell: And those little Boykins will get in there and flush them. And do you try to hunt quail with those dogs?
Caleb Jackson: We do quail a little too.
Ramsey Russell: Really? Do they run little figure eights in front of you?
Caleb Jackson: Yeah, they hunt for the gun. Once they learn, they flush the bird out of range, when you get the bird, obviously, so they learn to stay in close, and you keep them in close, and you just follow your dog.
Ramsey Russell: Just like you were on that deer yesterday.
Caleb Jackson: That’s right. Just like that.
Ramsey Russell: Your Boykin Spaniels truly are versatile. You’re hunting ducks and upland and deer. That’s a pretty good little dog to have.
Caleb Jackson: Good dove dog.
Ramsey Russell: I bet they are good. They probably don’t get as hot as these labs and stuff get.
Caleb Jackson: They can in September. We keep plenty of ice water for them in the field to cool them off.
Georgia Hunting Camp Traditions
Ramsey Russell: You were telling me yesterday evening, y’all got a nice little farmhouse out here in Georgia, this house has got to be a hundred years old. Probably been around forever. And y’all spend the whole week over here at Christmas. That’s a big deal.
Chase Gibson: Yeah. Me and Heather usually around this time of year, take some vacation and we’ll come up here. It’s just the kind of stuff we like to do around here, we hang out with family, hunt, duck hunt, deer hunt, have a couple of cold beers, it’s just the kind of stuff we like to do around here. It’s a big week, and Caleb’s always hanging around, and my dad will usually come up around this time with his wife, and so we have a big old time, and you saw last night we had a big old cook-in, and we’re all about eating some good food around here, so we cook a bunch of food and have big breakfast, and we just have a big time, it’s just a good time of the year.
Caleb Jackson: Just goofing off.
Ramsey Russell: That’s the thing about it, I’ve been traveling for months, jumping all around the country and everybody I’ve shared the blind with, I’ve also shared the duck camp experience, in Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania. It doesn’t matter where you go. It’s all about the people and the food and the atmosphere and maybe there’s a fire going in the evening. There’s certainly some beer and brown water going if you’re that way. And a lot of stories, a lot of jokes, a lot is carried on. But now, it hit me last night when we sat down at supper table that I’m finally back home. I’m not even in North Carolina. I’m home when we ate dinner last night: baked chicken and crowder peas, purple hull peas, and I like macaroni cheese homemade. I’m like, boy, I’m home. Purple hull peas cooked with smoked pork meat in there. I’m like, yeah, I’m home now.
Chase Gibson: Yeah. We were sitting in the deer stand, and Ramsey looked at me. We were talking about something. I said, “Yeah, we’re smoking some chicken quarters.” He said, “You’re shitting me.” And I looked at him like he didn’t like chicken quarters. He said, “I just told my wife the other day, that’s exactly what I wanted when I made it back to the house.”
Ramsey Russell: I love chicken leg quarters. I’m telling you what, it’s like one of my favorite food groups, I eat it three or four times a week if I can.
Chase Gibson: Man, we cooked them on that smoker out there for a couple hours, and they were some kind of tender.
Ramsey Russell: It hit home, and I slept. I had no problem at all falling asleep last night after a couple of brown water drinks and a good chicken meal.
Georgia Hunting and Coot Decoy Traditions
Ramsey Russell: Here’s something interesting I noticed last night Caleb. Georgia duck hunter. True or false? You are a master coot carver.
Caleb Jackson: I wouldn’t say master.
Ramsey Russell: That’s the best coot decoy homemade I’ve ever seen. I’m just going to tell you that little gift you gave me last night. And we walked into your shop today, and you had tons of them. What’s up with that? That’s a compliment man. I mean I ain’t never met nobody that had a fleet of homemade coot decoy.
Caleb Jackson: We hunt over on the Chattahoochee River a lot. Hunting divers over there, and it’s eat up with coots, and sometimes I needed a bunch of black decoys. And I don’t know where I wound up getting the idea or saw it done, but crab trap floats. Just split them half in two, I mean it was easy to do.
Ramsey Russell: And then you burlap wrapped them. How long did that take?
Caleb Jackson: I didn’t burlap wrap all of them because that would’ve took too long, that was a pain in the butt, but we did a handful of them that way, the rest of them, we just painted black.
Ramsey Russell: Well, I’m proud as I can be of you. I can see where those divers a lot of time to get down to that submerged aquatic and feed, and it’ll float to the top. And I’ve seen coots come in and do that and feed behind those divers like that. And I can see that association.
Caleb Jackson: You’ll have rafts just thousands and thousands of them over on the river.
Ramsey Russell: And I’ve said forever, a jet black, flat black decoy is probably all you need to hunt any duck species with.
Caleb Jackson: Maybe with a little flash of white on it.
Ramsey Russell: Well just like they were. How many of those coot decoys you reckon you got?
Caleb Jackson: I had a hundred twenty of them at one time that I had made.
Ramsey Russell: Boykins pick them up? Will they fetch coots if you shoot? Do you shoot them?
Caleb Jackson: Oh yeah, oh yeah. I have shot coots. No shame. The coots are not bad to eat.
Ramsey Russell: I read a report one time in Delta Waterfowl. It was like they polled some biologists with Delta Waterfowl, and it was two questions: most underrated wildfowl, most overrated wildfowl. And all of them said a mallard was the most overrated, and nearly all of them said a coot was the most underrated. Made me think, I’ve since eaten coot, I’m going to tell you, it ain’t bad to eat. They’re not a duck. Matter of fact before this morning, the only wing shooting I’ve really ever done down here in Georgia was clapper rail down there on the gulf coast, and it was a fun hunt and a surprisingly very good eating bird, and coot I think tastes very similarly. You all ever done that? Rail hunt?
Chase Gibson: No, I’ve never done any rail hunting. Down in Louisiana, man, there’s more coot- You could walk across them down there and a couple of times, especially for a dog down there, you’ll be hunting, and we won’t have any birds or something, and we’ll shoot some coots now. I don’t mind it one bit.
Ramsey Russell: Well, a lot of those guys down in south Louisiana won’t shoot the coots during the season because them coots will kind of be around their hole and those free decoys out swimming around and doing stuff. And then on the last day of the season won’t be into them. They’re going to shoot their limits in coots. I’ve got a buddy who was telling me one time years ago. His grandmother makes gumbo, but she only makes it with coot gizzard. So when she gets to hankering to make a gumbo, she’ll call him, and he’ll go out and shoot her some coots.
Chase Gibson: Lord. If I had got a gizzard-
Ramsey Russell: A big gizzard. It may have got more gizzard than breast meat. You know, a bunch of it. How many more times will y’all try to go out there and hunt that area we hunted this morning? That’s probably about a sixty-acre beaver pond.
Georgia Duck Hunting and Banded Ring-necked Ducks
Chase Gibson: We’ll probably hunt it a couple of times this week to be honest with you. We were talking about that weather, and so this morning, like I was saying, it was clear and it was about 39, 40 degrees this morning. So it was good weather, it was fine weather. But end of this week towards Christmas is supposed to get a hard freeze coming in at 20 degrees.
Ramsey Russell: That ought to push y’all a few ring-necked ducks down here.
Chase Gibson: That’s what we’re thinking.
Ramsey Russell: Maybe even push some of them- A lot of the wood ducks we shoot would be blowing in from up north. Do y’all ever shoot any bands down there? Any banded wood ducks? Have you ever shot banded wood ducks? Where do they come from?
Caleb Jackson: Let’s see, I’ve killed two over the last ten to fifteen years. They both came from Ohio. I know of three other bands that were killed in the county around here, and they all three came from Ohio. And this is over a scattering of years.
Ramsey Russell: That’s pretty strong correlation.
Caleb Jackson: I don’t know.
Ramsey Russell: Man. Well I wish I’d shot number six. That have been fun.
Caleb Jackson: But I always thought that was neat.
Ramsey Russell: You’ve ever seen or heard of a banded ring-necked duck?
Caleb Jackson: I have not.
Ramsey Russell: Me neither. But I caught myself looking at every foot, but I ain’t never seen or heard one.
Caleb Jackson: Wait a minute. Chief killed one.
Chase Gibson: He did. Was it a ring-necked duck?
Caleb Jackson: It was a ring-necked duck.
Ramsey Russell: Where was it from?
Chase Gibson: Did we shoot him in Arkansas? I can’t remember.
Caleb Jackson: No, he killed it on the duck pond.
Chase Gibson: You’re right, you’re right.
Ramsey Russell: I’m going to give him the mic. I’m going to ask him about that.
Chase Gibson: That’s right. So we killed a banded duck off that pond we hunted this morning. I forgot about that. That’s exactly right.
Ramsey Russell: Well, that’s good. Well, I’ll tell you what, I sure appreciate your hospitality. I mean, I know it’s no small feat to produce a duck, let alone duck plural, in the state of Georgia. But y’all did good, and I had a bunch of fun. And the deer was just a huge bonus man. Everybody I know that calls me to go duck hunting, they go duck hunting for vacation. And I kind of like to go do something else to have fun. I like to shoot something else, and I sure did enjoy that. But I’m going to get Shaun, Caleb, I’m going to swap out that mic with Shaun, he’s got a good story to tell. Thank you for your hospitality. Thank you for having me. You know, both of y’all are welcome to come over to Mississippi anytime, and I can’t guarantee you no more birds than we saw this morning, but I’d love to have you come over and eat and socialize and bring some of them coot decoys, we’ll try them in Mississippi.
Caleb Jackson: I’ll do it.
Georgia Hunting and Deer Management
Ramsey Russell: Now, Shaun. I got you on now because you told some good stories. You got a good hospitality. I got to ask you a question of, I mean you’re obviously a big deer manager and stuff like that. You told me some stuff about your hunting club yesterday, how it’s managed, how you want to manage, what it’s for. And I just found it so interesting. Tell me about your place here. Tell me about your Georgia hunting camp.
Shaun Harris: So we got about 1800, 2000 acres. And we don’t have a whole lot of people hunting it. Basically family first then customers and close friends, and we try to do some food, plant some in the spring. And then in the fall, we plant a lot, then we do minerals and whatnot. We got good size food plots. I think that’s a big key. We’ve probably got 25, 26 acres worth of food plots.
Ramsey Russell: It’s a lot of good deer browse, like I know just from where I could see yesterday, there was a lot of greenbrier, a lot of dewberry. Just a lot of browse. I’m not sure what my directions are, but we watched a deer just kind of off to the right of that little blind we were in yesterday, and it never left, it was just browsing on natural stuff right over there. It wasn’t in the food plot, it was just off eating natural stuff. It was as happy as can be. It was there all afternoon.
Shaun Harris: It is, and it’s amazing. You’ll see a lot of deer feed off the edge of the food plot. And we do some burning when we can when we find time. That helps a lot. Get some fresh browse out.
Ramsey Russell: Do you ever do any spraying on your property? I know you spray for a living, but spraying can be good for deer habitat. Dear and quail and turkeys.
Shaun Harris: Yes, especially Imazapyr, and you’ll get rid of a lot of your undesirable species, and then it promotes your legumes. Imazapyr won’t bother your legumes.
Ramsey Russell: You try to follow that up with a cool season burn?
Shaun Harris: Yeah, that does really good. And then you get a massive flush of real good stuff, browse, for turkeys and the deer.
Ramsey Russell: By having a lot of deer and a lot of good habitat, Chase and I were talking yesterday- To me, not having too much hunting pressure and everything else, these deer are able to achieve age structure. And to me that’s like the most critical link of good deer. If a deer’s meant to be, it’s going to be when he’s 4, 5, 6 years old.
Shaun Harris: It is. We’ve been here a long time, and I thought we’d never see a five and half year-old deer, but we finally did. And you got to have rules. That’s just all there is to it.
Ramsey Russell: What are your rules?
Shaun Harris: Well, any of the small young teens, two and a half, three and a half, 9 points. I have seen an occasional 8 point, but we let them go, and we try to let them for sure get to four and a half or five and a half if we can. And a lot of times we’ll see our deer change, and we’re not hunting 150 class deer. But we have killed some 140-class deer, which is absolutely sensational for here. And I think pressure is a big deal. We don’t put a lot of pressure on our deer either.
Ramsey Russell: They didn’t look pressured to me yesterday.
Shaun Harris: No, they need some now because we get too many does, you conquer one thing, and you bring on another. And everybody wants to try to kill a big buck, so they don’t want to shoot a Ramsey buck. So we’ll start trying to fill some doe tags here.
Ramsey Russell: How productive are these soils?
Shaun Harris: They’re very productive.
Ramsey Russell: Pine trees and stuff.
Shaun Harris: Oh yeah, they do good. And then especially with some good fertility, they really do good, and that’s the key on food plots, you got to keep that pH above six, and potash is real important.
Ramsey Russell: How long have you had this place and been managing like that? I know your kids grew up here.
Shaun Harris: Yeah, I’ve been hunting here probably twenty years.
Ramsey Russell: Really. Well, I tell you what, there’s a lot to be said for that. I’ve got a place I’ve been hunting that long, and you just kind of know, “I don’t need a headlight. I know just where I’m going, and I know just where I want to stand.”
Shaun Harris: Yeah, we do, we always have the same stands every year. It seems you always see that new buck. And it’s amazing how a place stays the same. And we’ll get a surprise every now and then. And we have cameras, and we don’t work them. I mean we only work 4, 5, 6 cameras on the whole place. But we’ll always have a buck harvested we’ve never seen.
Ramsey Russell: Isn’t that crazy?
Shaun Harris: It is nuts because we’re here all the time, and we’re keeping an eye on things all the time. And I went six years without killing a buck. And I love to go in the afternoons. I have two daughters, and they love it. And they probably killed the biggest deer on the place, and they don’t mind telling me either.
Ramsey Russell: That reminds me of a story you told me yesterday, Chase. Tell me about the first time you came up here and hunted with Heather.
Chase Gibson: Yeah. So, I was telling you about this, first time I come up here, we were in college, me and Heather were dating. We come up here, and I had met Shaun and Amie. They knew I was a big duck hunter, which I grew up in Biloxi, like I was saying, we deer hunted down there. And if we saw a deer, it was something, we wouldn’t see deer all year. It was just a different deal down there. I come up here, and we’re sitting over at a food plot, we called the Ten Acre. Me and Heather are sitting there, and she’s on the gun. And I’m telling you if there was one buck, there was fifteen bucks running around, and I was coming unglued, and Heather was just looking like it was just another day. And I was having a heart attack, and I said, “Heather, are you going to shoot one of these?” And she would just say, “Yeah, no problem, I’m going to shoot one.” And I was just freaking out. We get out there, and you probably remember, she shot that big old seven point, remember he had broken off. So anyways, that was the first deer hunt I ever went on this property, and I said, “What is going on over here?” And of course, it’s not like that every single time. But I said, “Did they let them out of pens when I showed up or something?” I didn’t know what was going on. It was something else. So that’s how it kicked off, that’s how it kicked off over here.
Ramsey Russell: And you kept on dating her.
Chase Gibson: Yeah, I told you this is funny. When I was growing up, my dad told me two things. And it was a joke obviously. But you know it kind of wind up happening. He said, “When you get married, you got to marry someone who’s a sweet girl,” and he said, “And her daddy’s got to have some hunting land.”
Ramsey Russell: Y’all remember that listeners. Dreams do come true. Shaun, you were telling me also yesterday, you do manage the deer harvest. You have friends, you have family, you have clients, and then y’all have some of these children come in and hunt.
Shaun: Yeah, so we do a couple of these hunts, try to, every year. And it’s for outdoor, and it’s a pretty neat deal. These kids come in, and we let them come in for two or three days and do some hunting, and they’ve had some hard times.
Ramsey Russell: They get to come out here and have a good time.
Shaun: Yeah, it’s funny how you try to plan it because if you sit in the stand here, you’re going to see ten to fifteen, sometimes twenty-five deer. I was out of town two years ago, and I said, “Okay, you all know the routine, they come in on Thursday, you put them in the sorriest stand on the place, maybe they’ll see a deer or two, and Friday, you kind of take them to another place.” And then it builds up Friday afternoon. And then Friday and Saturday, I’ve got the places already picked out. I’ve sat there, I know the deer are there. That’s when we let them shoot deer. Because you know how kids are, if they come in on Thursday and shoot a deer there, I mean it’s hard to keep them going till Sunday afternoon. Low and behold they come in here, and I said, “All right, you all take them over there.” I called in, I was out of town actually on a hunt somewhere, and I called in, he said, “Boss, I hate to tell you, but the girl killed a buck. I put her in the sorry stand. But I think she’s killed the biggest deer on the planet.” We fell out laughing. It was so funny. And she did, she killed a really nice buck, and she really enjoyed it.
Ramsey Russell: It’s a really nice deer. But that’s a real sweet note she wrote you on that picture too. I know she got there in your trophy room, and that was probably a real big deal because she had been through some tough times. That’s awesome. Changing the subject just a little, I know you’ve got other hunters over here too. What is the “Nut Duster from Hell Story?”
Georgie Hunting Camp Story: The Nut Duster from Hell
Shaun: All right. So, I got a friend.
Ramsey Russell: Give me the long version. Everybody wants to hear about the man that’s the nut duster from hell.
Shaun: My gosh, it’s funny. I got a friend, and he’s seventy-nine now, and he started hunting with me probably eight or nine, ten years ago. And I should have known then, Ramsey, not to let him stay. I invited him over here as a customer, and I put him in a stand. I said, “Now you sit right here, there is guaranteed two knotheads going to walk out in this field. Do not shoot the knotheads. There will be some more bucks. There will be some more deer here.” You know he’s a customer. We’re all hunting, and I was going past him. It was getting late, and I’m thinking, “He should have seen a deer by now.” Bam! He shot. It went about 30 more minutes. Bam! He shot again. I said, “Well good, he got him a couple does.” I went over to pick him up, and I said, “Well, did you have any luck?” “Yeah, I got two.” I said, “Oh yeah, where are they?” “One of them is right over there.” He’s getting out of the tree, you know, he’s kind of slow. I walk over there, and I pick it up with one hand. I said, “Well there’s my first knothead. You got the first one. Where’s the other one?” “He’s on the other side of the field.” I walk over there and pick it up with one hand, about thirty pounds, there’s another knothead. I said, “Well you got both of my knot heads.” “No way.” I said, “You damn sure did, and you knew there was knotheads.” I said, “I don’t know that I’m going to have you back.” Of course, I was picking on him and so we got to be really good friends, and he hunts with me and everything. And he is getting up in his age, and he’s kind of like I was when I was twelve, fourteen, he is mad at these deer. He don’t care if it’s a knothead or a 12 point. They’re all relevant to him. It’s a number, it’s a deer. He’s got to kill a deer. He’s got to kill a deer, and people come over and get aggravated cause he don’t care. You got to give it to him, he’s seventy-nine years old. He don’t care if it’s pouring down rain. I got to get a deer. I got to get a deer. So we started us a little, in the wall in here, we’re not completely through with it, a Wall of Shame.
Ramsey Russell: Well, it’s all dedicated to him. And what made me notice it is you’ve got the biggest barnwood plaque I think I’ve ever seen, and the smallest little knothead horns hanging dead center. That really makes them look small on that big old plaque. That’s what caught my attention. That’s a mighty big plaque for such a small set of horns. They might be three quarters of an inch long.
Shaun: Yeah. So, he’s going to kill a knothead every year and I said, “It’s just ridiculous.” But you got to understand, he’s getting up his age, he can’t see real well, and his sight is really getting worse. I let off him a little bit because it’s hard to see knotheads, there again, you got to understand, he don’t care. So we said we’re going to start this wall of shame, and we’re going to finish it up, and he wins every year, and I’m going to go back and put the little metal plaque on it, probably for the last seven years, and last week he killed a knothead and he blamed me because “Y’all didn’t come get me at 9:30, you left me to 10:30. And I shot the deer a little after 10:00, and if y’all had come got me on time, I’d have never shot that deer.” And he just gives me up and down. But one of us tries to sit with him now just to regulate him.
Ramsey Russell: Give him like just one bullet. Try that.
Shaun: We did that this season a little earlier, and a matter of fact, he was sitting right over in Little Rascal where you were. And a boy that works with me sits with him. He said, “Okay, how many bullets?” He gives him one bullet. He said, “What are you doing?” He said, “You got one bullet, you start with it.” So they’re sitting there, and we knew it was a deer over there, it had one spike on one side and three on the other, and I said, “Take Eddie over there, and let him shoot him, he’s coming out every day.” So they go over there, and he shoots at him, and he misses him. And then that deer walks about ten or fifteen yards, he shoots again. He takes off running, and they don’t get a deer and I thought, “What the heck.” But that’s the way he is, he might miss or he may kill one two hundred yards. You don’t know. He could be zero for four or one for one. You just never know with him, and so after the first shot, he said, “All right, give me another bullet.” He said, “All right, I’m going to give you one more bullet.” So he gave him the bullet, and he’s trying to load his gun, and I think he said, “Well, that’s why I didn’t hit him a second time. We had this big transition going up there, and I’m having to put another bullet in my gun.” So the deer walks off, and I sit there a lot in the afternoon. It’s pretty close to town, and after work I can go slide in there right before the feeder goes off, and I sit up there, and I can talk on the phone. It basically looks like a Little Rascals playhouse. And I look up there, and I see a buzzard right on top of my feeder, and I said, “Uh huh.” He’s done hit this deer. And I start texting, “Hey, there’s a buzzard,” and it’s us hunters and you know how we do. “There’s a buzzard on top of the feeder, I see buzzards everywhere.” There were no more buzzards. I said, “Y’all done shot a deer over here, and you didn’t go find him.” And I said, “I’m mad as hell.” And I said, “One of y’all do it?” “No, no, we did not.” Of course, you know Mr. Eddie, he comes on in the text, he said, “I told him to go look closer. I knew I hit that deer.” You know, he’s all in now. And I said, “Well, I think you might have hit him.” And then we’re just sitting there texting, and then the boy that sits with him comes on, he said, “No, I saw it. The first shot you missed it because he didn’t even run. And the second shot, you shot right under his belly in the damn dirt, sand blasted his nut.” I thought I’d fall out. And I said, “Hold on, hold on, hold on, I see a deer coming. I see a deer coming out. Oh, it’s that buck, you didn’t hit him Eddie. He’s got something on. Oh my gosh, y’all, he’s got a jock strap on in a cup. But he is coming back to the feeder, Eddie.” “Y’all a bunch of SOB’s.” And boy, he lit into me, but we have the best time doing that. So we got to thinking about it. And the other day, I told another guy that worked for me. I said, “You know, I really, really wish we could come up with a way to get a picture of him and put a coonskin cap on him.” And low and behold, one of my employees sent it. And he basically took Daniel Boone off, put my guy’s head on there, and he called him Eddie Boone, Nut Duster from Hell. So I had to add a little to the bottom out to our Life Magazine Man of the Year. And what was funny? He saw it the first time. He said, “All y’all go to hell,” and he looked at the picture, he said, “Man, I look pretty good in that picture.” He was about a hundred fifty pounds lighter. He said, “Send me a copy of that picture, let me keep that.” So he’s got a new name, and we got an addition to the wall. And he’s a really good guy. So we have a lot of fun.
Ramsey Russell: He could probably put that on a dating app and get all kinds of phone calls.
Chase Gibson: You’re going to have to post that one with the podcast so everyone can see the ‘ol nut buster from hell.
Ramsey Russell: His handle on that dating app will be nut duster.
Shaun: When he hears about this, he’ll just squall. But he’s good at heart, and that’s what matters.
Ramsey Russell: Y’all this is a real special place y’all got here, and I really, really, truly appreciate y’all’s hospitality. I’ve only been here twenty-four hours, but it has been like coming home. I don’t shoot knotheads, but I might give ‘ol Eddie a run for his money if I come back.
Shaun: I want you to come back.
Ramsey Russell: I’ll bring plenty of bullets.
Shaun: Hey, that’d be great. You come back and we’ll see if we can get the old nut duster over here too, and we’ll have big time. We’ll shoot some does and some, as he calls them, they’re all cull bucks.
Ramsey Russell: If they hold still long enough for him to get the cross hairs off.
Shaun: I guarantee you we have a big time.
Ramsey Russell: Folks, thank you all for listening. Thank you all for your hospitality again. But thank you all for listening to this episode of Duck Season Somewhere from the state of Georgia. You know what, they might not be in the prime Flyway, but they sure know how to run a hunting camp and how to roll out the red carpet for folks, see you all next time.