At age 30, Trent Dirks is a relative newcomer to duck hunting. Trent tells Ramsey Russell about coping with PTSD after returning from active duty in Afghanistan.  How did Retrieving Freedom service dog, Tracer, help him find life purpose and then lead him to waterfowl hunting 4 years ago? Scott Dewey professionally trained competitive retrievers for over a decade before co-founding Retrieving Freedom. What are these service dogs trained to do, and how are they trained?  Ramsey, Trent and Scott share a great conversation at SCI convention, it’s an interesting episode you’ll not want to miss.

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Retrieving Freedom PTSD Service Dog Became Trent Dirks’s Path to Duck Hunting


It gives me an opportunity to share about Retrieving Freedom and share what I’ve been through, but also to learn about what they’re going through. If they’re struggling, or they’re having a bad day, week, month, year—they can talk to me. “Yeah, well, there’s this avenue of getting help. You can do this.” Building that camaraderie in the duck blind gives them another outlet.


Ramsey Russell: It’s Duck Season Somewhere. I am at Safari Club International. It’s probably morning three, but all the mornings run together. Just a cloud of people coming in. Who the heck knows what day it is. I just know that when the alarm clock goes off, it’s time to be here. It’s about an hour and a half before the show starts. I’m in the booth today with Trent Dirk, a veteran from Operation Enduring Freedom; age thirty, been duck hunting for four years. His friend Scott Dewey owns a company called Retrieving Freedom, and I hate to even call them a company. I like to think of them as an ideal, as a well-founded, well-purposed company. Anyway, we are at Safari Club International. I’ve got these two guys in a blind, and y’all have heard me say it a million times: I love to duck hunt. I love everything about being in a blind, being with my friends, and the different ducks coming in. The whole process. But you hear me say it time and time and time again: the one thing I’ve walked away with, after twenty years, is the people. The people I meet hunting, the people I meet at shows. All day, every day, 365 days a year, without end, I talk to duck hunters. I get to meet duck hunters, and I get to hear their story. I really felt strongly about sharing this morning’s story, of my guest. When Trent Dirks came into the booth the other day, he had this beautiful yellow lab, named Tracer. Tracer’s got a vest on. Very obedient. When Trent comes into the booth, Tracer sits down. Just lays down at his feet and watches his every move. He gets up; he goes. He’s a service dog. I think this morning’s conversation, y’all will really enjoy hearing a couple of different aspects. So listen up, guys. Trent, how are you this morning?

Trent Dirks: I’m doing great. How are you doing?

Ramsey Russell: I’m good. Where are you from? Iowa?

Trent Dirks: Iowa. Central Iowa.

Ramsey Russell: That’s why. Y’all talk funny up there.

Trent Dirks: Yes, sir.

Ramsey Russell: For a guy like me, with my accent—Andy Griffith made over—I have fun making fun of guys with good Midwest accents. Tell me this, Trent: you’re thirty years old, and you’ve been duck hunting for four years.

Trent Dirks: Yes, sir.



Ramsey Russell GetDucks



What do you like about duck hunting?


Ramsey Russell: How do you like it?

Trent Dirks: I love it. It is almost my number one passion in life.

Ramsey Russell: Duck hunting will do that to you, won’t it?

Trent Dirks: Yeah, it’s pretty addicting.

Ramsey Russell: What about duck hunting hooked you into it?

Trent Dirks: Watching my dog, number one, and working with my dog. Seeing his enjoyment, and my enjoyment, and working together. The camaraderie of duck hunting, too. Going out and being able to do it with your friends. Being able to talk and joke and laugh. It’s not all serious. You don’t have to do it by yourself.

Ramsey Russell: It’s a very social sport. Going deer hunting bores me to death, even if I’ve got a cell phone signal where I can play on Google. I’m bored shitless because I don’t have buddies to talk to in between the volleys, and cut up. I don’t know. I guess I’m just not a solo hunter like that. Although, I do like a duck hunt by myself, sometimes. I like to do that. Y’all shoot a lot of mallards out there in Iowa?

Trent Dirks: We shoot a fair amount of mallards. A lot of teal, and we see a lot of shovelers. Some gray ducks move through, too. Shoot some gadwalls and pintails.

Ramsey Russell: You were telling me, the other day, about hunting those Iowa cornfields for mallards and Canada geese. That’d be a reason for me to move to Iowa. Just the opportunity to shoot a bunch of mallards.

Trent Dirks: Yeah. I can’t say that we get them like North Dakota or South Dakota does, but we get our fair share of mallards. If you find them and you watch them and you put the work in, you can find them in the field. It’s a lot of fun.


Started duck hunting because you got a Labrador retriever?


Ramsey Russell: Well, traveling around the world, I often have to hunt without a dog, and a retriever really adds so much to it. When I say by myself, I don’t mean by myself without a dog; I mean me and my dog. My partner in crime, right? It’s always just amazed me how willing and able— No matter what, that dog is ready to go. Doesn’t matter what the weather’s doing. It doesn’t matter how cold it is. The light comes on, the gun comes out; the dog’s ready to go. Tail wagging, ready to go.

Trent Dirks: He knows, the night before. If we’re going to bed and we’ve got the stuff ready, he’s ready. That alarm goes off, and he’s up before I am. He says, “Dad, let’s go.”

Ramsey Russell: Exactly. In terms of the friendship that dogs bring, I’m always reminded of one of my favorite little memes on the internet. It’s this lady laid in the back of the trunk, scowling at her husband. She says, “You want to know the difference between a wife and a dog? Lock them both in the trunk, open it up four hours later, and see which one is glad to see you.” Anyways, a lot of us got into hunting with our family when we were younger. I started dove hunting when I was eight. I’ve got a lot of buddies—and my own children—who started hunting ducks and whatnot when they were very young. They grew into it. I like to see older people like yourself, in their twenties and thirties, that got into duck hunting. I think that we duck hunters need some hunters. Your story is such that you got into duck hunting because you got a Labrador retriever.

Trent Dirks: Yes, sir.


Why did you get a Retrieving Freedom Service Dog?


It hit me really hard. I was in a really dark place, I was losing my family. I didn’t have anything, really. I felt like everything was knocking me down. Nothing was going right.


Ramsey Russell: What led up to that? I know that now we’re getting to the meat of the story, but tell me how this process came about. How did you end up with Tracer?

Trent Dirks: I deployed in 2010-2011 to Afghanistan. When I got back, I really started to struggle for several years. I struggled by myself, and in 2015 I lost my second friend to suicide in a year and a half.

Ramsey Russell: He was deployed with you?

Trent Dirks: He was deployed with me. Both of them were. It hit me really hard. I was in a really dark place, I was losing my family. I didn’t have anything, really. I felt like everything was knocking me down. Nothing was going right. Every step forward I took, there were three steps back. Something was just running into a brick wall.

Ramsey Russell: What happened? What happened over there to do something? What causes PTSD? Without getting too specific, what must you have experienced?

Trent Dirks: We’re in a lot of conflict over there. At first, we didn’t see a lot of IEDs. We saw a lot more rockets and mortars coming on the base. As the deployment went on, we saw more and more IEDs—improvised explosive devices—and roadside bombs, stuff like that. We lost one guy out of our battalion in our area of operations. It was a friend of mine. Then, when I was home on leave, four of my guys got hit by an IED. When I was at home, I just felt entirely alone.

Ramsey Russell: You heard the news while you were at home on leave?

Trent Dirks: When I came home, I found out. I remember that night vividly. Getting that phone call saying, “Hey, your brother got blown up by an IED.” That’s about all I knew. I knew there were three other guys in the truck, and I didn’t know what happened to them. I didn’t know if they were alive. I didn’t know, for several days, what happened. I just remember sitting at home. I had a newborn at home—he was about nine months old, at that time—and my girlfriend, who’s now my wife. I think I remember telling them that some guys got injured, but that was it. I went outside on my back deck. I was in shock. I just started drinking, that night, and I smoked a whole bunch of cigarettes. I just sat by myself crying.

Ramsey Russell: Would you have been on that truck? Had you been on site, would you have been in that truck?

Trent Dirks: That was normally the truck I rode in, was the one that got hit.

Ramsey Russell: They hit an IED?

Trent Dirks: IED. A very big one. I can’t remember the size of it, but it entirely destroyed the truck.

Ramsey Russell: Trent, was it that kind of deal where they would have been driving along and somebody remotely discharged that? They were watching?

Trent Dirks: Yeah. It was a command wire.

Ramsey Russell: Okay.

Trent Dirks: From reports that I got from the guys, it was a command wire IED. It went through a clot, which is like a building. It’s an exterior brick wall. Inside the wall there’s a yard area, which in Afghanistan is just dirt. Then there’s their home inside of that. That command wire had gone through that clot wall and was inside that. They hit them from there.

Ramsey Russell: When you’re living and stationed in that kind of war zone, that environment, what is it like in a 24-hour period? I’m imagining that if there’s mortars and things like that hitting base, I’m imagining I’d go to bed with my boots on.

Trent Dirks: Pretty much.

Ramsey Russell: You’re in battle gear.

Trent Dirks: Yeah. You’ve got it laid out and ready to go at any point in time. Sometimes it was six o’clock in the morning and you might wake up to mortars and rockets and, “Hey, it’s time to put your stuff on and get outside. It’s go time.” Sometimes it’d be noon or dinnertime, and then sometimes it’d be eleven o’clock at night or two o’clock in the afternoon. You just never knew when it was going to pop off.

Ramsey Russell: What specifically was y’all’s purpose there? To patrol? To engage?

Trent Dirks: Basically, to patrol and to win the hearts and minds of the local populace. We would go into villages and talk to the village elders and see what kind of things they needed. Protection? Did they need a school? Did they need lumber? What were their struggles? What did they need help with? How could we help them? Just trying to win over the hearts and minds, and see what we could do over there.

Ramsey Russell: Right. How long were you stationed over there?

Trent Dirks: I was in country for about ten months.

Ramsey Russell: Wow. Seemed like ten years, I’m sure.

Trent Dirks: Oh, yeah. I mean, it wasn’t bad when I was there. When I was there, it was easy. I had a job. I had a purpose. I woke up every day, and I knew what I was going to wear, where I was going to eat, and what I was going to do. The unexpected, obviously, is whether or not you were going to be engaged that day, or what was going to happen. But you knew how you were going to react to it, if it did.

Ramsey Russell: Right. So it was after ten months you were home? Were you on leave? When did your friends get hit with the IED?

Trent Dirks: You get a two week leave on your deployment. I was home on my two week leave when my buddies got blown up. They were in my platoon.

Ramsey Russell: So one of your platoon members called you up, texted you or something, to let you know?

Trent Dirks: No, it was a family member of one of them.

Ramsey Russell: Wow. The military had notified them that they were in bad shape.

Trent Dirks: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: You know, I’ve got a son serving, and I just can’t imagine the phone call. I got choked up just thinking about that phone call. I can’t imagine getting phone calls about my friends or my family.

Trent Dirks: It was a rough phone call. I didn’t know what to do or where to turn. I didn’t have anybody to lean on, at that point in time. I wanted to be surrounded with the guys that I was deployed with, that were going through that. I wanted to be there for them and have them be there for me, and I couldn’t. I was in the States. Most people think, “It’s a safe place. It’s where you should be. It’s where you should want to be,” but, at that point in time, I would have given anything to be at COP Kalagush in Afghanistan.

Ramsey Russell: Absolutely. So you went back, after you got that news, after your furlough ended. You went back. You finished your deployment.

Trent Dirks: Yes, sir.

Ramsey Russell: What was coming home like?

Trent Dirks: It was tough. I had a newborn child. I think the first week, maybe two weeks—that’s kind of the honeymoon period, or it was for me. “Everything’s hunky-dory.” It was all fine and dandy.

Ramsey Russell: Kind of getting familiar again. There’s enough distractions in the outside stimuli to keep you out of your head.

Trent Dirks: But I remember that it didn’t take too terribly long to figure out that something wasn’t right. I remember having a homecoming party, and—pretty much after most everybody had left—there was one guy there, and I didn’t know who it was. He was at my house, in the backyard. I was just kind of hanging out with two of my buddies, and then there was this guy there. He was eating the leftovers off the table, and I just— Something snapped that night. We got into it bad, and it was all downhill from there. I don’t know what it was, but I just flipped that table over on him. That was it.

Ramsey Russell: Something just snapped.

Trent Dirks: Yeah.


PTSD Effects


Like a bomb fixing to drop. I just felt really, really uncomfortable. I didn’t like to be around people.


Ramsey Russell: What were some of the other post-traumatic stress disorder manifestations that you experienced in the next period of time?

Trent Dirks: There are so many things. I remember one time, something as simple as my computer— I was going through music on my computer, deleting songs that I didn’t want. My girlfriend and my son were sitting next to me on the couch, and he’s about a year old. Well, music starts playing. He was taking a nap, and then he kind of wakes up. I’m sitting here just trying to push pause, and that music wouldn’t stop. She said something like, “Turn it off, turn it off. He’s waking up.” I was like, “I’m trying, I’m trying,” and it wouldn’t turn off. I just smashed that computer down on my lap. Just broke it. All my pictures and videos off deployment, gone, and I don’t know why.

Ramsey Russell: Almost like a short temper, but it really wasn’t. It was something emotional. We’re talking about post-traumatic stress disorder and your experience. I’m certainly not trying to horn in, but PTSD is not just a result of wartime service. It’s trauma. It’s severe emotional trauma. I don’t think we had PTSD, back when I went through my mess that a lot of people heard about. It took until later for me to realize that I had suffered greatly from it, also. As recently as two years ago—I don’t know why they finally ceased—I would wake up with night terrors. I’d wake up screaming in fear for my life. I can remember swinging my arms, one time, and hitting my wife as she slept. I can remember waking up the children across the house. Don’t know what it was. We did a short film, down in Argentina, on this place Rio Salado. My partner down there had had some trauma in his life, as a police officer. Had been involved in a shootout, had shot and killed someone, had been shot himself. He had told me the story, without much emotion, years ago. So as I brought Jake down to do this film, I wanted to kind of create this story about how his retreat from that led him to this really wild marsh, and how maybe my retreat from my past led me down this path that also brought me to that marsh, and our paths crossed. As I was talking to him, with a translator, about Jake coming to film— I was looking at my feet when I was talking, because I was thinking very carefully about what I was trying to explain to him, and somebody kicked me in the shins under the table and pointed to look up.

I looked up, and he was sobbing. The man’s face fell apart. He was crying, and he said, “Ramsey, you’re over it. You’re over what you went through, and I’m not.” In that moment, I realized that PTSD is like this— Here’s what I think PTSD is. It’s like your emotions are an egg, and you dropped it on the floor, and it cracked. Now, you can pick it back up and glue that eggshell back together, but it’s never a solid eggshell anymore. We all suffer with it. For example, Trent, you’ve been by the booth a few times the last couple of days, and, every time I’ve shaken your hand, your hands still sweat. Your hands are sweaty. Now, it’s hot in this hall sometimes, but I know that you’re still coping with some emotional trauma based on the loss of your friends, the injury of your friends, and the great service you did for our country. I appreciate your sharing some of the stuff that went on. You were at that point—and I’ve been there—where you were snapped, like a temper. Break a computer, do this, probably yell at your wife, or throw something across the room. What other what other things?

Trent Dirks: I really struggled with going out into public. That didn’t take me long to figure out, either. If I would go anywhere—grocery store, clothing store, gas station—I would feel really claustrophobic or on edge.

Ramsey Russell: Like a bomb fixing to drop?

Trent Dirks: Like a bomb fixing to drop. I just felt really, really uncomfortable. I didn’t like to be around people. I don’t know if I felt like they were going to hurt me, say something, come up behind me— I just did not feel comfortable in any environment.

Ramsey Russell: How was your relationship with your wife, at the time? Was she your rock, or was it tenuous because of the emotions going on?

Trent Dirks: I think it was tenuous because of the emotions going on. She was walking on eggshells, and didn’t know how to deal with me coming home and some of the things that I was going through. She didn’t understand, at the time, what I was going through.

Ramsey Russell: But a good wife is there for you. I know mine has been, through some hard times. They’re there for you. I suspected that.

Trent Dirks: Yes, sir.

Ramsey Russell: What led up to the certain point that led you to Tracer? How long a period of time are we talking, since—?

Trent Dirks: I got home in 2011. 2015 is when I applied. I was home for about five years. I struggled, by myself, with going out into public and having panic attacks, anxiety attacks. I could be somewhere and then, all of a sudden, something would just snap. I’d either blow up or I’d just take off running and escape.

Ramsey Russell: You know what it was? Just demons inside you.

Trent Dirks: Yeah. I remember, shortly before I applied to or found out about Retrieving Freedom, I was at an Iowa Hawkeyes college football game. I felt really, really uncomfortable being there. There’s thousands of people there. I remember making it into the stadium and finding my seat, and I didn’t even make it through the first quarter of that game. I felt so uncomfortable. I had gotten up, and I was going to go use the restroom. There was a woman there that wouldn’t stand up to let me go past her. So I’m trying to squeeze by her, and she winds up pushing me in the back. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. I said, “Excuse me, I’m trying to get out.” I used the restroom, I got back, and I was just shaking. I sat down with my wife—we’d gotten married, by then—and I’m just shaking. I said, “I can’t be here. I’m about to just lose my mind.” I got up, and I power walked out of the stadium. As soon as I hit that front gate, it was a full, dead-on sprint back to the truck. I remember having to stop at a port-a-john about halfway back, the first one I found, and I just sat in there for probably fifteen minutes just bawling. I didn’t know why. That was just a few short weeks before I found out my buddy killed himself.

Ramsey Russell: So years later, we’re talking 2015, is when you found out one of your buddies that had served with you had committed suicide.

Trent Dirks: The second one in a year and a half. I just lost it. I knew that, if I didn’t do something at that time, I was going to end up dead.

Ramsey Russell: He was going through the same problems you were?

Trent Dirks: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: Did he live nearby?

Trent Dirks: No. He lived about an hour and a half away.

Ramsey Russell: Okay. At that point, when he committed suicide, you realized, “I’m headed down the same path. These demons are going to consume me if I don’t do something.”

Trent Dirks: Yes, sir.

Ramsey Russell: What did you do? Did you go to the VA?

Trent Dirks: I had been in the VA system. I had tried some therapy, and I was on different medications. It wasn’t doing what it needed to do. I needed something different. I needed to try something different. I had heard about this organization called Retrieving Freedom and that they trained service dogs. I was a farrier at the time. I was shoeing horses, and some of my clients were actually fostering one of these service dogs in training. I had asked him a few questions, and I had driven by this new building they put up by Waverly, Iowa. I didn’t know, at that time, that I needed a service dog, but I thought maybe I could just get involved and be around other people or something. I don’t know. Something drew me into that building, that day.

The day after my buddy killed himself— I think I was working that day, but I was kind of working in the area. I had a little bit of time in between stops, and I stopped in there. Scott was sitting behind his desk. I remember walking in that door, and Scott says, “Hey, how are you doing?” I couldn’t even respond to him. I just shrugged my shoulders. Then he asked if I was a veteran. I nodded my head yes. He picked up on it immediately and asked our unit director—who was our program director, at the time—Keegan to give me a tour of the facility while he finished up an email, and that he would talk to me as soon as I got done with the tour.

Ramsey Russell: Scott, do you remember that day that he walked into your shop?

Scott Dewey: I remember it like it was yesterday. Absolutely.

Ramsey Russell: How would you describe Trent walking in that day?

Scott Dewey: It was an emotional day. It was an emotional day because Trent’s exactly right. When he stepped in the door, you could tell he was there for a reason.

Ramsey Russell: You’ve seen it before?

Scott Dewey: Yes. I got to say, I’ve had the honor to work with a ton of veterans that have walked in, similar to Trent that day. Some have called. Some have emailed. Trent was close; he walked in. Trent’s exactly right. He didn’t know why he was there. He didn’t know what we could do for him, but he knew he needed to do something. I can still remember him sitting down across the desk and not saying anything. Like you, he was kind of looking at the floor. He was like, “I don’t know why I’m here.” I said, “Well, let’s find out. Did you serve?” “Yep.” “Is there anything you want to talk about, about serving?” “Nope.” “What do you want to talk about?” And he kind of went into just this. The first thing he said was, “My buddy committed suicide, and I need help.

Ramsey Russell: You’ve seen that before, too?

Scott Dewey: I’ve seen that a lot of times. Yes. The great part about it, Ramsey, is the results have all been, across the board, pretty similar to how I think we’ll finish this conversation up today.

Ramsey Russell: At the time, you were operating Retrieving Freedom, but that ain’t how you got started in all this. Now guys, listen. I’m just going to take a little break right here and explain to you. This is not just a cozy conversation. I’ve almost teared up talking about my son’s service and getting a phone call. Trent over here is wiping tears, at times. This is a real serious deal. Of course, Tracer is just sitting there, laying down, doing his job. Happy to be here. Go ahead, Scott.

Scott Dewey: I appreciate that.

Ramsey Russell: I just wanted to provide a little context to the listener about what we’re doing right now and what’s going on at the table.


What is Retrieving Freedom?


Their unconditional love, their ability to be with you 24 hours a day, to not judge you, and to—Trent can attest to that—be there for what you need them for. That’s the intuitive ability of a dog. Then when you add tasks to that, like nightmare interruption and things like that, that just makes them that much better.


Scott Dewey: And I’ll back up to the start of this whole conversation. Retrieving Freedom isn’t owned. Retrieving Freedom is a nonprofit. I founded it, started it in the very beginning. I was a professional dog trainer for field trial dogs.

Ramsey Russell: Labs?

Scott Dewey: Yeah, mostly labs. We competed with them across the country. Well before Trent came in the door, we had started, on our own time, training a couple of dogs and seeing if we could help out some veterans. It was just kind of on the side. It was our own personal time.

Ramsey Russell: Why? What made you do that? Are you a veteran yourself?

Scott Dewey: No, I’m not. Actually, I sat across a table with a recruiter, clear back in high school, and, when I said I had asthma, he said, “See you later.” Went to Iowa State. Ended up going to work for a dog trainer in the late ‘90s, and I’ve been dog training ever since. There was another individual, a good friend of mine, from the mid-South. We got to talking about the benefits that dogs could provide individuals. You said it earlier—their unconditional love, their ability to be with you 24 hours a day, to not judge you, and to—Trent can attest to that—be there for what you need them for. That’s the intuitive ability of a dog. Then when you add tasks to that, like nightmare interruption and things like that, that just makes them that much better. To even more precisely answer your question, my little brother had done multiple tours, as well. This was kind of in the early stages of service dogs for veterans with disabilities. I don’t think anybody had a really good handle on, “What can we train the dogs to do? How can they benefit?” And I didn’t know. I’m not going to sit here and say I was an expert.

I went to some places that were doing it and said, “What are you guys doing? Can I do this?” We just started training some dogs, seeing what the reactions were. The first individual that I worked with all the way through—from starting a dog, getting that dog to him, seeing how that dog reacted with him—was a million times the feeling of ever winning a field trial or an open event with a dog. It was so real. It was so real to watch their eyes light up, to watch that hope come back, to go from this sustaining everyday to— Trent’s a perfect example of somebody going from day-to-day-to-day to thriving. I mean, he’s here. He told you a minute ago that he didn’t like to be in crowds. For him to walk through the SCI convention with thousands of people? We can’t make it ten feet without somebody saying, “Hey, can I pet your dog?” Every time, his eyes light up, and he’s like, “He’s working, but I’ll tell you about him.” I just can’t. You almost can’t explain it till you see it, and you saw it when we walked by.

Ramsey Russell: I did see it. I’ve seen it, the last couple of days, as Trent has come by and we visited about this subject. Okay, so I understand how to train a duck dog, but I don’t train duck dogs. I’m way too easy on the dog. You can train a Master-titled dog, and I’m going to ruin it. He’s just going to be a meat dog when I get done with him, the way I get along with dogs. Everybody listening understands what a Senior and Master title in the AKC and UKC and all that good stuff is. Let’s talk about the process. You were brand new to it, and you had to explore. What is Tracer trained to do? What does he do?

Scott Dewey: That’s a great question. To answer the first part of that: you take the prey drive of a dog and teach them to bring back a bird; that’s pretty easy. That’s what they want to do.

Ramsey Russell: That’s what they want to do.

Scott Dewey: You take a dog and say, “I want you to turn on a light switch,” and they look at you like, “What good is this? How does this help me?” When we built our first facility in Waverly, Iowa, we put in four living quarters. It’s got bedrooms, handicap accessible bathrooms. Places for these guys to stay. A home for them away from home. The other thing we did is put infrared cameras in those rooms because every single veteran that walked in the door—when they started telling me what they were having troubles with, it was night terrors.

Ramsey Russell: Night terrors.

Scott Dewey: Yes.

Ramsey Russell: That would be an unidentified nightmare, and you wake up screaming or just terrified.


How Train Retrieving Freedom Service Dogs?


Have the dog do something that allows this individual to realize that they’re potentially in a dream. I know that sounds crazy, but I don’t think there’s any dream that Trent would be having, that’s related to being in Afghanistan or being in a traumatic situation, that he had a warm, furry, loving dog next to him while that was happening…So Trent starts going into a nightmare in his sleep. Tracer recognizes it, snuggles in closer. Trent’s hand goes to Tracer’s head, in his sleep. You will see it, on video, where the veteran just totally relaxes back to sleep.


Scott Dewey: That’s right. So we said, “Okay, how can these dogs begin to help the night terrors?” Well, I have no idea how to do that unless I know what Trent’s doing when he’s sleeping. So he can sleep in one of our rooms. We videotaped the whole night’s sleep. Trent gets up the next day, he comes into my office, and we sit down. We watch this camera, and he’s like, “Man, I think I woke up like four times. This happened, this happened.” I said, “Well, let’s watch it.” What we start doing is, we figure out what they do. Do they start swinging fists, like you said? Do they sit up in a cold sweat? Do they roll over and not get back to sleep?

Ramsey Russell: As I was thinking about doing this podcast, I wondered if, at the onset of that dream or that terror, if you put off like a fear pheromone or something that a dog could sense.

Scott Dewey: We don’t go that in depth, and that’s possible. You can start comparing that to, like, diabetics.

Ramsey Russell: Right. I know you train for autistic children, too.

Scott Dewey: Yep. In a diabetic, you can actually tell their blood sugar in their saliva. A dog can sense that. But a dream is different. What we realized, in the beginning, was: if we can figure out what Trent’s doing and figure out what results we want the dog to do to help him through the night terror, we can then roleplay that during the day, right? We use 100% operant conditioning to train a dog. That is a positive reinforcer for good behavior and a negative reinforcer for bad behavior. It’s very similar to training a Master hunting dog, but in your case, or somebody training a hunting dog, the positive reward for good behavior is the duck.

Ramsey Russell: That’s right.

Scott Dewey: Right? So Trent, having a dog help him through a nightmare— It’s hard to give the dog a duck. So we say, “Well, we’ll go to a treat reward. We’ll go to a love reward. We’ll go to a praise reward. Once we start matching that dog with the veteran and they can start, at that time, giving that reward—” A perfect example is, we had a veteran one time that woke up in night terrors and really, really, really needed to know where they were when they woke up. We said, “All right, let’s figure out what you’re doing.” The dog got on the bed; realized, sleeping with the veteran, that this was happening; jumped off; turned the light switch on; comes back to the bed; licks their face; wakes them up; orientates to the room; and now they know where they’re at when they wake up out of the terror.

Ramsey Russell: Can he train one to go get a cold beer, while he’s at it?

Scott Dewey: Absolutely, absolutely. But you’ve got to remember, most of these guys come to me like, “I don’t want to wake up. I’d rather just keep sleeping.” Then it hit us that maybe a part of this plan is to use the dog subliminally—I guess, I don’t know the best way to put it—is, while you’re sleeping, to have the dog do something that allows this individual to realize that they’re potentially in a dream. I know that sounds crazy, but I don’t think there’s any dream that Trent would be having, that’s related to being in Afghanistan or being in a traumatic situation, that he had a warm, furry, loving dog next to him while that was happening. Does that make sense?

Ramsey Russell: That does make perfect sense.

Scott Dewey: Okay, so Trent starts going into a nightmare in his sleep. Tracer recognizes it, snuggles in closer. Trent’s hand goes to Tracer’s head, in his sleep. You will see it, on video, where the veteran just totally relaxes back to sleep.

Ramsey Russell: The minute that dog puts his nose up against his neck, the individual just instinctively puts his hand on the dog’s head. And in that moment, boom.

Scott Dewey: Calmness. Calmness. Yes.

Ramsey Russell: Wow.

Scott Dewey: Yes. The great part is somebody like Trent coming and being able, the next day, to sit in that office and watch and see and feel that, “Oh my gosh, I slept right through that. I see where I was getting restless in my sleep and my hand went on Tracer’s head and he snuggled in closer. I just melted back into sleep.” That gives them confidence, right? That gives him the confidence to say, “Man, that’s great.”

Ramsey Russell: What is Tracer’s reward?

Scott Dewey: At that point it’s nothing, but in the training process, if Trent’s doing that—he starts rolling around on the bed—and Tracer comes in and snuggles in, Trent’s like, “Good boy,” and pets him. Tracer will remember that, day in, day out, as it starts happening at night. Ramsey, part of this process at Retrieving Freedom to place a dog with a veteran, is a hundred hours of staff training hours that Trent has to go through, with the dog, before he can take him home.

Ramsey Russell: Okay, that brings up a good point. You have trained the dog for how long?

Scott Dewey: We start them at eight weeks. They train all the way up to about eighteen months, without a veteran.

Ramsey Russell: When you say start them at eight weeks, are we talking just primary socialization like you would do with any other puppy you pick up?

Scott Dewey: So we have volunteers. Yep. We have over a hundred puppy-raising volunteers.

Ramsey Russell: That’s what you were saying, “foster,” earlier.

Scott Dewey: Yeah. They take the puppy home, but they come back to our facility once a month to come to puppy class so we can see how the puppy’s doing. Make sure that they’re socializing well, being good citizens, not biting the kids or growling. We’ve got that. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not all perfect.

Ramsey Russell: A puppy’s going to tear up something. That’s just what they do.

Scott Dewey: We help those volunteers through every step of that process so that, at ten months, they bring the dog back to us, and we review it with them. Then the dog starts into training.

Ramsey Russell: When you say the dog starts into training at ten months, do you begin training the dog for a period before Trent comes into the equation?

Scott Dewey: Absolutely.

Ramsey Russell: Okay. What are they doing at that point? You’ve just pulled out a chart that I should have looked at previously. Walk me through this.

Scott Dewey: Eight weeks to ten months is what we were just talking about, right? That’s where the puppy raisers, or fosters, are working with the dogs. At ten months, they come back to our facility, but they aren’t necessarily then just trained by a Retrieving Freedom trainer. Our goal, clear back to when I started this—I said, “We have two years to train a dog, because the veteran doesn’t take them home until they’re 24 months old.”

Ramsey Russell: 24 months old? Okay.

Scott Dewey: 24 months old. But imagine having a dog from eight weeks to two years. What else could we be doing with this dog? Who else could we be helping? I don’t want to just put it into a facility, train it, and— Not that I don’t want to just help Trent, but there’s so many other people that could be helped with this dog while it’s in training.

Ramsey Russell: Such as?

Scott Dewey: Such as, we’re in two different prisons. We work directly with prisoners and inmates.

Ramsey Russell: So between ten months old and eighteen months old, now they’re doing a dual service that might be prisons. They’re transferring some form of empathy and emotion and love and responsibility to the prisoners.

Scott Dewey: That’s exactly right. We have a prison in Iowa City where they have to have two years of good conduct before they can get into our dog program. It was interesting because we talked to the warden and everybody at the prison, and they’re even like, “We’ve got guys that are being good, here, just so they can get in your dog program.” They worked really hard. Now they get to be with a dog, and they get to go into a special ward of the prison. They get to one-on-one sleep with the dog every night. They get their own living place. They get to take the dog outside. We send a trainer to the prison, once a week, to work with these inmates. Like you said, Trent’s run into fifty people here talking about, “Can I pet your dog?” I remember one of the first times I was in the prison. This guy, he had been there for quite a while. He’s probably 290 pounds. He had had two years of good behavior, and he’s this big old guy. Looked like a professional football player.

Ramsey Russell: I’m imagining Richard Pryor’s cellmate in that movie he did that time.

Scott Dewey: We gave him a puppy, right? He’s like, “What am I supposed to do with it?” I was like, “Well, we’re going to train it.” He starts messing around with the puppy. I said, “You got to talk to him in his terms,” and it wasn’t two minutes till he’s down on the ground talking baby talk and cooing for his little puppy to come over. They’ve written letters to us, Ramsey, these prisoners, about the hope that we’ve provided. There’s been guys that have gotten out. I’ve got one right here.

Ramsey Russell: That, lady and gentlemen, is why every child needs a puppy. I know you don’t want to fool with it—every child needs a puppy. We’ll thin out the prison population just by giving children puppies when they’re young.

Scott Dewey: While I’m talking, you can read that. That’s two prisoners that have written us little stories of what it’s meant to them to have a dog in the prison.

Ramsey Russell: He just showed me a piece of literature called “Prison Impact” with some testimonials. I think what I’m going to end up doing is taking some pictures of some of this literature and putting it online. Just so people can see what we’re talking about.

Scott Dewey: Yeah. So that’s one little part. The other thing we did is, we do also help kids with autism. We had to figure out, “Well, how else could these dogs be helping individuals while they’re in training?” So we’re in 22 different elementary schools now where we have elementary teachers take our dogs into the classroom, one day a week, to help the kids in the classroom understand disabilities like post-traumatic stress and autism, but also compassion.

Ramsey Russell: But some of those autistic children actually have service dogs of their own, don’t they? I’ve got some friends that have an autistic brother, who is diabetic, and that lab lays at his feet in the classroom.

Scott Dewey: Absolutely.

Ramsey Russell: And will notify him, somehow—or, usually, walk up and notify the teacher—that he needs his insulin injection. That just amazes me that the dog would be just laying there, minding his own business, and just get up and go walk and tug the teacher’s skirt because he smells that blood chemistry. He says, “Hey, my owner needs a shot.”

Scott Dewey: Right. We do place some with children with autism. Just like Trent’s dog, children with autism get dogs from us for their personal dogs.

Ramsey Russell: Other than night terrors, what else do service dogs like Tracer do?

Scott Dewey: Okay, so if we’re talking just about post-traumatic stress, there’s a few key things we trained for, but we also trained for physical disabilities. Picking objects off the floor. Trent has lower back problems, along with PTSD.

Ramsey Russell: It ain’t going to get easier with old age. I’m going to tell you. I’m a little bit older than you.

Scott Dewey: One of the things we taught Tracer was to brace. He stands on all fours, flexes his front shoulders and his rear hips. Trent can put a hand on his shoulder and a hand on his hips, and he can use him to stand up. The big thing, though—other than night —that I think most everyone like yourself, Trent, asked for, is this positioning of the dog. Remember when Trent was telling that story, earlier, about the lady that pushed him in the back? Imagine going into a grocery store and going up to pay, going to the checkout center. Well, your back is open, right? We teach the dogs not to protect, but just to position. Tracer can turn around and sit behind Trent. When Trent’s in a grocery store aisle, he’s sitting behind him the whole time. Nobody can push a cart up close. Nobody can come back on the backside.

Ramsey Russell: Because, apparently, part of that post-traumatic stress disorder that y’all experience is like a vulnerability on your blind side. That dog will place himself to keep a distance between something going on in the back, just so you are comfortable.

Scott Dewey: Yep, but then put it in the front when you come up to talk to Trent, right? Everybody that was in Afghanistan that I’ve talked to—that’s come back, sat in my office—was frustrated with people talking close in their face. Maybe you can explain that.

Ramsey Russell: Don’t go to China.

Trent Dirks: They don’t have a sense of personal space.

Ramsey Russell: Right. I get that.

Scott Dewey: So we teach the dog the same command: sit in the front. So if you’re coming up to talk to Trent, he’ll just say, “Tracer, go to the front.” Tracer will come around and sit in front of him. All of a sudden, he’s got a barrier between you and him. He can sit there and talk to you, and you can’t get in Trent’s face.


How Has Retrieving Freedom Service Dog Changed Trent’s Life?


There’s other people going through stuff, too. If I can share what I’ve been through, what I’m going through; not only does it help me, but it might help somebody else. It might save somebody’s life. I do not want to go to anybody’s funeral. I hate losing friends. I hate losing brothers. I don’t want to see it anymore.


Ramsey Russell: Trent, what has changed now? It’s kind of a dual question. What has changed since Tracer became an integral part of your life? What has changed? How has it changed?

Trent Dirks: Where do I even start?


Trent Dirks Retrieving Freedom


Ramsey Russell: Most people don’t leave the house without their cell phone.

Trent Dirks: I don’t leave the house without Tracer.

Ramsey Russell: 24/7?

Trent Dirks: 24/7. Seven days a week.

Ramsey Russell: Like you were telling me yesterday, y’all went to a club, and there was some music going on. Some of the people were like, “Well, how’s the dog going to do with a concert?”

Trent Dirks: Yeah. He’s been to a concert. He’s been to a couple of different concerts. Last night, we were hanging out at the watering hole at the casino hotel, and everyone says, “How’s he going to do with the band playing?” He’s just going to lay down and take a nap. He’s going to sit right on my foot—or lay down on my foot—so I know that he’s there, and he’s going to fall asleep.

Ramsey Russell: I can’t see him right now because he’s under the table, but I’ve noticed, the times when you’ve come into the booth and sat down, that he puts his head right on your foot. That’s his way of knowing exactly where you are. You’re under his thumb, and under his watch, at all times.

Trent Dirks: Yeah. I believe Temple Grandin has got a thing about— A lot of people use weighted blankets and stuff like that. A lot of autistic children use weighted blankets. It’s kind of the same thing. It’s kind of a deep pressure therapy where he’s leaning into me, or he’s laying on my feet or sitting on my feet, and I know that he’s there.

Ramsey Russell: Even in a waking moment, he’s providing that emotional comfort.

Trent Dirks: Yep.

Ramsey Russell: That was trained?

Scott Dewey: Some of it’s intuition, but a lot of it—Trent’s positioning—is all trained. Absolutely.

Ramsey Russell: Wow.

Trent Dirks: He’s gotten trained, and so used to it, that he knows that I’m more comfortable, and I’m not going to be as anxious, if he’s leaning into my leg or if he’s laying on my feet or sitting on my feet. He knows that I’m going to be okay.

Ramsey Russell: You and your wife go to restaurants now. You can go to the grocery store. You can go to Walmart. You can go to concerts. You can go get around people. You can go to the S.C.I Convention.

Trent Dirks: I went on my first airplane ride in five years. What haven’t I accomplished? I do a lot of public speaking and representing Retrieving Freedom. I’m trying to help others and pay it forward.

Ramsey Russell: That’s become kind of your life’s purpose. That’s what you do.

Trent Dirks: Absolutely.

Ramsey Russell: I’ve always said, I believe the best way somebody can help themselves—and I think it helped me get through some of my stuff—was becoming busy helping others. I think there’s a lot of emotional validity to service, to helping other people.

Trent Dirks: Absolutely. I feel like, if I can help somebody else— Because I’m not the only one going through my stuff. There’s other people going through stuff, too. If I can share what I’ve been through, what I’m going through; not only does it help me, but it might help somebody else. It might save somebody’s life. I do not want to go to anybody’s funeral. I hate losing friends. I hate losing brothers. I don’t want to see it anymore.


Trent and Tracer Become Waterfowl Hunter and Retriever


I shot my first duck— I worked very hard. Nine months-ish from when I got Tracer. I started training him. I remember Scott asking me, “What do you think about training Tracer to hunt?” I said, “Well, I’ve never had a duck hunt. I’ve never trained a dog before. I’ve never duck hunted with a dog before.”


I decided that I was going to take out 22 new veterans duck hunting, this year, for the 22 veterans a day that commit suicide.


Ramsey Russell: Because he’s a lab, I’ve got to ask you. When I looked at your chart, on the timeline between 8 weeks and 24, I did not see retrieve. I didn’t see duck fetching. I didn’t see that on the list right there. Is that a part of every dog’s training, or was that just a part of Tracer’s? Because Trent, at 26 years old, had this great dog, his buddy, who obviously knew how to duck hunt, and that kind of pulled him into the sport of duck hunting.

Scott Dewey: Back again to my history—yes, that’s where I grew up, training dogs for the field. Right? Each dog does go through the trained retrieve. Not necessarily for ducks; they might have to pick up a leash, they might have to pick up a crutch, they might have to pick up a cane, but it’s still the same process. They go through a trained retrieve. “I want you to go over, pick that up. I want you to bring it to me.” We have another individual that works for us. He was one of the first veterans that got a dog through our program. Ended up going to dog training school. He’s a full-time employee and a full time dog trainer, now, at Retrieving Freedom. His name is Chad Johnson. Chad takes a ton of his time, outside of work hours, to still work with guys like Trent in the field. And now Trent’s doing that. Trent went to work for an individual that used to be my assistant in the field trial training. Trent went to Texas with him and one of our board members and helped him. Guys now call Trent and say, “Trent, I got this dog from Retrieving Freedom. He’s going to be my duck dog.” Trent’s like, “All right, let’s start meeting together and training after work.”

Ramsey Russell: You were showing me some pictures the other day, Trent. You had gone on a really nice duck hunt that you put together. You’re learning how to duck hunt now. You’re four years into it, but I know that it’s a lifelong process of learning to become a better duck hunter. You had taken some veterans that had never duck hunted.

Trent Dirks: Yeah, so I kind of organized a fundraiser this year. As part of that fundraiser, I decided that I was going to take out 22 new veterans duck hunting, this year, for the 22 veterans a day that commit suicide.

Ramsey Russell: Amen. I love seeing new people get into hunting. How do they respond?

Trent Dirks: They absolutely love it.

Ramsey Russell: What do they think of Tracer going and fetching those doves?

Trent Dirks: They love Tracer working, too. It gives me an opportunity to share about Retrieving Freedom and share what I’ve been through, but also to learn about what they’re going through. If they’re struggling, or they’re having a bad day, week, month, year—they can talk to me. “Yeah, well, there’s this avenue of getting help. You can do this.” Building that camaraderie in the duck blind gives them another outlet.


Retrieving Freedom Tracer Trent Dirks


Ramsey Russell: And it goes beyond the duck blind, doesn’t it? You may meet a vet from another state, or another area, that responds to your offering to duck hunt, and now y’all become friends. That’s the beautiful thing. I’ve got friends all over the world from duck hunting. You’ve got this built-in thing with veterans that may be going through the same thing you’re going through.

Trent Dirks: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: It’s all about duck hunting.

Trent Dirks: It is about duck hunting.

Ramsey Russell: Who would’ve thunk it?

Trent Dirks: I shot my first duck— I worked very hard. Nine months-ish from when I got Tracer. I started training him. I remember Scott asking me, “What do you think about training Tracer to hunt?” I said, “Well, I’ve never had a duck hunt. I’ve never trained a dog before. I’ve never hunted with a dog before.”

Ramsey Russell: That was probably therapy in and of itself.

Trent Dirks: Oh, absolutely.

Ramsey Russell: I know he loved it, the whole bonding thing.

Trent Dirks: Bonding with him and learning together, and I had the perfect dog to do it with. He’s been so forgiving and accepting and learning. I worked really hard training him up to go fetch a duck, and I finally went out duck hunting. Me and Chad went out, opening teal season. We wound up shooting our limit of teal, and I shot my first teal. I shot the first one of the day. I winged it. I didn’t hit him all that great, and he kept swimming around. Tracer just got out there and got after him and swam around. I bet you me and Chad were just laughing and smiling and cheering Tracer on for ten or fifteen minutes while he was chasing that duck. That teal kept diving on him. That was it. That was a game changer for me, watching that and experiencing that with Tracer. It started taking off from there.

Ramsey Russell: I’ve always thought—and my wife has elbowed me a few times for making this connection—but I’ve always said kids spell love “T-I-M-E.” Raising children on my own, I always used to see those W.W.J.D, What Would Jesus Do?, bracelets. Well, raising kids, they don’t come with an instruction manual. I’ve always wondered, what would Andy Griffith do in this situation? If Opie did something like this. For example, when I was raising children, I always felt like they would live up, as best they could, to the expectations placed on them. I mean in a very general, positive way. Children live up to their expectations. Retrievers live up to their expectations. Whether they’re duck fetching, whether they’re pets. Children, whether they’re playing baseball at the baseball field or at home. I believe children spell love “T-I-M-E,” but I believe dogs—retrievers like Tracer, retrievers like mine—they love, they eat up that relationship. They love being a part of your life, and it’s so rewarding—as we’re talking about—for humanity to have that relationship with such a loyal animal.

Trent Dirks: Oh, absolutely.


How Do Veterans Get a Retrieving Freedom Service Dog?


Ramsey Russell: Tell me this, Scott. I see the crowd’s starting to pour in. It’s starting to get a little loud, and I don’t want to leave this podcast without talking about Retrieving Freedom, y’all’s nonprofit organization. I know, having paid dog trainers—having bought, looked at, started, and finished dogs—that with a duck dog you’re liable to be five or ten grand into it, out of the gate. When we are talking about a dog like this, two years old, that will do this— What is the cost? What would a dog like Tracer cost a veteran?

Scott Dewey: The first answer is, the dog costs the veteran nothing.

Ramsey Russell: I know they cost the veterans nothing, but what do they cost for a vet to have one?

Scott Dewey: For us to take a dog through— Every dog doesn’t make it, right? Right now, if we step back to about the time Trent was in the office, we had about fifteen to eighteen dogs in training. Fast forward to today; we have a hundred dogs in training. We built another location, and we still can’t supply the demand.

Ramsey Russell: No. There’s way more veterans than dogs available.

Scott Dewey: That’s right.

Ramsey Russell: Not every dog is going to make a capable service animal.

Scott Dewey: That’s right. If you look at it and your $5,000-$10,000 figure: every dog that we have in training will typically have somewhere near $10,000 a year going into that dog.

Ramsey Russell: Over a year?

Scott Dewey: Yep. If a dog doesn’t make it, I almost have to take the cost of that dog and apply it to a dog that does make it, if you want that true number. You’re in that $20,000-$30,000 range by the time you get done, after 24 months of training.

Ramsey Russell: As the father of a serviceman, I know what our armed forces servicemen make, and it ain’t enough to buy a $30,000 dog.

Scott Dewey: No. We would never, ever, ever expect them to have to pay for a dog. We do a lot of fundraising.

Ramsey Russell: I’m sure—I’m tongue in cheek, being facetious—I’m sure our Veterans Administration is all behind this and funding this for all the veterans, right?

Scott Dewey: Well, let me tell you, on the good note of that: the VA did run a study on the benefits of service dogs. We’re one of the accredited organizations in the country, and they do now cover the vet costs and some of the costs once they get their dog. They have not yet been able to cover the cost of training the dog. For example, if Tracer has an injury, the VA will cover Tracer if he tears a cruciate.

Ramsey Russell: Fantastic. I’m pleased.

Scott Dewey: Now, they have to get the dog through an accredited organization like Retrieving Freedom, and they have to get the paperwork signed up, but there’s little steps that’re going in the right direction. The other thing that has come on board, the last couple of years, is that the Department of Defense has given us some grants to provide service members with dogs.

Ramsey Russell: Good. Are y’all able to leverage that in any kind of way to get more money? If the Department of Defense gives you $100,000, are there any organizations out there that will match the grant so you’ve got $200,000?

Scott Dewey: No. Not yet. But there are private corporations and individuals that do like to see the DoD getting involved, do like to see the VA applying funds towards injuries, and then come on board as donors and say, “Well, we’ll help you make up the difference.”That’s how we’re doing. The other thing I’ll tell you is that 20 to 30% of our total revenue comes from donations under $1,000. So if somebody says, “Man, I really can’t help.” Well, yes you can. $100 is $100. We provide a lot of dogs, with a huge following of people that support the benefits. I can’t leave this without saying something that Trent was talking about earlier, and you brought it up: helping others. One of the biggest smiles I ever saw on Trent’s face was the day he came in and found out one of the guys that he had been working with, talking about Tracer with, had turned in an application. There were almost tears from Trent’s eyes because the whole circle came back around. From the day he sat in my office, to getting Tracer, to becoming a duck hunting dog, to going into the field, to walking back in the office and saying, “Oh my god, John Doe put in an application, and he’s getting a dog? I did something. I did something.”

Trent Dirks: It made me feel great. Knowing that I can help somebody else? There’s just no words for it.

Ramsey Russell: Fantastic. What is your website name? What is your Instagram account handle? How can listeners plug into Retrieving Freedom?

Scott Dewey: Everything is Retrieving Freedom. Retrieving Freedom on Facebook. Retrieving Freedom on twitter. I don’t know the exact twitter, you might.

Trent Dirks: I don’t know the twitter, but it’s @rfiservicedogs on Instagram, I think.

Ramsey Russell: Y’all google Retrieving Freedom, and all that social media will come up. I’ll have a link to them in our Instagram stories by the time this thing is there, and there’ll be a part of the Ramsey Russell Get Ducks Instagram account. We’ll be plugging them, too. Y’all check this out. You guys that have listened to this story that want to know, “What can I do to support this program?” Get on their web page and make a contribution, if you feel so inclined.

We all know somebody that has served. We all, every one of us, live under the blanket of freedom that our servicemen like Trent and others have provided. It’s not an easy row to hoe for them. This conversation may have sounded easy, coming over the mic, but it was anything but easy and comfortable to talk about. Anyway, guys. Ramsey Russell. Get Ducks. It’s Duck Season Somewhere. Check us out on Instagram. Be darn sure to go check out Thank y’all for listening.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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