Aussie Glenn Falla and Ramsey Russell connect from half-way across the world, reminiscing about past duck hunts together in the US and Down Under, recounting striking similarities and differences, and comparing memorable species. The pandemic presently has their feet nailed to the floor, but they plan future hunts together – Australia is a big continent, after all. Glenn’s closing thought hits home.
Feet Nailed to the Floor
“It’s messy. It’s confusing.”
Ramsey Russell: I’m your host, Ramsey Russell. Join me here to listen to those conversations. Ramsey Russell. Get Ducks. It’s Duck Season Somewhere, but there’s no getting there right now, folks. We’ve got the zombie apocalypse at our doorsteps. It’s not just here in the US. It is worldwide. Everywhere I’ve ever set foot. Every person I have ever known has their feet nailed down to the floor right now. We’re just all watching it unfold in world news and in text messages and WhatsApps and emails and everything else. I know a lot of y’all listening are sitting at home, not at work, like myself, but thank y’all for joining us today. I’m going to tell you that today I’ve got a little bit different guest than normal. My guest today is located 9,381 miles from Brandon, Mississippi. Mr. Glenn Falla from Australia. Glenn, how are you today?
Glenn Falla: Well, it would be wrong if I didn’t introduce myself by saying g’day. I’m doing fine.
Ramsey Russell: Well, I was just fixing to tell you, or ask you, to impress all the listeners with your Crocodile Dundee accent. You do a really, really good impression of Crocodile Dundee. It’s like you’ve done it your whole life.
Glenn Falla: Oh, now you’re winding me up. You’re winding me up.
Ramsey Russell: I’m going to wind you up, alright, buddy. I miss being down there. I know from visiting with you back and forth that, man, y’all are nailed down tight. Y’all are shuttered up. How’s it going? What’s the COVID stuff doing in Australia?
Glenn Falla: Oh, man, it’s crazy. Like many other parts of the world, I’m sure, we can’t even get things straight between states here in Australia. We’ve got varying things happening around the country. We’ve got federal advice that’s coming out nationally, and then each state seems to be doing their own thing. It’s messy. It’s confusing. Like everybody else, I’ve been working from home for a couple of weeks and trying to get used to the new way of approaching things, I guess.
Ramsey Russell: The Mississippi governor got on television today, and we are now under what they call a shelter-in-place order. Not all of the states have done it yet. What they’re trying to do, not unlike Australia, is just keep everybody from contact with everybody. Not only just in your own state, but if you’re in a highly infected state, don’t go somewhere that’s not highly infected. Try to make this thing go down. I was aware, from talking to you and keeping up with you on social media, that y’all— Well, I know where you would be right this minute instead of your province of Victoria; if you could move, you’d be down there with Paul in South Australia. Is that right?
Glenn Falla: Is that right? Absolutely, yeah. You make reference to Crocodile Dundee, and we turn it around and make reference to Smokey and the Bandit, all those years ago. He’s the luckiest son of a bitch I know.
Ramsey Russell: Well, now, look, for a lot of guys listening: I’ve been down there. I know y’all poke fun at Crocodile Dundee, but being likened to Smokey and the Bandit is a badge of honor, in my humble opinion. It’s one of my all-time favorite movies. In fact, I think I’m going to watch it tonight when we get done recording. I haven’t seen it in a while.
Glenn Falla: We can do that together from the other side of the world.
Ramsey Russell: Yes, we can. Netflix is a wonderful thing. A wonderful thing. Catch everybody up. The world has certainly changed in a lot of different ways since even the last time I was down in Australia, let alone the first time, let alone the first time we all hunted together. Yourself and Trent and I shared a blind for three days in Arkansas. Do you remember that?
Australia Duck Hunting Tales
“As much as it’s different, with the various species and what have you, there are similarities.”
Glenn Falla: I remember it like it was yesterday. Yeah, look, it’s five years gone by since that day that we sat down there at Commander’s Corner. Really, that’s where all of this was born.
Ramsey Russell: I couldn’t have told you how long it was. My timelines, anymore— Golly, I would say from travel, but now, heck, at home, who needs a calendar? I don’t need to know what day it is. I get up and do kind of the same thing. I work and talk on the podcast and watch the news and worry and whatever. Tell me this. I want to talk about Australian duck hunting. Anybody who’s ever read some of the stories we wrote or kept up with us on the podcast knows that I’m very, very fond of Australia. For me, kind of what we do is traveling around and duck hunting. I always describe hunting in all other countries, except for Australia, as being really different. Really, really different from hunting at home in America. I described it as being really different. Argentina, Mexico, and Azerbaijan are really different. Australia was not so much different. You, the people, the equipment, the boats, the calls, the whole pageantry— It was just like going to duck camp among my own people, except y’all talk funny. Y’all are as serious as I am about it. Glenn, tell me this. When you came to the US, you and Trent, y’all hunted several places. How did that compare? What was it like coming to the United States to duck hunt five years ago, as compared to growing up duck hunting since you were a little boy in Australia?
Glenn Falla: Well, look, it’s funny that you say that. As much as it’s different, with the various species and what have you, there are similarities. I think that’s something that Australia has really only caught up with in the last ten or fifteen years. Had you been here twenty or thirty years ago, or even forty years ago when I started, things were very, very different. We’ve taken on a lot of the stuff that happens in America as far as decoys and spinning wings decoys and those types of things. If you were here about ten years ago, though, it was very, very different. We took a long while to catch on. The hunting that we did in America— Trent and I did five states in fourteen days on that trip in late 2015. We were amazed by how similar things were, as well.
Ramsey Russell: Well, it’s like I told you when we were sitting in the pit blind over there in Arkansas. You guys, before I met you—and I know y’all left there and went to, I believe, Habitat Flats—y’all had already been to several locations. Y’all had already cut a pretty big swath across America that maybe a lot of people listening haven’t yet done. That’s pretty impressive.
Glenn Falla: Yeah, mate, you’re dead right. I’d been over there, fortunately, for a week prior to our hunting, as well, with Winchester at the time. I had done some hunting in Illinois. I started in Illinois, and we did another five states after that. It was a hectic time. We had to hop in the car and drive through the night, most times, to get to the next state in time to get our license in order to be able to hunt the following morning. It was busy, but we’ll never forget it. It’s the trip of a lifetime. We’re busy planning the next one right now. We’re in lockdown, and Trent and I have been talking recently about where we are going to go next. It was a hell of a trip, and we’ll never forget it.
The Best of American Duck Hunting: Mallards
“Your heart skips a beat when a mallard comes in.”
Ramsey Russell: What were some of the highlights, Glenn? What were some of the species or just random and sundry memories that stick out? I’m curious. I’ll tell you what stuck out to me in Australia in a minute, but I want to hear y’all saw or experienced in the US that you’ll just never forget.
Glenn Falla: I’ll tell you what blew us out of the water, your greenheads over there, and the way that they drop in from the sky and take off very vertically compared with what we have over here. We don’t have a bird over here that flies and lands the same way as your birds, apart from the fact that they have spectacular colors. They’re a beautiful bird. To see the way that they come into timber, in particular, over there is just incredible.
Ramsey Russell: Well, see, I would agree that mallards are the preeminent waterfowl species. The whole concept, to me, of decoys and duck calls, the whole thing— We shoot mallards from the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific Coast, from the Gulf Coast to up into Canada. Occasionally, I have shot a few greenheads down in parts of Mexico. They are the preeminent species. In the Northern Hemisphere, hunting over in Azerbaijan, Pakistan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Romania—everywhere I’ve hunted in the whole, entire Northern Hemisphere—your heart skips a beat when a mallard comes in. Russia, I never will forget— It’s just a mallard, but of all the mallards in the world, the one that sticks out to me was when I was sitting crotch-deep in a ice-rimmed beaver slough in Russia, just wearing hip boots, and realizing at that point that Russians knew absolutely, positively nothing about duck hunting like we do in the world. But I thought, “Okay, we’re going to make a game. I’ve got one decoy.” I waded off into the water to get to where I needed to be to hopefully, if I saw a duck, kill one. A lone greenhead flew over. Just lollygagging along, going somewhere else. I fumbled around in a coat pocket till I found a call. I didn’t travel, at the time, with my favorite calls. I would just bring a call, in case I lost it or gave it to somebody or something like that. It was an old Carlson call, I remember, and I hit a pretty terrible note on it. That mallard had apparently never heard a call, good or bad, and just immediately wheeled around and came right into that single, plastic, beat-up, coot decoy. I killed him. I was already wet, so I waded out there up to my belly button and got him. That was fairly exciting. The boy I was with, I see him every year at convention. I can’t remember where he’s from. Michigan, maybe. He comes to SCI. He wasn’t a particularly big duck hunter at the time. He’s become one. That’s why he comes by the booth. I somehow lit a fire under him about duck hunting. He said, “I don’t get it. It’s just a mallard.” I said, “Yeah, have you ever shot one in Russia? Did you see the way that bird came in? Are you kidding?” I would walk to Russia to shoot a mallard that behaves like that. Just one. Anyway, Glenn, I think about y’all’s Pacific black ducks. Don’t get me wrong, I love every single species of duck I killed, but, for the same reason I love mallards, I love the Pacific black duck. Which are part of the overall mallard-like clan in the world. They’re somehow related, genetically. I just love that bird. We shot them over in Australia. We shot the bird in marshes. We shot the bird in fields. We shot the bird along the river. We shot the Pacific black duck, of course, in that flooded timber, which was something else. Okay, so mallard ducks. That was a big treat. What else, here in the States? What else, Glenn? I’m curious.
Taking Your First Wood Duck
“He’s still crying about the fact that he never got this beautiful wood duck into his hands, because they are a special looking bird.”
Glenn Falla: Yeah. Well, I know that Trent will forever remember the moment where he thought he had his first wood duck over there. That was at Habitat Flats. That boy turned over nearly every log in the wetland, I reckon, looking for this bird. We had every dog looking. We know that he hit that bird and hit it good. Now, I don’t know whether they dive over there and hold onto things like some of our birds do. He’s still crying about the fact that he never got this beautiful wood duck into his hands, because they are a special looking bird.
Ramsey Russell: Next time y’all come to the United States, I will make it my life’s mission to get y’all on a wood duck. I had some clients come king eider hunting from Malta and then come and spend a week. It’s so bizarre how people like ourselves, Glenn, genuine, true, serious duck hunters— These men live on a little island state in the middle of the Mediterranean ocean. He told me in Russia—where I met him on that mallard hunt, the same hunt where I shot that mallard—he told me over dinner one night that the two birds in the world that he most coveted since he was a child—he’s as old or older than I am—were a wood duck and a king eider. Wood ducks are kind of dime-a-dozen in Mississippi. We take them for granted. It was a good duck season. It was a great duck season that year. The South Delta had birds. Lot of mallards that year. Man, those birds were hard to get. When he finally shot one, I swear he shot that bird at about ninety yards high. I’m not lying. I didn’t even unshoulder my gun. I was just sitting there looking at it. I had no idea they were going to shoot. He shot, and he killed it. Then it fell and hit the tallest oak tree in the woods and bounced, bounced, bounced. Sometimes when they fall through the trees they kind of explode into a puff of feathers. It did not. I think, “Well, he got lucky.” He handed me his gun and sprinted and picked up his first wood duck, but he held up two objects. I couldn’t see. It was about sixty yards away, where he went. He held up two hands and started F-bombing. That’s a universal word, folks. I’m not trying to disrupt a family-friendly podcast, but that is a universal word. Every culture in the world. If they don’t understand you—in Azerbaijan, for example, they don’t speak English at all—but you say that word, they’ll get your drift. Good, bad, or ugly, they’ll get what you mean by exclaiming that word. When he came up, that bird had gone through a little fork in the limb and it had completely stripped its head off. He sent me a picture, when he got back home, of that bird, and they sewed it up. It looked beautiful. They do some really unique taxidermy over there. One of the taxidermists I talked to, years ago, explained it to me. They don’t stuff ducks, like we do here, with a piece of foam or wood wool or whatever you stuff inside the cavity. They actually fabricate a wire frame. Just imagine a piece of wire stretched out like a skeleton of sorts. They fabricate this wire frame. Their work is amazing. It’s really impressive work, especially when you consider its $25 US dollars to get a duck mounted in Malta.
The “Run-and-Gun” Nature of Australian Duck Hunting
Glenn Falla: Yeah. Well, you talk about Australia having similarities with America, and taxidermy is another path here that’s just following in the footsteps of the USA. There’s some amazing stuff happening here as well. You talked before about using one decoy and being able to get that one bird to come over, and I’m sure you remember that morning in the timber, here in Australia, with just yourself and I and one Mojo. Boy, did we have a morning?
Ramsey Russell: I’ll never forget it, because when we started off we brought more than one decoy and one Mojo. I knew we didn’t need many. I had never been there before. We had a whole bunch of decoys. You had a bunch of gear. You were pulling a boat with a bunch of decoys. We were armed for any waterfowl hunting conditions short of going out on the Indian Ocean. We were armed for any condition we might encounter. You gave me a whirlwind tour of Victoria.
Glenn Falla: You’ve seen as much of Australia as we have of America, mate.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, yeah. There’s no doubt. Yeah. I’m very thankful for that.
Glenn Falla: Many people in Australia will not have seen the country that you have seen in a couple of trips.
Ramsey Russell: That’s a fact. You know what? When I talk to people about your hunt in Australia, that one element, the “run-and-gun nature of your hunt”— I explain to them, “We don’t stay in a lodge. We don’t stay at a place. He picks you up in Melbourne, you get licensed up, and you roll. So if you’re there for a week or you’re there for ten days, you’re rolling. It’s a very immersive experience. You eat at a few cafes, you eat at a few restaurants. If you’re lucky and the stars line up, Chef Paula will cook for you.” All of y’all cook excellently. Speaking of which, I stumbled across a picture. I was digging up the boneyard the other day, going through photos, just because, what else are you going to do? I stumbled across some Australia photos. I had taken some pictures of the mutton that your wife had cooked. Remember that night we ate at your house?
Glenn Falla: My word, I do. The lamb shank.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, my gosh. It was like an Australian version of soul food. That’s soul food. It nourishes your soul.
Glenn Falla: I remember you had a good sleep that night.
Ramsey Russell: Oh boy, it was like somebody hit me in the back of the head with a sledgehammer and knocked me out. The minute that lamb shank started sinking in, with those potatoes and all that good stuff you put in it, I just went into a coma. That, to me, is the ultimate sign of a good meal. That’s what I speak of as soul food. That was amazing.
Glenn Falla: I’m a very fortunate man. That’s exactly why I’m walking ten to twelve K’s at the moment, because she can add to your weight pretty quickly with the food she puts on the table.
What Was Australian Duck Hunting Like in the Past?
“Would you relate the tradition of pass shooting more to Australia’s history, however long ago, of being linked back to Europe?”
Ramsey Russell: Tell me this. What was duck hunting like before y’all evolved to what I saw? You referenced that it was a ten or fifteen year trend, that y’all had kind of come around with the express boats and the mud motors and things of that nature. Describe to me hunting with your dad back when you were younger, back when, maybe, American satellite television shows hadn’t influenced duck hunting in Australia. What was it like then?
Glenn Falla: Well, I wish we had better cameras back in those days. We’re so fortunate that we all carry a phone that has a decent camera these days. I can remember things very vividly from a very early age. I followed my father around in our private wetland in Central Victoria from the age of five or six. I spent several years being the extra dog before I was able to shoulder a firearm. I was too small to be able to shoulder a firearm. Of course, here in Australia, until you’re twelve, you can’t get a junior permit. Unlike America, where you can start fairly young, if you do that, you do it privately. So I guess in some ways, but there weren’t cameras around. I used to walk around, as a five year old, in an old pair of denim jeans tucked into waders that would suck the blood out of you and an old pair of sneakers. You’d sit on a box frame that had been carried out weeks earlier, or you might be on an old stump if you’re up out of the water and you could hold your balance. Look, there was just no rhyme or reason to the way that the hunting was done. It was very much a bunch of guys that’d get together the night before and camp, have way too many beers or bourbons, and the next morning—
Ramsey Russell: Wait a minute, I know about the bourbon. I know y’all’s bourbon habit. I found that out. Go ahead, we’ll tell that story in a minute.
Glenn Falla: Never leave the cork out.
Ramsey Russell: Never leave the cork out. Hide it. You go ahead, Glenn.
Glenn Falla: That was a fine drop, I’ve got to say, even if you didn’t get to taste it.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, right. Go ahead, Glenn, we’ll tell this later.
Glenn Falla: Look, depending on how much water was available on our private wetlands, you might have six or eight hunters around that wetland. It could be fifteen to twenty on a very wet year. Basically, you’d stand beside a stump or a tree. Very little cover back in those days. You might try and find a shirt or a jumper that would match the color of the tree, or, if you’re in a bit of greenery, you might try and wear something green. You certainly wouldn’t walk out there with something bright red. Pretty much, you’d throw maybe half a dozen decoys out. No set pattern. No quality decoys, back then. You bought them from the $2 shop. There was a lot of pass shooting. My old man grew up loving to come up the swamp, as he would describe it, having the longest shot for the morning. If he shot one bird at a ridiculous distance, he thought he was doing pretty good. That’s a big difference for me. These days, just like yourself over there, we’re about calling those birds and getting them right in front of your face at an ethical distance. Wings cupped, feet down. Calling, decoys, motion— All of those things have been introduced in more recent times. Boy, as a young fellow, there wasn’t too much of that going on, I can tell you.
Ramsey Russell: Some people call it “pass shooting,” some people call it “sky busting.” I don’t call it “sky busting” if the bird falls. It ain’t sky busting if a duck falls. Would you relate the tradition of pass shooting more to Australia’s history, however long ago, of being linked back to Europe? Y’all’s ancestral roots are a little more European. Would you describe it as that, maybe?
Glenn Falla: Yeah, absolutely. Only yesterday, I did an interview with somebody and we covered this very topic. That same wetland that I stood in at the age of four or five years; if you go back another ten or fifteen years prior to that, my grandfather and his grandfather—my great-great-grandfather—used to wander into those wetlands on horseback, bareback, and shoot straight off the horse. We were very, very fortunate that we had a number of wetlands that were close to one another, and those ducks just used to bounce around. The resident birds, as we would describe them, particularly on an opening morning and the second opening of the season, the second Saturday— A week later, when there were lots of hunters around that covered all the water, they just bounced around like ping pong balls. They went from one bit of water to the next. You got good shooting for the first couple of hours. We were very fortunate that there was a massive wetland, which is very well known here in Victoria—Lake Bullock—which was only a few miles away as the crow flies. It could hold many thousands of hunters. So the birds would circle around that for the first couple of hours, and then they’d get tired and start getting up higher and higher. Then, eventually, they’d start looking for somewhere else to go. When things slowed down with our local birds, these birds would start coming in from four or five miles away. You might be sitting there thinking, “Things are starting to slow down. We might go and fire up a feed,” and then, the next minute, there’d be a thousand heads lobbing on top of you. It was just magical times.
The Controversy Over Shovelers
“In fact, as I recall, in Australia it’s a prize. It’s one of your preeminent birds.”
Ramsey Russell: Wonderful. That’s a very good description. Did you, by chance, shoot a shoveler? Did y’all shoot shovelers while y’all were in America?
Glenn Falla: Absolutely, we did. Yeah. Yep. With Habitat Flats. We certainly did.
Ramsey Russell: Were you proud of it?
Glenn Falla: I see where you’re heading with this.
Ramsey Russell: I don’t know how or why shovelers developed into such a joke, how they became such a joke in so many circles. Reviled, I would say. Reviled. Boy, it’s such a controversial bird. I can post a picture of the most beautiful shoveler you’ve ever seen—and I’m their champion; the late Mike Morgan and I were their champions—and most people, it seems like, at least the ones that follow us, can relate to shooting shovelers, but there are people who will not shoot a shoveler. They’re more likely to shoot a coot than a shoveler. But everywhere else in the world I’ve been— In Africa, you’ve got the cape shoveler. In New Zealand and Australia, I know it’s protected right now, but you’ve got the Australasian shoveler. In Argentina, there’s the red shoveler. They’re just a duck. In fact, as I recall, in Australia it’s a prize. It’s one of your preeminent birds. Am I right?
Glenn Falla: Yeah, you’re right. I can tell you quite honestly that I’m sitting here in the office and, as you know because you’ve seen them before, right behind me are three taxidermied blue-winged shovelers. Mate, they’re a special story for me, because that was a pair and a single bird, later on, that I shared with my son at the age of twelve on his first outing. He and I shot a pair—one each—that came into the decoys, and we added another one to it later on. I’m also looking in front of me, and I have a carved blue-winged shoveler that’s been carved by Paul Sharpe. I’ve only got two carved decoys in front of me. One is the black duck, as we discussed earlier, and the other one is the bluewing. So you can probably imagine how I felt when I shot one of the birdies over there, because they are a completely different color. I’ll be sure to make sure I drag out some photos later on and certainly put them up on Fallas Waterfowl Outfitters so that anybody that’s listening to this will be able to see how proud I was of that first birdie that I shot over there.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, I’d love to see it, Glenn. As a matter of fact, I’ll use it. Please text it over, and I’ll use it as the cover photo for this episode. Now, I just find that very interesting because, as an avid spoonie killer, let alone as a duck hunter, I did not get to see one when I was in Australia. Of course, y’all’s loony bin anti’s have them protected. I do remember that we went over and hunted with the boys in New Zealand and put a whooping on them that one morning, like they’d hurt our mamas or something. We absolutely beat them like a bass drum. I was proud to have them. I wish I’d brought one back now for taxidermy, but I did not. Boy, they sure put on a show that morning.
Glenn Falla: Yeah. Well, they’re a funny bird over here in Australia, inasmuch as how they move around. There’s times of the year when we’re swatting them like flies here. Paul Sharpe and I sat on Lake George late in the season last year, and we got sick of the damn things coming in because they’re off the list. Every time there was another bird coming, you’d get yourself ready. They’d get to about a hundred meters out, and it’s like, “Oh, no, it’s only bluewing again.” We’re waiting for the teal to come through with them because we were allowed to pick them off. Sometimes they’re plentiful, and other times they move around and they’re in different districts. They tread the water around. Right at the moment, there’s not too many in South Australia where Paul’s hunting. I say he’s the luckiest son of a bitch I know because he’s been out the last couple of mornings, and he’s one of only three hunters I know that are able to hunt, currently, in South Australia. There’s a limit on travel, with all that’s going on around it. He’s able to go hunting without what they’re deeming as unnecessary travel.
Ramsey Russell: It looks like to me, from his photos, that he’s been hunting out in a body of water very similar to the Moonscape Lake that we hunted.
Glenn Falla: That’s exactly right. Yeah. He’s in that very area and very close to home, for him, as you know. This year, he’s only allowed to shoot one mountain duck, and you know what they’re like in that area.
The Australia Hardhead
“It’s the only true diver species on the Australian continent. Well, the only one that you can still hunt.”
Ramsey Russell: That was a big prize for me the first time. Don’t ask me why. Well, you know me. Mike Morgan used to say— I was telling somebody about my favorite duck, one time, and I was holding up a blue-winged teal. He looked at Steve Biggers and said, “He’s lying. The next duck he hunts is his favorite duck.” I do remember my first mountain shelduck, Australian shelduck. We had gone down the river. Freaking Trent gar holed us. He went, “Oh, no, no, no, mate, I’ll go further.” Well, we were sitting there just staring at empty skies, and he was whooping up on them. Then we moved over there. You stuck me in one place and went to another, and a pair of them came through real high. In Australia, you can only shoot two-shooters. No semi-autos. You’ve got two shots. I managed to knock down the pair. They weren’t really decoying; they just kind of lined out. They were going somewhere else, but they lined out over my decoys and passed right over within killable range. I was as proud as I could be. I’ve since shot more. The bird that eluded me the first time— I got a shot at everything, the first trip I made down there. I got a shot at all the common species there in Victoria province, but the bird that eluded me was the chestnut teal—missed—and the hardhead. I remember a flock of chestnuts came in and set up, and I thought I could do no wrong. I thought something about traveling that far and not sleeping had just imposed some super powers onto my shooting ability. I was off to a streak, right off the bat, until those teal came in and I punched two holes in the air over birds just scattered over the decoys. My generous hosts, yourself and Trent, did not fire a shot. You were giving me the first shot; well, I screwed that up. Then that hardhead— I just distinctly remember when that pair of hardheads came in. They were the only pair I saw that trip. They were probably ten yards to my left, and I swung as hard as I could at those fast birds. When I pulled the trigger, they were disappearing out of my peripheral vision. Just a maroon streak over the decoys. I tell you what, that last morning we shared in Victoria together, this year— We came up with the title of our short film series—Life’s Short, Get Ducks—on that last morning. It was amazing. I love those natural marsh habitats with the cattails and the submerged aquatics. That particular morning, boy, did we get into the hardheads. That was astounding.
Glenn Falla: Yeah. That was one to remember. I can tell you that there will be a lot of Australian hunters that will hunt their whole lives and not have a morning where they will see as many hardheads as we did that morning. That was just one for the history books.
Ramsey Russell: For those y’all listening, a hardhead or a white-eyed duck is a pochard. It’s the only true diver species on the Australian continent. Well, the only one that you can still hunt. Y’all have another diver that is protected, but it’s the only one that you can still hunt. It was an absolute delight. I’ve always said that ringnecks are very comparable, here in the States. They’re not a trophy bird, but they’re probably one of my most favorite birds to actually get into good because they’re fast, they’re strong, they flock, and they fly. I never shoot ring-necked ducks and regret it. I love to shoot them. That was the morning of the hardheads. Glenn, what is your favorite duck down there? Tomorrow morning, let’s say, you’re going hunting and you’ve got choices. Is that it? You’re going to go target the hardhead?
Favorite Duck Species to Hunt in Australia
“You can see the unique plumage and what have you, as an attraction to somebody from the other side of the world.”
Glenn Falla: Oh, man, it’s hard. The Pacific black duck is the emblem of field and game over here in Australia. Field and game was born and raised out of the fact that there were depleting numbers of black ducks back in the ‘50s, so that holds a very special place in my heart. You’re right. You’re 100% right. Hardheads are the fastest bird that we’ve got. They’re the most challenging bird to hit, for me, and not as common, as you say. Every time you’ve been over here, you’ve shot Pacific black ducks. You can’t say that about your hardheads. So, yeah, they certainly hold a special place in my heart. Making reference, also, earlier to big mobs of hardheads coming off Lake Bullock as a young boy. As you know, Ramsey, if you get a decent mob of those together and they’re coming in from a high altitude, they just sound like screaming jets. When you can hear that bird before you can see it, and you’re looking around trying to get that first glimpse of where that bird’s coming from or where that mob’s coming from, then that’s a pretty special thing.
Ramsey Russell: I agree. The same could be said, again, in reference to ring-necked ducks, which are very similar over here. Different colors and all, but very similar behavior. Countless are the times that you’re just sitting there minding your own business and you hear this noise like someone ripped a piece of paper. You hear it before you see the birds, but you don’t know where it came from. Here they come, just ripping through the decoys. Very strong, very powerful.
Glenn Falla: Yeah. I’ve got to say that’s on the top of my list. Look, if Trent went back to the States with me, I know his first bird that he would want to put on his list is that wood duck that he missed out on, and I’m pretty keen to get one myself. But that ringneck? Yeah, it holds a special place in my heart. It’s funny how we all take things for granted. You guys come over here and you love the little pink-eared duck that we’ve got over here. Sometimes, we don’t even pull the gun up at those. They’re small, they’re slow, they’re not the smartest bird we have. You can see the unique plumage and what have you, as an attraction to somebody from the other side of the world. It’s interesting.
Ramsey Russell: Well, I think the reason I get so excited—and like I’ve said, I’ll target anything that comes in—is that the pink-eared duck is such an unusual duck. Well, point number one. I remember the first time you and I got into them. We went somewhere in Victoria. There was a long slough, and birds were scattered up and down this slough. You went and bounced them. Little flocks of birds were coming through: Pacific black duck, honkers, some little black and white shorebirds. To me, even at thirty meters, I had not seen one at hand. I let the first dozen get through. In my eyes, I saw this black and white bird coming through that, because of the size and the structure of the color, really confused me. I was thinking, in my mind—through the filter of experience—that it looked like a shorebird. That’s what I remember seeing. Then finally one came close enough, and I went, “Holy cow!” Boom, I shot it. Thought, “Okay, now I know what these birds are.” They’re so interesting because, biologically, that little “pink ear” is pigmentation. It’s not just light refracting, like a lot of colors on waterfowl. It’s actually pigmentation. On the other hand, the bill does resemble a shoveler of types, but they’re plankton eaters. The bill is like a fleshy little flap on the end. When they get to feeding, it does something that helps them to generate that plankton to where they feed. To me, it defines Australia because Australia is, on the one hand, more like hunting in the United States than anywhere else you’re going to hunt outside of the United States; on the other hand, there’s koala bears in places and there’s pink-eared ducks. We were wading in the swamp one day, and the filter of experience in Mississippi— With hunting pressure, a lot of times the white-tailed deer will find sanctuary off in the swamp. They’ll wade off into a swamp and find a dry spot to stand and sit and bed. So in a lot of places I’ve hunted in the past, when you’re walking in to go duck hunting or do something, bam, you start hearing these deer running through the water, a herd of deer just stampeding through the water. On that particular incident, I heard the familiarity of deer stampeding through the water. I looked, and it was a big old herd of kangaroos. Now that— Okay, I’m in Australia, baby, when you see kangaroos. The next day, we were going in to hunt that flooded timber. The most enchanting, folks. Green timber hunting, flooded timber hunting, is always magical. It’s like the distinction of shooting the mallard in flooded timber versus out in a rice field. If we’re out there hunting in a rice field, we shot a duck. “Okay. How many did you kill?” “One.” The numbers don’t change if you’re in flooded timber, but every duck—whether it’s one or a limit—that comes into flooded timber is breaking through the trees and landing in your lap. To go down to Australia and hunt those ancient red gums—which are just gorgeous, number one—it was the most enchanted place I’d ever hunted. The most enchanted place. It was like being in a fairy tale. The Pacific black ducks behave similarly to shooting mallards in green timber. That was the whole deal. Do you remember? You were under one tree, and I was under the other. We were about twenty meters apart, and the birds just weren’t doing it. We were killing some when they passed over to get a close look. Do you remember that we went over and moved the spread, moved the Mojo, pulled some decoys back out, and then they just started killing it? Remember that?
Glenn Falla: I remember it very well. At least, I remember one crashing through the trees. You know? I remember it crashing through the trees that day.
Ramsey Russell: Tracking through the tree?
Glenn Falla: Yeah, yeah. Remember? We dropped one from way up high in between the trees where we were standing. It went crashing through and broke down about six branches on the way to the water.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, it was incredible. That morning when we drove in, we were burning daylight. There’s no big hurry to get into that particular habitat to duck hunt because a lot of the birds are out feeding at the crack of dawn, then they’ll come into loaf and hang out during the day. But, at the same time, I could have gotten out and walked beside the truck quicker than you were driving. I’m like, “Glenn, what the heck’s going on?” I can’t remember how you worded it, but there was that pasture off to the right, and you were driving very slowly so that you didn’t hit a kangaroo. The freaking kangaroos were just hauling butt to get into the woods as we drove by. That’s just strange. It’s just so different from a point of reference anywhere else I might have hunted, with kangaroos jumping over a fence and bounding across the road. I was just glad that we didn’t hit one. Like a deer, you know?
Glenn Falla: Yeah, absolutely. It’s very easy to have one end up on the bumper or crash straight into the side of the door in that situation. It certainly makes it unique for our business from overseas. The other thing is that in those sorts of areas, as the morning goes on and the sun comes up, you start to get a bit of that nice warm sun on your back, and the corellas and the cockatoos start moving around. Man, they can just about deafen you sometimes, but it makes for a unique experience, that’s for sure.
Ramsey Russell: It’s like a fairy tale. Sulphur-crested cockatoos. That’s what the white birds are. They look like something the old American TV police Detective Baretta would have carried on his shoulder. Thousands of them crawling in the trees and flying in flocks down below the canopy. It was just utterly amazing. One thing that I have not yet seen—I’ve been over there twice for ten or twelve days, let’s say—that I’ve been wanting to are those loony tune anti-hunters. We have not encountered those over there, yet. That’s something y’all really deal with. Here in America, we talk about anti-hunters. Glenn, tell us a little bit about y’all’s going out to, I guess, public land— Y’all have got a lot of public land over there. It’s not near like hunting over here. For example, folks—I’m just setting this thing up for him—the very memorable day hunting in the flooded timber. It was about a section of marsh. Flooded timber. Just imagine a square mile of beautiful, fairy-tale-like flooded timber. There were two people hunting it. Glenn and I. That does not happen in the United States of America, but we don’t have folks like what y’all are dealing with, either. Explain that to us, Glenn.
Hardships on the Hunt in Australia
“Kind of hard to stay hidden. That may be why y’all are such good shots.”
Glenn Falla: Well, that’s been by design, too, Ramsey. I’ve gone out of my way to make sure that we didn’t expose you to that in the first couple of trips. But, believe me, it’s not hard to do. I have some beautiful wetlands within fifteen or twenty minutes of my home here in Geelong, down south of Victoria, and I avoid them like the plague. When you go there to the car park in the morning and try to back a trailer into the water to drop off a boat, you’ve got people standing in your way who won’t move. They’re blocking your access, and they’re filming everything that you do. They’re hurling abuse at you, calling you murderers and sociopaths and what have you. They’re just there to make you as uncomfortable as they can and hope that they’re going to discourage you and that you won’t come back and won’t do the same thing again.
Ramsey Russell: Of course, when you’re backing the boat in, there’s laws against running over them, I’m assuming.
Glenn Falla: Oh, absolutely. We’ve had one gentleman this year that has been to court and, thankfully, common sense prevailed.
Ramsey Russell: It’s not just that they’re at the boat ramp. I have seen photos in Field & Game Australia, and I’ve talked to the many, many duck hunters that I’ve met, who are just as good as people as anybody you’ll meet in the world. For example, y’all shoot extremely tight chokes, much tighter than I was accustomed to, for steel shot. It’s so that y’all kill that duck, because these guys aren’t just sitting at the boat ramp; they’re wading around with big flags and kazoos and whistles and orange vests and neon Hi-Viz yellow vests. How close are they allowed to get to y’all, Glenn?
Glenn Falla: Yeah, that’s crazy. Absolutely crazy. You talk about tight chokes, and we all know how effective a shotgun is at various ranges. The laws here, at the moment, say that they have the right to protest. The only thing they’ve got to do is stay more than ten meters away from you. Well, ten meters is nothing, as we know.
Ramsey Russell: Kind of hard to stay hidden. That may be why y’all are such good shots. I would say that, on average, Australian hunters rival anybody in terms of shooting ducks. I would put the average Australian shotgunner up against anybody in terms of shooting ability. I truly would put y’all up against anybody. I would say y’all are above average, and I can see why. You might have to shoot them when you’ve got somebody sitting in a blaze orange hunting vest ten meters away. Maybe those ducks are a little bit further, on average, than you’d like.
Glenn Falla: Yeah, that’s right. It’s a case of necessity. These guys are going to stay ten meters away, that’s what they’re supposed to adhere to. Let’s be honest, it’s not adhered to anywhere near well enough. They’re not allowed to hinder or harass. Now, that’s a fairly general term. If I’ve got a protester sitting ten meters away from me in Hi-Viz with a flag that’s fifteen to twenty feet off the water and they’re waving a flag and blowing a whistle, it’s pretty much hindering and harassing. You’re not going to have a whole lot of luck getting birds to come into the decoys. One of the things that we do here, as hunters, is look after the next bloke that’s on the water. Sometimes you’ve just got to take one for the team and let them ruin your morning, knowing that the next bloke down the wetland is going to have a reasonable morning because nothing is going to come into your decoys. It’s going to go into the next lot. It’s not good enough. We’re not accepting of it. We’re fighting like buggery all the time to change it, but it’s a real battle. We’ve got some special things to show you on your next trip here, Ramsey. You’ve yet to experience any of our geese hunting over here, and we’d love to get you up to the Northern Territory and get you into the magpie geese up there. You certainly wouldn’t see any protesters up there, because they’d be treated the same way they would be in America. Northern Territory is a state, or territory, of its own up there, and they do things old style. But, certainly, down here in Victoria, we have full intentions of taking you where you will be confronted, and then we’ll probably head South and head down to Tasmania to get into a different type of goose down there. So we’ve got the magpie goose up North and the Cape Barren goose down South. I reckon that, between those two and some confrontation, perhaps, with some of our antis, you’re going to have a hell of a trip next time.
Dreaming of the Next Hunt and Discussions with Anti-Hunters
“It’s a very foreign ideal that I just have absolutely no basis for. But I’m dedicated and committed to hearing them out.”
Ramsey Russell: Well, it’s probably going to be a couple of trips. Maybe three, we’ve discussed. Australia is a very, very big country. I have, fortunately, shot the seven species there in Victoria and South Australia, but I do want to experience the Northern territories. I want to shoot the magpie goose. Probably the homeliest fellow I’ve ever seen, but I’ve heard they’re very good eating. Y’all have a whistling duck up in that area that we’ve talked about. The Cape Barren goose, down in Tasmania, so that folks know— It and the spur-winged goose of Africa are kind of neck-and-neck. I think the spur-winged goose edges it out by ounces in being, on average, the largest goose in the world. The Cape Barren goose is right there with them. It’s one of the largest geese on earth. So it’s going to take a few more trips, but I’m that guy. I love it down there, Glenn. I’ve always had a wonderful time. Confrontation. I don’t tolerate confrontation very easily, but I will. What I want to do is, I really want to meet with one. I’d like to record a podcast with one. I’d really like to sit down amicably with one or more. As I think of them, I’ve been assembling a list of intelligent questions to ask them. My strategy for meeting with a true anti-hunter is that I would, first, like to sit down—not at a boat ramp while I’m wearing waders and fixing to go shoot the shit out of ducks, I don’t want to ruin my morning—with them over a cup of coffee, or maybe a cold beer, and just try to find common ground: sports, childhood, brothers, sisters, family, or values. Then, amicably, without yelling at each other like a couple of talking heads on TV where everybody’s trying to talk at the same time and get their point across— Now, here’s the deal. They’re not going to change my mind. I’m not going to change their mind. I accept that, but I would like to share with the listeners, and for my own edification, where they’re coming from. Because to me it’s just foreign. It’s even more foreign than kangaroos busting through the timber and pink-eared ducks coming down the slough. It’s a very foreign ideal that I just have absolutely no basis for. But I’m dedicated and committed to hearing them out. I’d really like to have that discussion with an intelligent one. Hey, they’re not going to change my mind. I’m not going to change theirs, but I think it would be, to me, a very fascinating conversation. I guess I just want to see it. Now, Glenn, if ever we could figure out how to bring a busload of Australian antis to a big public land in Arkansas and film it as a reality show, I’d love it. I would pay to see that show. I’m telling you right now. I’d love to see the reactions at a Mississippi boat ramp or anywhere in the Deep South. I would love to see that. Throughout America—I’m not really sure where, I will ask one of my future guests that will know—we do have anti-hunter harassment laws. Mississippi was the first state in the union to pass that law, and many of the Deep South states have it. To my knowledge, the first person—it just goes to cultural contrast—prosecuted under anti-hunter harassment laws in the United States of America was another duck hunter in the state of Arkansas. Some guys showed up— Just imagine you and I showed up like we did that morning in the flooded timber. We got in early, we got our stuff set up, and here comes johnny-come-lately saying, “Get out of my duck hole.” We say, “No. We were here first.” Then he proceeds to do something like one of your Australian anti-duck hunters would do and disrupts our hunt. It was in the age of cellular phones. They called the game warden, and those men were prosecuted. We can talk about anti-hunters, but there are some behavioral problems among our own ranks.
Glenn Falla: And it’s the same the world round, yep.
Ramsey Russell: You do see that, there in Australia, too?
Glenn Falla: Yeah. Look, not a lot of it, but certainly it does exist. The more frustrated that people become with the situation with the anti-hunters here, the more demanding they are of their own area. For instance, if they hunted somewhere the week before, they think it’s their entitlement to hunt the same spot next week. “Because I was here last Saturday.” We certainly do see an element of that. That’s a big part of what Field & Game Australia try to do here in Australia.
What is Field & Game Australia?
“Right now, we’re just reaching out to hunters around the world and letting everybody know that we’re all in this together.”
Ramsey Russell: You’re breaking up just a little bit, Glenn. From time to time you break up, and I’m not scolding you at all. Ladies and gentlemen, I know that audio quality is very important in a podcast, but it’s just impossible to speak to associates around the world and assume that we’re sitting in a studio. So bear with us, please. It’s a very interesting topic, Glenn. Sorry about that. If you could just adjust the phone and put it up near your head or somewhere, it might get a little bit better. But, hey, you talk about Field & Game Australia. I do not want to leave this initial recording with my friend Glenn Falla and not talk about Field & Game Australia. I know that you work for them. I know that you’re highly integral to their mission. Explain to me and others: what is Field & Game Australia?
Glenn Falla: Field & Game Australia is what we refer to as the premier duck hunting organization that is the voice of hunters. It was born and bred, as I mentioned earlier, in the ‘50s. It basically started with a group of hunters that were worried about the decline of the Pacific black duck back then, and they very quickly recognized that the whole reason for the decline in numbers back then was around habitats. Field & Game Australia have three key pillars, and those are hunting, conservation, and clay target shooting. It’s an organization with around 18,000 members nationally. There are 67 branches around the country. Each of those branches, generally, holds clay target shoots at least once a month. Most of those branches are also heavily involved in hunting and conservation projects. We started the show off by talking about how things are different around the world at the moment. Well, they’ve never been more different for Field & Game Australia, because those who are on staff, and people like myself who are bored and have been stuck at home, working in our home offices for a couple of weeks now—it seems like a whole lot longer than a couple of weeks—haven’t thrown a clay target around the country for a couple of weeks, because we can’t socialize. There are hunting seasons that are opening as we speak in Victoria, here. We’re about to go into a quail season starting this Saturday. Right now, we don’t even know whether we’re going to be able to allow people to go out there and hunt. It’s considered non-essential travel at this point in time. We’re looking for clarification. The duck season this year in Victoria has been shortened significantly and there’s smaller bag limits. We don’t even know whether that’s going to go ahead, at this point in time. Field & Game Australia have a number of wetlands that they are doing rehabilitation work and conservation work on. We educate people. There are school children that come through and do education programs. Right now, the Heart Morass down in Gippsland, here in Victoria— We haven’t got you down there yet, but we certainly will in the future. We sell keys for access to our property down there. We just made the decision, only yesterday, to hold off on access for this season because we can’t congregate in large numbers as hunters. Those we sold during the year are being recalled as we speak, and we’re changing the locks on that property. That will carry over to next year, so our members that have paid for those keys will gain access next year. But for this season, it looks like it’s going to be a no-go zone. The landscape changes everyday. Field & Game is absolutely fussing themselves, at the moment, to get that information out to people as quickly as we can, to keep our members and our hunters involved and engaged in what’s going on around the world. That’s exactly why we’ve reached out to other hunting organizations and people like yourself.
Ramsey Russell: Hang on, Glenn. Adjust your phone again, because on my side you’re getting a lot of feedback. Just get it like you had it, maybe, and we’ll go from there. It was better initially. I made you move, and now it’s breaking up worse. Still there? You’re breaking up real bad, right now. You didn’t go to the bathroom or something? Just a moment. Yeah, that’s much better. There you go. I hated to interrupt you, but I could barely hear you, and I was scared nobody else could either.
Glenn Falla: No, all good, all good. We’re in the future, and you’re probably catching up, there.
Ramsey Russell: That’s true. Y’all are in the future.
Glenn Falla: So, basically, that’s it in a nutshell, what Field & Game Australia do and what we represent. We’re in challenging times like everybody else. Right now, we’re just reaching out to hunters around the world and letting everybody know that we’re all in this together. We’re all sharing the same issues and the same challenges, and we’re thinking of hunters around the world that are facing similar things and wanting to share some stories and trying to keep some positivity.
Ramsey Russell: No, I love it, Glenn. I really do, and I was hoping you would bring that up. The world is a lot bigger than our own respective backyards, whether we’re talking about your home state or, for a lot of us here in the States that travel around, globally. All of us hunters are kind of in this thing together, globally. I can say this for everywhere I’ve been: hunters are conservationists. I’ve seen how our recreational interest places commodity value on a resource and how that then begins to translate into production and management of that resource. The same cannot be said, necessarily, for non-hunters or anti-hunters. Would you agree?
Glenn Falla: I agree 100%, Ramsey. You’re very aware that we use the hashtag over here of Australia’s Most Surprising Conservationists. Some people argue that it actually isn’t surprising at all. You and I also know that hunters around the world—it doesn’t matter whether they’re a doctor or a lawyer or a toilet cleaner or someone who works in a restaurant—if you put them in a duck blind, within half an hour you’re all the same.
Ramsey Russell: That’s it. We’re all duck hunters in that moment. I’m proud to do whatever I can to be a part of y’all’s new initiative, to reach out and participate in a little bit more of this global initiative y’all have. Y’all are inviting businesses and industries and other conservation organizations to collaborate. I think that there’s a safety in numbers factor going on. We can all help each other hang on to this thing we so love to do.
Glenn Falla: Absolutely. We’ve reached out around the world. We’ve got lots of people like yourself and others in the US. We’ve reached out to the boys in New Zealand. We’ve got a lot of people on board and a lot of support. We haven’t had one person say they don’t want to be involved. Just before you and I went online this morning, I got a message from Ira McCauley from Habitat Flats. He’s in. I know that you’ve been doing some podcasts with him recently. We need to chat after the show today and sort out a time and see if we can’t get you boys together and get you on a podcast.
A Gift of Bourbon?
“Next time, I’ll have to bring a half gallon to get us through at least two nights.”
Ramsey Russell: Well, we’d love to. I can tell you that I would love to. I really, truly love Australia. I like the people, Glenn. I have such a good time down there. Now, let’s tell about this bourbon deal. I hate to be that guy that shows up— I’m not that guy. I try not to be that guy that shows up at a hunting camp anywhere in the world with my hands in my pocket. If you’re going to go and hunt with somebody, especially some hosts, it’s always nice to bring a little something-something. What can somebody from the Deep South bring to some friends in Australia who have pink-eared ducks and Pacific black ducks and mountain shelducks and what they call wood ducks and I call maned ducks? What can you do? And hardheads. What can you do for people like this, who are going to take you in like family and show you the hunt of a lifetime? Well, I decided I’ll bring me a little brown water, 120 proof Knob Creek. Hey, with a group of four men, a fifth ain’t going to last long, but 120 proof goes a long way. The problem with going to Australia is that you’re flying way off into the future. It’s a long trip, folks. There’s no way to get over 9,800 miles quickly. With the weight and everything else, I can bring a bottle of brown water that would get us through three or four nights, anyway. Just a sip at a time will get us through a couple of nights, anyway, won’t it? It’s 120 proof. This stuff will knock you silly. I drink 80 proof Old Charter, or something like that. 80 proof. I mix me a couple of toddies, and I’ve got my perfect measurement in a 32 ounce cup, about a 15 count, over ice. A can of soda just fills it up flush. I know I’ve got my count right. Okay, well, the problem is that your body clock ain’t on Australian time. So we show up and, man, we fade quick. We may go to bed after supper, at 6:00 or 6:30, for a couple of days until our body clock catches up. We all had us a couple of rounds of Knob Creek, and I fell asleep listening to my three Australian mates—friends, I call them—sitting there laughing and cutting up at the table. I wake up the next day, and there’s a dead soldier. That Knob Creek has moved on. How did y’all do that?
Glenn Falla: Pretty quickly, actually.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, pretty darn quickly, I might say.
Glenn Falla: It’s a mighty fine drop, but I’ve got to tell you, have you ever heard of this thing over there called excess baggage? One bottle.
Ramsey Russell: Well, I brought it to share, and I brought it for y’all to enjoy. Next time, I’ll have to bring a half gallon to get us through at least two nights.
Glenn Falla: Now you’re talking. Probably might get picked up at the airport if that happens.
Ramsey Russell: One thing I will say, I would tell anybody this, is that y’all are, on average, very good shots. On average, y’all are also very good cooks of waterfowl. Every single person I’ve hunted with in Australia not only pays proper tribute to a duck to where it’s absolutely delicious, but y’all even go to the extreme of plating it and making it attractive and looking beautiful. What is your go-to duck recipe, real quick?
Best Australian Duck Recipes
“I do think that a properly cooked roasted duck is very hard to beat.”
Glenn Falla: Well, I go back to the same one every time. It’s not about looking pretty on the plate, to be honest. It’s a great one to have in camp. It’s simply about six to eight birds put into the camp oven with a layer of potatoes on the bottom. It’s real simple. It’s a bottle of soy sauce, a bottle of red wine. Just pour those two in, let it boil up for a while, and towards the end you add a jar of cranberry sauce or cranberry jelly. It’s to die for.
Ramsey Russell: I have not had that yet. I intend to have some next time I’m down there. Glenn, what’s y’all’s favorite duck to cook like that?
Glenn Falla: I think it’s pretty hard to go wrong with the Pacific black duck in the camp oven. I’ve used different birds.
Ramsey Russell: Yep. A little gray teal. I’ve had all the ducks. We cook practically everything down there, just not that recipe. The teal are delicious.
Glenn Falla: They are. I like to do gray teal the way that sharpie does them, in a stir fry or as a popper. The black duck, as far as a bird that’s going to go into the camp oven, is the best. Or a hardhead, I’d still say, is the best eating duck that we have here in Australia, but I generally like to roast them.
Ramsey Russell: Sure. I like roasted duck. I do eat poppers. My favorite go-to recipe for mallards is that I pluck the breast. A lot of times, if I’m not traveling, if I’m at camp, we’ve got one of those rotary duck pickers. I’ll pluck the mallards. As a matter of fact, I’m cooking gumbo next week. What I will do is breast out the mallards with the skin on. Three minutes down, three minutes over, three minutes in the oven with a reduction consisting of something along the lines of butter, herb and fig preserves or raspberry preserves, something like that. Then I’ll take the remaining part of the carcass and use it to make gumbo with or make stock. I’ll pull the meat off for my gumbo. I believe the flavor’s in the fat, but I do like roasted ducks. I do think that a properly cooked roasted duck is very hard to beat.
Glenn Falla: I also can’t wait to share with you, Ramsey, when we go up North— The magpie goose is just fantastic eating. Magpie goose legs cooked in a tomato-based passata in the slow cooker. It’s just to die for, mate. We’ve been eating a fair bit of it recently because it means you don’t have to hop in the car and go to the supermarket and all of those germs.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, I’m right there with you, man. We do go to the grocery a little. I don’t. Here, we’ve got curbside service, so Anita can call the grocery and just go by and scoop them up. She doesn’t even have to go inside. Glenn, what are your people saying? What is your government, your television, your talking heads— What is everybody saying about COVID? Where are y’all going with this, do you think? I have kept up with your numbers, and I know that y’all have been sheltered at home—or quarantined, or whatever you want to call it—for two or three weeks now, and it seems to have “flattened the curve.” Y’all aren’t going through a lot right now. What are they telling y’all could happen, from where y’all are right now? When do they anticipate a peak? The effects? We’re all in this thing together, so I was just curious, before I hung up with you, what y’all are thinking about this COVID thing.
How COVID is Affecting Australia
“That’s the most important thing to me. Your family and your friends.”
Glenn Falla: Yeah, absolutely, Ramsey. You’ve spent some time with my family, we know one another very well, and you know that my wife is working in intensive care, so that’s a pretty close subject. They’re preparing here, in Geelong and in Victoria, for the worst. I think that probably within the next couple of weeks we’ll see the worst of it. We’re in that situation now where, as you say, we’ve been in lockdown for a couple of weeks. We’re in what we refer to as Stage Three. There isn’t any travel interstate here, at the moment, and flights have reduced to less than 5%, I would say, of flights coming into the country. The same thing with boats. Any of those people that have been off on boat cruises in recent times, as they’ve come into Australia in recent weeks, they’ve gone into quarantine for a two week period. The slowdown has been very much because we’ve stopped people that have traveled, and we know who has traveled and where they’ve been and who they’ve been in contact with. You can put them into lockdown, and you can trace where they’ve been, and you can have pretty good success, right? I think we’re just starting to see now, though, public-to-public transmission. That’s where things could get a little bit untidy. Once you start having that out in your community, you can’t really trace how many people have been in contact with others and what surfaces these things have been left on. You can hardly buy hand sanitizer here in Australia, at the moment, for instance. Everybody’s got hands that are dry. We have distilleries that have started making hand wash out of the alcohol. To say that we’re not scared, that we’re not concerned, and that we’re not preparing for the worst and hoping for the best would be wrong. We certainly are. There are temporary hospitals that are being looked at, being set up in preparation. We don’t believe that we have enough intensive care beds available if things go pear-shaped. My wife’s worked as an intensive care nurse for as long as I’ve been in the firearms and ammunition industry, and that’s a fair while. It’s getting up there close to forty years, and she’s going off to work every morning, currently, in full scrubs, which she then has to leave at work and leave her shoes at work. She’s showering and then coming home.
Ramsey Russell: At the hospital, is she dealing with COVID patients there in Australia?
Glenn Falla: Right now, in our hometown of Geelong, no, we haven’t had any cases, but they’re expecting any day now to get their first. They’re preparing. They’re in the preparation stage here at the moment, and we’re just hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. Let’s hope that it doesn’t happen. If you’ve been watching the numbers, I think—and I haven’t caught up this morning—that we had nineteen confirmed deaths here in Australia.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, very few. Very few. Very, very few. Relative to a lot of the numbers I’m seeing around, it’s very few COVID-related deaths in Australia
Glenn Falla: Victoria and New South Wales are the hot spots. New South Wales in particular. Sydney being one of the main terminals for people to come in and out of New South Wales, it’s probably the worst, I think, in the country at the moment. You go to places like the Northern Territory, where we’re talking about going hunting magpie geese, and they don’t have anything up there. They’ve pretty much locked the territory. Often, it’s as close to business as normal as it could possibly be. The Southern states that have lots of international visitors— Who knows where it’s all going to end. It’s a scary thought.
Ramsey Russell: I listened to an expert, Joe Rogan, today. American time, today. It’s very confusing, talking days to an Australian. There’s a time warp between here and there. On Joe Rogan’s latest podcast, he had another epidemiologist on there that’s been all over the television programs. He seemed to be very knowledgeable. I heard this COVID-19 described today, for the first time ever, as SARS-2. That’s what they’re calling it. SARS-2. We start looking at Italy and Spain, and they have a very dense population. They’ve got a very older population. Both of their cultures smoke a lot. 10% mortality, that’s what the numbers are shaking out as right now. In some of these other progressive countries—Australia, America—everybody is ramping up and getting ready for it. I was just curious, because it’s very hard— I have not talked to anybody since February 21st who is not affected somehow by COVID. We’re all in this thing together.
Glenn Falla: Well, Ramsey, you know that my absolute favorite person to spend time with in the duck blind or in the field is my father, who is still alive at 83. My father’s lived and breathed duck hunting all his life, and that’s exactly why I’m so keen and passionate about what I do. At 83 years of age and three hours up the road, I haven’t seen my father for several weeks. I certainly won’t in the anywhere near future. We can’t afford to expose them to what we’re around down here in the city, and with my wife working in intensive care. We just discussed that, at this point, she hasn’t been treating anybody that’s got COVID, but you never know who may have it around you. So it’s going to be a long way. It’s pretty hard sitting back and knowing that both your parents, your mother and your father, are three hours up the road. Apart from keeping in contact everyday and making sure that they’re okay, there’s nothing we can do.
Ramsey Russell: What’s so weird about this thing, that bothers me, is that you can come in contact with it, but it doesn’t begin to manifest symptoms for a couple of weeks. That’s the crazy thing. It’s been two decades or more since I contracted the flu back in college, but, nonetheless, when you got the flu, maybe you came into contact with it on a Thursday, by Friday you started getting a little achy, by Saturday you were wrapped up taking Tylenol and ibuprofen and sweating it out, and by Monday or Tuesday you were back on your feet. This is a whole different critter. It’s very concerning. Trump told us the other day on TV—and I’m not going to politicize this issue—that the next two or three weeks were going to be unlike anything we’ve ever seen, but they don’t know. They can only guess what the outcome is going to be. So y’all are hearing about a two or three week timeframe, also?
Glenn Falla: Yeah. As I keep saying, I think you should hope for the best and do everything that you can to make sure that you’re not going to add to it and not going to spread it around. I’m pretty disappointed that we may not be hunting ducks here in coming weeks, but you know what? If I don’t shoot a duck this season, I’ll be a whole lot happier if I get to shoot one beside my father next year. That’s the most important thing to me. Your family and your friends.
Ramsey Russell: Amen, Glenn. That’s a very good note to end on. Real quick, tell the listeners how they can connect with you on social media.
Glenn Falla: Yeah, absolutely. Naturally enough, through all of your social media and your web page. Of course, GetDucks.com. Check out Duck Hunting Australia; that will lead you straight to us. On social media directly, Fallas Waterfowl Outfitters is where you’ll find us. The other one to check out for the stories that we’re sharing around the globe—you’re going to see a lot of activity in the coming weeks, if not months, depending on how long we’re locked down—is Field & Game Australia. If you go to their website, all the links are there. Like everybody else, we’ve got Facebook. We’ve got Instagram. We’ve got most of the socials. Twitter. You name it, you’ll find us. Field & Game Australia or Fallas Waterfowl Outfitters.
Ramsey Russell: Fantastic. Folks, thank y’all for listening. I know it was a little bit longer than some folks like to listen to, but it was kind of hard to put the brakes on a great conversation with a very good friend, Glenn Falla from Australia. Thank y’all for listening. Keep up with me. I’ve been posting some Australia pictures @RamseyRussellGetDucks on social media. We’ll see y’all next time. Thank you.