Last year’s plans were derailed when we received positive test results on the way, but we finally made it to Azerbaijan happen. Meeting with father and son operators of North Dakota’s oldest waterfowl resort, our long awaited Azerbaijan duck hunt is discussed. Tune in to hear about this unique hunting destination.

Hide Article

The Hunt Should Go On

 I hate to go home. We’ve had a really good week. 

Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere, where today I am in downtown Baku on the banks of the Caspian Sea, at the end of a pretty kick ass trip up here in Azerbaijan, the first one I’ve been to in a long time since the C word, since the pandemic swept the world. In fact, I was right here, I was right here eating dinner in Baku when Iran, which is 8 miles from where we’d been hunting, shut the border. And little did I know, heading home, that it’d be the last time I was here because of all that mess for a long time. Last year I got to come back, nope, I got the freaking dreaded COVID, got stuck in airport, so my clients were going ahead, 2 of them made it. Today’s guests, fathers and sons Kyle, Warren, Landon Blanchfield, they had taken a detour through Turkey and they didn’t make it for reasons we’ll talk about, but they finally made it, we had a good trip. Everybody expects me to talk good about Azerbaijan, but as you all know I like you all to hear what the people that come over here and enjoy, the hunt, what do they have to say about this trip? What do you think, Kyle?

Kyle Blanchfield: I hate to go home. We’ve had a really good week. Actually we’ve been gone for over 10 days so we’ve had a good trip.

Ramsey Russell: For the second time you all came over here, I mean it’s a long trip getting here, just leaving Jackson, Mississippi and coming here is a long trip. But you all stop and go sightsee the other places. Last year it was Turkey and man, you all saw Turkey, didn’t you? And I’ve always wanted to go.

Kyle Blanchfield: Yeah, no last year we did Istanbul and so we went in there and I’m like, well I am so tired of having to pop through airports and all you do is look out that big glass window and thinking, man, I’d like to be here and I’d like to see what’s going on behind the scenes.

Ramsey Russell: Absolutely.

Kyle Blanchfield: And so this time or last year it’s like I saw the itinerary, it’s like yeah, you have to go through Istanbul. Well, I’d never been to Europe or out of the continental North America, South America. And so I’m like we’re staying and we’re going to stop and spend a few days in Istanbul, I mean that’s where east meets west, it’s one of the most historical places in the planet, I love history and that’s what we did. And we had a chance to tour Istanbul, highly recommend it to anybody else. If you’re coming this way, you have to do that. This year, we did Doha, Qatar. That’s where like the World Cup or whatever the heck it is, tells you how much of a soccer fan I am. But that was a big deal there.

Ramsey Russell: They call it football over here.

Kyle Blanchfield: But we had a couple of days in Doha and it was awesome. And so yeah, no, it’s been a great trip.

Ramsey Russell: I’ve had a good time, no doubt. And back up a little bit, talk about Turkey. I think Miss Anita and I are talking about going to Turkey one day just to visit, no hunting trip, no related, she wants to go, just do a little vacation and we’ve got college friends over there. How was you all’s experience in Turkey? What did you all see? What did you all do in Istanbul? Because I just see it from the airport, hell of an airport, by the way. Number one in the world.

Kyle Blanchfield: Oh, it’s an incredible airport. I think I would guess that most people, when they would think of Turkey, they would think of going on a bus ride with a bunch of chickens in the back, it’s not, it’s a very modern city, it’s actually the largest city in Europe, it’s like 20 million people.

Ramsey Russell: An old city.

Kyle Blanchfield: Yeah, it’s an old city. So it is literally where the European continent meets the Asian continent, part of it is in Asia, part of it is in Europe. It’s an incredible city with the original Constantinople, which if you actually were listening in history class you would understand how incredible that was. Eastern Roman Catholic history, that’s incredible. When we were there we did a walking tour of Old Town and that’s what I’d highly recommend. And a lot of Europe is going to see old castles and old churches and stuff like that, but this is different. The Hagia Sophia is really the grandstand thing to see, it was the oldest Catholic church built by the Catholics, built when it was Constantinople by the Romans, it is absolutely breathtaking when you go in there.

Ramsey Russell: Do a lot of people speak English?

Kyle Blanchfield: Yeah, definitely. I mean, Turks, they’re pretty proud of the fact that they’re part of Europe and that they are pretty worldly. We had this amazing walking tour guy and it was incredible. So we put a lot of miles on, saw the old city, saw a bunch of stuff, understood a lot more of the history behind Constantinople and the new city. But the mosques are incredible and the original Hagia Sophia was originally a Catholic church and it is so unbelievably big, it’s incredible. So yeah, the history behind it is staggering and to see it is breathtaking, to say the least.

Ramsey Russell: So you had this breathtaking tour and immersive experience in Istanbul on your way to Baku last year, but you didn’t make it to Baku.

Kyle Blanchfield: We unfortunately did not.

Ramsey Russell: Now last year, how quickly we forget just a year. Last year everybody except Mexico mandated a COVID test, had to take a test before you come.

Kyle Blanchfield: Right.

Ramsey Russell: You all had to take a test probably before you got into Turkey, then you had to take another test before you got over here to Baku.

Kyle Blanchfield: Unfortunately, yes.

Ramsey Russell: How’d that go?

Kyle Blanchfield: It didn’t go very well. You have to do it in advance, of course. So we’re only in Istanbul for 3 days and so after day two and a half, we’re like, okay, we got to get a test now to travel on to get our next flight to Baku for Azerbaijan. And so we go down to the lobby and these people come in and they swab us and then we go on back to our walking tours. So the hotel calls me on my cell phone and says, hey, Mr. Blanchfield, your tests are in. Your results are done and they’re at the lobby. I’m like, hey, open up the envelope and tell me what they are, just assuming they’re all negative. Well, Warren tests positive and I’m like, serious? And he goes, oh, I’m very sorry to tell you this, your son has tested positive. And now I’m like, now what do we do? We finished our tour and went back and I’m like, let’s look at this thing, let’s see what our options are. And it just derailed the whole trip from there on out. But if you want to go more into the story –

Ramsey Russell: I want to go more into the story, that’s why I brought it up. Let me just preface this. We hunt in the mornings, and we go to lunch and we have some tidies 5 or 10, we had a good time, we tell stories and this is where this story came up, great story. So Warren’s got COVID, what do you do?

Kyle Blanchfield: Well, when we first saw the positive result, I’m like, first of all, there’s no way in hell he’s positive. I mean, Turkey has about an 8% or 9% false positive rate at least. And so Landon and I are like, number 1, no one feels sick, there’s no symptoms whatsoever, it’s like, well, maybe he does have it. So then we’re like, well, that’s impossible, we are within a foot or two of each other, we’ve been staying in the same rooms, we traveled all the way here, we have been in close proximity for many days already, it’s like, that’s not possible. And so I went to talk to the guy at the front desk and I’m like, how can I possibly – is there an alternative way to get out of this thing a little bit? And what I really was looking for –

Ramsey Russell: Brainstorming with the concierge.

Kyle Blanchfield: Yeah. So I’m like, what’s the opportunity to retest? Because I’m like, this has got to be an incorrect test. And it happens even in the US, we have false positives all the time, right? So I’m like, well, you really can’t retest, I don’t think that’s going to work. But I know a guy that knows a guy that could maybe help you out. And he’s kind of looking around, it’s kind of a shady operation, he’s kind of looking around, seeing if anybody is watching him –

Ramsey Russell: Looking over his shoulder making sure nobody’s listening.

Kyle Blanchfield: Looking over shoulder, the manager is not there.

Ramsey Russell: I know a guy that knows a guy.

Kyle Blanchfield: I go, well, okay. Well, tell me more. And he goes, go down to the train station tonight at about 11:30 midnight and look for him.

Ramsey Russell: Like the public transit?

Kyle Blanchfield: Yeah. And it’s probably like 3 or 4 blocks away from where we’re staying. And I’m like, okay, well, what’s his name? No, he wouldn’t tell me his name, he said, you’ll know the guy when you see him.

Ramsey Russell: You know him, when you see him.

Kyle Blanchfield: You know him when you see him. So we leave Warren in the room and Landon and I, his younger brother and I go down there and we’re North Dakota boys –

Ramsey Russell: And these towns over here are wide awake at midnight.

Kyle Blanchfield: Oh, wide open.

Ramsey Russell: Wide open.

Kyle Blanchfield: And I will tell you this, Istanbul has a cop on every corner. Initially, when I first get there – it’s a city of 20 million people and we’re from a state of 700,000 people in the whole damn state. So our town has 7000 people, if you count dogs, cats, whatever. And we’re a little bit out of our element to say the least. So we get down there and we’re looking around and it’s midnight, this is when shady people come out of the woodwork. But so we’re walking around and we’re –

Ramsey Russell: Like boys from North Dakota looking for –

Kyle Blanchfield: So we stick out like sore thongs, too, right? And we’re walking around and we never really find the guy.

Ramsey Russell: You know me, you see me. Did you see anybody with bushy eyebrows that look kind of shady, oh, that’s got to be the guy.

Kyle Blanchfield: And then I would just randomly walk up to people like, hey, are you the guy? And they wouldn’t speak English, they look at you, like what? Whatever the heck he was saying? And they would walk away and be like, well, that’s not the guy. So we’re walking around like a couple of idiots, we did it for, like an hour, hour and a half and finally, Landon goes on his phone and figures out there’s another place you can test at. And this is just a shady operation as it is. And so we walk down to that place and it just happens to be and you may want to ask him this part of the story, because it’s a great story. So, full disclosure, we’re trying to beat the system by basically having Warren’s passport, I can’t believe I’m talking to this on – and we’re going to have Landon test for it.

Ramsey Russell: But in all fairness now, because this ain’t like we’re trying to smuggle. Like, I was in a country and I said, when do we take a test? He goes, tomorrow, I said, where do we take it? He told me the drug story, he said, $150, I go, okay, he goes, I can just give you one. I mean, come on, go ahead and obviously didn’t have it false positive.

Kyle Blanchfield: So we tried to beat the system by this idea and we ended up finding out that Turkey has a very robust system and actually pretty advanced system for testing. And once Warren’s passport number was in that system, there’s no way you can retest for 5 days and we tried every possible way to retest.

Ramsey Russell: Meanwhile, you all’s negative result, the time line is dwindling.

Kyle Blanchfield: The clock is ticking, we got 24 hours.

Ramsey Russell: The clock is ticking you got 24 hours. So you came on to Baku?

Kyle Blanchfield: Yeah, we all kind of huddled up, we got three choices. One is Landon and I would travel on to Baku and go hunting without Warren, leave him in Turkey in Istanbul in a hotel room by himself for 5 days, I didn’t feel very comfortable about that. Option 2 was to all of us would stay in Istanbul until he got a new test and 5 days later, but guess what, the next round, Landon and I will have to test and maybe one of us gets a false positive or maybe we’ve got it.

Ramsey Russell: Turned into 5 more days.

Kyle Blanchfield: Yeah. So this could just continue on. Option 3 was Landon and I head home and Warren stays in Turkey on his own and gets a chance to retest in 5 days, which is what we did. And we got to the airport, we barely made it out of that country with the time we had on our tests and got home and I’ll tell you what, that was not a fun –

Ramsey Russell: Sounds like a reasonable plan to me. What mama think about it?

Kyle Blanchfield: Tell you what, my wife tried to talk us out of doing this hunt to start with, didn’t want us there in the first place.

Ramsey Russell: Over the tail end of a pandemic.

Kyle Blanchfield: And this is the beginning. When you’re in Turkey, you’re not that far away from Ukraine. And that was when the Russians were knocking on the door and the war had not started, but there was a lot of jabber about it. And it’s a hot zone, honestly, it really isn’t, but if you live in the US and you’re watching TV all the time, you’re going to think it’s a hot zone. And she watches news way too much like, oh, my God, this last thing you guys should do. So we’re getting a lot of heat to even go and so my wife literally begged us not to go to start with and then when we did finally like, we’re going and on the way out that door, she looked at me like eye to eyeball and she said, you come home with both boys.

Ramsey Russell: When did you tell her, when you walked in the door?

Kyle Blanchfield: I did tell her that we’re coming home early and I did explain. She was so impressed with me, she was speechless for about 3 weeks. I was on a deep shit list. To her, thankfully, she forgave me and gave us a chance to shoot –

Duck Hunting in Baku, Azerbaijan

But it’s a very modern city and anybody that’s concerned about coming here in this part of the world for safety between Qatar or here is there’s absolutely – super friendly and super safe. 

Ramsey Russell: And here you are. So this time you went to Qatar and you saw Qatar, amazing country, you all came to Baku. How long were you all here touring, like a day or two?

Kyle Blanchfield: Yeah, we came a day and almost two days ahead of schedule as well. Part of that was built in because these airlines right now, it’s a disaster. And actually we had no issues with flights whatsoever. We want some buffers on, this is a big deal. We’ve been talking about this, planning this for years and then I think we sent our deposit like 3 years ago. This has been something we talk about, we think about, we’ve been so excited to get here and then we’re so disappointed we couldn’t do it last year. So this year I’m like, you know what, I’m going to build in some time because I’m not going to ruin this trip over a missed flight. So we ended up building in Qatar, which was so worth doing and then also giving us a little more time in Baku. And so we got a chance to really see the city and we did a full day tour here as well, plus a tour with your guy. And so we got a chance to see Baku.

Ramsey Russell: What did you see? What do you remember? How would you describe Baku? Because I’ve seen it and I have literally walked out of this hotel right here and walked clear down, way down to Old Town. I can tell you what you don’t see in Mississippi when you’re walking down a sidewalk is an Aston Martin store right next to a Lamborghini store, right next to a Ferrari store, you don’t see that in Mississippi at all, just the shop and all the name brands that you see on like Rodeo Drive type stuff. I mean, you don’t see that stuff.

Kyle Blanchfield: First of all, most people can’t find Azerbaijan on the globe if they tried and that was we were in the same boat.

Ramsey Russell: Me too.

Kyle Blanchfield: And so the second thing is, I knew Baku because again, I like history and the oil state, I’m from North Dakota, so we’re a big oil state. So Baku, when you look at oil production, which we kind of follow closely in North Dakota, Azerbaijan is a big player in oil and most of the oil comes from right here. So I knew a little bit of that, but honestly, most people don’t and that’s okay. But it’s a very modern city and anybody that’s concerned about coming here in this part of the world for safety between Qatar or here is there’s absolutely – super friendly and super safe. The crime here is one of the – both Qatar and Baku, if you want to do statistics on crime, it’s some of the safest cities in the planet. Hell of a lot safer than a lot of cities in the US, I’ll tell you that right now.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah, it’s just some of the walks I’ve done, self guided, just decide I’m going to stop and get a cup of coffee and they don’t speak English, but they smile. And we’re trying to figure each other out so they can get a cup of coffee, get a Coca Cola, whatever and they’re so accommodating, so friendly, so helpful. And have you ever seen anybody work harder than the shopkeepers down in Old Town try to sell you something?

Kyle Blanchfield: If you took those people home and you took in the car business or something, they’d sell every car that Chevrolet could build and they’re incredible. And I’ve seen that in other places as well, but they’re really crafty here. You’re not leaving that store with probably without buying, you got to work really hard to not buy something. The nice thing about here is they’re not really annoying, they are just crafty salespeople and they’re good at it, very good at it.

Ramsey Russell: Every salesman on earth could learn something from Azerbaijani carpet salesman, everybody could learn something in sales, myself included, I have every time I go in there. So we leave here and we drive 4 hours, go to town, check into a hotel, what do you think of the hotel?

Kyle Blanchfield: Oh, really nice. Very modern, very nice.

Ramsey Russell: I find out, that little town we’re in, I can’t pronounce it, is like a major tourist destination for everybody in Azerbaijan. It’s like going to the beach, you stepping in a beach, it’s a river and swimming and yachting and the houses, the beach house, the vacation homes was incredible.

Kyle Blanchfield: It’s an interesting mix of, there’s parts of town that are pretty poor that are pretty basic and then there’s parts that are exceptionally nice and we’re in the nice part. I mean, I wouldn’t say there’s a bad place that don’t take that the wrong way, but there’s parts that are the regular person and then there’s the person that’s the higher end person. But it’s a beautiful city. It’s kind of neat because what I like about this, especially in that area where we stayed at for the hunting part, is there’s still a lot of the old Soviet block feel to it.

Ramsey Russell: It’s a Russian feel between the cars and the vodka selection at the grocery store, to me it’s got a very Russian feel. Because they were in Russia for 70 years.

Kyle Blanchfield: Yeah, well, I’m 55 years old, so I grew up in a cold war, so for me that’s really fascinating to see that. And of course, they’ve been in their own country since the 90s or whatever. And so they’re way past that, but you can feel it yet. You can see the old Russian cars. Like you said, the next car is a high end sports car and then there’s the fancy Russian cars that are interesting to see. And then there’s a little old tractor pulling a haywagon. But that’s part of the fun, actually, that’s the real feel. This is not some polished Disney World experience, this is real world experience, which is the part that I really like.

Ramsey Russell: Hell of a nice hotel. And the reason I think it’s your description and your opinion of this past week is this, your family owns Woodland Resort in North Dakota around Devil’s Lake the oldest waterfowl outfitter in the state of North Dakota, 35 years. And you and your mom and dad started the business back when and you and your wife took over, now I hear your kids talking to dinner table, they’re growing up into it. How many of those cabins you got? Because I’ve been to your spot. Boy, I went to a concert or something one night there in August. This is a big deal and it’s not just waterfowl, because after waterfowl comes ice fishing, after ice fishing comes something else year round, 365 days fishing resort.

Kyle Blanchfield: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: How many of those cabins do you all have there?

Kyle Blanchfield: So we have a total of 37 units.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Kyle Blanchfield: 9 of those are standalone cabins, we have our new suite building, we have basic motel rooms, we’ve got a couple of other things called lodge units. So we have this variety of accommodations that try to fit to whoever price range, some have full kitchen, some don’t. It’s a diverse market that we work with. And like you said, the seasons, we are so lucky, Ramsey in the fishing industry. Take a nice place in Canada that’s a fly in camp, pick something, they’ve got about 3 months maybe to make their money for the whole year, there’s a couple spells during the year that are slower, but we have 4 seasons and we have 4 really good seasons. And so we are extremely lucky. Where we’re at. Devil’s Lake is pretty special place.

Meal Memories to Last a Lifetime

Years down the road, I won’t remember how many birds we shot per day, but I will remember some of those meals.

Ramsey Russell: So you’ve been in what I call the hospitality industry and the hunting fishing industry for 35 years, grew up hunting and fishing in North Dakota. One thing we talked about and noticed a lot was the service quality at that hotel, that restaurant, that was amazing, wasn’t it? For little or nothing, I think we were told that the wait staff probably makes equivalent of $5 or $6 or $8 a day.

Kyle Blanchfield: Exceptional service.

Ramsey Russell: And the service was amazing.

Kyle Blanchfield: I don’t know if I’ve ever been to a place that had better service. It was extremely good. There’s some differences compared to western hospitality to this part of the world hospitality, some good, some bad. But overall experience, incredible. Years down the road, I won’t remember how many birds we shot per day, but I will remember some of those meals.

Ramsey Russell: Talk about some of those meals. What meals do you remember? The chef went above beyond it. And I learned through our host that he’s the top chef in that town, that’s a considerable town, he was the top chef. Like last night, I don’t know the guy’s name, but like one of the top pop stars of Azerbaijan was in there having a private party.

Kyle Blanchfield: Yeah, started just singing in the crowd. And the guy had a heck of a voice and he had his entourage with him and that’s kind of just out of the blue, interesting experience as well. But my favorite meal was probably the last one, where we had the pot pie deal with the big – Oh, man, it’s good. It’s this huge 6 inch tall –

Ramsey Russell: It’s a peel off is kind of what that’s called. I don’t know the real name for it, but it was that pastry with the rice and the gadwalls.

Kyle Blanchfield: So good.

Ramsey Russell: That and the fish. The fish was just absolutely to die for.

Kyle Blanchfield: Now, you were bragging on the coot, which was actually pretty darn good.

Ramsey Russell: I love the coot, I can’t believe I ate the coot, it was amazing.

Kyle Blanchfield: But I’m an old farm boy too. I grew up on a farm and we used to shoot coots to feed the barn cats and I had a hard time getting over that. But it was good.

What Ducks Can You Shoot in Azerbaijan?

Ramsey Russell: If that was hard getting over 3 years in the makings, stuck in Baku looking for the guy, you’ll know, when you see him, going to Qatar, going to Baku, you’re finally – It was day one, we go out, we shoot a bunch of ducks, bunch of green wings, gadwalls.

Kyle Blanchfield: Eurasian green wings.

Ramsey Russell: Eurasian green wings. One of the boys shot the first what became many ferruginous pochard. But then that afternoon they wanted to go hunting. And as we’re scrambling, I mean, it’s kind of getting dark kind of late in my opinion to be getting out on late going hunting. Of course, we found out they had gone and tried to buy us the flashlights for the guns like they use, they couldn’t find enough of them to work. And the last instruction we got from our host before we boarded the boat was shoot the blackbirds if you see them. I go, what blackbirds? The coots. And we saw them and we shot them. Now, if you couldn’t get over eating the coot, what was it for your first day finally here that your instruction for the afternoon hunt was shoot the blackbirds? What were you thinking when we dropped you off in the boat to shoot the blackbirds? Because by the time we got dropped off in the blind, the boys were already laying into them son, thick and heavy. We were driving out and you go, wow, these coots actually fly? I said, yeah, they’re flying for their lives because we found out the real hunters like coot and mallard, they like coot more than mallard. And you never see either one of them hanging on a roadside kiosk for sale, they don’t hit the market.

Kyle Blanchfield: Yeah, the boys will chime in on this one, but I mean, they’re like yeah, they’re looking at them and they’re like, shoot, day after that, it was like, shoot those for me, they like those things. I’m like, well, let them have it.

Ramsey Russell: How many people can say they’ve been on a Azerbaijani coot shoot?

Kyle Blanchfield: I’m 7000 miles away from home and we’re letting the coots, we’re just giving it to them.

Ramsey Russell: I would like to have one of them flashlights. I told, next time I’m here, I’d like to do a night hunt like they do. Just authentic.

Kyle Blanchfield: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: How many people can say they’ve done that?

Kyle Blanchfield: Yeah, exactly. No kidding. No, that was an interesting experience to say the least.

The Unicorn Hunt

And the first day, the green wings were just covering us up and I did my homework on the Eurasian – what’s the difference between a standard North American green wing versus Eurasian?

Ramsey Russell: How would you describe the hunting as compared to anywhere? As compared to North Dakota? As compared to anywhere.

Kyle Blanchfield: Well, it’s different, for sure. We all had our own blinds, a lot of it was similar, but a lot of it was different. Of course the scenery is different, I don’t know, it had a whole different feel to it, but it was fun. And really what I’m looking for here is we’re looking for those unicorns, they’re hard to get. And the first day, the green wings were just covering us up and I did my homework on the Eurasian – what’s the difference between a standard North American green wing versus Eurasian? And so, I mean, right away, the first Drake I shot was like, literally right in front of me, landing right there and I’m like that’s a Eurasian.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Kyle Blanchfield: So I was fired up about that.

Ramsey Russell: They were in thick. We shot plenty of Eurasians, we shot some gadwalls. If you’re going to sign up for a unicorn hunt, this is my 6th trip over here and we’ve shot all the species, I’ve shot all the species. But those red crested pochards, which are the unicorn, according to the guide staff, they had seen them, we didn’t see them. But I will say this, that ferruginous pochard I’ve been to, this is my 6th trip and I have seen a half dozen come in, I have killed 3 in 6 visits until this visit and 5 visits until this visit. Hell, I shot more than that yesterday. I saw more flying, I saw more than I knew existed, they were everywhere. They were thick in here, but the other unicorns weren’t here. I know, it’s a little disappointing.

Kyle Blanchfield: A little disappointing on that. But I mean, we’ve got some beautiful birds we’re taking home, those are going back and the green wings, Landon got a beautiful spoon bill that is half the fun. So we still are taking a bunch of birds home, gives us a reason to come back, Ramsey.

Ramsey Russell: You travel with your boys a lot, I noticed. I’ve always said, the best hunting partners are the ones you raise. That’s important to you, isn’t it? Have you always grown up hunting with this?

Kyle Blanchfield: Well, yeah.

Ramsey Russell: So when did you all get into travel?

Kyle Blanchfield: Well, we’ve always traveled with boys in the wintertime because in the summertime it’s really hard for us to be out of the resort we’re working and so we’ve always gone to places in the Caribbean, warm and these kids have been all over, plus they’ve traveled a lot more without me because they got more stamps on their passports than I got. But as far as hunting goes, our first one was we went up to St. Paul Island, which was quite an adventure.

Ramsey Russell: King eiders.

Kyle Blanchfield: Yeah. Cole Bay. Hunted with Riley McHugh, one of your guys.

Ramsey Russell: That’s right. Riley’s a good dude.

Kyle Blanchfield: Yeah. And east coast, we’ve been to Obregon, Mexico.

Ramsey Russell: That’s right.

Kyle Blanchfield: Incredible hunt. That was fun. So those are all just –

Ramsey Russell: Just getting started.

Kyle Blanchfield: Well, they’re at the age, I got them to myself for a while and I’m going to take advantage of it and once they’re going to grow up and they’re going to probably get married at some point and have kids and all that kind of stuff and that’s going to be a little harder to do. So I’m taking advantage of it right now.

Human Connections Beyond the Hunt

I don’t like to find out who people are as a culture or as a human being from a newspaper back home, I like to talk to them and eat with them and talk and socialize.

Ramsey Russell: Kyle, to a person, we had this discussion on a boat ride the first morning, just we had time to talk in the boat ride. I told you, to a person, this hunt in Azerbaijan attracts the same kind of person, different walks of life, different people, different places where they originated and their backgrounds, but it’s the same mindset of the people that come here. It’s a unicorn hunt and I can tell you after 6 trips, 7 long weeks in Azerbaijan, they either here or they ain’t. This time it was a lot of green wings, few gad walls, few mallards and a bunch of ferruginous pochards, at other times it’s a smattering of everything else. It’s not necessarily a high volume hunt, it’s not necessarily a guaranteed unicorn hunt. We’re talking about Africa, over Africa, you all going to come back with 10 species to 15 species minimum, this ain’t that. This is different. It’s a big country, there’s water fluctuations, there’s weather fluctuations. But I think one thing that the birds of a feather that come to Azerbaijan have in common is a sense of adventure and kind of a sense of a total package experience. Would you agree that’s kind of one of the defining moments of this? The hunt was the hunt –

Kyle Blanchfield: For sure. I mean, if you don’t come here and immerse yourself in the culture. Between Istanbul, Qatar and here, they all have their own little uniqueness, if you can –

Ramsey Russell: That’s pretty scary territory to a westerner that reads a lot of news.

Kyle Blanchfield: Oh, yeah.

Ramsey Russell: But it really ain’t, is it?

Kyle Blanchfield: It’s all baloney. That is so much baloney. I’ve never felt safer in any other place. There’s a lot of places in the US, I’ve been to. I cannot believe how clean it is. There’s no garbage laying around. Yeah, you have a couple of spots in the bonus, but it is exceptionally clean. Yeah, that’s really one of the things that surprised me. But just getting out of your home turf and seeing this unique culture and these people are all Muslim, which I was like the boogeyman for a while after 9/11 and I’m embarrassed to say that.

Ramsey Russell: But they’re not radical.

Kyle Blanchfield: No, not at all. Their culture is welcoming, they’re hospitable. I think you could leave your wallet laying on the table here and no one’s going to steal it.

Ramsey Russell: Well, I noticed today as we were leaving, it was a very long goodbye. We went to the restaurant, we packed up, loaded the truck, went to the restaurant, got a long ride back town. So we polished off a bottle of vodka and it was a very long goodbye. I noticed you swapping numbers with a lot of people, a lot of staff there, you made a lot of friends, a lot of connections, a lot of human connections beyond the hunt.

Kyle Blanchfield: Their culture is kind of stoic and at first you think they look kind of grumpy and it’s just the way they are.

Ramsey Russell: They don’t smile, it’s like that Russian carryover.

Kyle Blanchfield: By the time I left after 5 days, I had them waving and smiling and we’re driving out of here and they all were kind of stiff and stoic till I started waving at them out the window of the van, pretty soon they’re all waving back and smiling and they kind of, like, lightened up a little bit. But they’re great people. That was so much fun. And to see –

Ramsey Russell: You’re a people person. You’ve been in this business a long time, you’ve been in this industry a long time, you deal with a lot of diverse people and that’s one thing I noticed about you immediately. But what I’ve seen worldwide is if you show up anywhere, any state, any place, any town, any group of people you’re hanging with, especially a foreign culture, because we’re as foreign to them, I don’t believe they’d ever had an American in that hotel or in that restaurant like we were, especially like we were. Dressed in camo, guns over our shoulders, hip boots on or waders and come in with our own bottle of vodka. I don’t think they’d ever had that.

Kyle Blanchfield: No, I don’t think so either.

Ramsey Russell: But what I’ve learned is show interest by showing interest in who they are and who their culture is and what their food is and they open up, I’ve seen that worldwide. I find it fascinating.

Kyle Blanchfield: It’s a little respect.

Ramsey Russell: I don’t like to find out who people are as a culture or as a human being from a newspaper back home, I like to talk to them and eat with them and talk and socialize.

Kyle Blanchfield: Well, we learned a lot, especially talking.

Ramsey Russell: Weren’t the guys that took us out in the boats, weren’t they some of the nicest people?

Kyle Blanchfield: Yeah. Well, there was some language barriers there, but it’s like Pictionary. And now, of course, Google Translate wins the battle if you have connectivity, so you can always communicate with that, but you didn’t really have to. I mean, duck hunters are duck hunters, those guys are all like Joe Pro.

Ramsey Russell: They were on the ball, they were trying to take care of us. And you had already gotten out of the truck to go on the river hunt that day and I was telling Warren and Landon, it was a little disorganized, you got to go with the flow. But part of that is just the fact that they’re bending to accommodate us. They’ve got decoys, they’ve got mojos, but they got flashlights on their guns, they do things differently over here, but they are doing their utmost taking what they know about duck hunting to accommodate the American hunter, to present the shots and do like we want to do. And I just think it’s outstanding that they’re willing to do.

Kyle Blanchfield: I think we’re the square peg in their round hole sometimes because they just do –

Ramsey Russell: They don’t have any inkling of understanding on why we want a red crested pochard, because that is a duck, they do not like to eat.

Kyle Blanchfield: Right.

Ramsey Russell: They shoot them and they’ll sell them. But like, if you drive by a kiosk, you’ll see that red crested pochard hanging for a week because nobody wants him. He’s got yellow skin, I don’t know if it’s dyed or what it is, so they just don’t understand us. They like coots and mallards and green wings and they don’t understand us going out and shooting, wanting these species, these unicorns.

Kyle Blanchfield: I think they’re starting to figure that out after we’re there again. But it’s definitely not part of their culture, they kill birds to eat them, it’s food.

Ramsey Russell: All right, look, last question I got for you. We were going to a fish camp and first day you got back way early.

Kyle Blanchfield: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: You had already gone up and seen all the carp and some other fish hanging, gone back and seen them fry fish and like somebody said when I took a picture of that oil, you could probably run a tractor on that brown grease they were frying in and you had eaten the fish.

Kyle Blanchfield: Yeah. So I got there and I tell you, that was probably one of the funnest parts of the trip for me, because I got there and I talked – again, now, my cell phone worked good there. So once in a while, we hit a snag beyond Pictionary Communications and I would just fire up the Google Translate and show it to them and they would talk into it or they would type into so we had some limited communications. But I’m trying to ask, I’m trying to learn what the heck they’re doing and I figured out it’s a fish market. And this is crazy, because the most valuable fish there were these big, ugly carp and they had Zander.

Ramsey Russell: Which is foreign fish to a Mississippi boy. But you all know about him up there.

Kyle Blanchfield: Yeah, that’s basically a cousin of the walleye, right? I’m like, my goodness, why don’t we cook up some of that stuff? Now you’re talking. And it’s just this little off the beaten path on this lakeshore, a little sketchy on the outside, but the nicest people and they were so kind to me to show me what was going on, how things worked and I had more fun. So, we based out of there next rest of the trip, we were in and out of there. And as soon as I got off the boat from hunting the morning, they’re all waving, they had hot tea ready for us. They’re nice people, really nice people.

Ramsey Russell: They really are.

Kyle Blanchfield: Yeah, I had fun with that.

Ramsey Russell: Kyle, I really enjoyed it. It was worth the wait getting to hunt with you all. I really enjoyed huddling up at the table with you all, going out with you all, visiting. We solved a lot of world problems and learned a lot about a lot of things. And I really enjoyed it and I appreciate you all, I really do.

Kyle Blanchfield: It was a great experience, thanks for having us.

Ramsey Russell: I want to hear what Landon has to say about all this. Landon, I enjoyed the week. How are you doing?

Landon Blanchfield: Well, I just want to thank you for one hell of a week out here.

Ramsey Russell: Did you have fun?

Landon Blanchfield: Oh, I had a blast.

Ramsey Russell: I couldn’t tell.

A Unique, Immersive Hunting Experience

But you learn a lot about the culture when you’re here with different duck hunters, you learn new tricks, how they work over here and it’s something special. 

Landon Blanchfield: Oh, yeah, I had a blast. And this is my 3rd trip with And it’s not always about the hunting and we’re all duck hunters here and we like to shoot ducks. But you learn a lot about the culture when you’re here with different duck hunters, you learn new tricks, how they work over here and it’s something special. It’s not a vacation to Cancun or whatever, you’re just really fully immersed in the culture and that’s what it’s all about.

Ramsey Russell: I tell people this, I’m telling everybody, I’m telling the world right now again, this hunt ain’t for everybody, this hunt’s not for everybody, it’s just not. There are people that need to go to Mazatlán or Argentina where it’s a little more predictable, this is more like an immersive experience into a culture that’s real different than our own and we’re hunting ducks. And we’re not just chasing, we shot a lot of green wings, some cool ducks, but we’re chasing unicorns and that’s a whole lot to do with it, is the unicorn aspect of it. I just want to hit a little bit with you. What was your most memorable duck hunt? What memory? It might be just something. What was it about it? What do you remember most? What did you like most? What do you think 50 years from now, you’ll tell your grandkids about the time you duck hunted in Azerbaijan?

Landon Blanchfield: That’s kind of a tough question to answer there. I just say just being out the marsh, especially today when it cleared out a little bit, just seeing the Caucus Mountains –

Ramsey Russell: Yeah, first time we saw them this week.

Landon Blanchfield: Seeing those beautiful pochards just come right in the decoys, it’s hard to beat that.

Ramsey Russell: Those little ferruginous are freaking bullets, aren’t they? They’re small, like a lesser scaup, maybe a little smaller. But they are fast, like a ring neck fast. It’s like a cinnamon teal colored scaup.

Landon Blanchfield: Yeah, I thought blue bill were fast and I’d adjust my lead in a little bit for these guys.

Ramsey Russell: What was your favorite meal? What did you think about the food?

Landon Blanchfield: I was a little skeptical on the coot until I tried it.

Ramsey Russell: Did you have seconds like I did?

Landon Blanchfield: Yeah, maybe. I think I even had thirds.

Ramsey Russell: Did you really? I think I did, too. There wasn’t any leftovers.

Landon Blanchfield: Yeah, there was nothing left after us.

Ramsey Russell: What was the biggest surprise? Because you’re coming to a Muslim country and what was the biggest surprise when you came over here? You said, wow.

Landon Blanchfield: So I probably did a little bit too much research and reading stuff online, lots of red flags to be worried about and stuff like that.

Ramsey Russell: What red flag?

Landon Blanchfield: Just red flags about certain events going on over here, especially in the mountain area.

Ramsey Russell: Down around Armenia.

Landon Blanchfield: Yeah, they got a little issue over here. But my mind was completely changed after just meeting the people one on one, just really great people. And that just really helped make the trip.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah. The coot was good, you liked it, that’s obviously the most memorable meal. How many species did you keep? How many species are you going home with?

Landon Blanchfield: So we’re going home with 3, but we got 4. The 4th one was a hen Eurasian wigeon, but one of the hawks got that one, so we’re not taking that one home, but we’ll let them have it.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah. What species are you bringing home?

Landon Blanchfield: So we’re bringing back the ring neck, pochard – ferruginous pochard – bringing back a northern shoveler. Because I think it’d be kind of neat to have Azerbaijani northern shoveler on the wall and Eurasian teal.

Ramsey Russell: For a duck that is so beat up on back home, it’s unbelievable how many clients have come to Azerbaijan and put their hands on a northern shoveler like we got back home, which is kind of surprising. It’s unbelievable how many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, northern shovelers and gadwalls and northern pintails and mallards exist. But it’s unbelievable how many clients have come here and gone home with a shoveler because they’re just spectacular. You shoot a nice drake up here, they’re spectacular. You don’t see them like that in North Dakota, do you?

Landon Blanchfield: No. Our season is basically over by the middle of November, so by the time there’s the first cold snap, we’re only left with the ugly northern shelbirds. You never see a fully plumed out one.

Ramsey Russell: In North Dakota, you all do a lot of dry field hunting? Do you do much marsh hunting like that at all?

Landon Blanchfield: When my brother and I were a little bit younger and dumber, we used to go tread out into the slough and man, we got some nasty muck back home.

Ramsey Russell: Just like here.

Landon Blanchfield: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: I don’t know if you stepped off any of those blinds, but I could see the bottom, it wasn’t but a foot deep to the bottom yesterday and I went out there to pick up a cripple and sunk down to my mid thigh and I never got back up into blinds, that was the last time I set foot off that blind. Don’t step off a blind into these bottomless things. How did you like hunting over water versus hunting dry field, mostly. How was it different to you?

Landon Blanchfield: Well, it’s something different. A lot of people think duck hunting is one thing, but there’s just so much variety with duck hunting. You have your sea ducks where you’re sitting out in a layout boat in the middle of the ocean and you have seals coming up right next to you, checking you out on the boat and you have your dry field hunting, but it’s really hard to beat a good marsh hunt with lots of variety.

Ramsey Russell: Did you have a favorite species?

Landon Blanchfield: It’s hard to beat those ferruginous pochards.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Landon Blanchfield: Yeah. Pretty birds.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah. And I’m going to tell you, if you were to come back here 5 or 6 more times to Azerbaijan, you might not see that many ever again. I mean, I’ve only shot one really nice drake, like a lot of the ones we shot, just like a lot of the ones we had on the deck yesterday. I’ve only shot 1 in 5 trips. To me, it’s just a really badass little bird, I don’t know what it is I like about him, but I was telling your daddy, I like to shoot ring necks, that may be what I like about them. I mean, they’re crazy little birds. We hunt over e-callers here and that’s real different. And somebody heard me on social media. Is that an e-caller? I’m like, yeah, it’s legal. And you’d be surprised how many parts of the world, Europe, Asia, Australia that it’s legal. And there’s a part of me that boy, a gadwall, a pintail, a wigeon, a green wing, those species come in and queue in on those sounds, on their sounds, but I’m glad they’re not legal in the states. I can see why they’re not legal, there wouldn’t be a duck left if they were legal in the States for ducks, I don’t think. But the pochards, I really got into the pochards yesterday and I wasn’t playing the pochard sound, I can’t stand that. But, boy, I had a flock of 4 come by and I just hit them with the mallard call, just growled into it like a rosy bill, they turned on a dime and they were on the deck, boom, doing about 95 miles an hour. But they circled back around over that mojo and over the decoys and it makes my heart beat, I get in the zone with the way they flying like that. I like that a lot. I heard you talk a lot about your family business, woodland resort, you grew up in it your dad and I know your dad mom lived it, so you lived it. Did you learn anything about people or about hospitality or about guiding or anything? Because I like to think that you said it best, a lot of people think duck hunting is one thing and something I’ve learned as I travel is it’s like I’ve got a toolbox, but as I travel, I add things to it. I learn different things. Were there any things you learned or appreciate that you can see folding into what your family does, making you better at doing what you do back home?

Landon Blanchfield: Well, when I was a little kid, right after I got my hunter safety card and even before that, some of our clients were nice enough to let my brother and I go out hunting with them. And that’s just been a part of our life basically since we were little kids. And just meeting the people, meeting our clients, especially the ones that have been coming for 20, 30 years, you start to really build a relationship with those folks and all of them have little tips and tricks from places they’ve been and we incorporate that as well. And now my brother and I, I’m 22 and Warren’s 25 and now we’re guiding ourselves and just the amount we’ve learned from being kids is just invaluable and there’s so many different ways to go at it.

Ramsey Russell: Was there anything they did differently here or that you saw in the restaurant or out in the field that you just said, do you think that might end up being a part of your program, your personal toolbox? I know it’s kind of putting you on the spot with a question, but seriously.

Landon Blanchfield: Well, they definitely do it different over here. And like you were saying earlier, they’re accommodating to the way that we hunt because a lot of them, they’ll run out there at night, whatever and shoot them and we can’t do that back home. But they set out the decoys really well, there’s just the little holes they have, it’s pretty unfamiliar, but also familiar to North Dakota. And I think I learned a lot of just the way they set up the places they set up and why they set up in those places.

Ramsey Russell: I think it’s very interesting. Talking about the language barrier, they don’t speak our language. You can kind of sort of come up with some words on Google Translate, if the guy can read, he may not be able to read. But as a duck hunter, I’ve just noticed we don’t have to speak words, we can just point, we can do this and it just kind of works out. They know what they’re doing, you know what I’m saying and they’ll bend us and they get what we’re trying to do and I think it works out pretty damn good.

Landon Blanchfield: Yeah, I think it’s a little bit of Pictionary and just look on their face, you just kind of know what’s going on and it’s crazy, we’re 7000 miles away, but we just kind of have the same background when it comes to hunting. I bet these people have been doing it their whole lives.

Ramsey Russell: We talked a lot about their culture and your dad alluded to a lot of their real cultural differences, but at the end of the day, it proves a point. You put a boy from North Dakota, a boy from Mississippi and a boy from Azerbaijan in a blind and race, color and religion don’t matter, we’re all just duck hunters in that moment. That’s what I appreciate about that crowd. I just thought we’re duck hunters.

Landon Blanchfield: Yeah, it’s just one big happy family of duck hunters.

Learning the Hunt in Different Places

Part of it is just learning about the people in different places, that’s a huge part of it and it’s just interesting to hunt in different places and just to learn from the people, just learn from the different duck hunters. 

Ramsey Russell: Yeah. I learned on this trip around dinner table that you all are chasing like the North American 41 and probably going to evolve into 58 to include subspecies, now you’re spreading out chasing unicorns like red crested pochards. What do you think about that? What do you think about that as compared to growing up, just going out and shooting ducks? And what is driving you into that? Because that’s a very specific path, very different than just going out and shooting ducks.

Landon Blanchfield: I just have to warn all the listeners it’s an addiction, so once you get started, it’s hard to quit. Part of it is just learning about the people in different places, that’s a huge part of it and it’s just interesting to hunt in different places and just to learn from the people, just learn from the different duck hunters. You can learn a lot from these people.

Ramsey Russell: I’ve always felt that because I started off “collecting birds” and I got a lot of dead stuff hanging on the walls and as I find myself sitting and looking at them, mine are just like in a dim where we sit and watch TV and eat dinner at camp and as I do that, I realize it now what started is about a bird, I came to Azerbaijan to shoot red crested pochards, that’s why I came her and other species, but I became addicted to something else and it wasn’t the birds. And what I realized is I really hadn’t been chasing species, it’s just where the experience is, the pursuit of that species takes me. That to me, is the rewarding part. That’s what I get out of it. It’s like I’ve said a million times, it’s like walking through the pages of National Geographic magazine with a shotgun and waders, that’s what I get out, that’s what I really dig about. And getting to meet guys like yourself and share camp, share stories and birds of a feather do flock together. I appreciate you being here, it was really nice sharing camp with you, Landon and I appreciate you.

Landon Blanchfield: Well, it’s been a great trip and hopefully we want to come back here eventually.

Ramsey Russell: I warn everybody that wants to come here, it’s an awesome hunt, but I’ve had clients come here in the past that got all their species in one week and I’ve had clients that got a few of them come back and got a few more, they’re coming back to shoot a few more another time.

Landon Blanchfield: Where’s the fun in getting all of them in one trip? Gives us a reason to come back.

Ramsey Russell: There’s a lot of consolation in that to come back to a great place.

Landon Blanchfield: Yeah, we’re not complaining about that.

Ramsey Russell: One thing that happened I got to tell this story, I may not have told you this. I’ve got a client probably listening, so I ain’t going to say his name, but we were hunting a different wetland and we shot some species, we shot some of the same species, a few more, but no, just real big unicorns. And on the last day he was on a point, I said, man, that’s the place, that’s a really nice place to be, because across over there about a quarter mile is a little shallow mud flat that the common shelducks like to hang out. So he was hunting that point, got late in the morning and he came back to camp after the hunt and he said, I blew it. He said, I don’t mean they were 50, 60 yards flying high, he said, a pair of shelducks come right into the decoys after a week of sitting here hunting them and I shelled out and didn’t cut a feather. That’s almost worse than not seeing one. But that’s part of the game, man.

Landon Blanchfield: That’s part of the experience.

Ramsey Russell: You’re in the World Series, you get up to bat and you strike out, that’s baseball, man. That just happens.

Landon Blanchfield: And that’s duck hunting. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but that’s just the name of the game.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah. Thank you, Landon, I appreciate you. And bring it up the rear, his oldest son Warren, after a week in Azerbaijan I’ve enjoyed it, Warren, how about yourself?

Warren Blanchfield: Yeah, just sitting here soaking it in a little bit. Been on the road for 10, 11 days.

Ramsey Russell: Soaking what in? Our liver? Because you show up, you bring me freaking 5 fingers of vodka on ice with some cranberry chaser, you think I’m going to get the DT’s or something if I don’t drink it?

Highlights of Hunting in Azerbaijan

Warren Blanchfield: Yeah, it’s a duck camp, man. It’s important to stay lubricated and if you’re not feeling it a little bit in the morning, what are you doing, right?

Ramsey Russell: Yeah. I’ll ask you some of the same questions that I asked Landon. What are some of your favorite moments of the past week? What are just some of the real defining – let’s start with the hunting part, what are some of the defining moments of the hunt? And you go from zero to hero. Boy, this morning I thought that was your daddy banging away and I ain’t saying nothing and that was you banging away. But what are some of your defining moments? Because I know you all aren’t just volume guys, but what are some of the things you really enjoyed about it? Most memorable parts of this trip?

Warren Blanchfield: Yeah, I would say probably on the first day. So we’re here to chase this list of exotic species and the first day, we’re getting teal and it’s teal and it’s awesome, it was high volume. And the problem is this mud is like so you’re sitting on a pallet or standing on a pallet with a chair out in this slough and you can’t go retrieve the ducks, because this mud is like the worst mud of all time. You step in and you’re up to your knees, it’s brutal, you can’t go out and actually go get your ducks. So from a collector kind of standpoint, it’s like torture, because you can just see the birds, but if you don’t have binoculars, you can’t tell what you have. And for me, the guy comes out with the boat, the guide and he starts picking up the ducks and he brings them out and it’s a whole handful of teal, but there’s just this one duck in there that I later learned was the white eyed pochard, you’ll have to help me with the name, we’ll get that down one day and it was like mission accomplished for the day, because I didn’t even know what the heck it was. But it was awesome. I mean, it’s ducks that you don’t see, it’s ducks that you don’t even know, it takes you back to being a kid in North Dakota and hunting in the slough and you shoot ducks that you barely know and you’ve much less seen and there’s something about shooting a duck that you’ve never held in your hand before, much less really even know what it is and that’s awesome.

Ramsey Russell: You grew up in the hunting guide hospitality industry. What was it like being on the receiving end of that in a foreign country where they didn’t speak the same language? We go out in those boats, I mean, we step off that pier in pitch black dark in the head beam into a metal speedboat and off you and your brother go in one direction, off me and your dad going another. What was it like? I mean, what were you thinking when you got to the blind, the way they did everything and stepped you off into the blind and stuff? What were your thoughts about all that?

Warren Blanchfield: Right off the bat, I would say that we didn’t share a common language, but when you see a guy busting their ass, I mean, that’s just universal.

Ramsey Russell: Of a good guide.

Warren Blanchfield: Yeah, it’s a universal language that duck hunters share. When a guy is out there grinding on it, you just know it. And that was awesome to see, to come all this way and to see guys that can’t understand you just putting in everything to get you on birds was fantastic.

Ramsey Russell: But it’s not without his imperfections, I should say. Because one day we went to the river and our translator was talking to the head guide and they were going back and forth and he said, okay, here’s what’s going to happen. You go to the 1st place and somebody gets out and they hunt dry land, you go to the 2nd place and whoever gets out hunts dry land, you go to the 3rd place, you’re going to hunt in a boat, you go to the 4th place, you go hunt from dry land. I said, okay, I’ll hunt from the boat. And sure enough, I stepped into a boat and the quiet one rode me across the river and I stepped out on dry land, I go, oh, they lost in translation, they mean I’m going to be on dry land, but I got to take a boat to get there. So off he goes back to shore, I just assumed, you still in the truck, go hunt dry land, you’d driven down a bank. No, 20 minutes later, here you come being rode in the boat and you ended up being stuck in a boat and I’m sorry about that, but that’s part of it. It is a little imperfect sometimes like that. And I heard you banging away down there, you did get a little bit of shooting in. That’s what I’m just trying to point out, they do their best, but there is just sometimes a little subtle loss in translation, you got to just roll with the punches.

Warren Blanchfield: Yeah, for sure. And you’re halfway across the world, you got to understand that it’s not going to be perfect. And he rode halfway across that slough or that river and sat in the boat old school style and pass shot. But yeah, still got a little action.

Ramsey Russell: As a duck guide yourself, growing up in the business, have you ever had to, as a guide, roll with the punches and just, but I’m going to do this, but no, I got to do this instead, like a spurred in the moment, have you ever found yourself in that situation from a guide standpoint.

Warren Blanchfield: Yeah. Part of being a capable guide, I think, is being able to make that early morning game time decision. And sometimes you do have to switch up the plan if wind switches or maybe a thick fog rolls in or maybe there’s no wind, which is kind of the worst case scenario for us. So sometimes you just got to throw Hail Mary out and roll with the curveballs.

Ramsey Russell: What was the weather like compared to what you normally hunt back home in Dakota? And were you packed right? Did you have everything you needed? How did you pack and was there anything you wish you brought?

Warren Blanchfield: Yeah, I’m a habitual overpacker, so I had everything I needed and then some. It was a lot warmer than I thought it was going to be, it was kind of, for us, like an early season, early fall for us, but the humidity and you didn’t notice it was humid until it got a little bit cold with the wind and then that was kind of that really kind of deep cold.

Ramsey Russell: It’s in your bones.

Warren Blanchfield: Yeah, exactly.

Ramsey Russell: It’s only 40° or 50°, but you’re cold down to your core.

Warren Blanchfield: Yeah. It’s almost like wearing a wet blanket at some point. But it wasn’t bad by any means.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah. What did you think about the food over here?

Warren Blanchfield: It was amazing. Having been to Turkey, we knew a little bit about what we were getting into, but the food out here is fantastic and it’s almost amazing how simple it is. It’s not an overcomplicated meal with what they put into it, but I don’t know, they just have put a lot of techniques –

Worldwide Duck Recipes

Would you say it’s pretty damn good?

Ramsey Russell: They put a lot of the same stuff into all the dishes. Like the coot, that was the big. First night we had grilled duck. And salt and pepper over hot coals, little overdone, I’d have said, but extremely tasty, wouldn’t you agree? It was great duck, green wing teal.

Warren Blanchfield: For me that was my biggest culinary, if you will takeaway that, you can just – I mean, a lot of guys, when they cook duck, they like to overcomplicate things, I mean, these guys, they just cut these teal right down the middle, cracked them halfway open and threw them over the charcoal with a little salt and pepper and it was awesome, man. I mean, take that to any party and anyone, if they’re not duck eaters, they’re going to eat it, it was fantastic.

Ramsey Russell: And the second night, we made such a big deal about the coots, they by God served us coot. I kind of sort of went to supper thinking, I wonder if I can order some shish kebabs, too. I just can’t get my mind wrapped around that coot over to coals, but he cooked another dish, I can’t remember what it was, it was like in a skillet, like a casserole with some – a lot of the stuff they’d like to use is like potatoes or rice and they’ll put plums and apricots and hazelnuts and always pomegranate seed, unbelievable. I could not believe. And again, they didn’t flavor the duck, they just put it into something and it was unbelievable. Would you say it’s pretty damn good?

Warren Blanchfield: Yeah, no doubt.

Ramsey Russell: Now would you go shoot a coot in North Dakota and try to do the same thing? Because I’ve been sitting there thinking, I told somebody the other day, I’m like, I cannot believe I’ve been duck hunting for 30 years and hadn’t been eating coots.

Warren Blanchfield: I still don’t know if I will go out of my way to do it, but I will say that was the best coot I’ve ever had, also the only coot I’ve ever had, but I’ll be damned.

Ramsey Russell: Well, you had 3 servings, yeah, we all did. And then the next night when they cooked the thing with the pastry, that was unbelievable. And then we had the fish and it’s like it just kept getting better and better. And then today the chicken and I’m like, this is not the place to bring a diet, because you’re going to eat 2nd, 3rd, 4th till it’s gone, I guess.

Warren Blanchfield: Yeah. There was very few food escaped that table and it was a lot of it, it was amazing.

Ramsey Russell: What did you think about the people? We talked about the guide, what about the staff? We went to town, we had to go to town a couple of times to restock on our tidies. What do you think about the people you encountered around town?

Warren Blanchfield: I mean, everyone here is they kind of stare at you a little bit funny right away, but if you talk to them, I mean, they’re incredibly hospitable and they like to talk to you and they find out you’re from America and then they open up even more, it’s kind of crazy.

Ramsey Russell: We can’t help but stand out. Like your dad and I were going to grocery store, we all going to the grocery store the first night, make a liquor run and we just noticed that everybody wears dark cloths and we’re wearing khakis and camo and car hearts and whatnot. So we stand out, we’re conspicuous and we’re pale compared to them, but they were very friendly, there were friendly as can be. I remember one day we went to grocery store and a lady overheard Kyle’s accent go, you’re from America, she spoke English. And he goes, yeah, welcome to my country. That’s been my experience every time I’ve been in this country, they’ve just been they’re glad to see you and they’re happy you’re here.

Warren Blanchfield: And I think a big part of that, too, is people that are – speaking English is a big deal, not only for Americans and other English speakers, but here it’s a medium of communication with other people that English is their second language. So if you have someone from India and someone from Azerbaijan, they’re going to speak to each other, typically in English, so knowing English is huge and to be able to speak to a first language English speaker like us is a great way for these guys to kind of dial in their English skills. So that’s a huge –

Ramsey Russell: English is kind of a universal language. You did an internship in China, you told me. Is that how you communicated or did you learn Chinese?

Warren Blanchfield: Yeah. So I knew a couple of Chinese words then, I know even less now. But it was the same thing there. Across the world and been fairly lucky to travel to a few places, everyone that’s basically under 30 is learning English now. If they have any sort of desire to go out outside of their home country, because English is just that medium language.

Ramsey Russell: It’s a universal language. A Dutch friend and his wife went on a cruise and hit it off with a Japanese couple, they spoke fluent Japanese, they spoke fluent Dutch, but they both all spoke enough English, they could communicate and hit it off. That’s crazy, isn’t it? It’s a very good observation, too.

Warren Blanchfield: It is a little bit funny because sometimes they have a hard time understanding us, we have a hard time understanding them. Listening to someone from India try to talk to someone from Azerbaijan in English and they both kind of have that accent, I was overhearing a little bit when we were in Doha and it was just kind of funny. There’s a little bit lost in translation, but they get by and everyone wants to learn English, everyone needs to –

Ramsey Russell: English is a hard language to learn, too, because we got so many idioms and I can’t think of one off the top of my head, barking up the wrong tree.

Warren Blanchfield: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: What does that mean to somebody that’s not had heard it their whole life?

Warren Blanchfield: Yeah. Horse apiece.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah, I mean, they don’t understand that. What about the beer? I did not sample any of the beer, but I noticed right off the bat you are an adventurous beer enthusiast. I think you tried every flavor at the store – what were the beers you were drinking? Were they Azerbaijani?

Warren Blanchfield: Yeah, most of them were Azerbaijani, we had a couple of Russian ones as well and then I would say the other big one is FA’s, which is a Turkish beer and it’s all really good.

Ramsey Russell: Were they dark? Are they pilsners?

Warren Blanchfield: They were a little bit of everything, more of it was kind of on the light sided beer, kind of like similar to Stella, I would say, it’s kind of in that style, but I would say I like a lot better than Stella. A lot better than a lot of beers you can get in the US.

Ramsey Russell: What was your favorite? What’s the one you just end up saying, man, I like this beer a lot. Because I noticed Silva, the wait staff the other day, pointed out one that she liked and you all seem to be drinking it a lot. What was that beer? Was that an Azerbaijan beer?

Warren Blanchfield: Yeah. So their beer that they’re real proud of here is and I’m going to destroy the name for anyone from Azerbaijan, so I apologize, but it’s pronounced like Xirdalan but the first word is spelled Xi. I wish I had a bottle in front of me, but the first word is an X, but there’s no X’s. But yeah, Xirdalan, I think it’s made right here in Baku. And there’s a couple different flavor, a couple different styles between light and dark and yeah, it’s pretty damn good.

Ramsey Russell: How did you and why did you get into the – you grew up duck hunting, you’re in the business, you go out, I know a lot of the clients that come to North Dakota are looking for bag limits, they’re not looking for checkoff species in North Dakota, they want to go on a good snow goose hunt or a good Canada goose hunt or a good duck hunt and hopefully get their limits. That’s what a lot of them are expecting when they travel like that. You’ll know, the hand of evolved to where you’re chasing a list of 41, you’ve sea duck hunted, you’ve puddled duck hunted, you’ve goose hunted, you’ve been to Azerbaijan, you’ve been to Mexico. How does that different and kind of how did you get into that mindset and why?

Collecting the Experience

I mean, this is a real place and it’s amazing. And it brings a human element into it.

Warren Blanchfield: I don’t have a real point of reference for where it kind of started, but just realizing that one day it just kind of hit me and hit my brother and dad, that there’s other ducks and other places to hunt and it’s –

Ramsey Russell: It’s a big world.

Warren Blanchfield: Like, why aren’t we doing it? 41 to 58, depending on the count. But as you get through it, you kind of realize you start with the tangible idea of collecting species. You want to have this duck, there’s a list. As we’re going through it, you realize it’s really more about collecting the experience than collecting the duck.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah, I agree.

Warren Blanchfield: I’m not going to remember shooting – well, I’ll generally remember shooting teal over the decoys, not going to remember specific shots, but I’m going to remember the food, remember the people, remember the amazing towns and then just generally remember the great duck hunting. But it’s really more about just collecting those experiences now at this point.

Ramsey Russell: Little things I remember anytime I look at some of the dead ducks on my wall, somebody comes in and says, what is that? Or start telling the story about that bird. It always gets back to the people and it’s just the little things I remember, like the day on the river. Had to climb up on this little ridge and that guy, I can’t pronounce his name, he’s one of my favorite, he’s quiet, he smiled a lot, he came up there after everything was said, he came back up and he had big smile, he gave me a fist bump and two thumbs up.

Warren Blanchfield: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: And off he goes to pick you up. I mean, he was so excited and it’s contagious. It’s so positive in the world of duck hunting and I really enjoyed it. And that’s kind of the stuff I remember, I don’t remember numbers, I just don’t remember that stuff no more, I don’t remember a shot, I just remember that how I felt and how the people made me feel, how their hospitality made me feel. It’s kind of interesting, have you ever found yourself at home reading the news or watching the news and it takes a whole different spin when you’ve been there? I’ve been to Paris, I’ve seen the Eiffel tower or I’ve been to Azerbaijan, I’ve been on the Caspian Sea. I mean, next time you flip on old black and white movies and they’re Sinbad the sailor, you’ve been on the Caspian Sea. That’s wild, isn’t it?

Warren Blanchfield: Yeah. It makes these far away places that they almost don’t seem real when you have this abstract kind of view of them. And then you actually go to a place like that and it’s like, oh, it is real. It sounds stupid to say out loud, but there’s people here, man. I mean, this is a real place and it’s amazing. And it brings a human element into it.

Ramsey Russell: Warren, I enjoyed it. I hope that me, you, and Kyle and Landon will get to spend some time in a blind again together. I really do, I really enjoyed my week with you all and I just can’t say that enough. It is all about the people, us and them and we formed just this big thing and had this great experience. I won’t miss the crying baby in the hotel, but other than that.

Warren Blanchfield: She’s just doing laps at this point.

Ramsey Russell: Need to take her to sleep.

Warren Blanchfield: Thank you, man. It’s been awesome.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah. Folks, thank you all for listening to this episode of Duck Season Somewhere, Azerbaijan seems like something you’re interested in go to take a look at Azerbaijan duck hunt, give me a shout. Thank you all for listening to this episode of Duck Season Somewhere, we’ll see you next time.


Podcast Sponsors:, your proven source for the very best waterfowl hunting adventures. Argentina, Mexico, 6 whole continents worth. For two decades, we’ve delivered real duck hunts for real duck hunters. because the next great hunt is closer than you think. Search our database of proven US and Canadian outfits. Contact them directly with confidence.

Benelli USA Shotguns. Trust is earned. By the numbers, I’ve bagged 121 waterfowl subspecies bagged on 6 continents, 20 countries, 36 US states and growing. I spend up to 225 days per year chasing ducks, geese and swans worldwide, and I don’t use shotgun for the brand name or the cool factor. Y’all know me way better than that. I’ve shot, Benelli Shotguns for over two decades. I continue shooting Benelli shotguns for their simplicity, utter reliability and superior performance. Whether hunting near home or halfway across the world, that’s the stuff that matters.

HuntProof, the premier mobile waterfowl app, is an absolute game changer. Quickly and easily attribute each hunt or scouting report to include automatic weather and pinpoint mapping; summarize waterfowl harvest by season, goose and duck species; share with friends within your network; type a hunt narrative and add photos. Migrational predictor algorithms estimate bird activity and, based on past hunt data will use weather conditions and hunt history to even suggest which blind will likely be most productive!

Inukshuk Professional Dog Food Our beloved retrievers are high-performing athletes that live to recover downed birds regardless of conditions. That’s why Char Dawg is powered by Inukshuk. With up to 720 kcals/ cup, Inukshuk Professional Dog Food is the highest-energy, highest-quality dog food available. Highly digestible, calorie-dense formulas reduce meal size and waste. Loaded with essential omega fatty acids, Inuk-nuk keeps coats shining, joints moving, noses on point. Produced in New Brunswick, Canada, using only best-of-best ingredients, Inukshuk is sold directly to consumers. I’ll feed nothing but Inukshuk. It’s like rocket fuel. The proof is in Char Dawg’s performance.

Tetra Hearing Delivers premium technology that’s specifically calibrated for the users own hearing and is comfortable, giving hunters a natural hearing experience, while still protecting their hearing. Using patent-pending Specialized Target Optimization™ (STO), the world’s first hearing technology designed optimize hearing for hunters in their specific hunting environments. TETRA gives hunters an edge and gives them their edge back. Can you hear me now?! Dang straight I can. Thanks to Tetra Hearing!

Voormi Wool-based technology is engineered to perform. Wool is nature’s miracle fiber. It’s light, wicks moisture, is inherently warm even when wet. It’s comfortable over a wide temperature gradient, naturally anti-microbial, remaining odor free. But Voormi is not your ordinary wool. It’s new breed of proprietary thermal wool takes it next level–it doesn’t itch, is surface-hardened to bead water from shaking duck dogs, and is available in your favorite earth tones and a couple unique concealment patterns. With wool-based solutions at the yarn level, Voormi eliminates the unwordly glow that’s common during low light while wearing synthetics. The high-e hoodie and base layers are personal favorites that I wear worldwide. Voormi’s growing line of innovative of performance products is authenticity with humility. It’s the practical hunting gear that we real duck hunters deserve.

Mojo Outdoors, most recognized name brand decoy number one maker of motion and spinning wing decoys in the world. More than just the best spinning wing decoys on the market, their ever growing product line includes all kinds of cool stuff. Magnetic Pick Stick, Scoot and Shoot Turkey Decoys much, much more. And don’t forget my personal favorite, yes sir, they also make the one – the only – world-famous Spoonzilla. When I pranked Terry Denman in Mexico with a “smiling mallard” nobody ever dreamed it would become the most talked about decoy of the century. I’ve used Mojo decoys worldwide, everywhere I’ve ever duck hunted from Azerbaijan to Argentina. I absolutely never leave home without one. Mojo Outdoors, forever changing the way you hunt ducks.

BOSS Shotshells copper-plated bismuth-tin alloy is the good ol’ days again. Steel shot’s come a long way in the past 30 years, but we’ll never, ever perform like good old fashioned lead. Say goodbye to all that gimmicky high recoil compensation science hype, and hello to superior performance. Know your pattern, take ethical shots, make clean kills. That is the BOSS Way. The good old days are now.

Tom Beckbe The Tom Beckbe lifestyle is timeless, harkening an American era that hunting gear lasted generations. Classic design and rugged materials withstand the elements. The Tensas Jacket is like the one my grandfather wore. Like the one I still wear. Because high-quality Tom Beckbe gear lasts. Forever. For the hunt.

Flashback Decoy by Duck Creek Decoy Works. It almost pains me to tell y’all about Duck Creek Decoy Work’s new Flashback Decoy because in  the words of Flashback Decoy inventor Tyler Baskfield, duck hunting gear really is “an arms race.” At my Mississippi camp, his flashback decoy has been a top-secret weapon among my personal bag of tricks. It behaves exactly like a feeding mallard, making slick-as-glass water roil to life. And now that my secret’s out I’ll tell y’all something else: I’ve got 3 of them.

Ducks Unlimited takes a continental, landscape approach to wetland conservation. Since 1937, DU has conserved almost 15 million acres of waterfowl habitat across North America. While DU works in all 50 states, the organization focuses its efforts and resources on the habitats most beneficial to waterfowl.

It really is Duck Season Somewhere for 365 days. Ramsey Russell’s Duck Season Somewhere podcast is available anywhere you listen to podcasts. Please subscribe, rate and review Duck Season Somewhere podcast. Share your favorite episodes with friends. Business inquiries or comments contact Ramsey Russell at And be sure to check out our new GetDucks Shop.  Connect with Ramsey Russell as he chases waterfowl hunting experiences worldwide year-round: Insta @ramseyrussellgetducks, YouTube @DuckSeasonSomewherePodcast,  Facebook @GetDucks