On the front porch of a rustic, swamp-encompassed, little red camphouse, hunters gathered around fedora-topped, pipe-smoking Destry Hoffard, admiring an older-than-most-people-in-camp Winchester Model 21 two-shooter he’d brought to duck hunt Argentina. In fact, everything he packed had the venerable patina of times past–especially his duck hunting mind-set. Born and raised in Illinois, Hoffard is a genuine American Picker (even though he hates that title). He tells a fascinating story about early influences, goose guiding near Cairo, Illinois, interesting finds, why that old gun is truly special, and why the good old days in America really were.
The Last Real Place to Duck Hunt
I’ve always said, birds of a feather flock together and how certain hunts we’ve got because duck hunting is so subjective, certain hunts we’ve got attract a similar mindset.
Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere, I’m wrapping up in Rio Salado fixing to move on down the road in Argentina, but before I do, I want to introduce you all to another interesting guy, one of them interesting personalities you meet in duck camp and his name is Destry Hoffard, Destry, tell me, what did you like about Rio Salado?
Destry Hoffard: Well, it’s so far off the beaten track that was the whole reason that I wanted to come here, that it wasn’t just get off the airplane and drive a couple of hours and sit on a baited stock tank and shoot ducks, it was the all-natural aspect of it, the unbaited, the wild duck hunting, real duck hunting. And like I say, so far off the beaten track, the charm of everything not being quite perfect, everything’s kind of pleasantly worn because it’s so hard to get things here. And to me I say, very charming and meaningful that everything’s not manicured.
Ramsey Russell: You’re an interesting personality, I know you like a lot of people, I know you from social media and –
Destry Hoffard: And we have some mutual friends.
Ramsey Russell: And we got a lot of mutual friends and the more I got to know you this week, the way you dress, the gun you shoot, why you would choose this hunt, why we have some of those mutual friends, the more it became obvious, the more it just became obvious. I’ve always said, birds of a feather flock together and how certain hunts we’ve got because duck hunting is so subjective, certain hunts we’ve got attract a similar mindset. The same reason you came here is a lot of reason that drew a lot of people to this particular location versus another.
Destry Hoffard: When you told me that the last, maybe two hours on the road were dirt, I thought I have to go there. I have to see that place, I have to see what might be the last, good place, the last real place.
Ramsey Russell: Well, pull your mic just a little bit closer. There you go. Yeah. I think, to this day, I really think that it’s a dry year this year, we got to shoot ducks and have a good time.
Destry Hoffard: We shot ducks, we had a good time, we had a little variety, we had a big pigeon shoot, we worked on the parakeets one afternoon and did we murder the ducks? No, I had nice decoying birds, I saw something every day that I had never seen before, I took a species that was new to me. I just got to see a maned wolf which I never dreamed I would ever see. I got to see those giant land rails running up and down the road, I’d never seen one. I’m not a birder but in my mind I keep what they call kind of a life list of birds I’ve seen and managed to identify when I was on the road. And so just to see all those little things. I saw the black neck swans, I’d only ever seen one before and I got to see a big flock of black necked swans. I mean, every morning you saw something new, a bird or an animal that I had never seen – I mean, I’d seen javelina in Arizona, but I’d never seen the Argentinian javelina, we saw javelina. I mean, there was just something new to see every day.
Ramsey Russell: We were coming down the road one day I can’t remember who I was with and a big old wild hog come busting across the road, big old tushes and everything else.
Destry Hoffard: It wasn’t really a javelina, it was a wild hog.
Ramsey Russell: Do you ever think you’d shoot wild parakeets like that?
Destry Hoffard: I never did.
Ramsey Russell: Have it even crossed your mind to go shoot a bunch of little green parakeets.
Destry Hoffard: I know guys do kill them as an incidental on the dove hunts and stuff down here. But the thought of actually targeting them and going out and when several guys making a big shoot like that on them, it just never occurred to me. And like I told you, I said, I’m always just kind of up for anything and when the boys come in and said, we’ve got a parakeet shoot for the afternoon, if you want to go, I couldn’t get my gun fast enough, I was ready. Give me some shells, let’s go out there and see this and do this something different, something new.
Ramsey Russell: We’re going to come back and talk about that gun because not everybody shows up with a gun like that. And I think it’s amazing. But first, where are you from? Michigan?
Destry Hoffard: I live outside of Detroit now, I have for 23 years. But I was raised in southern Illinois in the old goose country down there. Yeah, just north of Cairo. And I goose guided as so many of the boys did, grew up with people like Charlie Sullivan and his son, Brian Sullivan, they were good friends and –
Ramsey Russell: Who were they?
Destry Hoffard: Charlie Sullivan was kind of, he was written up a lot in, like, even in Sports Illustrated back when they did hunting and fishing articles. Charlie was on that old game show, what’s my line as a goose guide? He was a famous mouth caller, he won all the big contests calling by mouth. He won the Illinois State duck calling competition multiple times and then his son, Brian, who’s – Charlie’s passed on now. His son, Brian who’s still a good friend today and is just as much a sportsman as Charlie ever was, did the same. He guided all over the country and there were so many personalities like that in southern Illinois and I mean, I was raised in Johnson City, Illinois, the hometown of Tim Grounds, my brother went to high school with him, I knew Tim all my life, he lived 3 blocks from my house.
Ramsey Russell: Who was Tim?
Destry Hoffard: Tim Grounds, the world goose calling champion.
Ramsey Russell: Man, I’m from the Deep South, we don’t have that Canada goose hunting culture.
Destry Hoffard: That goose hunting culture. Of course, Tim’s passed away now. But I remember, sitting in Tim’s basement –
Ramsey Russell: Tim Grounds, okay, I don’t know, what I heard to say.
Destry Hoffard: Tim Grounds. Sitting in Tim’s basement –
Ramsey Russell: I know who Tim Grounds is.
Destry Hoffard: Yeah, I was surprised that you didn’t. And of course he’s passed away now. But sitting in Tim’s basement when I was a high school kid and watching him put together calls and helping him put stuff in tubes and in packages and he gave me my first short reed call, taught me how to blow a short reed call. And so I grew up in that waterfowl culture –
Ramsey Russell: I’ve got one goose call that I used to blow Canada geese, I’m no Canada goose caller like a lot of guys listening or probably like yourself born up in that business. But it is an old probably the first generation, super mag that Tim ever made and it’s the only call I blew.
Destry Hoffard: I still blow one of those – I’ve got two goose calls. I still blow and they’re both old Southern Illinois calls. One of them is a honker, one of those honker magic magnets first wooden short reed that Tim made and the first wooden short reed that Tim made. And then I know Joe Jaroski, one of those old 10 gauge hull calls that Joe made and I still blow him today.
Finding the Thread: Starting as a Teen Hunting Guide
And then that’s just kind of became been the thread, waterfowl has been the thread that’s kept my whole life tied together all my life.
Ramsey Russell: Did you tell me you were a goose guide as a teenager?
Destry Hoffard: Yeah, I guided for a private club they leased Colin Kane who owned Grassy Lake, they leased his brother’s farm, which was across the road and they had a private club back there and I got it for them for a long time.
Ramsey Russell: How did you get into that? Just walk me through this Destry. Because now tell me a story. You grew up in that part of the world, you knew those kinds of people, you became a goose guy at a private club, not a big commercial guy with new sports every day. Well, how did you get into that? What was that job like for you as a young man? What do you think you want to do back then?
Destry Hoffard: In my mind, I thought I wanted to be a hunting guide or an outdoor writer or something. And I’ve done all of that a little bit, I’ve had articles in double gun journal, I had a column in the Waterfowl USA Magazine for a couple of years, if had an issue ever, call them. So I’ve done a little bit of all the stuff that I thought I wanted to be when I was a kid. But I never did actually be any of those things for the long term, like some guys have been guides all their life and I never did that and I’ve never been a professional outdoor writer, but at least I’ve got to have that experience. My dad had a goose pit, he and some friends would lease a goose pit in the 70s when I was a kid. And so I can remember dad coming in, we’re reaching in the back of the truck and pull a big old can of the goose out and be sitting on the front porch picking it and I was just enamored with that, I just couldn’t believe that that was something that my dad had gone out and shot and brought home and then about the time I kind of got big enough to start going a little bit, those goose pits got so expensive, Dad was a working man, he didn’t have a lot of money and those goose pits got so expensive, he and his friends finally quit leasing it because it was just too much money to for them to spend. And so I grew up as a young boy, we dove hunted, squirrel hunted, my dad and granddad had bird dogs, but of course the quail had about disappeared by that time. But we still did a little bit of that. But that had been their main thing, they had been quail hunters and raised dogs when my dad was young and then the other thing, that’s how I got into the old side by side, shotguns. My family always shot side by sides, there wasn’t ever an automatic or a pump gun around the house, dad and grandpa always shot side by sides. And so to me that was the gun you hunted with the, them other guns was not to be used, it was side by side and nothing fancy just Stevens 311s and JC Higgins just working man’s guns, just hardware store guns, nothing fancy. I could say they were just working people, grandpa farmed and dad was a carpenter. Anyway, I could always remember, dad bringing those geese up on the porch and I always thought, man, that’s me, I want to be that. And so when I got old enough, dad had kind of lost interest in doing any waterfowling, he still hunted, but he had just kind of lost interest in waterfowling. And so I had a friend Wade Clements, who I had been in school with since we were kindergarteners. And Wade’s dad had a place where you could goose hunt and they were like my dad, they were squirrel hunters, rabbit hunters had rabbit dogs, dove hunted, but they never really had done a lot of waterfowling either. And so Wade and I decided maybe we would start trying to go to this place and see if we could figure out maybe how to kill a goose, kill our first goose or kill some ducks. And so his dad kind of took me under his wing and we started going and I bought 5 or 6 old goose floaters from an old man up the street and Wade had 5 or 6 and we would go out there and try to hunt. And then finally, we killed our first one. I had killed geese before I’d ever killed ducks and we killed our first ones and of course, we really thought we was something, we wore the feathers off them. We both killed our first goose the same day and we wore the feathers off them dragging them around town, showing everybody we knew we was proud of them. And then we stuck with it, got a boat and got a blind on it and started going to some of the public areas trying to shoot ducks and learning. And then it just gradually became more and more and it became my whole life, I flunked out of college over duck hunting. Duck season came in one year in the middle of the semester and middle of fall semester and I just didn’t go anymore. I hunted every day that year, I hunted every day, it was a 30 day season, hunted every day for 30 days, hunted in northern Illinois and of course, went to Arkansas and hunted down there to extend my season – you remember those 30 day seasons, you had to travel a little bit to make much of a season out of it. And then that’s just kind of became been the thread, waterfowl has been the thread that’s kept my whole life tied together all my life.
Ramsey Russell: What do you do for a living? Because now, we all got to call you a picker the other day, an American picker.
Destry Hoffard: Everybody does.
Ramsey Russell: And it kind of sort of is what you do but it ain’t, you don’t like that word for some reason.
Destry Hoffard: It is what I do, I just don’t like the phrase.
Ramsey Russell: Why?
Destry Hoffard: It’s become a catchphrase for so many people around the country that never were that or never were that till they started watching those guys on TV. My mother bought and sold antiques when I was a little bit of kid and so I was around it all my life. I mean, she was taking me to auctions and flea markets and stuff when she was hauling me around on her hip. And so when I bought and sold my first thing and made money on it when I was 11 or 12 years old. And so I’ve been that all my life and then because of some scripted television show, this word becomes thrown around. Oh, I’m a picker, I hate that. I’m a dealer in junk that people happen to want to buy, I’m not a picker.
Ramsey Russell: Kind of like a modern day Fred Sanford.
Destry Hoffard: Right. I’m a dealer. Have I bought and sold some real high-end stuff, sure. But there’s a lot of days, you work a flea market and you’re going around spending a dollar on something you think you might, can sell for 10. I mean, your whole life isn’t hitting them big $500 or $1000 licks, it’s just making a living. And I work for a little auction house, I manage a little auction house so that check pays, I get paid once a month and that little check pays my day to day bills. But then anything else I want like to buy a gun or go to Argentina. I have to hustle that money up, I make that money $5 or $25 or $20 at a time. Because I travel to hunt and go places and shoot nice shotguns, people think I have money and I don’t.
Ramsey Russell: We’re social media friends and I don’t know, you post a picture of a lighter or post a picture of something, I just thought you just were a guy that likes to go rummage through old stuff at garage sales, I didn’t know you did this for a living.
Destry Hoffard: I am. I mean, that’s the whole show.
Ramsey Russell: You do like to do it.
Forming a Collection
And I mean, I’m a collector too, as much as I am a dealer in crap.
Destry Hoffard: I love it. There’s nothing I would rather do. Like a friend one time, I’ll never forget this. I had a big truck load of junk that I had bought from somebody and I was unloading it and dusting it off and had the hose out, washing all this old filthy junk off that I thought I could make a $50 or $100 on. And they asked me where I got it, I said, I dug it out of this old lady’s basement and he said, man, how do you stand going in them old basements and that stinking musty smell all over you? And I said, that smell, all that smell to me is that’s what money smells like. I open them basement doors and that musty basement smell wafts over me and I get excited, I want to be in that room, I want to see what’s in there. And I mean, I’m a collector too, as much as I am a dealer in crap. I’m always finding little things for myself, my home’s full of useless old stuff that I have accumulated all my life.
Ramsey Russell: What are some of the cool things? You’re telling me a story about some arrowheads and stuff and how you saw it and you missed it and then it came back into your life and you did something with it. But let’s talk about that but then tell me some other cool stories of stuff.
Destry Hoffard: That is a good story. I was in an estate sale in Dearborn, Michigan and there was a little bucks skin there it had arrow heads and Indian relics wired to it with little fine copper wires, old probably put together maybe in the 30s that had been some family relic that they had decided they didn’t want. And I saw it late and it was late in the day, it was 10, 11 o’clock, I had been to some other sales already that day. And so I walked in there and it was laying there on his table and I thought, man, and they wanted $300 for it and I thought, I think there’s some money there and of course, I collect Indian relics myself and there’s some on there I’ll keep and then maybe I can make my 300 back and keep a few nice ones for myself. And my lady friend called to me from the other room to look at a lamp she was going to buy and I just stepped away, rather than pick it up, you think you would learn to have done this all my life that when you see something you want in one of those sales, you just pick it up and put it in your bag and I didn’t do that. I stepped away for two seconds and walked in and looked at that lamp and as I turned around to go pick that skin with them relics up, somebody had picked it up and carrying it off and it had laid there all day, it was like 10 or 11 o’clock. The sale had opened at 7, but then that second I lost it, I was like, oh, but I mean, you just move on.
Ramsey Russell: Why did you want it so badly? Because it was cool, because it spoke to you personally like a personal interest or was it something you saw like, hey, this is a treasure?
Destry Hoffard: Both. At 300 there was good money to be made, I knew that and because I collect Indian relics, I’ve collected them all my life and so I wanted it and there’s a lot of times I will buy something that I really like and I’ll clean it all up and fix it up and I’ll have it in my home for 5 or 10 years and then the time will come where there’s something I want to do or there’s something else I want to buy and I’ll do it, I’ll send it on down the road. I’ll let somebody else take care of it for a while, I don’t keep some things I don’t keep forever, but I knew that I would keep those, I’d clean those relics up and keep them for a while anyway and I did. Anyway, so I missed it. Yeah, you just move on to something like that and I bought something else that day, I don’t remember. And then 2 or 3 years later I went to a big antique outdoor antique fair up in central northern Michigan and we had made the whole place and it’s huge, a huge show and we’d made the whole place and again, it was late in the day, it was probably noon, we were talking about, well, let’s go, let’s get some lunch and we thought, well, let’s just do this last row and then we’ll be done, we won’t come back. And we went down the last row last 2 or 3 booths in the very back of the place there laid that same hide, no question, it was the same one because the central relic on it was half of a butterfly banners stone and you just don’t see those even broken, you don’t see butterfly banner since it’s tremendously rare. And I thought how in the world has this survived complete for 3 years since I saw it last and now I’m seeing it again, but I was just blew my mind and there was no price on it. And I called the man over and I said, what do you got to have for these arrow heads? And he said, well, I’ve been asking $150 but I need to sell some stuff, how about 100? And I’m like, how did this make its way from an estate sale at $300 to 3 years later on some other junk dealer’s table for $100. But obviously, I think I tore the pocket on my pants getting the money out. And then I took them all off the hide because those wires chip damaged edges. And I had them in my Indian relics flare some of them. And then there was a big, 9inch Great Lake spear point that was the other central relic in the display. And that relic paid for about half this trip. I sold it when I was getting ready to come down – was getting money together to come down here, I sold that relic and that was about half the trip and then I’ve still got all the rest of them.
Ramsey Russell: Your home decor is a lot different than mine, about half stuff laying around my house, I’d have to pay somebody to haul off.
Destry Hoffard: Like I always say, when you’re in the trade and I’ve always been one – there’s stuff I’ve always wanted that I’ve never owned because I never snuck up on it. Another one of my little critical catchphrases is perish the thought of paying real money. If there’s something out there I want, I know if I wait long enough, I’ll find it somewhere for $5 or something. So, there’s stuff I’ve never owned that I’d like to have but I’ve also owned a lot of great stuff.
Ramsey Russell: Like, what are some of the favorite things you’ve owned that you’ve held on to for a little bit and let go and some of the stuff you just, is there anything you ain’t going to let go of?
Destry Hoffard: Oh, no, there’s certain things I’d never sell, I mean, unless, it was some very traumatic event would have to get me to sell them. My family guns, I have my dad’s double barrel that he shot quail hunting all through the 60s that he made the stocks for. And then I have my granddad’s little JC Higgins, double barrel that same deal dad made the stocks for. I would never sell those, those will go to one of my nephews or something. And I have my great granddad’s little single shot 22 rifle that would never go, family artifacts, things like that. And I would never sell my first double barrel that dad bought for me, it’s an old 16 gauge Lefever nitro special, again, nothing fancy, they’re really in Ithaca, they have the Lefever name on them, but they’re really in Ithaca. And dad bought that for me when I was about 12 years old from one of the old uncles and I shot that, I killed my first duck with it, first squirrel, first everything with that little gun and I would never sell that. And there’s other things that it would certainly pain me to let go.
Ramsey Russell: Like, what about some of the stuff you “snuck up on”?
Destry Hoffard: Oh, I don’t know. Well, I just bought something back that I was glad to get back that I always regretted selling, the first time I was going to the UK, I had two double barrel 8 gauge shotguns and I was going to take one of them with me because they’re legal over there, you can use them and so I wanted to take one to actually have the experience of hunting with an 8 gauge. And so I thought and of course, those trips like that aren’t cheap and I thought, well, I’m going to let one of these 8s go for it for some traveling money and so I sold that gun to an old boy that lives in northern Mississippi. And that was pushing 20 years ago, it’s a big G. Loomis hammer gun, real heavy long barrels, nice old gun. And lo and behold, that old fella called me back about 6 months ago and he said, hey, I’m starting to sell some guns off, do you want to buy that 8 gauge back? And it was the first one I ever had and I always kind of regretted selling that gun. So I’m going to drive down to his house and visit him and pay him and pick it up here and sometime this summer. But yeah, so that was kind of fun and I snuck up on that gun. I bought that off an auction, off a bid sheet auction sight unseen. Just 8 gauge hammer, shotgun G. Loomis England, I think was about the extent. And then some real little tiny picture that you couldn’t even tell what it was.
Ramsey Russell: What did you shoot with the 8 gauge? What did you end up hunting over there?
Waterfowl Hunting in the UK
There’s no limits on anything, the hunting seasons are all open 24 hours a day, you can hunt at night, you can bait, the sale of game is still legal.
Destry Hoffard: Geese and ducks, both. This is one of my favorite little stories. Imagine all the laws, people talk about how the laws in the UK are very restrictive and the gun laws and they are to a point, but they’re really not in a lot of ways. There are game laws, they don’t hardly have any. There’s no limits on anything, the hunting seasons are all open 24 hours a day, you can hunt at night, you can bait, the sale of game is still legal. You can’t sell geese, but you can sell all the other legal game you can take to the game dealer and sell it. And I always tell this story, we were in Northern Scotland one night and three of us went out and killed, I think it was 47 wigeons, I think we had 2 mallards and a teal and I killed the first 5 or 6 that I killed with an 8 gauge and we did it at night in the black dark over a baited pond. And then think of how many laws we broke if we’d have been in America, all of them. And then the next morning just because I wanted the experience of having done it, we drove them into Aberdeen and sold them to the game dealer. Not because we were hunting commercially, just so I wanted the experience to be able to say that I had shot birds and legally sold them like they did in the old days. And so, yeah, we drove them all into town and took them to the game dealer and sold them. Yeah, think of how many laws we broke?
Ramsey Russell: What a heck of an experience, that’d be kind of like being a pre-Migratory Bird Treaty Act here in the United States. You got to literally do that, I think that’s kind of cool experience.
Destry Hoffard: Well, that’s why I made my trips over to the UK and made friends there were so many of the things that are illegal here that were made illegal by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act you can still do over there. I mean, they still hunt with punt guns and they only do it during the day and there’s not very many guys that do it, obviously, but there’s still a few punt gunners over there and I’ve met some and seen their guns and visited with them. I’ve never got to go unfortunately. But all the other stuff, hunted at night, pass shot geese under the moon, the big full moon shining and just watching and literally seeing the geese come through the moon to shoot them and shot golden plover over decoys like they did in the old days. And that’s the reason, that was kind of my first international trip was going to the UK to kind of garner some of those experiences that I would know, I would never have any other way.
Favorite Hunting Firearms
Ramsey Russell: Have you ever owned a semiautomatic shotgun?
Destry Hoffard: Oh, sure. It’s not that I’m too uppity to own automatic or a pump or something, I love all the old classics and I don’t know how many I’ve got a dozen or 15, still A5s and model 11 Humpbacks, 20 gauges, 16 gauges, 12s and I always veering toward the heavy waterfowl guns, 32 inch barrels and stuff like that. I’ve got a 32 inch 20 gauge model 11, I mean, it’s a slick little gun, but I never hunt with that.
Ramsey Russell: When does on a timeline, what are the newest gun that you own and hunt with?
Destry Hoffard: The only, what I would call a really a modern gun that ever I ever take out of the closet is we go down and do some depredation shooting for a farmer down south on a catfish farm. And when we go down there, I always shoot because a lot of it is calmer and a lot of it’s high passing birds, I’ve got one of those old Ithaca mag 10s probably made in 1973 or 1974 and I will shoot that because to shoot a fixed breach.
Ramsey Russell: And that’s a modern gun?
Destry Hoffard: Yeah, that to me that’s a modern gun. To shoot a fixed breach gun like a side by side 10 or something like that, which I do have, it would just be too hard on you because sometimes you go down there on those deprivation shoots and you’ll shoot 200 or 300 shells in a day. And I like to shoot – I always did enjoy shooting a 10 gauge and doing high pass shooting and those mag 10s will certainly kill them a long way off.
Ramsey Russell: How did you get into picking? How did you get into this life?
Destry Hoffard: Well, I said that my mother did it. Mother was a secretary when I was real little and then an attended bar and then that’s how my father met her. But mother always had been interested in antiques and bought antiques on the side and going to country auctions and stuff like that, she always had little stuff for sale. And I was fascinated by that as a kid that you could go around and go to some farm auction and buy something and then a day later make money on it because that you could find somebody that wanted it worse than you did.
Ramsey Russell: It’s kind of become a lost art, I think. Mass consumerism just go buy what you want, not really haggle and trade and know the value and swap. I mean, that’s kind of a, what you say a lost art?
Destry Hoffard: Well, I will say, one of the lost arts that I grew up in that kind of culture, the buying and selling of antiques and stuff like that, there’s still a lot of people do it but the lost art of being what we called a trader. And there were guys when I was growing up and it was funny, often gathering at the feed store that seemed like that was the haven of the traders. And there was three kinds of traders that I knew there was gun traders, pocket watch traders and pocket knife traders. And some of those guys dipped their finger into all those wells, but a lot of them, they were pretty dedicated about what they collected. Like the pocket watch guys, they collected railroad watches and the pocket knife guys, well, most of them collected case knives that was the thing and the gun collectors, you’re the gun traders rather just collected and swapped guns. And that was another thing that dad taught me, dad was a little bit of a gun trader and so I was exposed to that early on and it was always funny to me those guys, they might be wearing big overalls with a ball cap with holes in it. But all of them, the gun traders and the knife traders and the watch traders with all of them carry a nice pocket watch and they would all wear, it was like the badge of a trader, they would all wear some kind of a ring that was fancy, like they’d have a gold ring or they’d have a lot of times, a lot of them would wear some kind of piece of Navajo turquoise silver ring or something like that and it would be out of place on them, because a lot of them were just, they’re just working men, farmers, but they would have some little token to let you know that they were a trader and that they might have a little extra money to buy something from you if you had something for sale. And so like I say, always again, when I was a kid, those guys were just fascinating to me to stand around in the feed store. And of course, you was a kid, you didn’t talk to them but you could stand back, they were grown men, you weren’t going up there and asking them questions, but you could stand back and listen to them and hear their stories and then of course, I got to know some of those guys later on dad was friends with some of them and got to be exposed to that trader culture and I always thought that was just so great and that has really died. The old gun trader, watch trader, pocket trader, pocket knife trader culture, I don’t know any of those guys that are still left. I mean, I know plenty of gun dealers and I know plenty of guys that buy and sell knives and pocket watches. But that breed of guys has kind of left the world.
Ramsey Russell: Well, you’re that breed of guys seems like.
Destry Hoffard: Kind of. I certainly always carry a railroad watch and I don’t have one on right now, but you’ll always see me, I’ve always got some kind of old ring on or something like that that I’ve picked up out junking.
Ramsey Russell: Now, wait a minute. You ain’t wearing an old ring, but I’m going to ask you this. Here we are to camp, the trucks pull up new clients coming in, out stepped the guy head to toe Sitka, out steps a guy mix and match camo, out stepped a guy got a Hemingway like hat, smoking a pipe that he didn’t buy recently, got on a brown shirt and coveralls. And then when he goes out to hunt, he got an old school camo shooting a beautiful shotgun, I’m going to ask you about. Tell me about this pipe that, you didn’t buy that pipe, how old is that pipe? What’s the provenance of that pipe you smoke? Because I step out of tthe first night and I smell the pipe smoke and it takes me immediately back to the 70s with my dad and granddad, it’s been so long since I smelled pipe smoke at a camp.
Destry Hoffard: That’s one of the bad habits that I learned from my dad.
Ramsey Russell: You got this pipe with this beautiful looks like a hand carve some kind of wooden bowl and I’m looking at you thinking that’s an old antique pipe.
Destry Hoffard: Yeah, it is. I bought that pipe, I’ve probably had that pipe 20 years or more, I don’t know. It’s one of my favorites, you always have your favorite, I probably own 50 pipes, but you always have your 2 or 3 that are your favorites and that’s one of my favorites. And I always take it on hunting trips because it’s real heavy duty, the shank on it, it’s real thick and it’s a heavy pipe and it would be hard to break, like if you had it in your shooting bag or something, it’s always my hunting trip pipe. And I picked it up and I remember exactly where I bought it, I bought it at the armada flea market, guy had a great big box of pipes and they were all just junk, dirty. And then they laid that one in a mug and it was equally dirty. And I pulled that out of there and I thought, man, that is a slick one, it’s English pipe, English made pipe and I pulled it out and of course, they were some ridiculous price like $2 or something. And I bought it and then I took it up to Paul’s Pipe Hospital in Flint, Michigan and I know those boys and they cleaned it all up for me and polished it all up and breamed it out and steamed it and got it sterile and all that and I’ve been smoking it ever since.
Bringing a Hunting Shotgun to Argentina
And now I can tell dad about having his gun down in Argentina traveling in foreign lands and shooting the exotic silver teal.
Ramsey Russell: Tell me about your shotgun because man, we got Benelli and Beretta all kinds of flavors, semi-automatic, I like my Banelli, but you brought a side by side, what’s the story on the shotgun you bring to Argentina to hunt with?
Destry Hoffard: Well, I’ve got a lot of side by sides and I’ve got some that are my favorites of course, you always have your favorite. But this is one, my dad was always a very frugal, shall we say? And he would never have paid for a hunting trip like this. He would love to read about it and talk about it, but it would never cross dad’s mind to spend the money to go on something like this. And so that’s actually my dad’s gun in a way. Dad grew up in the Jack O’Connor era and so anything Jack O’Connor said must be right and Jack O’Connor shot a 21 Winchester. And so dad all my life and if I just had a 20 you’d see a picture of one or it’d be an article about one and dad would always point to that gun, well, man, I would just love to have a 21 Winchester. And so, this has been several years ago, I had a chance to buy one, just a nice 30 inch field grade, a duck gun, not a heavy duck, but just a good solid 30 inch field grade for a real fair price. And I bought it, got it all cleaned up and just gave it to dad. I said, dad since I was 10 years old, I remember you talking about how you wanted a 21 Winchester and you’re not a young man anymore and I think that some, somebody wants that bad, they ought to eventually have it because every gun I ever really wanted, I’ve owned, I finally have found one or bought one or traded for one or figured out a way to have it. And so I gave it to dad and then he shot it for several years. But dad being a working man all his life carpenter, his hands are just huge. And of course his fingers are arthritic from working all his life and his knuckles are real thick and that gun, sadly the trigger guard beat on the back of his finger. And so he would take, of course, he hunted with it anyway because he just loved it. But by the end of the day after a day where he shot very many shells, he’d have a knot on his knuckle and maybe knock it bloody. And finally, one day we had it out and he was shooting with it and he had split his knuckle again. And he said, son, he said, I love this gun, but he said I just can’t hunt with it anymore, it just hurts my hand too bad, he said, just take it home with you, you shoot it, you take it back home. And so I did and then I’ve had it, I’ve shot some trap with it and I would never get rid of it because to me it’s still “dad’s gun”. And then I thought it’d be fun to say I took dad’s gun to Argentina. So, that’s the one I registered and that’s the one I brought. And now I can tell dad about having his gun down in Argentina traveling in foreign lands and shooting the exotic silver teal.
Old Generation Hunting vs Modern Hunting
..waterfowlers, again, are the epitome of the American hunter because I’m a waterfowler, so that’s how I want to think of myself.
Ramsey Russell: Beating around a bush, the old pipe, the picker lifestyle, I’m going to call it the trader lifestyle. The solid color waders, the old school camo, your Cairo Illinois introductions, the group of men who includes your dad and his circle of friends and that ethos and you’re like the embodiment of this old school in a modern era. And the other day we’re driving and you kind of share with me some thoughts on made in China or I said, but why don’t you like some of this stuff? Tell me why? What is it that speaks to you about that old generation, that old school versus what we’re seeing expressed in the hunting world today? How has hunting changed now versus then to you?
Destry Hoffard: This is a deep well to reach in with me.
Ramsey Russell: Well, let’s reach into it, they’re loading the truck, but they’ll wait on it.
Destry Hoffard: I’ll probably say some things that a lot of guys don’t agree with and maybe would be annoying.
Ramsey Russell: I think my listeners are open minded enough to hear both sides.
Destry Hoffard: I believe and have always believed in the right of American men and women to work and have a job, and make a living wage, and feed their families, and own a home, and have a pickup truck, and be able to hunt and fish, and have a boat, and do whatever that a working man wants to do. America, to me, that is America, that is the epitome of America. And all of these Chinese products, all of these foreign made decoys and foreign made clothing and waders and all that in the hunting culture have become such an integral part of the modern waterfowling culture. And every time I see that made in China made in wherever, made in China to me is the catch phrase, it just makes my blood boil that – to me waterfowler again are the epitome of the American hunter because I’m a waterfowler, so that’s how I want to think of myself. And I’m sure deer hunters and turkey hunters and everybody else thinks that of themselves and you should. But to me, waterfowling is the thing and when I see that made in China gear, I think to myself, if that factory was in America, an American man or an American woman could be working there and making a living wage and feeding their family and having a home. But all these companies to make more money have shipped all this manufacturing over to China and so all of these small manufacturing companies that would have made all that stuff and even in the 70s or early 80s here in this country, early mid-80s have now closed. And so all these people have got to scrape around for some little piddly job that they don’t make enough money at when 30 years ago, they would have had a decent job working at some cut and so clothing factory or working for lacrosse, making rubber boots or something like that. And that American men and women don’t read those labels and see that that is hurting our country in the deepest way that will be that people accept these cheap foreign made products and don’t insist that they buy American and American made will be the death of the middle class.
Ramsey Russell: Well, see the whole time you were talking about America, to me, the middle class is America. I’m a middle class, that’s America, we’re all middle class that is America.
Destry Hoffard: The birth of the middle class, the very first people that could have been considered middle class, almost in the whole world were from Detroit, Michigan, they were auto workers that were union auto workers and they negotiated to make a living wage, they negotiated a 5 day work week, they negotiated the first true vacation time and I live right there in the heart of that. And I mean, those people, those were Americans, those were people that wanted a better life for their children and anybody that accepts all these foreign made products and doesn’t think when they buy it that they ought to try to look a little harder and maybe buy an American product, a similar American product and they are still out there. People say you can’t buy nothing American made no more, that is bullshit. Every piece of gear, if I have a foreign made piece of gear, once in a great while, there’ll be something I want that I absolutely cannot buy American and there are certain products that have completely died here, I won’t buy it unless it’s second hand. Like I’m wearing these little spongy shoes just because they’re comfortable to travel in and there’s nothing like this made in America anymore, these stupid shoes, but I bought those shoes secondhand. I wouldn’t buy a new pair. I would not.
Ramsey Russell: How has hunting transition? What is it like, for example, I see old black and white picks from my granddad’s generation, old Americana, guys out there holding big straps of ducks guys out with the wall full of ducks at camp of the day, how is that different Destry than the power pick phenomena of the modern era?
Destry Hoffard: I mean, I guess it’s not in a way, but the big difference there is maybe you had that one print of that picture hanging in your office and 10 people in your whole life saw it. But these pile pick culture that has become the Sitka wearers and all that that have to have these giant piles –
Ramsey Russell: Brand cheerleaders. I’m not going to pick on a brand, because I do love Sitka, but at the same time, it is like it’s become this brand, cult worship.
Destry Hoffard: It is. And these guys that have nothing to do with these companies that when anybody makes any voice, I mean, they’re not on their field staff or pro staff or whatever the hell you call that, they’re so addicted to these foreign made products that any time anybody even makes the slightest peep that they’re not the greatest thing ever made, these people just lose their whole minds. I’ve seen it on social media again and again. Some guy will ask for a recommendation about some new decoys. Imagine this and this has happened to me and I do it on purpose because I know people get excited. Some guy, on some waterfowl page on say Facebook, he’ll comment, looking for some new decoys, what’s everybody using? And I will comment two words, buy American. And those two words will create 300 comments of guys losing their mind because I have dared to speak against there Chinamen gold. Imagine that, that those two words would become dirty words, it’s mind-blowing. And there are still American decoy companies just like there’s American most anything else, G&H just got bought out, they’re revamping, they’re expanding, they’re going to do a great job.
Ramsey Russell: The only American made mass manufacture.
Destry Hoffard: Mass manufacture decoy, that’s true. You can still buy duck is still sort of in business. They still do a production run every year and I’m pretty sure quack up there in the northeast still does one production run a year, but they’re not decoy companies you ever hear much about, G&H is the thing other than that, there’s really nobody, at least that I’m aware of. If there are some other ones, I hope people tell me. I mean, I think, the bodies for the original style Bigfoot are still made here the heads and feet aren’t. And there’s some of the silhouettes are made here, I think maybe big owls are made in the United States, the goose silhouettes. But as far as like a mass production full line of decoys, G&H is the only one.
Ramsey Russell: It’s a long walk to the road and everybody’s standing around looking at us like they’re waiting to load up and but I ain’t done with you yet. I really do appreciate the conversation. I really do want you to come down to Mississippi, Destry. I know you’ve been to Mississippi, my buddy, Jim Crews, who told me, we were talking about you on the phone the other day, he said, what do you think about Destry, I said, man, I like this guy a lot, man, old hat, old pipe, old gun, he said, ask him about the antique whiskey, he brought. What kind of antique whiskey do you bring down to Jim Crews that you didn’t bring here?
Destry Hoffard: There was a distillery in Cairo Illinois years ago, pre prohibition and a friend of mine found two bottles of it in an old house in a closet in Cairo, thankfully they were laying on their side, so the corks had stayed wet for years. And usually a lot of that old liquor, if it’s not stored very well, the corks dry out and half the bottle will be evaporated and it’s essentially ruined. But they were laying on their side, so there was really very little of it gone just a little bit out of the neck it evaporated and it was pre prohibition, so it was 100 year old liquor, 100 year old Whiskey made in Caro. And this was kind of the sad, but yet really great thing about it, it must have been an employee had took it home and they didn’t have the tax seals over the corks. So that’s a thing right now, they call it collecting dusty bottles, guys collecting all this vintage liquor, vintage bourbon, a lot of it’s from the 50s, 60s collecting vintage scotch, it’s a craze right now and some of that stuff is really expensive and to find two bottles of pre prohibition American whiskey, those would have been multi $1000 bottles of liquor. But because they didn’t have the tax seals on them, you couldn’t really prove that it was the original liquor in the bottle. They were just had cork stuck in them, they were all wrapped up in white paper. And so, he actually gave me one of them and then I’ve been slowly sharing it out with friends. And what’s funny, it’s not particularly great, but when you find out you’re drinking 100 year old whiskey, 100 year old American made whiskey, it’s just kind of fun. And so I took it down to Jim’s, he invited me down to hunt, one season a couple of years back and I took it down and we had a good drink of it and he certainly did seem to get a kick out of it.
Favorite Decoys to Hunt Over
Ramsey Russell: I wonder what kind of decoy – tell him what kind of decoys you’re going to hunt with down in his swamp. I mean, I have literally hunted over dang near 100 year old decoy that he found somewhere.
Destry Hoffard: That’s the kind of stuff I use too. That was kind of the Jim and I’s first realization that we should be friends because we love that sort of thing. I mean, while I love wooden decoys and I have a rig of wooden decoys that I occasionally do hunt over my favorite decoys are all the old tin, iron and plastic decoys that started coming out just post World War II. All the old Victor D nines and D tens and there was a million brands of decoys in those days. I mean, all American made, of course. Between 1950-1960 that was probably 100 decoy companies born and died in the United States that made plastic decoys of some kind or another. And so, they always have your favorite ones and when I found out that Jim, that’s all he hunted over was all these vintage plastics, I thought I need to know this guy. And then we’ve traded some back and forth, he’s got some of mine, I’ve got some of his, I’ll get one I think he’ll think is fun, I’ll send it to him. So he’s got some of these rig, I’ve sent down to him as gifts and he’s given me some too. Yeah, Mr. Crews is a fine fellow, I really get a kick out of being friends with him.
Ramsey Russell: Folks, you all been listening to my buddy, Mr. Destry Hoffard.
Destry Hoffard: Everybody mispronounces it.
Ramsey Russell: Modern day trader, interesting guy, a lot of good thoughts on old school. I think the world needs a lot more old school, I really do. I think in this day and age, I think that would fix a lot of what we perceive wrong with modern day hunting culture would be just a good old dose of old school. It don’t take whiz fully fuzz golly whopper gizmo to kill duck, it just takes –
Destry Hoffard: It takes a call, some decoys, a shotgun and a handful of shells and a little skill, obviously.
Ramsey Russell: Folks, thank you all for listening to this episode of Duck Season Somewhere, we’ll see you next time.