While at Mississippi hunting camp, Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International CEO meets with Ramsey Russell. Laird describes his introductions to hunting, who and what he remembers most from his earlier days. He and Ramsey discuss SCI’s history, the pivotal role SCI plays as the largest pro-hunting and pro-wildlife organization on earth, how SCI benefits hunters and wildlife. It’s an informal and insightful discussion that all hunters will appreciate.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International (SCI)
Who Is Laird Hamberlin, CEO of Safari Club International (SCI)?
Ramsey Russell: Laird, tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your title and what specifically do you do at Safari Club International?
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: Ramsey, good to be with you today. My name is Laird Hamberlin, and I’m the CEO of Safari Club International. I’m in charge of our 50,000 members worldwide for both SCI and SCIF, which is Safari Club International Foundation. Born and raised in Yazoo City, Mississippi. I currently live in Memphis, Tennessee. We’re here at our hunting camp in Pickens, Mississippi, Horseshoe Hunting Club, doing our Duck Season Somewhere podcast today and I appreciate the opportunity but you know, Ramsey, it’s good to know another Greenville guy and realize that we didn’t even really need to know that and realize that.
Ramsey Russell: What’s the chances that we both be from the same hometown of Greenville, Mississippi?
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: It’s a small world. I had a friend of mine Clark that always told me Mississippi is not a state it’s club. You know somebody or something like that, and it’s one of those type of scenarios that here we are meeting one another and we’re from Greenville. But I graduated from Delta State University, big Mississippi State fan as well, as Delta State fan of course, being a graduate from there. But after I graduated, went into the corporate world working for corporate America, married to Leland Mississippi girl, Katie Gardena, and we’ve been married for 33 years. We’ve got three boys. Wills, the oldest at 28. He lives down in Peru right now. The 25 year-old, Hunter, lives up in Washington DC works for the Koch Brother’s Conservative Think Tank called ALEX. My youngest is a senior at SMU over in Dallas. And I’ll have all three of them off the payroll here shortly and I’ll get a raise without having one in college.
Ramsey Russell: I’ve got three kids 18, 20 and 22. I’m old school, I thought you don’t want to get big by 18, 19, 20 years old they were off the payroll. No, it’s a life sentence.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: Well, it is for you and I. You know the wives want it to be life sentence. If it was up to them they’d live right down the street from us even walking distance. But for us, we were like 18, you get out of here and you go on about your business. So a little different nowadays.
Ramsey Russell: You know, talking about Greenville, Mississippi, I grew up in Greenville born and raised until about 1979. I was 12 – 13 years old when my father took a job down in Jackson, so we moved down to South Jackson, to Byram. My earliest recollections and I told this in one of the very first podcast ever did on, my earliest recollection of the outdoors. And I feel like what led me down a path eventually to get here was being born and raised in Greenville, Mississippi. Fishing on the banks of Lake Ferguson and a lot of different oxbows with my granddaddy. I had a thriving turtle business. Mining turtles out of the little freshwater ditches you know near Fava Drive in that part of town. Bowman Boulevard I believe it was that you know, we would catch all these turtles and go up to north side of town and sell them for 40 cents a pound back in the ‘70s that was a you know 20 – 30 bucks a weekend for a 10 – 11 year old that’s a lot of money. You know that work getting up and getting a whipping for tearing up your shoes and getting off in there. What about yourself did you grow up on hunting fishing around Greenville?
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: Yeah. My dad was a USDA Soil and Water Conservationist for Washington County. So he dealt with all the farmers in that area. We grew up with the Cochrans and the Oglesbys. John Oglesby was a good personal friend of ours and Carolyn right there on Lake Washington. We did a lot of duck hunting on Lake Washington, mainly for gadwalls and wigeons that would come in that Lake Washington area. I went to public school in Greenville most of my friends went to private school. So whenever they got off on holidays that were different than mine, I was able to go get out of school, thank goodness, my dad would pull me out of school and would be the dogs to do the deer drive or whatever the case may be. And if the ducks were flying, we had a great time shooting ducks and had a huge opportunity. But turkeys and all that kind of good stuff were part of the mix as well. I tell everybody now, you know, I’ve hunted all over the world. I’ve hunted stuff you don’t even see in zoos. You know, you barely can find them in picture books. Because I’m trying to get this world hunting award, you have to take 219 different species. And a whitetail deer is one species. And I’m at 214 right now. So I got five species left to go to get this world hunting award. But everybody asked me what’s the favorite thing you’ve ever hunted? You know, considered I’ve hunted all the staying countries in Africa and South America, New Zealand, Australia and all that kind of good stuff. I said really, truly favorite thing for me to hunt is DDT, and they go DDT? And I said yeah Deer, Ducks and Turkeys!
Ramsey Russell: Deer, Ducks and Turkeys!
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: That’s the most important thing. My father passed away at 51 years old while he was turkey hunting. So I have this affinity for turkey hunting since he passed away at such a young age.
Ramsey Russell: Was he hunting in the Delta?
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: He was on the Delta with his buddies and he passed away while he was turkey hunting. So it’s one of those type of things we’re down here right now doing this podcast during turkey season. I didn’t hear or see a soul, saw plenty of tracks but that’s a little bit of a dreary, overcast day, a little early in the season for us but we got plenty of turkeys around here.
Ramsey Russell: Boy, you know it’s something about that family relation. My grandfather introduced me to dove hunting near Inverness, Mississippi, and every year until he passed, we dove hunted. It was just kind of a family thing, and its funny how dove hunting in Mississippi is such a social tradition but it is so hot. Especially for somebody that travels to duck season all throughout June, July, August to come back to – oh boy, September Mississippi for that dover opener. But I bring my kids, my two boys that go with me. They’re so attuned to it, it’s like that’s just what we do Labor Day weekend. It goes back I don’t care how hot the field is or how few the doves. It goes back to just that relation I have with my grandfather in the Mississippi Delta. It’s just something about dove hunting I love. It probably be my last meal type hunt request would be to go to an opening day dove hunt in Mississippi.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: Yeah it’s amazing to me. How Mississippi State and Ole Miss and Southern and all the other Mississippi schools have figured out a way to do their out of town games on that opening weekend of dove season. Specifically Labor Day because that’s where most of the hunters are as they’re out in the woods, and some guys and girls are hunting in the morning and then getting ready and going to the games in the afternoon at night. But the social aspect of dove hunting that opening weekend of Labor Day is just kind of the kickoff for all of hunting season.
Ramsey Russell: That’s when my calendar year starts. Whole world celebrate New Year’s Eve and I celebrate the day before Dove Opening and that’s kind of my year start. You know, it’s a logical starting point for me. Laird, what did you major in Delta State University?
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: I majored in marketing. And when I got out of school in 1987, I moved up to Memphis to look for a job and started off like I said, in the corporate world working for a company called ADVO. It’s the little direct mail piece that had the missing child on the back of it that advertising people say came in your mailbox, and then went and worked for the Cox family for a number of years. And then I wound up working for Tyco. They own a number of different things such as ADT, security systems, plastics and metal company and all kinds of medical products and diversified services. And then went to work for United Technologies Corporation. And I wound up moving to Singapore for 5 years and live internationally in Singapore, where I was president of the Asia Pacific division over there, but it also gave me a chance to hunt and fish some of those areas over there in Asia that I wouldn’t have had the access to if I was still living in the States, but since I was living and working in Singapore and the family was there going to the Singapore American school and getting to travel all over, I got to hunt all those different places. So that was pretty awesome.
Ramsey Russell: And that’s a pretty, you know, as somebody that combs the world looking for hunting opportunities. Asia is a tough nut to crack.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: Yeah, it really is. We had an opportunity to come back to the States after I was over there for five years and wound up still working for Tyco, here in the States, and then got into the private equity business and owned a couple different companies or was an investor in a couple different private equity groups. And one day we were just at SCI Convention and there was a search committee formed to find the new CEO of Safari Club International. And they asked me if I was interested to in order to interview, and my wife answered for me, interestingly enough, and she said, yeah, he’s interested and I said, Honey, you just gave away my entire negotiating position by answering.
Ramsey Russell: How long ago was that Laird?
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: April 1st will be one year anniversary of CEO of Safari Club International. Now, I understand. I was volunteer with the SCI organization for over 30 years. I joined in 1987. My Godfather, Nick Nichols, and godmother Beverly Nichols, of Lexington, Mississippi, were very big involved in it. Along with Dr. Bob Spiegel out of Dallas. And you know, I started or helped start the Memphis SCI chapter and then I was a two-term president for the Atlanta Chapter SCI. I lived in Atlanta for 15 years. So since I graduated, I’ve lived in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Memphis, of course, and Atlanta as well, including Singapore. So it’s been a whorlwind tour.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, you’ve been a member of SCI for how many years?
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: 30-plus years.
What is Safari Club International (SCI)?
Ramsey Russell: 30-plus years. What compelled you? I know a lot of guys listening don’t yet really appreciate or know what SCI – Safari Club International – is and represents, but just to run down this trail real quick, what compelled you, a native Mississippian, to join up back at almost the beginning of the Safari Club International organization?
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: Yeah, the organization will be 50 years old next year. So we’ve been around for 49 years, and we’re proud of that and where we are. I’m the 15th, CEO of the organization. But I got started because I love what they did from a conservation standpoint and what they did for hunters, most people don’t realize that Safari Club International is not just for Africa hunters. I mean, we are not a single species or a single continent organization. We support all hunters worldwide, no matter what, where or how you hunt. SCI is the one that defends that right to hunt. And Ramsey, most people don’t realize that. There’s been over 100 cases in the last couple of years, where SCI was the only organization the only hunting organization in the courtroom against the anti-hunters. That puts the judge in a very compromising position. He looks over there and he sees anti-hunters trying to stop hunting or trying to stop something as it relates to hunting in the courtroom. And there’s nobody over there to represent hunters. He has to side with those that are there that think it’s important. And SCI is only one that has in-house legal counsel in our Washington DC office. I mean our Washington DC office, our Advocacy Center is within walking blocks to the Capitol, it’s on Second Street. So that’s what we have our lobbyists, our biologist, our attorneys all in that office there that whenever we need to go do something as it relates to lobbying Congress, or doing something with the administration, or actually being in court we’re right there for it and those 100 plus cases where we were the only ones. It wasn’t any of these other organizations that are out there that many people pay dues to. And there are other great hunting organizations, don’t get me wrong, but we were the only ones that had legal counsel there in the courtroom defending hunters and the rights to hunt and I can name them off where there was Louisiana black bear.
We support all hunters worldwide, no matter what, where or how you hunt. Safari Club International is the one that defends that right to hunt. And most people don’t realize that. There’s been over 100 cases in the last couple of years, where SCI was the only organization the only hunting organization in the courtroom against the anti-hunters. – Laird Hamberlin
Ramsey Russell: But is that what got you involved? Is that why when you were a young man 30 years ago, you became a member?
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: Once I got involved with it, I had friends that were already a member of SCI and they got me involved in it. But once I got deeply involved in what I was going on with Safari Club International, I was all in then. I realized exactly what it was doing. Then I really got immersed into it. So I was introduced by friends that were already involved in Safari Club and they said you need to come to the banquet, which I did, and went to the banquet and saw and heard all that they do and wound up going wait a minute I need to be a part of this.
Ramsey Russell: That’s kind of similar to my SCI experience and I heard about SCI 30 some odd years ago. I was working down in South Texas on some deer ranches, one of the coolest experiences work experiences I’ve ever had. Down the edge of the Mexican border we were at ranch with growing some really big deer. And I remembered a lot of the clients and associates from that place would talk about SCI. I knew Boone and Crockett. I scored deer. I learned how to scored antlers by Boone and Crockett and everybody would talk about the Safari Club International scores and different thing and SCI, what does that, I mean, really for decades. I really thought of SCI and I’m being only partly facetious here, I thought of SCI being just a bunch of rich folks that went to Africa that’s kind of what my take on was a bunch of rich folk just go to Africa and shoot those animals. And at the time wasn’t at a stage in life that I was interested or at all in going to Africa. But break-break, after getducks.com, and we’re going into our 18th year right now, full-time as a coporation, but as we got into business good and got underway I realized I kept getting phone calls from men usually kind of over on the West Coast not always but a lot of times on the West Coast, older men and they would call up they saw our ads, or they saw an article or they saw something and they called up, and they would always I’m talking to a dozen or more these men close the conversation by asking, will I see you at SCI? I’m like no. Yeah, well why not? Well, because that’s a terrible weekend for a duck and goose hunter with a black lab you know to go to break what I’m doing and go to the show. But I got enough phone calls I finally realized I had to get in. Well, can’t just everybody get into SCI, that is – gosh I don’t know how big that show is but I’m going to guess its 10 acres of 10 by 10 booths. It is the biggest hunting show on earth I’ve ever walked through, and we finally got in with getducks.com as a very unique service. And we finally got into SCI which is a story unto itself. But I’ll never will forget Laird, we got in, we set up our booth, a small little 10 by 10 booth on the corner there in Mandalay Bay. I think with the first year you all were at Mandalay Vegas five or six years ago. But anyway, we got in and the booth behind me was selling a few Missouri deer hunts but what blew him up is the fact that he was also selling rabbit hunts. Like I grew up on rabbits, with beagle and Missouri. And I walked in the first morning understanding here I am sitting in my booth behind me the guys selling rabbit hunt behind beagles. Cross from him the guys selling magnificent New Zealand, across from me was a guy selling sheep, next to him was a guy selling art work. And 15 minutes after the show started somebody walked in my both I said excuse me, I quit talking about rabbit hunts, and I went over to talk to him. He goes, you sell duck hunts and I go, yes. He goes, you don’t sell anything but duck hunts all over the world. I was like, no sir. And we look and talk about a few hunts. He looked at my brochure and he said, Son, I think you’re going to do real well at this show. I said you think, we broke out a Mastercard and bought two big hunts right then and there. He said, yeah, I think you’re out 15 minutes in the show. And we never looked back. Okay. So now I get it, SCI, I’m thinking is a big serious hunting show you need to be at. And on that first day I was in SCI, an associate from Mississippi, a lobbyist stopped by booth and said, hey, what are you doing for lunch? I said, I’m selling hunts man. And he said no, no, take a break and come up here and meet me. I’m going to have you come sit at my table for lunch.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: You are not talking about John Green are you?
Ramsey Russell: It’s John Green. And I said well John, I really can’t get away with it, I’ll get somebody to cover for you, you’ll appreciate coming to this. And I went to a really nice lunch. I don’t remember what we ate. But it was all delicious. But what blew my mind, was I walked in one of the first people I see is a congressman from here in Mississippi, and I look over there and there’s another when I look over there, and there’s another one. Three of the four were sitting in that room. And there were congressmen from all over the United States in that room. And people like John and people like me. And we sat there and that particular meeting, which was then held at SCI now it’s held in DC, I understand, I listened to some young ladies who had who were hunters in the social media world who had all had their teeth kicked in and were beat up by anti-hunters. And I watched for an hour as individuals from around at room got up and pledge $20, $30, $50 and $100,000 towards this particular luncheon, which was in fact, as I understood it, a SCI’s wing of lobbying to get hunter-friendly people put into political places. And that was when I walked back and my buddy TJ who helped me cover the booth and he said, well, how’d it go? I said, well, the lunch was amazing, but I just learned what SCI is all about. I had no idea and that’s when I decided I needed to look instead of just being a member I need to look at becoming a life member. You know, I’m fortunate Laird. Well, I’m almost cursed in this respect to travel a bunch. Here in Mississippi we take for granted that hunting is a God given right. But it’s not you know, it is very easy in a great country of America to think that it’s a foregone conclusion that I’ll hunt, my kids will hunt, my grandkids will hunt. But having traveled now to countries like Australia, to countries that does not have an SCI that needs one, to go into countries like Netherlands which certainly doesn’t have anybody but the Royal Dutch hunting Association who’s in cahoots with the anti-hunting politicians, to realize that hunting is hanging by a thread, even in America. And countless are the times SCI has sent out an email to me that made me aware of a situation without which I wouldn’t have been aware. It wasn’t too long ago, the US Fish and Wildlife Service formerly under Dan Ashe, because it’s been a while ago, had succumbed without a fight to Humane Society, to give over to forfeit all of the import documentation of every animal I’ve ever brought into the country. Every bird, every duck, every moose head, whatever, they were just going to give all this data over to the Humane Society. Now what in the world what the Humane Society want with that kind of hunting information that could possibly be good for the future of hunting in America? Nobody that I knew would have been aware that, had SCI not been aware of that.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: Yeah, we’re the ones who stepped in. And once again, we’re the only ones that were there that stopped it. Otherwise, it didn’t matter if you were, you know, a big hunter or small hunter, this is your first trip or your 100th trip, they would have had your name and address, phone number all your contact information to harass you, if nothing else. And actually, we just didn’t think that was right. And we went to court made sure that we represented those hunters that were in there. That’s what we do every single day. And it’s key to where the success of hunting goes is that there’s somebody out there fighting for hunters rights. Like I said, not a single species or single continent. But for all hunters no matter what you hunt, and we’re big in the politics side, we’ve got a friend in politics right now who’s got ties to Mississippi, as a new head of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. And we help to promote her get her elected, as did many others, but wanted somebody in there that was hunter-friendly. And that’s what we do is we’re looking at those politicians that can help protect the rights of hunters, and then we’re out there actively campaigning for them. You know, we have this Hunter Advocacy Center, which is the email that you were talking about, that reaches out to our members and others talking about what they need to say to politicians in order to either progress a bill or to try to stop a bill that’s anti-hunting. And it’s important to everybody that they understand that and we’re actively doing that every single day.
Ramsey Russell: Safari Club International, just the name Safari Club International to me, connotes images of guys with safari hats hunting animal cracker animals but it’s not, it is to the hunting community, what NRA is to firearm ownership.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: You’re 100% correct.
Ramsey Russell: And it’s got to be. We live in a political world. And I’ve always believed, I’ve come to believe that in the same way that our recreational interest in sports, put 100 million dollars in athletes pockets to perform, in the same kind of way our recreational interest in wildlife give that wildlife commodity value. And commodity value is political relevance.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: As the old saying goes, if it pays, it stays, and that’s what happens out there in the real world because of human and animal conflict, because of human encroachment, because just the fact that the population explosion is key, but you mentioned something that was very relevant and that is, I live by the fact that if you’re a gun owner, you should belong to NRA and I’m a life member of NRA. If you’re a hunter, you should belong to Safari Club International, and I’m a life member of SCI. NRA takes care of the guns and SCI, we look at ourselves as the ones taking responsibility for hunters and hunting. That’s the key and that’s what everybody needs to understand that are out there based on you know, what we do from an advocacy standpoint in Washington, to what we do to promote hunters and outfitters such as yourself a convention. Our convention is one of the largest in the world and it is a must see event. You can’t go through the whole thing in a day unless you’re not stopping and looking and just wanting to walk I mean it’s just that big. And there’s that many people there and there’s just incredible taxidermy, incredible outfitters. And the evening events we had to really skip with speaking at one of our evening events. The Director of US Fish and Wildlife Service, she was there she did a great job. Donald Trump Jr. was our keynote speaker at our Saturday’s event, and he helped auction off two record breaking Sitka deer and sea duck hunts up in Alaska, to Keegan McCarthy one for $190,000. And then he ponied up another one and it went for $150,000.
Ramsey Russell: A $150,000 sea duck hunt?
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: And a Sitka deer hunt. Yeah. With Donald Jr. and his son.
Ramsey Russell: Okay, yeah.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: They were going to be in attendance. So there was an on a yacht based event. But we have all those types of hunts out there. At every one of the evening events and SCI going back to our advocacy stuff. We’re the largest Hunting PAC that’s out there, and the only hunting organization with a Super PAC, that we make sure that we communicate to all the Congress people out there, both on the federal, state and local levels. And that’s something else that we have 260 chapters of SCI around the world. And unlike most hunting organizations, where you have to send 100% of the proceeds into the national organization, these Safari Club International SCI chapters only have to send in 30% of their banquet revenue to Nationals. The rest of the 70% is spent on local humanitarian conservation and wildlife areas there in and around their communities. And most people don’t realize that those local SCI conventions or banquets rather and the stuff that you do at those banquets, 70% of those funds stay there locally and that’s key.
Laird Hamberlin’s Most Memorable Hunts While Growing Up
Ramsey Russell: Change in subjects. I want to go back to your upbringings in Greenville, Mississippi, Delta Mississippi. Tell me can you think of can you think of a particular hunt, or particular people that were with you on that hunt? Just take me back into a memorable hunt in your past before SCI, before you started traveling, there’s got to be one of those moments.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: I want to talk about I got a couple of them if you don’t mind me telling them. So the first was a turkey hunt. So my grandfather was a county agent for Issaquah County. And like I said, my father was a Soil Water Conservationist for Washington County. So I had been seeing this big flock of turkeys and this big gobbler in this place. And my dad convinced my mom to let me skip school and go turkey hunt. And she agreed somehow, I don’t know how he talked her into it, but we get all set up in this fallen tree. And they have seeing this gobbler and hens out there the whole time. And I had my grandfather’s 12-gauge it was that long super-barrel sized, you know they used to hunt with.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, with a bolt-action?
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: No, not bolt-action but it felt like it. It was heavy as lead though. And it was one of these types of scenarios that we had that Turkey out there gobbling and I looked down between my legs and we’re sitting in this fallen tree in this tree top and they’re snakes right below my dad so don’t worry about it. Just don’t get down there on the ground. We got this turkey right out here in front of us. We can’t move anyway. So he’s got yelping that turkeys gobbling getting closer and getting closer and he’s on he’s out there about 40 yards or so, 50 yards, and he says you’re going to have to shoot him. He’s not coming any closer they’re fixing to leave. And I wound up getting up there in position and shot and that gun kicked me so bad I fell off that limb fell down there amongst snakes and he talking about somebody that jumped that was unbelievable. I was jumping to high heaven trying to get out of there. But I killed that turkey and we went around the rest of the day showing off that turkey. He had 11-and-a-half inch beard, he had an inch-and-three-quarter-inch spurs, he was a monster turkey. And it was just the pride and joy of my dad just as much as me being my first turkey kill that we were able to do that. So that was one that comes in. I didn’t get snake bite that was another key. But after I gathered myself and my dad wasn’t even worried about me getting in amongst the snakes – he was running out there to the turkey that was flopping to make sure he didn’t fly over. Here I am trying to scramble out of that tree top amongst those snakes. But another time it was New Year’s Day, we’re duck hunting. We were hunting down near a Wildlife Management Area, used to be called Johnson’s Hunt Club known around Redwood, Mississippi, down in that area and with this little place had ducks coming into a year-round, and we deer hunted and they had my dad and my godfather Nick Nichols and Thomas said you know we’re going to go New Year’s Day. Well of course New Year’s Eve everybody’s out doing what they do. They, of course, didn’t think we were going to wake up because we stayed up till 01:00 or 02:00 in the morning. We were up at 04:00 like we were going hunting and they had bad heads and everything, and it was cold and it was freezing. So making a long story short, we get out there we talked them into loading up and to break ice literally to get the hole opened up to have the ducks come in and they went and laid back on the bank. Got a piece of that ice that they broke off and laid down on the ground without ice on their forehead and said boys you all just go out have a good time. We shot ducks and shot ducks and shot ducks. And it was to a point and they was like, well, we need to figure out how many ducks they got. And this is back in the days when there was a point system. And gadwall was like 10 points, and you could add up to 100 is what you’re trying to see like 10 gadwalls, that kind of thing. So they called a halt in the shooting with duck still flying. And we wound up going out there and counting and then they go. Okay, guys, you all got one duck left, because that’s all the limit that we have. We had been shooting and they got up and started shooting. So make a long story short that was a very memorable, memorable duck hunt for us as a kid. So it was a good trip.
Ramsey Russell: That was good old days.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: That was good old days. So yeah, it was a lot of fun. But no we hunted a lot. It was good. The seasons always opened up for deer the weekend before Thanksgiving. And I’ve got a younger brother that hunts so we would flip on who got to go to the deer camp the first Saturday through Wednesday because our camp was only open for a week that week of Thanksgiving. When they had the cooks and everything there and you slept on the second floor in the kitchen, and the dining room tables and everything there Johnson Sutton club was on the first floor, and when the food was ready, they got a broom handle and hit on the ceiling which is your floor. And it was time to come down eat breakfast, which was eggs and grits and biscuits and everything else and just the smell of the hunting camp and all the people that were down there, you know, so a big time. So it was a lot of fun.
Ramsey Russell: Well here’s as somebody that has killed now 215 big game species, is that right? 215?
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: 214.
Ramsey Russell: 214. What are some of the similarities and differences you’ve seen from the Mississippi Delta versus everything else? And I’m kind of toeing around as I look at duck hunting, all this different species around the world is so different than duck hunting back home, but yet, it is far more similarities. I guess, I just take me around the world based on your upbringing, some of those memorable hunts and people, kind of how what it’s like to travel all over the world and shoot that many big game species.
Hunting as a source of food worldwide
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: You know, one thing that’s common no matter where you go, and that is everybody eats everything you shoot. When we think about taking the deer to the processor here and eat, and we talk about resting out a duck or plucking a duck and cooking at home for a holiday or something like that. The best thing I’ve got to remember about ducks is duck Gumbo and what we call duck poppers. We rest that duck out, wrapping our opinions and stuff with some cheese and put it on the grill with bacon wrapped around. I mean, that’s some good stuff. But no matter where you go, everybody eats what you shoot. So they go well, did you eat the local game? Absolutely. Was it any good? Nine times out of 10, no maybe it wasn’t. But you know, that’s what they eat and they’re accustomed to, and nothing goes to waste. I mean, it doesn’t matter if you shoot an elephant, or if it doesn’t matter if you shoot a crocodile. Or if you’re shooting an ibex or markhor, or some of these other species that are out there, whether they’re goats or sheep or whatever, they eat everything. And that’s the key everybody needs to understand is when I got to least other countries, these people are excited to see us. I’ll give you a good example. I hunted in Mongolia one time, when Americans normally tip that’s just the normal way in which they do business is they tip for good service. Europeans don’t. Nothing against Europeans, that’s just not their culture. So I was in Mongolia. And the outfitter said, look, you know, we want to pre-scout we want to do this and the other. And the local says is he an American, is he a European, is a South American or whatever. And they’re like, why? Because if it’s an American, they know they’re going to tip them. And they know they’re going to want them getting something for their hard work. Whereas if it’s not, they’re not going to get any financial reward. And, you know, we went to Mongolia and by the way, the tip was $10. So it wasn’t like it was $100 or $1,000, or anything like that. But $10 goes a long way. In some of these countries $20 goes even further. I mean, you go over to Africa, they want to eat everything that you shoot. So when you come in there, they’re giving you high-fives and all that not necessarily because you’re going to give them a tip at the end of the hunt for good services. But because that might be the only protein that they get is what the hunters provide for.
Ramsey Russell: You know, you bring up a good point about eating. I mean in the waterfowl world I shoot a few big game animals like yourself, but somebody said in social media just the other day, about all those birds down in Mexico that nobody’s eating them. And I said, Whoa, whoa, whoa, don’t lay off your American mindset on other countries. Because let me tell you this in other countries, the whole world that I’ve been to love ducks, that especially somebody like Mongolia, for example, they don’t have a duck hunting culture, so they don’t have access to ducks unless the hunter bring them in and they know how to take good care of ducks. They like duck. Mexico, man, every single one of those duck I tell clients that go to Mexico when after the hunt, tag your bird and get it put ice chest. Don’t wait to get back to camp because I may have stopped five times to hand ducks away to indigenous people that want to eat duck. And I was just thinking as you were talking about eating the animals. Boy, you hear this a lot basically the anti-crowd about you know, what do you do with a pick out an animal you know, from Africa. And you know, not only do they eat the meat, I have kept hearts, I have kept livers off of whitetail deer, but over in Africa, they keep it all they keep the stomachs, they keep everything. I did not know, I honestly did not know that people ate lungs until I walked them into a walk in cooler in Africa. And there were all these guts. I mean they’re all eating stuff that we throw out on the ground in America when I walked in it was all hanging there. Somebody ate it.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: When we were in places like Mozambique and some of these other Tanzania areas, that hinterland areas you don’t have walk-in cooler, you don’t even have a fence to throw this stuff on. They were throwing up the stomachs and the lungs and everything else up in the trees to let them cure and all that but I want to go back to your point about South America and dove and duck hunting. Every single time I’ve been down there. I’ve been down there half-dozen times with my kids to shoot doves and ducks and all that kind of good stuff. You know, you’ve take pride and how many what’s your percentage of doves that you shot? How many shots did you fire and how many doves did you take? Every single one of those places they had a croaker sack and when we were done hunting, they went out there and picked up every single dove that we shot put them in a croaker sack. On our way back we did just what you said. We stopped off to the locals, but more importantly, every single one of them and including when I went down to Mexico to shoot doves and ducks. They stopped off in an orphanage. Every single one of them stopped off in an orphanage and those kids came out and they were just ecstatic over all those doves and they started cleaning them. They knew exactly what that was. That was dinner. That was breakfast, that was lunch based on what those hunters were dropping off in those croaker sacks full of doves and in some cases, ducks and they wanted everything they could get all based on what we were taken by the orphanage.
Ramsey Russell: We’ve pulled into villages before in Mexico. After a hunt, you know, I’ll never forget one time we were launching airboats down in Obregon. And it rained real hard. And we couldn’t get off one little back dirt road areas to go launch into the base, we had to come to an Indian village. And it was like Santa Claus had come to town. It’s like somebody else something Mexican like here comes the hunters and all of these children and all of these women and all of these local started running down and we had ducks and brants. And everybody got a pair. And it’s like all the little boys were jumping in the boat trying to help. You know, they weren’t charitable like hey, give me it’s like they’re trying to help, what can I do? So they can get those brants and come back. And it was like it was literally like Santa Clause had come to town. And I think we videoed and took pictures of all these smiling kids and smiling women coming in with their laundry baskets and sacks and five-gallon buckets to get all these birds and animals and I’ve seen that I’ve seen it in Argentina, where you come into some remote boat ramp there’s not a soul in sight. And it here comes in some children and they’re kind of sort of getting in underfoot and away because they’re wanting to help in exchange for waterfowl. And want it one though, I don’t know why I remembered this just now but I remember tiny three little boys because some kid shows up, here comes more kids, just attract more and more. And I never forget watching these three little boys. One of them was on a bicycle. One of them was pushing the bicycle and one of them they had a big long piece of electrical wire tied to the bike and he was pulling it. So one’s pushing, one’s pulling, and one’s riding and they stopped and swap turns like playing ring-around-the-posey. But then they got up and had no rubber on the tires and no chain on, that was their bicycle. I wish I could have gone in store and bought them three bikes, you know, but they wanted birds.
Bell Family Blue Bag Program
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: Well, it’s interesting because, you know, taking that to another level SCI has this program called the Safari Club International Bell Family Blue Bag Program. The Bell Family Blue Bag Program is a humanitarian effort. And what you do is you get a blue bag and you fill it full of medicines, soccer balls, eyeglasses that people have donated to you, and it could be anything from cough drops to just Motrin and Advil, and all that kind of good stuff. And most airlines let you check that as an additional bag for free since it’s a humanitarian effort, so every time I go to one of these hinterland areas, I’m taking that Bell Family Blue Bag Program with me that’s full of everyday stuff that we can take ourselves and get from the pharmacy they can’t get in these remote locations, and to take a beanie hat or one of those little zip backpacks that you got or anything of that nature, all my old clothes and old shoes, I loaded up in there and max it out to weight limit that they’ll do, it’s normally 60 pounds or 70 pounds. And that’s all the stuff that I take over there. And I leave for the locals. And I got to tell you, they appreciate it.
Ramsey Russell: Man that is smart.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: You know, in SCI has been doing that for years, Brittany and Ricardo Longoria just took three Bell Family Blue Bags over to Cameroon they’re over in Cameroon. Now, I just talked to him yesterday. And they were going by these different villages that are out there in hinterland areas that might take a day two three days to walk to a city or a town where they might be able to get something. They appreciate the fact that they’re able to have this mini supply of medicines, whatever they that might be there locally, and I even you know, tried to get prescriptions and things of that nature that have expired, I would have thrown away. They appreciate that kind of good stuff. Yeah, just little things like that that make a big difference over there, because otherwise they’re going to die. You know, in some cases, if they don’t get enough antibiotics or something happens to them. But Bell Family Blue Bag Program is a humanitarian program that we’re very proud of that SCI sponsors.
Ramsey Russell: We may find out by time this episode airs. We may find out what this Coronavirus does to the supply system here in America. But you know, I’m working on a story of how to pack what to pack. You and I probably pack a lot differently than the average guy going on a trip I can tell you. But one thing I’ve learned you speak of pharmaceuticals is I’ve traveled before and don’t take for granted that something is easy to get as a $3 refill on prednisone is widely available worldwide, because it’s not. I mean, you better pack it if you need it. I’ve seen time and time again Z pack. I mean, all kinds of pharmaceuticals we take for granted don’t even don’t even take for granted that you can go to another country and walk into a store and buy aspirin.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: Yeah, one of the things that other thing that we packed in our Bell Family Blue Bag, my wife and I Katie went to Cameroon this past June, to hunt a Bongo and a Dwarf Buffalo and some Duikers and stuff with you know, we took over coloring books and crayons and school supplies for all the kids to use. Because they were appreciative of having that, that they were able to use. Now, going back to hunting and all that that’s involved with give you a good example of us hunting in Cameroon, you know, in less than a year ago, it the locals, they’re the pygmy people, and they’re the one many people have heard about the pygmies and all that kind of stuff, my wife’s 5’2 so she was excited about being there, somebody her own size. So she was appreciative of that. But it was one of these type of deals to where they were understanding of “if it pays, it stays.” If they could have hunter come in there, shoot an animal, they get the meat from it, which they did. Versus and by the way, get paid to work for the safari company, get paid tips in some cases from the hunters. They were doubling and tripling down versus them just going out and catching that animal with a snare. And the only thing they were getting was the meat. So now they’re getting not only the hunter coming in, and let’s say they’re bringing the Bell Family Blue Bag Program with them and all that they’re getting. Not let’s look at what they’re doing, not only with getting paid by the safari operator to take care of the area to keep poachers out there. Then they’re also getting tips from the client. So they really understand.
Economic and Conservation Values of Hunting versus Anti-Hunting
Ramsey Russell: I’ve heard that a year round. I’ve heard you know, hunters as conservationist. I’ve heard a very similar story around the world. Duck hunting, we’re going duck hunting to shoot, Mongolia is a prime example. You know why shoot a bar-headed goose to roast a goose for dinner when I save that for a hunter who’s going to tip me good who’s going to come halfway across the world? And Africa. It just blew my mind. Last year we were shooting how those little pygmy geese near a village and the at the gunshots the entire village turned out everybody stopped what they were doing to come and see what the heck we were doing it and they just they could not get over the fact that we’ve come halfway across the world to shoot a little goose the size of a quarter-pounder. They just blew their minds. And but you know, I remember down in the eastern Mexico down the jungle shooting Ocellated turkeys one day, the outfitter would explaining it to me. His staff, the guy that lived down there to guide those hunt for brocket deer and Ocellated Turkey. They hunt for one reason to feed their family, and that he was telling me how his staff had progressed since the time he hired them to where they were now with the understanding that rather than go out, year round and poach an Ocellated Turkey to feed their family, they now recognized that that turkey left alone represented hundreds of dollars coming into their own personal household economy, thousands of dollars, which buy them as many chickens and stuff they could buy at stores they want. So they saw they made that just like you said, they realize, wait, that turkey way more valuable sitting out there in the woods, doing what it does than sit on my dinner table right now because I can really take care of my community. And you know, on the flip side of that now, Laird, I was in Zululand last year going after that goose. That morning we were driving we got up on this high ridge, you can see forever. And it was just what you imagined Africa to be it was to me in that part of Africa is far as the human eye could see was this Mountain Valley is covered with acacia trees, thorn trees, cacti and things of that nature. And my outfitter pointed out, he said, a poem that he stopped and he pointed to the north and said, that valley right there has more leopards and the highest density of leopards in the whole South African province right there. And I said it’s amazing. And he goes, well, it is except that they shut down. They prohibited the hunting for leopards last year, and they’re now dying at an unprecedented rate. I said what do you mean? He goes well, he said think about it. What does the leopard hunt go for? I don’t know. $20,000 – $30,000. He says what that local farmer understood is that leopards may eat a calf or two. But that’s okay. That was an acceptable loss. Because the money that hunters were paying coming in, tipping the staff, paying for the lodge, paying for cat, tipping it all ended up, bits and pieces of it ended up benefiting his children in health care, in education, was good for his community. Now, that money is not coming in off the leopards. All he sees now are calf-eaters and he kills everyone he sees. That’s conservation.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: Absolutely. Yeah. And it’s one of these type of things that most people don’t realize you’ve got the human animal encroachment, where you’ve got villagers that are staying up at night with torches what they call, you know, lights and fire on a stick to try to keep elephants and everything out of their cornfield because a group of elephants could come in there and completely demolish an entire cornfield. And we don’t think about that kind of stuff. I mean, we don’t think about what people would view leopards as if they were running around in the streets of Los Angeles, or Chicago or Miami. Like they’re running around in the streets of some of these villages and things and killing their own family members. And we don’t look at it that way, even though you’ve got some people that want to monitor it and keep hunters away. And what they’re doing is they poison them, and getting rid of them to your point because they’re killing their goats or killing their cattle. And it’s just not feasible. And then everybody’s coming up with a real reason in their minds, what they think is the decline in the leopard population in that particular valley when everybody on the ground clearly knows that the locals are getting rid of them because it’s prohibiting their farming ability. And that’s just not right.
Ramsey Russell: We hunters understand the whole conservation model, pay to stay, we get that. We know but what I don’t understand and maybe you do now that you’re CEO of Safari Club International, but how is it that America or UK or wherever these anti-hunters are coming from feels morally right or justified, let alone financially and politically everything else to dictate what another country does with their wildlife resource. You know, I’m saying that just blows my mind.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: It goes back to the colonial viewpoint. I mean, they think they’re still colonial and in some people’s minds, they’re keeping Africa poor, or South America poor because they are able to control what’s going on. And when they can control what’s going on. They can control the vote, they can control everything as it relates to keeping them on a pedestal. One of the biggest reasons why Botswana, for example, just reopened elephant hunting is because the local community said we got to stop this. It is killing our people. It is destroying our crops. We’ve got to go back to hunting elephants because Safari Club International was a big part of doing a study looking at the elephant population on the continent of Africa and there’s some places Ramsay, where you’ve got a carrying capacity of elephants of 3500 elephants, that’s all it could carry. And they have 45,000 elephants. How much destruction to the flora and fauna do you think is going on when the carrying capacity of 3500 exists and they’ve got 45,000 elephants? It’s not feasibly possible. They’re going to wind up killing themselves because they can’t feed enough to support themselves and the carrying capacity is ruining that flora and fauna in that particular country, and all the countries in Africa are experiencing that same type of scenario, but people don’t realize that they’re keyboard warriors sitting there looking at information and a lot of cases that are not accurate. Uou can go to our Safari Club International website and get all that information. And all the scientific, specific information that’s data, scientific-based, from people on the ground in the countries. It’s not just Africa, it’s South America, it’s Europe, it’s all over that we’ve got all of this information. Yeah, because we were talking about the record book earlier, the SCI or Safari Club International record book has over 200,000 entries in the record book, you know, we are 5x, the nearest competitor in record books and some of them have been since the 1800s. Rowland Ward has been a record books that’s been around since the 1800s that was started. Then you’ve got Boone and Crockett, and their record book, you got all these different record books that are out there. SCI Safari Club International is the leading group and the leading taxonomy data for record book gathering. And it’s because our members are entering their animals into this SCI record book. So when somebody comes up, and they have recently saying all the elephant tusks weight size has declined over X number of years, we can go back into that record book and say, no, it hasn’t. We’ve got the last 50 years’ worth of data that can tell you actually it’s increased. Say the ivory white of elephants has actually increased in the X number of years not decreased but anti-hunters will make a statement like that somebody will take it as gospel without checking the data, without checking the facts from those that are experts, like SCI and we can just dispel those, that’s a bad information. And it’s just disheartening in a lot of cases where people don’t understand some people think elephants are extinct. Oh my lord, they’re like white-tailed deer over there. Yeah, I mean, that’s the way they are in many cases, and how they’re viewed in Maasailand in Tanzania. The people used to have to kill a lion in order to get there chiefdom, or whatever the case may be. SCI and others, were the ones that were going over there and saying, don’t kill a lion. As part of your way to becoming a man, that’s not how you need to do that, you know, work with SCI take the hunter and that way when you’re accompanying a hunter, and you’re one of those Maasai warriors that are over there because in order to be considered a man and to be considered a warrior, you had to, in theory for cultural generations and generations, those Masaai warriors had to kill a lion in order to get their warrior status. Take a hunter over there, guess what that does. Hunter gets to shoot a lion, Maasai warriors going to still get his warrior status, because he was part of versus him trying to doing it himself, help with those type of cultural changes in ways in which they’re looking at animals. So maybe this area doesn’t need to take a lion out of it because the population is down. Maybe we need to go over here and Mr. Maasai warrior and take a lion over here. And they do and they go from that perspective. All those type of things most people don’t even know that Safari Club International is doing, or that SCI is working with. We spent over $60 million since 2000 on wildlife conservation on-the-ground wildlife-specific programs, whether it’s lions in Africa, whether it’s markhor in Pakistan, whether it’s mid-Asian Ibex in Tajikistan, and I could go on and on and on, about all the stuff that we’re trying to make sure that those animals are still there. Because if you’re an anti-hunter, and you don’t want somebody to hunt animals, then why don’t you go buy the concession up in Canada or Alaska or whatever. They’re not doing that. They’re not spending any money on conservation. These anti-hunters are just chirping and you know, they’re like a Chihuahua biting at your ankle, you know, and they’re not like a big Doberman pinscher.
Ramsey Russell: I say that all the time, dear anti-hunter, put your hands in your pockets, roll up your sleeve and join us hunters in conservation. I mean, we all kind of got the same goal whether you like to kill animals or not, we all kind of got the same goals.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: Yeah, I mean, the rhinos a good example. We’re doing so much for Rhino conservation, whether it’s putting anti poachers in place. We spent over $100,000 in the last five years because of record book entries, to make sure that we got anti-poaching programs in place to stop these poachers and everything that’s out there. Whether its rhinos, whether it’s, you know, whatever. We don’t like poachers any better than anybody else does. But it’s interesting that everybody talks about how the rhino and this and the other one, the conservation is the hunters, the ones that are making sure that we’re taking care of those rhinos, and then when somebody does shoot one that is out of breeding and he’s on his last years of being around and they want to take it, why not pay X number of dollars that go straight back into the program to help the rhinos? Why not let somebody that will shoot one go shoot one? Those funds are going to help you know other rhinos that are that are coming along.
Ramsey Russell: I struggle myself as a lifelong hunter. I struggle myself trying to articulate to myself or to someone else that doesn’t hunt. I really hate guys, I don’t waste my time talking to true anti-hunters normally just because you’re not going to change their mind or they’re coming from a purely emotional basis. That is not reality. But I do struggle trying to explain to myself or justify to myself, let alone a non-hunter, on how killing an animal, a mallard duck, a bar-headed goose, a lion or a rhino, how it really is conservation. I mean, it truly is. The taking of one Rhino generates so much money and interest that conservation becomes inevitable for remaining populations. And that’s really kind of a hard thing sometimes even for me to get my own mind wrapped around. But I do. And it’s not just the elephant. I was reading something to bring this home just a little bit. I was reading something just a few weeks ago about some of the State DNR’s around America, their budgets beginning to wither terribly, because of fewer hunters participating. And it wasn’t just going into the white-tail deer programs or the migratory bird programs or rabbits or small game. It was stuff like pollinator conservation programs. I mean, just the habitat for butterflies and honeybees is coming out of hunter funds.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: Most people don’t even know what the Pittman-Robertson Act is. Most people don’t even know that when you buy hunting license that it’s what helps pay for the rangers that are in these national parks. So anti hunters, in some cases, can go hiking, enjoy the outdoors. They don’t understand that hunting licenses pay for game wardens in order to make sure everything is done legal. Most people don’t understand that. And you’ve got to have the emotion taken out of conversations. It’s got to be based on scientific data. And scientific data is going to outweigh emotions when you can sit down with somebody across the table and have an intelligent conversation. And let me just say this, there’s 10% of the population that’s out there that are going to love us, no matter what we do as hunters, even if we do something wrong. There’s going to be 10% of the population out there that are going to hate us, no matter what we do, right. We’ve got to make sure that that 80% that’s in that right is leaning towards an understanding that hunting is conservation. And that you may choose to hunt, that might not be your choice of recreation, it might be fishing, it might be hiking, it might be biking, it might be whatever, but I’m not going to judge somebody based on the fact that what they’re doing is helping conservation because they do have scientific data. They do have specific information such as the Pittman-Robertson Act and the fact that these DNR budgets are based on hunters, and what they do, and what they buy and all that kind of stuff. Nobody wants to get that bit of information out there to the rest of the world so that they can explain how good hunter and fishermen are in what they do and buying license and things of that nature.
Ramsey Russell: One of our most popular hunt at SCI convention and that’s really where we talk about it the most of that convention this is not on getducks.com, is Netherlands, Holland, goose hunting. Ten to 12 years ago, the antis shut down goose hunting because, just because they had the vote to do it. Hunting had become so irrelevant, they were able to pull it off. They’ve got parliament members that are anti hunters, same as Australia, and they pull it off this great thing and what happened in the single most beautiful, most productive, perfect goose habitat on God’s Earth, Holland, because it’s all water and grass and crops. The geese, a lot of the barnacle geese, a lot of the graylags, a lot of mute swans, began to take up residency, they quit migrating, they became welfare recipients of the state, so to speak, and they did what resident birds do – they proliferated. And I read a paper back in 2008 – 2009 from 2008 – 2009 that stated that, that small country half the size of North Carolina was paying out of the taxpayers’ pockets 50 to 60 million US dollars equivalent to offset crop loss because the geese ate these third-generation farms! Now we’re talking third-generation, 80-acre properties, not million-acre international conglomerates, and lots of these little farms were being eaten out of house and home. Break – break. I’m over there one day and we were hunting Mute Swans under special permit. The government literally had to come out to that farm, certify that there were so many Mute Swans hitting that field (and there were) that they were causing economic loss to the farmer. The farmer got a permit, passed it on to our partners. We went out there to hunt them. This is crazy. You can’t make this up. We’re talking about a big white bird. And by the government standard, the outfitter had to go and stake the field out with big poster board-sized white flags to quote “warn the swans.” What do you think a big white waving flag does to a big white bird?
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: Attracts more.
Ramsey Russell: So we shot swans. Big swans. Mute Swan to the largest one in the world that I’m aware. And I guess we shot two or three apiece and we’re going to lay them out and take a picture and our host said no – no please don’t do it here. While I’m looking around. I don’t see you can’t see a farmhouse where I said where it’d be. He said no, no, let’s just go out of here. So we went somewhere and we pulled behind the barn, and we laid out our swans and it was just two of us laying it out, and go pick up the rest of the guys take this picture. And this little sedan pulled u,p this little lady stepped out and she got out, and she cinched up her coat she began to walk very quietly behind the truck, and my outfitter being very polite, very, very respectful. He’s talking quietly in Dutch and she’s talking quietly until she pushed her way past him. And when she got around the back of that truck, saw all of those swans, she became Bugs Bunny discombobulated. My son’s young their age-group, they’d have thought to grab out those cell phones and record it. I was just too shocked to think about recording. And I don’t know what she said, because it was all Dutch, but I know what she said. And I was called every dirty word in the book and then my outfitter stepped up. Very cool, very calm, very quiet and very serious, very respectful. And he pointed over our shoulders not looked behind me. And I didn’t say nothing, you know, but a barn back there about a quarter mile. And she got quiet and left. And I said, what in the world did you say to her? Because she showed her all the paperwork they had. He said oh, I pointed to the farmer’s house and told her that if she didn’t want us hunters shooting swans, she should go write him a check. And that’s when she put her hands in her pocket, got in the truck and drove off. She was you know, it’s okay for the farmer to do without, but not her, not the anti. And so that’s just stuff I just thought to share that because you know, antis, they just don’t want to kill him birds, they just don’t want to shoot animals. But you know what I’m hopefully going to interview next time I go to Australia, I’ve started working to interview some of their vehement third or fourth decade anti-hunters. I want to ask them Laird, very calmly, in a very quiet conversation like this, not like to talking heads on CNN yelling on each other. But I do want to ask them if they succeed in closing duck hunting in Australia, what then? What how are they going to do? How are they going to pay for conservation? Where would the source come from? How will they know the total population of wild birds are being conserved? How many they are or do they care?
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: Well, here’s the question I mean that you got to ask them? Who’s going to do the surveys? Who’s going to follow up on exactly what’s happening? How do you know there’s not a decline in that population after hunting is started because of the disease or whatever the case may be? You won’t because there won’t be a reason for you to care about those animals anymore. Because who’s going to look after them? The anti-hunters? They don’t care, they’re going to go off to the next species that they’re going to try to get hunting stopped hunting for and it’s just not going to do the animals any good. It’s not going to the species any good. They could go out, like I said, and buy up all these outfits. They’re not doing anything from a financial standpoint.
Ramsey Russell: Nothing, purely emotional.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: It is, but once they win, let’s say if they win, then guess what? Who’s going to care about a census study on how many mallards there are, how many pintails there are? How many gadwalls are who’s going to care? Right now we’re the only ones that care. We want to know how many ducks there are? How many elephants there are? How many impalas there are? How many red stag there are? How many blackbuck in South America there are? We’re the ones that want to know that. But if there’s no hunting of them, who cares what the number is?
Ramsey Russell: And I’ve always say and I’ll agree the day I die, the distinction between a bird watcher, an avid bird watcher and a duck hunter, to put it in my term of duck hunting, not elephants but ducks, is a birdwatcher is content to see a single yellow-rump dohickey bird in the jungles of a foreign country to scratch it off his life list. If we were hunting that bird, we’d want to see them eclipse sunshine there’s so many of them. That’s the distinction. Hunters want to see an abundance of wildlife. And the non-hunting or anti-hunting public is very content, just to think and know they exist. I’m going to ask you, I read somewhere along these lines, I read somewhere one time, that I had a client one time describing to me hunting African elephants in Kenya, which they closed the hunting to elephants in Kenya in the mid-70s and there’s now 4% the number of elephants in Kenya that there were back then when you could hunt them.
A birdwatcher is content to see a single bird in the jungles of a foreign country to scratch it off his life list. But if we were hunting that bird, we’d want to see them eclipse sunshine there were so many of them. That’s the distinction. Hunters want to see an abundance of wildlife. The non-hunting or anti-hunting public is very content, just to think and know they exist. – Ramsey Russell
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: You know, Kenya hunting is a great example.
Ramsey Russell: How’s no hunting conservation? How’s that good for wildlife?
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: It is a failed example of conservation. Just like nobody, none of those that want to look at democratic socialism, want to talk about Venezuela, none of the anti-hunters want to talk about Kenya. They closed hunting in Kenya and it’s been a unmitigated disaster for wildlife. Wildlife in some cases have completely vanished. And it goes back to not the fact that hunters were there taking it, and not even the fact that poachers did a lot of it was human-animal encroachment. But Kenya is an unmitigated disaster as it relates to hunting just like Venezuela is an unmitigated disaster as it relates to democratic socialism, and nobody will talk about it. But now as it’s done.
More About Safaris Club International, SCI
What does the SCI do beside the SCI Convention?
Ramsey Russell: It doesn’t fit the anti-hunting narrative. Tell me more about Safari Club International. What avenues or how can a listener, some of these duck hunters I’m talking to right now, how can they become involved in SCI? What does the SCI do beside the big convention?
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: First thing they can do is become a member. I mean, at the end of the day, I’m a member of all the other organizations, whether it’s National Wild Turkey Federation, whether it’s the DU, Delta Waterfowl, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Wild Sheep Federation. I’m a member of all those as well. What they can do is become a Safari Club International member, find out exactly what’s happening. I mean, when I became CEO, I had four pillars that I wanted to make sure that everybody understood we were going to do and that is, number one, we’re going to take care of membership, we were going to increase our membership. Number two, we’re going to take care of our convention, we’re going to make it a bigger and better thing. Number three, we were going to look after advocacy. And that’s all that we’re doing, as I mentioned earlier up in Washington, DC. And then when we combined the CEO responsibilities of SCI, SCIF, and one, I added a fourth leg to that three legged stool and made it a chair and saying conservation, and we’re going to take care of conservation in that entire thought process. And that’s kind of what we’re looking after, to make sure we got the members, the members come to convention, members go to the local banquets that are in their areas, they help us with advocacy to make sure that we’re protecting the freedom for hunters and hunting worldwide. And then we’re making sure that we’re looking after the animals and what’s going on from a conservation standpoint. So those are really Safari Club International’s four pillars from which we’re kind of growing on and working towards as we revamp SCI and SCIF for the 21st and 22nd century, because we’re not going anywhere. We’re going to be around, and we’re going to do we need to do in order to make sure hunting doesn’t go anywhere either.
Ramsey Russell: Right. You know, I was surprised to learn y’all have chapters in all 50 states?
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: Yes.
Ramsey Russell: Often, I mean, there’s one right here in Mississippi I’m aware of I’ve been to it several times, every time they have the banquet, the Magnolia Chapter Safari Club International.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: It’s interesting that the number of people that are hunters that don’t talk about it, it’s because they’re concerned of how the public is going to view them. Some cases, they don’t want to have to spend half their day trying to talk to anti-hunter off the ledge or whatever the case may be. They’d rather just be very quiet and very to themselves and what they go about doing and go hunting and do what they want to do from a hunting standpoint, and some people don’t understand. As I mentioned earlier, if you’re a gun owner, you need to be a lifetime member of NRA and if you’re a hunter, you need to be a lifetime member of Safari Club International. It’s just that simple. You know now if you want to go and you know do specific species like turkeys, then you go join national Wild Turkey Federation, if you were a sheep hunter than join GSE or Wild Sheep and if you’re elk hunter join Rocky Mountain elk foundation. But first and foremost, you join in right and you join SCI and that’s the key because they’re the ones that are promoting and protecting the right to own and bear firearms and also right to hunt worldwide. You might not be a worldwide hunter today, like I wasn’t when I started 30 years ago, but you’re a dreamer. We’re all dreamers.
Ramsey Russell: But you don’t have to be a worldwide hunter. That’s what I keep trying to bring home is there’s so much going on right here in our backyard in Mississippi, in the southeast, in the United States of America. You don’t have to be an international hunter to want to be involved with the preservation of hunting traditions in America. SCI Safari Club International is the spear tip, and that’s what’s so important. Whether you’re a rabbit hunter in Missouri, or a lion hunter in Tanzania, this is we hunters globally are connected in this. Legal precedents or policies. Now I’ll say this, I can remember back during the Obama Administration, two things happened that affected my business, which, whether it’s my business, or let’s say getducks.com did it affect me or that if a client want to go traveling, shoot ducks in Mexico or in Canada. And I’m sure with precedence they would have gotten down to go in interstate with this thing. But I know one of the one of the acts Obama signed was a piece of legislation that if I wanted to transport my shotgun to Canada, I was going to have to get a special permit, take a special test in firearms and the government agencies that we’re dealing with ATF and IRS. So once I got this permit, and I went to Canada, well, every time I travel with my firearm, I’ll have to go get take another test and get another permit with the IRS just to take my firearm anywhere. And SCI Safari Club International came to the rescue.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: Yeah, we did. And we wound up defeating that because in essence was a gun registration law. And when you present it in layman’s terms that way, even though they were trying to get around it, we were able to defeat it. But we spent a lot of time and a lot of money. And a lot of our lawyers and you know lobbyist’s time making sure that didn’t get through. And most people that are not member members of SCI don’t realize that SCI members are the ones that help protect, making that not happen.
Ramsey Russell: That’s right.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: And it’s key for us to kind of get our message out there. And to your point about what else does SCI do, and how are they helping folks? And we’re looking at it from a field-to-fork standpoint. It’s field-to-fork. You go out and you hunt, whether its ducks or doves, or turkeys, or deer, or whatever the case may be. It’s field to fork, and my family has I’ve got three boys, as I mentioned earlier, and we’ve always needed at least four deer processed, whether it’s for crockpot roast, which by the way, that’s what I’m having tonight for dinner. I’ve been told by my wife, so I had to be home at a certain time. Otherwise, she’s eating without me. But it’s a deer roast that we cook in the crock pot or we had to ground up into ground meat. But what’s even more important is SCI Safari Club International was one of the ones that started the Hunters For The Hungry Program. So even though you may not want that deer for your freezer, and you don’t have a friend of yours that wants it, you can go and donate it for hunters for the hungry. They’ll get it processed, and they’ll make it happen for those less unfortunate families that are out there. And those are opportunities for us as hunters to carry on that mentality of feeding others and the food the field-to-fork program.
Safari Club International SCI Convention
Ramsey Russell: I’ve enjoyed coming out to SCI convention. SCI convention is one of my favorite times of the year now like you say walking through and seeing all the taxidermy, we’ve now developed a lot of friendships nationwide, worldwide. With people we meet there it’s always just spellbinding to be on the convention floor and to walk through and just see all the amazing things there at convention. But I’ve heard y’all are fixing to start moving around to where you guys don’t have to necessarily fly to Reno or Las Vegas in the future. Is that what I understand?
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: Yes, so we’ve always had our Safari Club International conventions and the almost 50 years we’ve been around in either Reno, or Las Vegas. So we’ve got two big celebrations coming up. We’re having our 50th anniversary in February of 2021 in Las Vegas, and then we’re having our 50th convention celebration in Vegas the next year 2022. So we’re going to be in Vegas in 2021 and 2022. Then we’re going to be in Nashville and 2023, 2024 and 2025.
Ramsey Russell: Nashville, Tennessee.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: We look forward to going to Nashville, Tennessee, and then in 2026, 2028 and 2030 we’re going to be in New Orleans, Louisiana. And then in 2027 and 2029 we’re going to be in Indianapolis. Now, that’s a lot of people can drive to Nashville and Indianapolis and not have to fly into Reno but Vegas is a great place, going to be huge party for the next two conventions because one’s the 50th celebration of the organization itself and then the other ones the 50th convention itself. So there’s going to be two huge Safari Club International celebrations there, we’ve got a lot of great things planned and then folks that are going to be out there that can drive I mean it’s not that far of a drive to Nashville, New Orleans, or Indianapolis.
Ramsey Russell: Nashville’s five hours from where we’re sitting right now, you know New Orleans is even closer.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: It’s a day-drive for a lot of people so come out to Vegas for sure, enjoy what’s going on in Vegas and then get ready for a big time in Nashville. We are looking forward to it.
Ramsey Russell: That’s fantastic. Laird any parting words anything you’d like to say to the listener about SCI, or Safari Club International?
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: You know, I’ll go back to say SCI again if you’re a hunter, you need to be a member of Safari Club International. I will say this: three favorite things that I like to hunt is DDT – deer, ducks and turkeys. I appreciate all you’re doing we’re getting these hunters around the world on the ducks that most people may not have ever seen in a zoo, or in picture books either. And oh, I’ve got a trophy room with all my stuff. I’m sure you’ve got a trophy room with all your stuff. And I can’t believe 2 Greenville boys are sitting here in Mississippi talking about this stuff.
Ramsey Russell: No, it’s a small world, it just never ceases to amaze me what a terribly small world it is. Speaking of duck hunting at SCI. It is kind of a yin and a yang it’s kind of like we bring hunts to the show that most people have never seen or conceived of. Our taxidermy collection there brings people from out of the woodwork, but at the same time those clients and client prospects, and those SCI members have in a lot of ways steered us because they’ve come in and I asked for what about an African black duck? What about a red-crested pochard? And I go, huh, let me try to find something like. I never forget the first time I ever went to convention 10-12 years ago now, big convention like that. We showed up with just regular birds. It was alright, we did really well, we did better than we thought, but what we realized is that whole audience was geared towards collections, species, which I’ve now learned even through a lot of my clients really isn’t an animal head on the wall. It’s an experience. It’s where that animal took them, the moment when I sit there and I’ve been five days a whole entire week really there at convention listening to stories from clients and client prospects. And they’re never talking about the length of the horns or the weight of the animal. They’re talking about the experience.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: Absolutely. That’s what it’s all about. I mean, people asked me when we got back from Cameroon last June they go, you went to Cameroon, they didn’t care what I hunted you know, they were like you went to Cameroon? What was that like? And then you’re saying you’re in the jungles, and you’re with pygmies and the pygmy people, and what all they’re doing and you got that cultural experience, then we got to talking about animals like a Bongo, and they’re like what’s a Bongo or dwarf forest buffalo. What in the world is that? So it’s all about the experience. And we go through stages in life. I mean, I’m sure I could, I’m not sure I want to, I’m sure I could go on that mountain and get that Dall Sheep or that Rocky Mountain sheep or that Desert sheep? Just like I had done years before, you know 30 years ago, 20 years ago, right now it’s to a stage to where, Okay, I’m thank goodness I got those added when I was earlier but now I want to take that experience to the next level not just hunting a big game animal. I’m talking about going with you on Duck Hunts, going fishing somewhere. I took my son, you know to Costa Rica to fish during his fall break and we had a fantastic time. They are like I thought you were a big game hunter. My son wanted to go fishing. I’m just glad to be outside. I can go down there and fish and catch rooster fish, and shellfish, and pompano, and everything else. We’re eating them. They’re cooking them up for us there at the lodge. And we had a great time getting to see Costa Rica and all that was involved in that. I was fishing and people were going, well I thought you’d be hunting somewhere, nope. I can go fishing just as easy as I can’t go home somewhere.
Ramsey Russell: That was a very big realization to me was when I realized why, what compelled me the most and hunting but I go to convention and there’s 10s of 1000s hundreds of 1000s of hunters from all over the world coming to SCI Safari Club International convention and they’re the same way I am. It’s like you know all my clients go duck hunting for vacation, I do not. I do this for a living and I found my roots again. Why I got into hunting I went to Mississippi State I want to be a deer biologist, a white tailed deer biologist was my ambition. And I went down and co-op’d and worked on a real remote, vast ranch down the border of Mexico and Texas, way back when I was about my son’s age. And every time the wind blew out of the North, those stock tanks filled up with ducks. Every time we dropped the disk, the dove swarmed the field. It was the fifth year of above, above average growing precipitation. Bobwhite quail were flourishing. And man I just sunk my teeth back into wingshooting and never looked back, but then break-break all these years later, I go to convention. And I realize there’s a lot of cool animals out here to hunt, too. I talk about a it a lot, but SCI has kind of brought me full-loop to where now when I go on vacation, I’ve probably got a rifle instead of a shotgun, and it’s an incredible world. And so it’s always just, it’s like we’re all collectively walking through the pages of National Geographic Magazine with high-powered rifles and shotguns. We need to have our cake and eat it too. But we’re conserving wildlife in doing that.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: Along the way. Absolutely. 100%
Ramsey Russell: Laird, I appreciate having you on today and I want to get you back. But I’ve learned that convention is not the time of the year to hem somebody like you up.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: I was a little busy!
Ramsey Russell: As busy as I was, I know you were busy.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: Oh my gosh, you’re getting torn because you know, at a Safari Club International Convention we’ve got all of the leaders from around the free world that are involved in hunting most of the you know, they’re equivalent to US Fish and Wildlife Service, personnel from all these different countries because they can come to the convention, they can meet with their peers from all over the world, as well as the US elected officials that are there at convention and it’s a little bit of a crazy time to say.
Ramsey Russell: I’m going to ask you a question, I asked Steve Comus of Safari Magazine, how many miles a day do you think you walk.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: Well, you know, that’s pretty cool with these iPhones, you’ve got your little steps in there, whatever. It was 8 I think was a minimum. I think it was 14 on another one.
Ramsey Russell: 8 to 14 miles!
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: Yeah, you know, because you’re going from one end to the other. And, you know, they take me around like a show pony. You got handlers there. Because they’re like Laird, you got to go over here and they’re trying to keep you on schedule. Laird, you got to go over there. And this is you know, they’ve given you fact-sheets on who you’re about to meet and you can’t even pronounce their name when they’re from a country it’s like, alright I need phonetics how do you phonetically pronounce this person’s name? You know and you’re having a little bit of background so as you’re walking from one event or waiting for them to come to your meeting, you know room or whatever the case may be it was a little crazy to say the least. So and then it’s from the time you wake up where you have some kind of SCI Life Member Breakfast appreciation, or some government affairs breakfast throughout the whole day. And then you’ve got your SCI banquet that night that has the auctions, and the speakers, and the SCI Awards, and then we have entertainment, like we had Charlie Daniels there. You don’t get home until 12:00 – 01:00 in the morning back to your hotel room. And then it starts all over again. It’s 07:00 in the morning.
Ramsey Russell: Wow, man, that’s busy time.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: That is. Its little crazy.
Ramsey Russell: I describe myself as being crazy at SCI time. Because I am. It’s like, I’ve got to work the floor. And I’ll get to the booth at seven o’clock show opens at 09:00 or 10:00. I’ll get at seven o’clock and record Duck Season Somewhere podcasts. And throughout the day, the telephones are ringing and emails are coming in, I’m on the floor working I have to come back in and take a break and answer all those emails and telephone calls, and then maybe get lucky and go out and eat dinner and relax for a little bit. And I was cognizant this year of just how busy your staff was. You all were way into the night.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: Oh, yeah. And then you’re hoping that some people are leaving some deposits for some contracts and hunts and everything else?
Ramsey Russell: Safari Club International Convention has been a game changer for us. That’s our busy time of year anyway. But one thing I’ve learned it just if I were selling Bongo hunts or Elk hunts or something that an individual would come in and hunt, we probably take a lot more checks. But as it is we have a lot. It’s an immense amount of contact, because duck hunting is social. And we do take quite a few checks at the show. But it is that 6 to 8 week period afterwards that it really starts to fall in for us. I mean it really blows up when I get back because people at the show we’re getting information, making good contact whatever. Then they got to come back talk to their daddy, their brothers, and their co-workers, hook their buddies to go duck hunting because duck hunting is a social sport.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: Yeah, I mean, same thing with dove hunting in Argentina. You’re going to take a couple buddies and same thing with ducks, wherever. It’s like, let me see you I get lined up here. Yeah, I found that guy. I just need to get my buddies lined up.
Contact SCI, Connect with Safari Club International
Ramsey Russell: Hey guys appreciate y’all listening to this episode of Duck Season Somewhere. You’ve been listening to Laird Hamberlin, CEO of Safari Club International. @OFFICIALSCI is their Instagram account and sci.org is their website. Forget everything you thought about SCI. I know we’re a bunch of duck hunters, but very truthfully SCI does for hunting and the future of hunting what NRA does for rifles. As a hunter you know we’ve got to continue asking ourselves what is the future of hunting? We’re raising our kids into this duck hunting thing but for how long will they enjoy it like we enjoy it? It really doesn’t take reading many headlines, look at a lot of political rhetoric going around, to have your eyes opened that maybe we take for granted something that we shouldn’t be taking granted. We need as hunters, and as people involved with wildlife conservation, we need to be birds of a feather flocking together. We need to flock up with the right folks and SCI is the right flock for any of us that are hunting. Check them out safariclub.org, @OFFICIALSCI. Follow Ramsey Russell at @ramseyrussellgetducks. Thank you all for listening. I appreciate y’all. Today’s guest has been Laird Hamberlin, CEO of Safari Club International. I know it you all have enjoyed this conversation today. But really and truly I know that as a duck hunter may be SCI seem like a region of what the heck man, like elephants and tigers. No, Safari Club International does for hunters what NRA does for gun ownership. We’re all in this boat together. I don’t care where you hunt what you hunt. We’re all in this boat together. We don’t have to listen to too much CNN and other political relevant being beamed at us over social media realize that what we do hunt is not a god given right anymore. It’s being heavily politicized and birds of a feather flock together what we can do as individuals is collectively join forces with folks like SCI. Anyway, check @OFFICIALSCI on Instagram, Safariclub.org. Go check them out. I really think y’all would enjoy what they represent and what they offer to you, as a hunter, and most importantly, to your children and to your grandchildren to ensure the future of hunting. Check them out. Laird, I appreciate having you today I know you’ve got a very busy schedule.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: Thanks, Ramsey. Good to visit. Visit safariclub.org on the website, you can join there on the website and get involved in your local chapter, where you have that opportunity by attending the banquet and anything else that they might put on there in your local area. But get involved in Safari Club International. Safariclub.org is a good place to start and just getting that official start and going from there. You will make all the difference in the world. Thank you.
Ramsey Russell: Get involved. That’s the key word right there. Get involved. Safari Club International is a great start. Thank you all for listening.
Laird Hamberlin, Safari Club International: Thanks, Ramsey.