Ramsey Russell, Forrest Russell and long-time family friend Ian Munn get together during Mississippi’s duck hunting season opener weekend to recall past times hunting together at the same duck camp and worldwide since forever. “Nice Shot Mr. Ian” originated during a discussion with Ramsey’s sons at duck camp, and has since haunted him for decades. There’s plenty more similar stories, way too many for one sitting. They’re the kinds of stories that can be told only after duck hunting for nearly 3 decades. And that’s kind of the whole point.
Ramsey Russell: I’m your host, Ramsey Russell. Join me here to listen to those conversations. Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere. It is duck season somewhere, which is to say that it’s duck season everywhere in the United States right now. Everywhere in the United States, duck season’s open. Mississippi just had their opener, and it wasn’t a bad opener. In fact, it was a pretty darn good opener compared to the last couple of years. The state of Mississippi opens duck season the Friday after Thanksgiving, and it’s become a long-standing tradition for my family and other families to go over to camp and have a potluck Thanksgiving dinner and duck hunt the next day. Joining me today is my very good friend Ian Munn and my son Forrest Russell. Duncan Russell, who I hope is listening, unfortunately is in Okinawa. Trying to get the four of us together at one time to record, even with him in Okinawa, was like herding cats. It just wasn’t meant to be. Duncan, we miss you and hope you’re doing good. We sure missed you in the duck blind this weekend. How are you guys doing?
Ian Munn: I’m doing well.
Forrest Russell: Doing pretty good.
Ramsey Russell: Let me give a little background here. This is going to be a fun podcast, I promise you. It’s going to be a fun podcast for some of us. You really don’t get to choose—have you ever thought about it?—your best friend. You don’t. You don’t start off saying, “I’m going to be best friends with this guy.” You just wake up decades later and go, “Wow, I’m pretty good friends with this guy. We’ve been duck hunting together for a long time.” Ian, you and I have been duck hunting together for how long?
Ian Munn: Since about ‘94 or ‘95.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. Since the year I graduated from your senior practices class at Mississippi State University. I was thinking about this podcast we’re recording, and you’ve been there for a lot of milestones in my life. I’ve been there for some of the milestones in yours. I’ve got to give some backdrop and talk about our first hunt. Do you remember the first time we hunted together?
The World’s Toughest Waders…Where it All Began
“I’ve got to admit, I’ve never been so entertained while duck hunting as during this story I just told you.”
Ian Munn: I do, and I know what story you’re going to tell.
Ramsey Russell: Well, yeah, because it’s a very endearing story. Y’all have got to listen to this. So I went to Mississippi State University. There was a senior practices course you had to take to graduate, and I took it. That’s where I met Dr. Munn, at the time, and graduated. Later, I got a job with the department, which was awesome because we duck hunted when we weren’t working. I figured he might duck hunt. We talked a little bit about it when I took his course. So we were hunting out at Columbus Lake at the time, kind of right where the mouth of Tippo comes into the lake. At times, when the weather was cold and the ducks cooperated, it was pretty good hunting. I knocked on his office door and said, “Hey, do you want to go hunting?” He goes, “Yeah, I’ll go.” We set the time, set the date. I don’t fully recall who was in the blind with us. It was an undergraduate from the forestry department. I think his name was Bradley. We all get in my jon boat and motor out to the lake, and we hunt. Ian shows up wearing unbelievable waders. We all had just waders. Man, this guy shows up with what was billed as the world’s toughest waders. Do you remember that? Do you still have the world’s toughest waders?
Ian Munn: No. I don’t have that pair.
Ramsey Russell: Okay. You’ve got another pair? Probably just as old?
Ian Munn: Pretty close, yeah.
Ramsey Russell: We were talking about it while we were setting out decoys. You said, “Oh, man, you can’t puncture a nail through it. You can’t puncture an ice pick. You can’t do anything. These are the world’s toughest waders, and I plan on them lasting a lifetime.” I don’t remember how many ducks we shot, but we did shoot some ducks. We shot mallards. Probably shot a few gadwalls. At times, we’d shoot a pintail, greenwings; there were a lot of wood ducks trailing around. Maybe we limited that morning, I don’t remember. It’s been nearly three decades, but I do remember this. I remember sailing a mallard down across the way. We were kind of hunting up in a pocket, and straight across would have been about a hundred yards. To walk on dry land around would probably have been a quarter mile or half a mile. We sailed a mallard down. He was just wing-tipped. He’s out there kind of swimming on the far bank. I did not yet have a dog that would handle over there blind to do that. Ian says, “Well, I’m kind of cold. I’ll walk over there and get this duck.” He takes off. He’s younger, then; he’s thirty years younger, then. He was in very good shape. I think he ran marathons back in the day. So he sprints over there and starts to get this mallard. I’ve got my binoculars out, and I’m watching this whole event unfold. Just as he gets up and starts to raise his gun to shoot this mallard, it dives underwater. He walks up a little bit closer, and the water is only, maybe, mid-shin deep. It’s just nothing. As he walks up, I notice that this mallard pops up behind him and starts swimming away. We’re hollering, but he can’t hear us over the wind. Finally, he looks behind him and notices this mallard swimming. As he turns around to shoot, boop, it dives under the water. He kind of walks that way and, boom, it pops up behind him again and starts swimming the other way. This goes on for a while. I think he may have shot a couple of times, but the duck had just kind of outdove the shot. Bradley and I were laughing. We’re being highly entertained, in an intermission of duck hunting, watching this event unfold. It’s probably been thirty minutes now, and he’s shot three or four times. He’s running back and forth—trying to stalk, trying to sneak, trying to run, trying to beat this bird—and the bird would dive under and pop up somewhere else. But never really offshore, just always kind of hanging next to that shore. About this time, Ian had enough, and he breaks into a sprint. This old guy is running in two feet of water. I mean, like running on top of water. One minute you see him and the next minute he’s gone. Completely disappeared out of sight. I’m looking through binoculars like, “Where’d he go? Where’d he go?” All of a sudden, he gets up, dumps water out of his gun, and, oh, he’s determined now. Boom, with the next shot he kills this mallard, picks it up, walks all the way back, and he is soaking wet. His world’s toughest waders are full of water and everything. I said, “What happened?” Well, there’s a Beaver Stop over there. It’s about two inches long, and it’s like a little punchy stick. It got him right in the ankle bone of his rubber boots. They were the world’s toughest waders from the boot up to the top, but they were just regular waders from the boot on down. Not only were the world’s toughest waders leaking, but he couldn’t get more than two inches of water. All these years looking back, I remember thinking, “Do I really want to duck hunt with this guy?” On the one hand, it’s highly entertaining. I’ve got to admit, I’ve never been so entertained while duck hunting as during this story I just told you. On the other hand, now, I mean, you know. Well, we used to stop and go to Shoney’s. At the time, they had this great big breakfast buffet. So we’d killed our ducks and finished the hunt. He peels off his wet waders, climbs in the truck, and we go to Shoney’s. Me and him and Bradley all pile up at the buffet. Here is what happened. The waitress brings the bill, and he goes, “Oh, I’ll take that.” Instead of being one of those broke-ass college kids I’m hunting with, all of a sudden, I’ve got a man in the boat that buys breakfast. I said, “Yeah, this is worth investing in another hunt or two.” I’m sorry to take such a long time, but it is one of my favorite stories.
Ian Munn: The one thing I remember from that, the run after the duck, is tripping and going down and just watching that water flying towards my face, as it seemed to me, and then just underwater, dead silence.
Ramsey Russell: But you got the duck.
Ian Munn: I did get the duck.
Ramsey Russell: Did you explain the money factor to me at that time, or did that come later in our friendship?
Ian Munn: Probably later. I don’t tell people that right off the back, because then you never get invited back.
Getting Into Duck Hunting
“It was my first duck. I remember it like it was yesterday.”
Ramsey Russell: But you did buy breakfast, I’ve got to admit that. Just for those that may not understand your accent, even though you’ve lived in the South for a long time, where are you from? How did you get into duck hunting?
Ian Munn: Okay, I grew up in Southern Ontario. I did not hunt there at all. I did not hunt as a child. It wasn’t until I was working for a timber company in Washington, Georgia, that I started to hunt. I said Washington, Georgia; I started there, but then moved to Allendale, South Carolina. That boss had an annual dove hunt for his clients and customers and whatnot. They couldn’t believe that I had never owned a shotgun, so they took me out and dug out a shotgun from the closet. An old Revelation Sears and Roebuck shotgun. I started dove hunting. Those were the days. I didn’t know that you weren’t supposed to shoot five hundred times to kill a dove, but I had fun doing it. You would have enjoyed that shotgun because, at some point during that dove hunt, the rib came off and curled up in a U-shape.
Ramsey Russell: I’m not surprised.
Ian Munn: So I took a piece of baling wire and tied it back down, and I used that gun, with that piece of baling wire tied on that rib, for probably three or four more years before I got another gun.
Ramsey Russell: I’m telling you, Ian: after all these years, I believe it, and I believe you hit doves with that gun just as well as before the bent rib came off. I honestly believe it. So you started dove hunting with him over in South Carolina When did you get into duck hunting? Because you were duck hunting when we met.
Ian Munn: So then the company I was working for moved me to Louisiana. I had a forester trainee, Chris Degnan—from Wisconsin or Minnesota, one of the two, I don’t remember which—who was an avid duck hunter. He would take me duck hunting. We’d go over to Felsenthal and hunt there. It was my first duck. I remember it like it was yesterday. There’s nothing flying, and I didn’t know what to expect. He said, “Make sure they get close before you shoot. You don’t want to be shooting them fifty or sixty yards off. Let them get close.” So I’m watching this mallard drake come in, and he’s behind me facing the other direction. I’m sitting there whispering, “Okay, Chris, is this close enough?” He looks over and, what I know now, the mallard was about ten yards away from my gun barrel. He says. “Argh! Shoot it, shoot it, shoot it!” So I did. The first duck I shot at, I hit and killed. But that was the only duck we shot that day. Then still working for that same company, they moved me to Arkansas where we had a person that bought timber from us—Knighton Gunnel, who ran Gunnels Sawmill in Southern Arkansas—who was an avid duck hunter. He would take all his clients, or his people, to week-long duck hunts in Arkansas. That’s when I really started loving duck hunting. He would take us there for a week and, well, he didn’t wine and dine us, but he fed us and put us up. We had great times. That’s when I started really getting into duck hunting and started shooting a lot of ducks.
Ian Munn: From Forestry to Academia
“True or false: you cannot run over a chicken in the road if you try.”
Ramsey Russell: When did you decide to go from career forestry to academia? How did that come about? I just can’t remember. Maybe you’ve told me the past, but I don’t remember hearing the story.
Ian Munn: Okay, well, the timber company I worked for, Continental Forest Industries—which is part of Continental Group, a big conglomerate—was bought out by corporate raiders. That was back in the heydays of corporate raiders. Timber companies were prime targets because all of their timberland were on the books at the purchase price, and they had been purchased thirty or forty years ago for $10,000-20,000 an acre. Of course, they’re far more valuable than that, so the intent was to buy these companies, break them up, sell off the timberland, make all your money back, and then you’ve still got an ongoing business. We all knew that was on the horizon. So what they did to prevent all of their professional staff from leaving is that they put in a golden parachute. It was pretty lucrative for the people that had worked for the company for a long time, but not so much for us younger folks. But it was still enough. Anyways, that company bought us up, broke us all off, and sold our part to somebody else. The interesting thing about the golden parachute clause was that if you did not lose your job because of any transfer of ownership, you weren’t entitled to any of it. Well, our shop was unionized and the company that bought us was not unionized, so they didn’t want to buy the company. So what they did is that they bought the land from the company. That company was then dissolved, and then they turned around and hired all the professional foresters. So, technically, I’d been laid off. So I got the golden parachute. It was about a year or two later that it was clear that the new company—although they treated me very, very well—was not where I wanted to make my career. I had that golden parachute, and I used that money to go back to school and get my PhD.
Ramsey Russell: I see. Then after you got it, you came to work at Mississippi State. I’ll be danged. Well, I’ve never really heard that timeline like that, but it’s a good thing it happened because we’ve got a lot of good stories to tell because you came to Mississippi State. We started duck hunting together. Ian, talking about working in the forest industry— True or false. This reminds me of a story. True or false: you cannot run over a chicken in the road if you try.
Ian Munn: Well, that is true, sort of. I was not a city slicker; I grew up in Canada in a rural area, but we didn’t have chickens. So I was on the job in southern Georgia, driving through this little old woods road, and, out in the middle of the sticks, there’s this rural farmhouse and a bunch of chickens right in the road. I slow down and honk the horn, and the chickens are just being chickens. They’re not getting out of the way. The guy I’m with looks at me and he goes, “What are you doing?” I said, “I don’t want to hit these people’s chickens.” He goes, “Don’t worry about chickens. You can’t hit chickens. I don’t care how fast you go; you can’t hit chickens. Just go on.” So I speed up and, sure enough, the chickens part like the Red Sea in front of Moses. They go on back. So we worked the rest of the day, and then, coming back, there were all those chickens in the road. I’ve learned my lesson so, instead of slowing down, I floor it. I ran over about half that flock of chickens. He goes, “You dumbass, what are you doing?” I said, “You said I couldn’t run over chickens!” Then he said, “Of course you can run over chickens, you dummy!” He goes, “You’ve got two choices: you can stop and pay the lady for those $100 chickens, or you can keep going. What are you going to do?”
Ramsey Russell: You left a trail of dust, going. Oh my goodness. You know, Ian, you were there. We hunted together for several years before I had kids. I think you even came to my wedding. We hunted together. Man, back in the day, we hunted the Mississippi River. Who were those two brothers we hunted with?
Ian Munn: Bob and Danny Parker.
Ramsey Russell: Bob and Danny Parker. I can remember, for example, going down the levee one time. Bob is driving a Toyota truck. He’s a professor at Mississippi State and wrote a lot of software programs. His brother’s a forester out in Oregon, I believe. They had a tiny truck pulling a big boat pulling a camper that may have been pulling something else.
Ian Munn: Could’ve been.
Ramsey Russell: I can remember the axle coming off one of the boat trailers, just completely coming off, and them stopping and lighting a cigarette like it was no big deal. Remember that?
Ian Munn: Yep. And they looked and looked—
Ramsey Russell: And rummaged through their toolbox and found baling wire and black tape. Ten minutes later, we were heading down
Ian Munn: The thing I remember most about it is that they had no hardware, no screws, and no bolts. As they started looking around at the other axles and the other this, that, and the other, they’d go, “Well, there’s four bolts on that. We only need two of those.” They’d take two off here. I was thinking, “The axle’s five feet past where it’s supposed to be, how are they going to do this?” They hooked a line onto that axle and pulled it back up under where it should be and jimmied around until it was in the right spot and bolted it down. I don’t know about you, but I would have been walking from that levee. Either that, or I would have left my truck and my trailer there.
Ramsey Russell: That was even before there was much cell phone signal to call. I would have had to call for help or do something. What do you do now? My boat axle came off. Within ten minutes, they had that thing going. I can remember, in that same boat, drifting down the main channel of the Mississippi River one time, thinking, “Oh my gosh,” and they just lit a cigarette and broke out the same toolbox and hammered and tinkered and cussed until off she goes running again. Smart guys. Were you there? I can’t remember if you were there or just heard the story about the time Bob had the heart attack.
Surviving Duck Hunting…and Heart Attacks
“I had to get up and shoot Danny’s limit so we could get out of there. Then we went to the hospital.”
Ian Munn: I’ve heard the story, and I’ll tell it. He and his brother Danny are going duck hunting. They’ve got this lease in northern Mississippi somewhere, I don’t remember where. They get up in the morning, and Danny looks at Bob and says, “Bob, you don’t look so good.” He goes, “Eh, I feel a little off. I just didn’t get enough sleep last night. I’ll be fine.” So they drive on out and get to the field. They were hunting a pit blind in the middle of this rice field. Danny looks at Bob again and says, “Bob, you really don’t look well.” “Oh, I’ll be fine. Let’s just go on. I’ll be fine.” They get about halfway to the blind, and Bob’s version is, “Well, I realized then that I’d made a mistake. Something was badly wrong, but we’d done more than half the way, so I figured, ‘Well, let’s go on and get to the pit blind. I’ll catch my breath and think about coming back.’” Well, they did that. According to Bob, of course, the first six ducks that came in, Bob had six ducks in the water. He was waiting on his brother Danny, and he started feeling worse and worse. The worse he felt, the worse Danny shot. He thought, “My God, I’m going to be dead before my brother gets his limit.” So Bob said, “I had to get up and shoot Danny’s limit so we could get out of there. Then we went to the hospital. I was sure it was just bad, bad indigestion or something, because I just felt like, if I could burp, I’d be fine.” He said the lady came in and said, “Oh, yeah, no, you’ll be fine. We’ll get you some stuff.” They started hooking him up. He said that all of a sudden her eyes got as big around as saucers, and she took off. He goes to Danny, “That ain’t good.” Then some other people came in, and then they ran off. He goes, “That ain’t good.” Then the doctor came in, and Bob said, “I’m guessing something’s not quite right.” He goes, “Well, sir, you’re having a heart attack right now, and we’re watching it on the monitor.” Anyways, it just so happened that—I want to say it was in Greenville—there was a heart doctor that made the rounds in North Mississippi, who went from hospital to hospital to hospital, and he was on call at that hospital that day. They did heart surgery on him that day, and he lived for many, many more years after that.
Ramsey Russell: Knowing those two brothers, they probably went out duck hunting the next day.
Ian Munn: Probably not long after that. Interestingly enough, I met somebody who was in that duck club, many, many years later, and I said, “Do you remember Bob?” He goes, “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. We still call it the Heart Attack Hole.”
The Best Opening Weekends
Ramsey Russell: It sure was. You and I have now been in the club. This was the opening weekend. What a great opener. Let’s talk about that for a minute. The last couple of seasons have been tough. Last season, the three of us went out and shot nine ducks on opening day. There’s been stretches that we’ve limited all three days, but, boy, last year was so tough. This year was just wonderful because we got a good draw and went to a hole we’ve hunted for twenty years together, and the ducks came out and played, and we capitalized on it. Not that numbers are everything, but it sure feels good coming out with heavy straps of ducks. Doesn’t it? Ian, you’re a good enough buddy where I could call you up last week and say, “My Ranger’s in the shop. Me and Forrest are riding with you whether you want us to or not. Besides, we always hunt opening weekend.” Your first concern was, “Where are we going to put three dogs? I’ve only got two seats.” We worked it all out. But I was thinking—we took your decoys, had it all loaded up—how long have you had those decoys?
Ian Munn: Well, we’ve been in the club since 2000, and I had them before then.
Ramsey Russell: So thirty years old.
Ian Munn: Yeah. At least twenty-five, yeah.
Ramsey Russell: Old Carry-Lite mallard decoys. I know you’ve painted them in the past. It seems like I remember that one time you did some clear coating to them or something.
Ian Munn: No, I just paint them every year, every other year. Some of them get banged up, some of them don’t. Of course, I’ve got to plug them all up because, for some reason, a bunch of them end up with BB holes in them. I don’t understand that part.
Ramsey Russell: Probably those two Russell boys. Not their daddy, but them.
Ian Munn: Yeah, could be.
Ramsey Russell: You probably patch fewer now that Duncan’s over in Okinawa.
Ian Munn: Yeah, maybe so. I’m not going to point my fingers at anybody. I’m certainly not innocent here.
Ramsey Russell: I wonder how many ducks you’ve killed over those decoys. Thirty years, you’ve been hunting over those decoys. Not just here, because I know you were hunting up on some rice farms when Forrest came along. I remember throwing them out on the river, back in the day.
Ian Munn: And over at Chula.
Ramsey Russell: Over in Chula. It really says a lot that a man has been hunting over the same decoys for over thirty years. No fancy decoys, but you kill your share of ducks over them. This was a good, fun opener this weekend, wasn’t it? Three dogs in the blind.
Ian Munn: Three dogs in the blind. I’m sure it’s hit social media by now, but my dog would— So, we’re hunting in a blind. It’s got dog ramps, fairly steep and fairly slick, and my dog had never hunted out of a blind like that. She just would not come back. When she’d come back, she would not go up the dog ramps. She would just go up under it. The more I called her, the more confused she got, because she heard me directly above her head but there was no way to get there. So I said, “I’m going to coax her up the dog ramp.” So I stick my head out of the dog door. “Come on, come one!” She gets close, but she’s trying to get on the side of the dog ramp, but you can’t get up there. So I decide I need to get a little bit farther out, and I get a little bit further out and start calling her. That was not quite far enough, so I get almost down to the bottom of the dog ramp, and she gets it.
Forrest Russell: At this point, he has his feet hooked onto the door frame, trying to hold himself on.
Ian Munn: At this point, all I can do is laugh because, all of a sudden, I realize that there’s no way in hell I’m getting back up the dog ramp. So I just sat there and laughed. I said, “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but it’ll be a cold day in hell before I ask those two for help.”
Ramsey Russell: I have a video of you, your two feet, and you can hear you talking to your dog and talking to the ramp and talking to Jesus about not falling in that cold water, yesterday morning.
Ian Munn: I finally did make it back up, but I wouldn’t have bet on it, myself. I would not have bet on it.
Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal, & Snipe Hunting
“Boy, you used to stay wet, duck hunting out here, because it was tough hunting.”
Ramsey Russell: Do you remember when we got in this camp twenty years ago? It’s been a long time. I was somewhere in the camp house last night, and they’ve got the picture. Or maybe it’s in here. I saw the picture of the first limit ever killed in this camp. It was the last weekend of the first season.
Ian Munn: Mm-hmm. Me, you, and Roger Dave. It was mostly wigeons.
Ramsey Russell: That’s right. Mostly wigeons and a few gadwalls.
Ian Munn: What’s interesting is that, since that year, we’ve hardly shot any wigeons. Well, we’ve shot a few wigeons, but they make up a very small percentage of our bag.
Ramsey Russell: Well, it’s not prime wigeon habitat. The gadwalls make up for them, though. That’s going back a long way. I remember most about that season— The lodge hadn’t been built. The lake hadn’t been built. It was about an eighty acre bean field through here, and there were snipe. We went out and shot snipe. All the folks who were in camp were deer hunters—hardly any duck hunters, even back in the day—and they didn’t understand what all those little birds were about. That night, we bacon-wrapped them and cooked them. The next day, you could have got $30 for a box of bullets out there. I think we killed, camp-wide, three hundred, maybe, in a couple of weekends. We killed three hundred snipe out there in that one little bitty mud flat.
Ian Munn: That mud flat is now our lake, and that’s my one big regret. We don’t really get the snipe in here anymore. Those first few years, we could always liven up the afternoon with a good snipe hunt.
Ramsey Russell: That’s kind of how Forrest comes into the story, because you and Roger were hunting in a rice field lease around Chula. The minute the duck season ended, that farmer would pull it off, and it’d be a mud flat, and we’d go snipe hunting. I can remember Forrest being knee-high. Do you remember those days, Forrest?
Forrest Russell: Mm-hmm. Carrying my pop gun and laying in the, what was it, a poke boat we hunted on?
Ramsey Russell: I’d bring a poke boat to keep you in, to keep you from getting wet. I’d lay you out. So serious was the snipe hunting after the season, back then— I guess snow goose season had just kind of, sort of started, that spring conservation season, but it was not then what it is now. We’d go snipe hunting, and I have still got a five gallon bucket of snipe silhouettes I built. I put tall legs on them so they’d be up above that rice stubble, and it worked. The problem is, everything would come to it: yellowlegs, dowitchers, everything. You had to pay attention because they’d decoy so quick. I remember those days. I’m surprised you remember those days, Forrest. What are your earliest memories, outside of snipe hunting, with Mr. Ian?
Forrest Russell: Teal season. I’ve known Mr. Ian since I was born, pretty much, so I don’t have a defined first memory, but I remember him always being there. Everybody’s always giving him a hard time.
Ian Munn: Regarding the snipe hunt: that was one of my first memories of Forrest on a hunt. We get out of the truck, we’re at the edge of the field, and it’s a rice field, so there’s stubble and it’s going to be difficult walking. You’re giving him a charge: “Now, be careful. Don’t trip and fall, because we’re not coming back. You’ll get soaked, and you’re just going to have to tough it out. So be careful.”
Forrest Russell: How old was I? Three or four?
Ian Munn: Yeah. Three.
Ramsey Russell: As tall as this table.
Ian Munn: Yeah. You said, “Yes, sir,” turned around, took one step, tripped, and face planted in a mud puddle on the road.
Ramsey Russell: But you toughed it out. You didn’t care.
Forrest Russell: Sounds about right.
Ramsey Russell: You were just happy to be there. It was the first of many, many times you had gotten wet before you grew up and got some strong legs on you. Boy, you used to stay wet, duck hunting out here, because it was tough hunting. We didn’t have any blinds. You just went and muscled it out and got in the willows, got in the buttonbushes. If you took little boys—especially your brother Duncan, who had two left feet at the time—somebody was going to get wet. Every time.
Forrest Russell: Yeah. Especially with the size those jackets were. I was wearing an adult large when I was five years old, and I had no range of motion to catch myself. I did fall, and it was face first every time.
A Little Southern Tradition
“Well, it’s a Southern thing. It’s just how we are.”
Ramsey Russell: For those of y’all listening from outside the South, Mr. Ian— To me, he’s Ian. To my children, he’s Mr. Ian. Not Mr. Munn; that would be his daddy. Just Mr. Ian. It’s just a Southern thing when we say Mr. Ian. If your son were to come down here and hunt, he would say Mr. Ian, Mr. Ramsey, and, probably, Mr. Forrest, now. Not Mr. Russell, because that would be my daddy. Just to keep y’all straight on the “Mr.” part. I know I’ve talked to some folks, and actually written an article, one time somewhere out in California, and she didn’t like that a bit. She said, “But that doesn’t make any sense.” Well, it’s a Southern thing. It’s just how we are.
Ian Munn: Along those same lines: at the university, students are expected to call me Dr. Munn. If I know them well, it’s doc or prof but never Ian and never Munn. It’s Dr. Munn. One year when Forrest was in school, he was actually working for our college, maintaining a little landscape garden out in front of the building. He would come in and say hi to Mr. Ian and be talking to Mr. Ian; Mr. Ian this, Mr. Ian that. I’d be having conversations with him. One of the ladies came in and said to me, “Why does he get to call you Mr. Ian when they’re all supposed to call you Dr. Munn?” I said, “He predates everything. It’s far more important for him to call me Mr. Ian than Dr. Munn.”
The Story Behind “Nice Shot, Mr. Ian”
“You’ve heard that comment worldwide, I think.”
Ramsey Russell: Well, that’s right. Now, I was going to ask you this question. Forrest, have you got any stories about Mr. Ian? Some other memories and stories about Mr. Ian?
Forrest Russell: Oh, gosh, where to begin? I think the most iconic one was definitely the good shot, Mr. Ian.
Ramsey Russell: Nice shot, Mr. Ian.
Forrest Russell: Yep.
Ian Munn: I think I want to tell this story first, and then you can tell your version. Alright? I’m sure they’re very, very different. I was over at your family unit one afternoon, and Forest and Duncan were going, “Oh, look at this deer.” They had a nice, nice buck on camera.
Forrest Russell: No, we’d seen him that afternoon.
Ian Munn: Or seen him that afternoon, but they knew where he was. Now, the problem was that only one of them could go hunt that afternoon, or hunt that field. So how were they going to do it, and whatnot? They were bickering back and forth, as brothers do.
Ramsey Russell: The bickering brothers.
Ian Munn: Yeah. I said, “The thing you’re all forgetting is—” For the rest of you who don’t know this, I’m not a big deer hunter. I could care less. They joke about me going out to a deer stand and reading a book all afternoon. Anyhow, I said, “The thing you forget is, now I know where that big deer is. What’s to prevent me from telling everybody in camp where it is?” “Oh, no, Mr. Ian, you wouldn’t do that. You wouldn’t do that.” I said, “Well, let me see. I’ll make you a deal. If from now on every time I shoot a duck you say, ‘Good shot, Mr. Ian,’ I won’t tell anybody.” “Oh, yes, sir. We’ll do that.” I did not think it through. The next morning, we’re out duck hunting, and I shoot and miss. Well, I didn’t say anything about what to say when I didn’t hit a duck. Out over the marsh, at the top of their lungs: “Nice shot, Mr. Ian!” When I hit a duck, it’s a quiet “Nice shot, Mr. Ian,” but when I miss the duck, you can hear it from one end of the camp to the other. People began to say, “What’s going on out there?” I just shake my head.
Ramsey Russell: You’ve heard that comment worldwide, I think.
Ian Munn: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Now I’ll have a student come in and go, “Dr. Munn, what can I do to get a better grade in this course? I’m one point away from B.” I’ll make out some deal. “Okay, turn in an extra paper.” Then when they get everything they want, they’ll look at me and smile and just go, “Nice shot, Mr. Ian,” and scamper out of there.
Ramsey Russell: I’ve even heard it said in Argentina. I don’t know how Diego knew.
Ian Munn: That’s right.
Ramsey Russell: Well, has it got something to do with your shooting reputation, your shooting prowess?
Ian Munn: I’m not going there.
Forrest Russell: He’s improved over the years.
Ramsey Russell: He’s improved over the years.
Ian Munn: I will admit that I’ve never been able to outdraw the Russell boys, and so I’m always shooting cleanup. That may have something to do with it, but I don’t know.
Ramsey Russell: Good luck outdrawing these two. That’s a fact. Oh, my goodness.
Ian Munn: Well, that ties into another story, another saying that you and I have that goes back even before that. You and I were up in Canada. I was still a relatively new duck hunter and didn’t know a lot of the duck hunting protocol. If a group of people fire and a bunch of ducks fall, you’re not supposed to say, “I shot that one,” or whatever. Well, I didn’t know that. I should have known it, but I didn’t know it. We’re up in Canada, and Ramsey and I are hunting together with a drunk Indian guide, which was a whole different story. Had a great time.
Ramsey Russell: We’re going to talk more about this Canada hunt, now that you mentioned it.
Ian Munn: Okay. Anyway, we’re hunting that morning, and I felt like I was shooting pretty good. “Now, I got one!” At some point, I realized you were getting a little bit irritated, and I couldn’t figure out why. Then a pair of ducks came in, working just beautifully. I shot. Doubled up. “Yes, I got it!” I looked over at Ramsey, and he was fuming. He goes, “I shot those ducks.” I said, “No, no, I shot them.” I thought, “This is the end of the friendship right here.” We both know we shot those two ducks. The only thing that saved us that day—and probably forever—was that there were four ducks on the water. We had two different pairs coming in from two different angles. Ramsey shot two, and I shot two. Now, the odds of that happening— Anyways, because of that, just because I realized how close we’d gotten there to actually getting pissed off at each other, I said, “I’m going to start paying attention.” We hunted the rest of that day. At the end of that hunt, I said, “Ramsey, you can take this whatever way you want, but I did notice today that I shoot a whole lot better when we shoot at the same duck.”
The Start of Something Special: GetDucks.com
“That was the beginning of what became GetDucks.com. I began to do some due diligence and try to find better outfitters.”
Ramsey Russell: I know you’ve never heard that before. That’s come back to haunt you. I don’t think I reminded you of that this weekend, but I’ll remember to, next weekend. Speaking of that Canada trip— This is important, because I was talking to Anita last night about how you were there at the inception of what’s become GetDucks.com, and it was that Canadian hunt. I had graduated. I had a job not making tons of money, but making a little bit more money. You and I had always talked about going and doing something like that. I wanted to go to Canada and shoot the little Canada geese but also just shoot birds, period, up at the headwaters of the migration. We wanted to go up there and shoot those Canada geese. We went, and it turned into a three ring circus of a hunt. I have forgotten all the stuff that happened during that hunt.
Ian Munn: It was a comedy of errors. Anything that you could say would go wrong, did go wrong. Starting from when they wouldn’t tell us where the camp was because they didn’t want to show up early. I forgot how they finally did tell us, but we got the word at some point, and we didn’t get there till after dark. Then, come to find out, they didn’t have out of state licenses or hunting licenses for us, which they had told us they would have. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but you pointed out that you worked for the Fish and Wildlife service; if you got caught shooting without a license, your career was over.
Ramsey Russell: So we show up to Canada, and the outfitter doesn’t have licenses for us. Aw, it’s no big deal. We should have just gone on home, at that moment. That’s what we should have done, but we didn’t. He went and got license at 3:00 that morning. I remember that there were supposed to be eight people in camp, and there were thirty. Do you remember when we were actually getting checked in, and we started talking about wanting to shoot some snow geese?
Ian Munn: Yeah. He said, “Snow geese aren’t down yet. We’re just going to be shooting the Canadas.”
Ramsey Russell: “There’s no snow geese. You won’t see any snow geese.” He got upset about us asking about snow geese.
Ian Munn: So the next morning—
Ramsey Russell: —at 8:30—
Ian Munn: —the guides all show up and say, “You’re in our party, you’re in our party, you’re in our party.” Ramsey and I are sitting there. We’re not in anybody’s party.
Ramsey Russell: Well, no, no. It was me and you and four guys from Michigan.
Ian Munn: That’s right. Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: All the trucks left at daylight, at whatever the designated time was. We were on our third pot of coffee when there’s a knock at the door. We show up, and there’s an inebriated Native American—at 8:30 in the morning, with a truck full of snow goose full-bodies—to take us hunting. That was a disaster. But what wasn’t a disaster, what was probably one of the best—
Ian Munn: It led to the best hunt.
Ramsey Russell: About the third morning, I’m going to say, the guide would just drop us off. We’d go stick a hundred decoys. We were watching them.
Ian Munn: They were supposedly dropping us off and then going to scout for the next stakeout.
Ramsey Russell: Well, this guy was just going to drink, I’m thinking. There had to have been a million, a bunch of snow geese flying way high over us. They were on a mission. They were going somewhere, Forrest. We got up, because it was cold, and started walking around the field. All six of us were walking around looking. There weren’t any footprints. There weren’t any signs. There wasn’t any scat. There was nothing. There wasn’t even a feather. There had been no snow geese in that field since the dawn of time.
Ian Munn: Despite the assertions that there were hundreds and hundreds of geese in this field yesterday.
Ramsey Russell: One of the boys from Michigan had just gotten back from Desert Storm. He was a Green Beret, I recall, and he unloaded his Mossberg and disappeared over the hill under those geese, doing that Army foxtrot. That guy was wound out. He could run for miles like that. We all kind of fell asleep in the blinds and forgot about it until he came whipping up. Here comes the guide’s truck, on two wheels, into the decoys. The Green Beret was driving, and he jumps out barking orders. “Grab your guns! Do this! Do this! Let’s go!” Man, we’re running around like chickens with their heads cut off, grabbing stuff. “That’s enough! Enough! Let’s go! Let’s go!” Boom. We drive about two miles, three miles away, and there’s an entire section of snow geese. We drive out into it. He’s driving forty miles an hour, and they’re parting out front; not even leaving the field, just parting. We stick out fifty socks and put on our coats, and shoot about fifty snow geese. Then we decided to leave because the hillside up above us was just smoked with so many dadgum snow geese trading between a big lake and a barley field. We go back to camp, clean our guns, and hatch a plan. Man, we’re going to shoot that hilltop the next day. We’re going to do this and do that. Maybe I dreamed it, but I just remember that Green Beret telling that guide, “If you don’t have us on this hilltop before shooting time tomorrow, I’m going to bury you out here in this prairie.” The next morning, when I walked out in my boxers to look and see what the weather was like, he was sitting there—“Good morning!”—bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with a running truck full of decoys. He was waiting on us to come out. Off we go. That was probably one of the most epic mornings of my life. And you were there.
Ian Munn: Yeah. 120 Geese in less than an hour.
Ramsey Russell: I think I remember 71 minutes.
Ian Munn: Oh, 71 minutes. Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: We lost count. It was so fast. I had a springer at the time. Old Briar. It was so fast and furious. He’d bring up a cripple, and I didn’t take time to wring its neck. I’d just put them under my leg, hold them down with my left leg. It was so fast and furious. I loaded the top barrel only out of an over-and-under I was shooting. Finally, I had to stop and wring necks real quick because it was too unwieldy with all those geese under my legs. We cleaned up that day. We left, and the party down below us—that had watched what they described as the Fourth of July—drove up into the spread and shot another six limits before lunch. That was the beginning of what became GetDucks.com. I began to do some due diligence and try to find better outfitters. You came up there and hunted in Alberta with us, didn’t you? Up there with Jeff Clause? Who would have dreamed that, all these years later, that’s what it was going to turn into? But you were there.
Ian Munn: Yeah. Oh, it was fun.
Reminiscing About the Early Hunting Days
“While you’re sitting there, bent over taking a picture of something, we killed a pair of mallards right over you.”
Ramsey Russell: What are your earliest memories of hunting with Forrest and Duncan? I know you’ve got some good stories.
Ian Munn: Well, I’ve got several stories about each of them, but I’ll tell one apiece and then let them flush it out. Well, Forrest was a little bit better than Duncan in this regard, but Duncan was going to forget something. Shells, whatever. So I always carried extra toilet paper and extra shotgun shells. I can remember him having a conversation with you. He goes, “I don’t care what you say, Daddy. These 20 gauge shells won’t fit in my shotgun.” He had a 12 gauge, at the time, but he had grabbed the wrong box of shotgun shells. He had grabbed 20 gauge. But if Duncan said, “There’s ducks working this spot or that spot,” that’s a fact. You booked on it.
Ramsey Russell: That’s because even during duck season when he was eight, nine, ten years old, he had a pellet rifle.
Ian Munn: And he was gone.
Ramsey Russell: And he would disappear. His momma would say, “Well, where is he?” I’d go, “I don’t know.” He’s got 3,600 acres. He was gone.
Ian Munn: So one afternoon, he said, “Mr. Ian, we’ve got to go out to this place right here. There’s birds there.” It was an afternoon hunt, so we went out and shot pretty good. I don’t think we limited, but we had close to a limit. I set my phone alarm to go off at closing time, and it’s getting close, it’s getting close. I said, “Duncan, be careful. We’re getting really close. If they come in, we’ve got to take them quickly, because we’re running out of time.” A pair of pintail came in, and I knocked them both. I was so proud. Beautiful pintails. What I remember forever about the hunt was that, as those birds were still falling in the air, my phone alarm went off. I’m going, “God, perfect,” you know? I was so proud of that. I’m puffed up. We get back to camp, and I hear Duncan telling the story. He goes, “Yeah, and I’m sitting there”—he’s talking about himself, now—”and Mr. Ian doesn’t see them, but here come a pair of pintails. Boom, boom! I nail them both.” When I hear him tell that story, I go, “Like father, like son.”
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. Well, you do shoot better when you shoot at the same birds as us.
Ian Munn: Well, it’s a family tradition. I shoot better when I’m with you guys.
Ramsey Russell: Well, I know that if Duncan were hearing this story, he’d want to tell about when y’all, a couple of years ago, were back there hunting mallards. Ian is notorious—isn’t he, Forrest?—in a lull, mid-hunt, about the time mallards or something’s going to happen—
Forrest Russell: That’s when the camera comes out.
Ramsey Russell: That’s when the camera comes out, and he’s stalking around taking pictures of flowers and icicles and something.
Ian Munn: Artistic something or the other, yeah.
Ramsey Russell: Artistic, yeah. There’s a limb. Yep, that’s your thumb again in the lens, there. Anyway, I do remember, one time, you taking pictures. We were hunting over at the chute at Big Hole, and Forrest and I were sitting in the buttonbushes. You were taking pictures of something artistic. I’m like, “Pss, Ian, shh! Mallards!” You thought I was messing with you. While you’re sitting there, bent over taking a picture of something, we killed a pair of mallards right over you. They were up tall. They were kind of high because they saw somebody out there walking around outside the bushes, but we folded them. But Duncan tells a story. He came in with a band, proud as could be, and I don’t know if he was prouder because he killed the band or prouder because of how he killed the band. A wood duck had gone down, or fallen, behind y’all, and you went back there with Asia to pick it up, and jumped these mallards. According to him, he shouted and hollered and gave you every benefit possible to shoot those mallards, and you just waved him off.
Ian Munn: And they flew right over me. But, now, my gun was over my shoulder, so I wouldn’t—
Ramsey Russell: And he doubled
Ian Munn: He doubled.
Ramsey Russell: And the greenhead was banded.
Ian Munn: Yeah. To make matters worse, I think he actually shot the wood duck, but I was cold so I said, “I’ll go get it.”
Ramsey Russell: Nice shot, Mr. Ian!
Ian Munn: That was more likely. “Nice bird there, Ian. You go get it.” Off I went, sucker that I was, to get his bird.
Hunting the Duck Hole at the Island Blind
“It’s one of my favorite blinds, and I think it’s fair to say it’s one of Ramsey’s most hated blinds.”
Ramsey Russell: Oh, my goodness. What’s a good story on Forrest?
Ian Munn: Well, we were hunting—you were there—the Island Blind. We have this big duck hole, very cleverly named Duck Hole, and in the middle of it is this thing we call the Island Blind. It’s one of my favorite blinds, and I think it’s fair to say it’s one of Ramsey’s most hated blinds.
Ramsey Russell: I don’t like it.
Ian Munn: He doesn’t like it at all.
Forrest Russell: This is probably my favorite memory, too.
Ian Munn: Yeah. There had been some redheads working out in the lake. I’ve got a lot of taxidermy—not nearly as much as you—but the two things I have left that I want to get on this club are a redhead and a bull wigeon, and there were redheads out on the lake. You said, “Where are we going to hunt?” And I said, “I don’t know where we’re going to hunt, but I’m hunting the Island Blind. I want to get me a redhead.” “Eh, bleh”—mumble, grumble—”Island Blind, meh.” Off we go. It was a slow day. Ducks aren’t working. To make matters worse, you’re just griping the whole time. “Why did we come here? The Island Blind sucks. How did I let you talk me into coming?” I said, “I didn’t talk you into it. I said I was coming here, and you came along.”
Forrest Russell: I think we killed one ringneck.
Ian Munn: Yeah, before then. Finally, the volume of dissent got so high that I just said, “Okay, I give. Let’s call it a day. Let’s go in.” I’m sitting there picking up, putting my camera away, and sheathing my gun when— I don’t know what the exact words were, but they were something like, “Oh my god.” Flying straight into the decoys is a bull redhead, just beautifully. You can see it’s a redhead in the sun. It’s just gleaming. I’m sitting there. I’m trying to get my gun out of the case, and I barely get it halfway out when, boom, Forrest is in there. I don’t think he’s looked at the duck. He was looking at me, smiling, when he pulled the trigger. Boom! Deader than a hammer right in front of me.
Forrest Russell: I’ve got him out at the house, too. Head’s the size of an apple.
Ian Munn: Well, you took a picture of it and posted it on social media, and it got like four or five hundred hits before we even got out of the blind.
Ramsey Russell: Pull your mic up just a little bit closer to your mouth, there. There you go. That’s better. I do remember that moment, and it’s one of those moments that makes a daddy proud. That is a beautiful redhead. It’s one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen.
Forrest Russell: Definitely the prettiest I’ve ever got.
Ramsey Russell: Have you since got a redhead?
Ian Munn: I got one redhead here, before then, but it wasn’t in full plumage, so I didn’t get it mounted. But, no, I’ve not shot a redhead since then.
Ramsey Russell: Well, Forrest and I will be around some in December and January. We ain’t going to the Island Blind, but we might help you out. I’m looking around your game room here. There’s a lot of memories of you and I having hunted different places together. I see that you’ve got the Willow Break mount. Describe that. It’s some of Forrest’s best work, back in the day.
Ian Munn: Yeah. My brother gave me a cedar plant stand. To describe it, it’s got a base, three or four branches off it, and a platform on the top of each one. I had that thing for years, thinking, “What am I going to use this for?” Then I got the idea, “I can use it to put some duck mounts on.” So over the course of about a year, I collected what I call the Willow Break medley of ducks and asked Forrest to mount them. This was back when he was learning how to do taxidermy, and, more importantly for me, was extremely cheap compared to other taxidermists. I commissioned him to do my four Willow Break, standard, typical ducks. I’ve got a hooded merganser, a hen mallard, a shoveler, and a ringneck, all in my Willow Break cedar pedestal. He did a great job on all of them. People go, “Why on earth did you mount these ducks?” It’s Willow Break.
Capercaillie Hunting in a Blizzard
“Not impossible. Two capercaillies in a blizzard… Nice shot, Mr. Ian.”
Ramsey Russell: That was a pretty typical Willow Break hunt back in the day when times were tough, wasn’t it? You shot the next duck over the decoys. I’m looking at that black grouse and your capercaillie there. That really, truly is one of my favorite hunts, but it’s also one of my favorite Ian stories. We’d gone up to near the Arctic Circle, capercaillie hunting. The birds had been singing, and everything was beautiful and according to reports. When we get there, and a late May blizzard hits. I can remember sitting in that little cabin—not even as big as this room right here—loading wood all day and just watching it. You couldn’t even see the lake out in the backyard because it was snowing so hard.
Ian Munn: You could not see three feet outside the back window because of the blizzard.
Ramsey Russell: We had one or two capercaillies in camp, and they weren’t singing. They weren’t acting right. It looked like it was going to be a colossal disappointment for everybody.
Ian Munn: And the guides refused to go out.
Ramsey Russell: The guides did not want to go out. Alexei comes in there and says, “We’re not capercaillie hunting.” I said, “Why not?” He goes, “It’s a blizzard. It’s impossible to kill a capercaillie.” I thought about it for a minute because, look, it is snowing hard. I go back and say,” Alexei, it’s impossible to kill a capercaillie in Dallas, Texas, or Starkville, Mississippi. We can’t let these clients go home without a capercaillie, having slept in. We just can’t.” He goes, “Yes, I understand.” So he took you and another gentleman.
Ian Munn: Barry, from Michigan.
Ramsey Russell: He took you and Barry out. I slept in because it’s impossible to kill a capercaillie in a blizzard, so I went to sleep. I got a text. “We got one,” it said, from you. It woke Lee up. Lee was sharing a room with me. So we went back to sleep. Ten, fifteen, twenty minutes later: Ding-ding! I get another text: “We got them both.” He goes, “Is he messing with you?” I go, “He could be, except that it costs money to send a text in Russia. No, he ain’t wasting a dollar on a practical joke. I feel pretty good that they got them.” When Alexei came in, the first thing he did was come up and bear hug me and say, “Not impossible. Two capercaillies in a blizzard.” Nice shot, Mr. Ian.
Ian Munn: The whole hunt was very interesting. We got there and it was still snowing, snowing to beat the band. I had gone to Russia because I wanted to duck hunt. I couldn’t care less, at that time, about capercaillie or black grouse or any of this other stuff that we were shooting. The ducks weren’t really, at that time, up yet. They hadn’t flown from the South back to the North where we were. There were some, but not a great mixture of stuff. The duck hunting was so-so; sort of interesting, but not great. Anyways, we got talked into doing some capercaillie hunting. So we go out and Alexei says, “Look, I can only take one of you. I don’t know how this is going to work, but you guys have got to decide which one of you two go.” Well, the night before, sitting around drinking vodka, Barry had told us that his lifetime goal was to shoot capercaillie. He had saved up all his money for this trip, and this was his lifetime fulfillment. There we are sitting in a blizzard, and I’m sitting there going, “I don’t care about capercaillies, and it’s his lifetime vision. Take Barry.” Off they go. Alexei says, “You sit here by this rock, and one may just walk by.”
Ramsey Russell: In a blizzard.
Ian Munn: I kid you not; within about fifteen minutes, I was covered in snow. They started, and as we were sitting there talking, Alexei’s eyes got big. He goes, “I heard one.” I said, “I didn’t hear anything.” He goes, “Shh! There, there, there.” So he motions to Barry, and off they go, doing the whole three-step-stop routine. The whole routine is that you can only walk while the bird is singing, because they can’t see or hear you at that time. So: one, two, three, stop; wait for him to start singing. One, two, three, stop. Well, twenty minutes later, Barry comes back, grinning from ear to ear, face about to split in two, and he had his capercaillie. Alexei’s like, “Well, we can try. The odds of there being two capercaillie in this area are slim to none, but we went that way, so let’s go this way.” Well, we don’t get five yards before his eyes get big again. He goes, “Capercaillie.” Again, I don’t hear a thing. “Capercaillie!” I think he’s just trying to make me feel good, because we had stalked several before then. We’d spend two hours stalking them, and then he’d go, “Oh! He must have flown off.” That sort of stuff. So I figured that’s what it was. But we did it. One, two, three, stop. One, two, three, stop. He would get so upset with me because I would do one, two, and then, if I stumbled just a little bit—it was hard walking— there was a crunch after the stop. He finally just held my hand. For the last easily 150 yards, we walked hand in hand. I’m going, “Ah, I hope nobody’s got a video camera.” Then, sure enough, there was a capercaillie. He led me right up to it. Boom, the rest was history. In a morning when we weren’t supposed to see anything, let alone get two, it was magical. It really was.
Argentina Goose Hunts
“I remember the goose hunting as being extraordinary.”
Ramsey Russell: The first time I went to Argentina, you and I hunted together. What did we shoot that time? I know we shot geese. That was pretty epic. It was back when you could shoot geese. Gosh, that must have been the early 2000s.
Ian Munn: Yeah. That was sort of the second thing that got you saying, “I can do this. I can do it as well, if not better, than the person who took you out.”
Ramsey Russell: Oh, yeah. Well, the guide doing it was just a shyster. It was a huge adventure, and that was what kind of started me down the full path of what became Get Ducks. The first event was Canada. I found a better outfitter. That outfitter then invited me to come in and start bringing him hunters. Then, later, as we got down into Argentina, the hunt was okay. It could have been organized better. It could have been done better. I just realized that there’s an opportunity. Somebody could do this a lot better than how people were doing it. But the hunt is what I was thinking of. I remember the goose hunting as being extraordinary. I wish the goose hunting in Argentina was still happening. It was the world’s best goose hunting. Shooting those Magellan’s— You don’t set up for the wind. You just set out decoys and lay among them. I remember digging a little shallow pit, out in this bare sunflower field, just shallow enough to break your outline a little bit, sitting among the decoys. No matter which way the wind was blowing, you looked to the East because, uncharacteristically for other geese, they fly extremely early. You really didn’t know, until the sun had come up, whether you were shooting Magellan’s or ashy-heads, male or female. You were just shooting silhouettes coming in by the bunch. Boatloads. I remember going duck hunting, and the first duck hunt was a huge disappointment. I think we shot twenty or thirty ducks. But I remember the Argentine that was in charge of that saying something. Then I remember them putting us in a duck hole where, towards the end of that hunt, I said, “Shoot them birds, Ian,” and you didn’t even raise your gun. You looked at me and said, “No, you shoot them.” We were worn out. We were tuckered. That was a heck of a hunt.
Ian Munn: Yeah. Was it that hunt? Maybe it was the next time we were in Argentina. Anyways, they put us on a hole, and they gave us four boxes of shells each. They start coming in and they start coming in. I’ve never been able to keep up with you, Forrest, or Duncan in terms of shooting, but at some point— “Hey, Ian. Give me some shells, I’m out.” “No, I’m not going to give you my shells.”
Ramsey Russell: That was the second time we went, because the boys were there. I remember me and the boys went off, and it was the first time in Argentina that it had ever frozen. We were way down south of Buenos Aires with our Las Flores operation, and it froze so hard that the boys could walk on the water. We shot five or six ducks. I think you and somebody else were in a team, were over there shooting another pond, and it was horrible. It was frozen. I’d say, in aggregate, that we shot fifteen or twenty ducks.
Forrest Russell: It turned around that afternoon.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. Diego was like, “Oh, don’t worry, don’t worry. It’ll thaw out.” I said, “Where are we going to hunt this afternoon?” He says, “In the same place.” He said, “Man, those ducks are coming in that place, and, once it thaws out, it’s going to be gangbusters.” So you hunted with Duncan, and Forrest and I went and hunted. Tell that story about hunting with Duncan. That was y’all’s first big hunt together.
Ian Munn: Yeah. We were laying at the edge of the stock pond in a cow pasture. I’ll always remember Duncan laying his head on a cow skull. He was lying flat with his head propped up on a cow skull. It was slow at first, and then, just about dusk, when it just started getting about not bright enough to see, they started coming in. Both of us went through two boxes of shells in about fifteen minutes. As fast as you could put your shells in your gun, you could shoot them. At some point, I said, “Duncan, I can’t see anymore.” That was the night you two kept shooting. I thought, “What in the world is going on?” Then off in the distance, I see this light. Diego had a Q-Beam, and you guys were hunting. He would highlight the ducks in that Q-Beam, and you’d keep shooting on them.
Ramsey Russell: We were shooting well. We were making numbers until, I’ll never forget, a flock of speckled teal or something flew through. We didn’t cut a feather. He says, “Well, come on, what’s wrong?” “I can’t see to shoot. It’s gotten too dark.”
Forrest Russell: We were sitting on number 99.
Ramsey Russell: Sitting on number 99, and he got on the radio and said something to somebody, or either he took off, and he came back with a spotlight. Right by the time you think you’ve seen it all in the world of duck hunting, your guide breaks out a Q-Beam. It was almost funny shooting ducks by light like that. The first time he did it, that pintail didn’t know what was happening. He was just out there flopping. I started laughing so hard, Forrest killed it. But that was a little bit fun until we made some numbers a little bit, and then we came on out. There’s no shooting time down there.
Ian Munn: That wasn’t the story I was going to tell you. You had run through all your shells, and I still had a box and a half or so to go. You went, “Give me some of your shells. You’re not going to shoot all of those. Give me some of your shells.” I picked up one and said, “Who’s your daddy?” Your teeth gritted and your lips clamped as tight as they could. “Give me the goddamn shells. Give me the goddamn shells.” “Who’s your daddy?” You never did say who your daddy was, but I heard enough words that I enjoyed giving them to you one at a time. So we went through that last box of shells one at the time, and, every time, “You’ve got to ask for it.”
Ramsey Russell: Uh-huh. Oh my gosh. Well, I’m looking forward to another good season with you, Ian. It sure was a good opener. It was good to be home. It’s good to see you and your family. I wish old Duncanator could have been here. I know he missed being here. Boy, 26 years is a long time. I know it’s been, probably, the best 26 years of your life, getting to hunt with me and the Russell boys.
Ian Munn: That’s right. Well, even this morning and yesterday, we’re sitting there shooting. At some point during the morning, I had to say, “I’m shooting a hell of a lot better when I shoot the same birds as you guys.”
Decades of Duck Hunters – It’s all in the Family
“I gained a sense of satisfaction from having children and watching my children grow up hunting and teaching them to hunt and seeing them becoming hunters.”
Ramsey Russell: We’ve had some good times. This club has been a blessing and a curse. It is frustrating. What I realized this weekend— I’ve been doing a lot of road tripping and traveling around, and I love it. We’re still here. Got a little power service going on, folks. But anyway, I’ve been road tripping. I’ve been traveling around, and the world is such a bigger and more amazing place than our own backyard. But after being on the road for six weeks, to come back here— Especially not having an ATV. Being able to show up; my buddy’s got one; I ride with him. Just falling into the whole familiarity of it all. The same faces—older, but familiar—that have become family over the last two decades. Myself, our wives, our kids, Chuck and his family, others coming in. And going down there is a routine. I get up, I drink a cup of coffee; you come knock on the door, you drink a cup of coffee; we go suit up, we go out and ride, we know these holes. There’s a lot of satisfaction in that. Just having seen this place and the people evolve. It being, on one hand, a lot different than it was twenty years ago. Twenty years ago, you could sit right here and look clear across 3,600 acres and see the main levee. Now, it’s a hardwood forest. It’s changed, but it hasn’t. There’s something about that.
Ian Munn: Well, I’ll give you a classic example of that. Twenty years ago, it was our kids that were running around and getting into trouble. “Where are the kids?” “God, I don’t know, whatever.” Now, it’s a whole different echelon. I think there are more of them now. I just call them the herd, now. You’ll be sitting around drinking coffee, and a little herd of little people go running by, obviously having a great time. In a lot of ways, you talking about hunting all over the place reminds me of that line from Wizard of Oz: “there’s no place like home.” You come back here. This is, for me, the bedrock. I enjoy hunting other places, but, you know.
Ramsey Russell: It really is. My happy place is my little apartment and being right here, just a knock on the door from a cup of coffee. I gained a sense of satisfaction from having children and watching my children grow up hunting and teaching them to hunt and seeing them becoming hunters. It was rewarding in an entirely different way than I ever could have imagined it being. I had quit fishing entirely until Forrest was about two or three years old and I took him fishing. The wonder of him catching that fish— The same thing could be said of him shooting the ducks or seeing the birds, or of me watching their shooting evolve. Or, now, watching young people that are now grown up, and their kids are coming into it. That’s something. There’s something about that. Even shaking the old bucket down there. There’s just something about it.
Ian Munn: Well, it’s certainly really nice to see other members bringing their kids or their grandkids here, but, at the same time, I smile and go, “Thank God those days are over for me.”
Mississippi Hunting Memories
“I knew he was on his way to being a duck hunter.”
Ramsey Russell: No doubt. The first time I ever brought Forrest to hunt at Willow Break, the first time ever, it wasn’t terribly cold, but it was a lot like this. He was three or four, maybe. We were staying down at the bunkhouse. It was the only place we had to stay. I was smart enough at night to say, “Forrest, you’ve got to get dressed yourself.” “Yes, sir.” Just a little bitty child. I started on one end of an empty bunk, and I started laying out layers. I said, “Start here and put this on, then put this on, and this on, and this on.” “Yes, sir.” I was pretty proud of him because the next morning, when I got dressed—pulling on my waders—he was dressed. His waders were on. Boom. He was ready to go. We get out there to hunt with a friend of mine from Kosciusko, right here, hunting a duck hole. We shot a few ducks. It wasn’t crazy, but it wasn’t terribly cold. I had him kind of sit in the water a little bit, and his teeth started chattering. He started getting cold. He never really was a whiner, but you could tell that he was uncomfortable, that he was ready to go. I’m like, “Son, you can’t possibly be cold. You ought to be sweating right now.” No, he was cold. His teeth were chattering. We get home, and I realized he had gone from tighty whities to waders and skipped all the steps in between, and pulled on his jacket. There wasn’t anything under those waders but his Scooby-Doo underwear. Oh, I don’t miss those days, man.
Forrest Russell: If I had to guess, I probably fell in on the way, too.
Ramsey Russell: Probably did fall in on the way.
Ian Munn: Well, I can remember going out to hunts and dragging a jet sled behind us with Duncan just sound asleep. On many a hunt, he’d squeeze up in the front end—and you too, for that matter—of the poke boat and sleep half the hunt.
Ramsey Russell: Just glad to be there. Do you remember the time we flooded? I’ve got this picture. It’s one of the most endearing pictures I have. Forrest was five, six, seven years old. You may remember this hunt, Forrest. I want you to weigh in if you do. We were hunting out of the boat. We were launching in a ditch and running way out to what we call Half Mile, only it was flooded. The last acreage in the bottom that was still in agriculture was corn. A flash flood hit. I think it was 2005. I think it was the year that Katrina hit, then Rita hit. When Rita hit, it hit late. Boom, it just flooded everything. Then a cold front hit. Just magic conditions. We had a lot of fresh water, a lot of ducks came down, and there were nine hundred acres of corn north of us that had just started being cut. Boom, it went underwater. Ducks like I’ve never seen ducks, and they would want to eat in that corn. On clear days, they wanted to come up and lay in all this cover we’ve got around here. We found that spot, and it was good. It was one of the best duck seasons, certainly in Mississippi, that I recall.
Forrest Russell: That was the year they came out with the duck count. You called the biologist, and he came and counted them and it doubled the duck count.
Ramsey Russell: I forgot about that. Scott Baker was a state biologist and had announced the state waterfowl count. I called him up. I used to fly up in North Mississippi and count ducks for the federal government. He’d do it with the state. A lot of times, we would get together and reconcile our numbers just to compare and see what was what, if we could feel better about the estimate. I called him up and said, “Scott, did you go down to Dixie Farm bottoms?” “No, I didn’t pick up that transect this time.” I said, “You need to, because I think there’s so many ducks north of us in that corn that your number is going to double.” He says, “Get out.” I said, “I’m telling you.” Somebody drove in. We could hear that four-wheeler a long ways off. Somebody drove in. When those ducks got up, it literally eclipsed the sun to the East. I’ve never seen a spectacle like that in the state of Mississippi. He went down there and counted. The next Monday, they doubled the estimate for the ducks in the state of Mississippi. Such was the case. I had just bought Forrest that little 20 gauge. He was wearing a coat that was too big because I’m the kind of dad who, if I’m going to buy a kid a coat, it’s got to fit him for a good, long time.
Forrest Russell: It still fits me.
Ramsey Russell: You can probably still wear that coat, I was just fixing to say. We get in there, and I don’t feel like I’m doing myself or kids a favor by coddling them. If you’re going to learn to shoot ducks, you’ve got to learn to shoot ducks. So the deal was: Ian’s on one side of the boat, I’m on the other, you’re right here in between us; when I say to take them, you’ve got to come up and shoot. When that duck gets over us, there’s no guarantee he’s going to come back. We’re going to kill him. Somewhere during the middle of the hunt, he starts crying. You remember that? He starts crying. I’m like, “Are you cold?” “No. Y’all are shooting all the ducks,” he said. We were just shooting our limits. We weren’t shooting his. “Y’all are shooting all the ducks,” he said. Do you remember that hunt, Forrest?
Forrest Russell: I do. I knocked down my first duck on the wing ever, that time. A greenwing. But we never found him.
Ramsey Russell: He got off into the cover. Old Delta couldn’t catch him.
Ian Munn: Now, in Forrest’s defense, the birds would come in and Ramsey would knock them out immediately.
Forrest Russell: Before I could get the gun on my shoulder, they were already falling.
Ramsey Russell: Well, it’s not that way anymore. It worked, didn’t it? Now you’re a quick shot. If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch. That’s what I say. That’s what youth weekends are for, when daddy ain’t got a gun.
Ian Munn: Well, we all look for excuses and justifications for our circumstances, but mine is that, when I’m hunting with Forrest and Duncan, there’s no way in heck I’m getting the first shot off, the second shot off, or the third shot off. So if I don’t shoot as well as they do, it’s because I’m shooting cleanup at the ducks that are flying on afterburners, forty yards away.
Forrest Russell: Hey, we let you have that last greenhead yesterday.
Ian Munn: That’s right.
Ramsey Russell: It was just a few years later than that when I took Forrest out to the Texas panhandle and we shot sandhill cranes. We decoyed sandhill cranes with Kevin the rat. I think you went out there with us one time. I took Forrest out there. He must have been eight, nine, ten.
Ian Munn: That was after the time you and I went
Ramsey Russell: That was after that time. After we shot those sandhills, decoying, he said, “Well, let’s go jump some stock tanks.” It was one of those West Texas winds, about 20-25 miles an hour. We jumped and got a shot as they were flushing. The birds started rattling. About that time, this dang greenwing comes streaking through from right to left with a tail wind. It must’ve been doing 50 miles an hour, and I shot. Forrest said, “I got him!” I said, “How far did you lead him? No, I got him.” Without blinking an eye, he goes, “The same amount as you.” I knew he was on his way to being a duck hunter.
Forrest Russell: I remember that hunt. I was in second grade, I remember that. I got to skip school for it. The first morning wasn’t bad, and that was my first limit I ever killed, was that morning. I killed three sandhills out of the air with my 20 gauge. The next day it was so cold. You, I believe, sailed one down. You and Delta went to look for him. Me and Kevin were sitting there. I was laying in his lap in the layout blind. He was having to hold me up and make me shoot because I was so cold that I wouldn’t shoot. He was grabbing the gun for me and making me shoot them.
Ramsey Russell: That was a wonderful shoot. That was a wonderful hunt. Good memories. We’ve got lots more of them. Folks, I hope y’all had a good weekend. I hope y’all are having a good season. You know what I hope? I hope that you have got a good friend like I’ve got in old Mr. Ian. You don’t see good friendships coming, and I’m not saying this just because I outshoot him every day we go hunting together. It takes a lot to give a man a ride and help him raise his kids. We’ve seen kids grow older. We’ve seen dogs grow older. In fact, just very recently, he put a thirteen year old dog down, Asia. She was a puppy off of Delta. He saw Delta come and go, and I saw Asia come and go. It’s just a lot of memories that you accumulate over the years. You just never really see those friendships coming until you can look back 25-30 years and be able to laugh and talk about the past times. I hope y’all’s season is going well. I hope you’re enjoying duck season in Mississippi or wherever you are, for what it is and what it ain’t. Until next time, we’ll see you. Duck Season Somewhere.