From a small generator-powered cabin nestled beneath whispering cottonwoods on the South Platte River bank, Ramsey Russell meets with Flashback decoy inventor Tyler Baskfield between hunts. In a world slap full of gimmicky duck hunting stuff that usually doesn’t doesn’t perform as intended or last as long as we’d hoped, Baskfield’s new American-made flashback decoy is a genuine ace up the sleeve in the “arms race” of duck hunting gear. In hearing Baskfield’s interesting story, Ramsey learns that what makes the flashback decoy special is not just its patented motion but the Real American duck hunter’s heartbeat that goes into each one. You’ll appreciate that, too, in hearing this incredible conversation among duck hunters.
Inventor Extraordinaire of the Flashback Decoy
Ramsey Russell: I’m your host Ramsey Russell, join me here to listen to those conversations. Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere from Colorado. Man, I’m just on the outskirts of Denver. I don’t know, 30-45 minutes. I’m sitting in a 10 x 20 cabin, generator powered, no water, beautiful, warm and comfortable kind of like camping with solid walls, and a bunk bed, and lots of wool blankets around you. And right out the backyard, I can sit there seeing it running past, is the South Platte River, little duck hole in the other direction. I’m sitting at the camp of today’s guest Tyler Baskfield. Inventor extraordinaire of the Flashback decoy, the coolest thing I have seen come down the pipe in a long, long time. Tyler, how are you?
Tyler Baskfield: I’m doing well, Ramsey. I really appreciate you having me on today.
Ramsey Russell: Gosh man, I’m glad to be here. We’ve talked and carried on and had a lot of good meetings for the last several months and I’m glad to be here. And Tyler, where to even start with you man? I’ll tell you what I want to start, I’m going to start about growing up. What was it like for Tyler Baskfield to grow up? Did you grow up here in Colorado?
Baskfield Family Lore
Everybody would lean to shoot and the whole boat would rock, and nobody would hit anything, and make a bunch of noise.
Tyler Baskfield: No, I didn’t. I grew up in Minnesota, just outside of the Twin Cities in Minnesota. It’s a great place to grow up, idyllic, kind of Norman Rockwell-esque background when I think about it. We grew up playing hockey and my dad was an executive for an airline in Minneapolis there. And it was just a wonderful place to grow up. We had a lake cabin up in Central Minnesota, outside of Pequot Lakes, Minnesota — the mean streets of Pequot Lakes, Minnesota. It’s a great place and that was kind of where we spent the most time together as a family and where I really developed my passion for nature and conservation.
Ramsey Russell: Did you hunt a lot?
Tyler Baskfield: The cooler thing about my family, both my mom and my dad is they weren’t big hunters, but they came from a big hunting family, my dad did especially. So my grandma bought this place on the lake, natural environment lake, called Schaefer Lake in Central Minnesota. And he would duck hunt occasionally, but he was a pretty busy guy, and it was before the days of cell phones and that kind of thing. So he didn’t get away from the office too often. He was traveling a lot for work. But he would kind of clear a couple of weeks a year where we would all go up to this little tiny cabin, much like this. I joke about this place being a little bit decorated in late ‘90s meth lab type style. Like, you are not going to see this on the cover of Architectural Digest anytime soon. But this cabin was great and my dad brought us up there, and when we were up there, he only had time for us. We would hunt a little bit, but my dad was the kind of guy who would fall asleep in the duck blind. He wasn’t about killing ducks, he was about spending time with my brother and I. And he wanted us to be introduced to all this stuff, but it wasn’t necessarily his passion. I just remember sitting there watching these guys go out duck hunting, and they’d come back with a bunch of ducks, and I was like, how can I join that fraternity? What age can I be a part of that? What age can I participate with these guys? I had a great uncle who was a monsignor in the Catholic Church. He would say Mass to duck hunters on the side of Schaefer Lake up there after a duck hunting expedition. It’s just great family lore and history up there. And we still have the place in the family and I go back there as often as I can. But I’m really looking forward to – I got two young boys – and I’m really looking forward to eventually taking them back to shoot their first ducks on Schaefer Lake.
Ramsey Russell: What kind of ducks did y’all shoot up there on Schaefer Lake?
Tyler Baskfield: So it was cool kind of Hemingway-esque type hunts, where it was big water. So you get a lot of divers. The big duck up there was blue bills. Everybody was thrilled when they could shoot a mallard, just because they taste a little bit better. But I miss those blue bills just coming in sounding like an F16 behind the blind. And my dad never put a lot into building good blinds or whatever, so we’d be sitting there in an old, kind of leaky duck boat, just covered up with reeds and some burlap, and these blue bills would just rocket by. Everybody would lean to shoot and the whole boat would rock, and nobody would hit anything, and make a bunch of noise. We just had a blast. And I was like, this is what I want to do with my life right here.
Ramsey Russell: That’s it. That’s interesting to me, you talk about your dad being so busy and putting aside two weeks to take his kids to camp into a duck blind, into a cabin and be able to dote on you exclusively for two weeks. I have always felt like, kids spell love T-I-M-E not L-O-V-E. And what better place to spend quality time with family than at camp in a duck blind? I know the best times of my life, my kids have been in a duck blind whether we were killing ducks or not. That seemed to me like to be — and you think about growing up duck hunting. It’s funny that that should come up just spending time with your dad. You wasn’t mad at him, he was just out there with y’all.
Tyler Baskfield: I have been super fortunate. My parents were the best. We talked a lot about my dad because he passed. But my mom played a big role in it too. She would come out there with us and she packed lunches. I have still got a photo of the first duck hunt I ever was allowed to go on and I’m wearing an old 1970s Viking sweatshirt, Minnesota Vikings sweatshirt. And my dad had wandered off to, I don’t know, take a look at something or whatever. And these ducks flew by and I remember my mom picking up the gun and shooting at them. She didn’t hit anything, but it shocked my brother and I so much. I think next time we got screamed at by my mom, we looked at it a little bit different that she was able to wield that shotgun like Annie Oakley out there. So yeah, she was a big part in that way. It just used to be a real family time. It obviously sunk its hooks into me because I feel like it’s very important for any family to have kind of a place where they can circle the wagons, and hang out, and check in with each other.
Ramsey Russell: Absolutely. You told me yesterday, we were walking down the gravel bank out here behind your cabin just looking around, and you told me a little bit about this cabin of yours and you said, I built that cabin before I even built my home. It was so important to me to have family time because you have got some children, you have got a wife, you got a family. What’s the parallel between this little cabin, which is very understated, it’s like a real cabin, just like a perfect little place to get out of the weather, and sleep, and socialize, and record a podcast, and be warm. I noticed right out here you got a little fireplace with some little chair backlog seats. And I noticed on one of them with a lot of glass and stones and stuff your children had collected. Y’all do spend a lot of time out here. What the parallels between this cabin and that cabin back in Minnesota?
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah. The times that I remember with my family all took place at that cabin. And so when I came out to Colorado for school, and then eventually started work with the division of wildlife, the first thing that I wanted to do was find a little bit of farm, just a little bit of property. Once you get married, priorities change and you are not allowed to really set your own agenda without getting input from everybody else you are now attached to. And I knew I wanted to have a place where I could duck hunt, and were eventually one day my kids could learn about frogs, and toads, and turtles, and nature without looking at an iPad, just actually catching stuff out here, catching crawfish or whatever the case may be. And it’s paid off. Like my boys love coming out here. They love sitting in the back of the truck, checking out the feet on some dead ducks, and talking about the hunt of the day, and they see it the same way I did, when can we be a part of this fraternity?
Ramsey Russell: That’s right.
Tyler Baskfield: No, it’s been a big win. I’m not a big city guy and Denver is definitely a big city, and every once in a while I just have to come out here and kind of clear my brain a little bit. And it recharges me and I’m ready for another 100,000 miles when I head back into town.
Ramsey Russell: Absolutely. So you mentioned you came out here to work for the Division of Wildlife. So you are a Wildlife major? Wildlife Science, what?
The Road to Wildlife Work & All the In Betweens
One of my jobs was to educate the people who live along the front range and throughout the state of Colorado on how to interact with wildlife.
Tyler Baskfield: No, no, well, I’ll take a step back. Yeah, so I went to school in Minnesota, obviously I went to a Catholic military high school, kind of a Fascist institution, but it was great, taught me how to take pride in self-appearance, and how to be a gentleman, and taught me some great life qualities. And then I went to school at CU, had a blast there for those seven years that I went to college. I’m just kidding Ramsey, it was only six, but yeah, we had a blast out there. And I moved back to Minnesota for a year or two and went to work for dot com business and hated every minute of it. And fortunately for me, at the time it didn’t seem so fortunate, but fortunately for me, the company was sold and they lined us up and shot us the day before Christmas. And I was like, I have had enough of this business life, so what I’m going to do is, I’m going to go and be a newspaper reporter. I wanted to be the next Ernest Hemingway and moved up to Craig, Colorado working for the Craig Daily Press. It’s not the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal, but the Craig Daily Press up in Craig, Colorado. I was the Outdoor Editor for two years and covered the Sheriff’s department and the County Commissioner beats, had a blast up there. It’s wildlife utopia up there, hunting and fishing utopia up there. So that was great. Then got hired on at the Division of Wildlife to write press releases and kind of worked my way up the chain for 10 years at the Division of Wildlife at Colorado Division of Wildlife.
Ramsey Russell: So like what did your job entail with Colorado Wildlife Division? What did you do?
Tyler Baskfield: So when I left there, I was the Chief of Public Affairs was the title. Sounds like a pretty fancy title. But I oversaw the magazine, Colorado Outdoors, the filming department, so all the TV stuff that they do, and then all the media relations stuff in the big game and small game, and fishing brochures. I was in charge of making sure that all that stuff got out every year.
Ramsey Russell: Were you the guy that had to get up in front of the camera and speak when something went sideways or you had to do something positive? I mean, how did that work?
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah, I have got some great stories about that. So my dad’s background was in Media Relations too. He was a spokesperson for an airline and then same thing for me. Obviously, Colorado has a heck of a wildlife resource but we also have a lot of people. And there are times when all that comes into conflict. One of my jobs was to educate the people who live along the front range and throughout the state of Colorado on how to interact with wildlife. It was a 24-hour a day job. So we’d have issues, or conflicts, or opportunities to educate people. And it was my job to hop in front of the camera.
Ramsey Russell: We don’t just mean mule deer. I mean you have got mountain lions, black bears, all kinds of stuff out here that people are conflict with.
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah, yeah, I’ll tell you a story. I was interviewed by Diane Sawyer once about a kid who was attacked by a mountain lion. He was walking down a trail at Chautauqua, here above Boulder, Colorado, hand in hand with his dad, and a mountain lion just grabbed this kid out of his dad’s hand.
Ramsey Russell: God.
Tyler Baskfield: And mountain lions are great predators, right? If you talk to most biologists, the black bear’s nothing to be concerned about, but every once in a while, mountain lion, they’re pretty good at what they do. They’re pretty good at making a living. This mountain lion grabbed this kid, and fortunately for the kid, the mountain lion, when he grabbed the back of his neck with his mouth, grabbed the kid’s jaw, so it didn’t get his neck, but dragged him down probably 150 yards down the hillside. And we eventually had to put that mountain lion down and there was a huge media presence; any time an animal attacks somebody in the United States, you’ll see National media there, usually is the case. So yeah, it was fun, it’s high pressure.
Ramsey Russell: Trying to explain to people why wildlife has to be put down in the first place, because everybody just wants to coexist with nature out here.
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah. Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: Here the little kid gets dragged 150 yards by the mountain lion.
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah. People don’t really understand how — a lot of these people who move out to Colorado are coming from populated areas on the East Coast and they don’t understand that wildlife is exactly that, it’s wild. It’s a variable, you don’t know how it’s going to interact with you. So our job was to teach the public how to protect that wildlife resource. But every once in a while, in the interest of public safety we’d have to put certain animals down.
Ramsey Russell: Was there ever any throwback on that? I mean did you ever have people up in arms because you had to go shoot Smokey the Bear?
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah, for sure. When we put bears down, we always got death threats and calls. And I remember once this little old lady called me, and she said, are you the person who put that bear down? I said no ma’am, I’m not, I’m just the person who gets on TV and talked about it. And she said, well how would you like being chased through the woods and then shot and killed? And it’s like your grandma ripping on you on that front. It’s interesting, people get super passionate about wildlife. Anytime we would do something with prairie dogs, because they’re cute and cuddly, people will get worked up about that. But it’s a great organization, the Colorado Division of Wildlife or what’s now Colorado Parks and Wildlife is a great organization. There’s some great people there. And they’re really looking out for the interest of the wildlife resource.
Was It a Big Change Coming from Minnesota to Colorado as a Duck Hunter?
It’s a fun place to hunt ducks because you get a lot longer season.
Ramsey Russell: That’s good. So that’s pretty interesting background. And during this time, I’m assuming you still duck hunted. I mean, was it a big change coming from Minnesota to Colorado as a duck hunter?
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: You all don’t do a lot of blue bill hunting out here?
Tyler Baskfield: No, no. This is mostly dabbling ducks out here. It’s different too, like, you don’t load up the boats and fly across a 10-mile-wide lake with 4ft waves and that kind of thing. I miss the adventure of that. But there is something nice to be said about a gentleman’s hunt too where you can pull the car up and walk a couple hundred yards with a bag of decoys on your back.
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah. I would say the bulk of our bag is mallards, if you are fortunate. But we get a lot of Gadwalls, a lot of Wigeons, we do get some Red Heads up and down the river, every once in a while, some Golden Eyes up and down the river, especially later in the year. It’s a fun place to hunt ducks because you get a lot longer season. In Minnesota, our season would be over as soon as it froze, and sometimes it would be a week after Halloween. With the South Platte here, it never freezes, rarely freezes, and you can be hunting all the way through January.
Ramsey Russell: Really? Well, this is my 2nd or 3rd day in Colorado and this morning it was 19°, which is a great day in the state of Mississippi, down south along the Gulf Coast. But there’s no snow, warms up beautifully with the sunshine and everybody’s saying, oh wait till it gets cold, wait till it gets cold. I mean, how cold? -10, -20? ft of snow? Y’all like that stuff.
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah. So what I have noticed over the past 25 plus years that I have hunted here is, what’s very important, if you are going to kill ducks in Colorado and have like a world class hunting day, we need a couple feet of snow on the Eastern plains of Montana where these birds can’t find food and then they’ll push all the way down to Colorado. And then you need an ugly day here, iron skies, wind blowing, blizzard. The nastier, the better. These birds all come to the river and it can be like cheating on certain days.
Ramsey Russell: That’s when it gets really good.
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: Are you a fisherman?
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah, I love to fish.
Ramsey Russell: I have heard you talk about fishing along the way.
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah, I worked for Trout Unlimited for a couple of years after I worked for the Division of Wildlife too. So, big fisherman, I grew up spin fishing and catching warm water fish in Minnesota. I was one of those kids that every morning I was up at 7:00 AM or 6:00 AM. I couldn’t wait to go out and fish. I’d find a dock some place, and try to catch fish. But since I moved out here, I kind of got into the fly rod thing, the fly-fishing thing, and that’s been a gas. That takes you to some beautiful places. And they’re beautiful fish. There’s a little bit more science to it, matching a hatch and all that kind of stuff, and nymph in and figuring out what to use. It’s a little bit more cerebral than just sinking a leech to the bottom of the lake, so.
Ramsey Russell: I know you are from Minnesota. So you probably grew up ice fishing.
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: Y’all like fish out here too?
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah, there’s a lot of ice fishing out here, especially with the mountain reservoirs. But yeah, I get a kick out of ice fishing. I know there’s a lot of people don’t understand it, but they say it’s just an excuse to drink during the day. But I love ice fishing. I think it’s one of the best things you can do with young kids, because you get out in the middle of the ice as long as the ice is safe and an ice shanty or whatever. And you can let kids run, you can see them run for miles, they’re not going to get in any trouble. And they love seeing what’s pulling on the line through the hole in the ice, and seeing what’s coming out of the hole, and it’s just a great activity. I think you meet some interesting people, it’s kind of a fraternity of people that ice fish and I have had a great time ice fishing.
Ramsey Russell: What is the Perch Train?
Tyler Baskfield: Perch Train? I don’t know if it’s still on operation. But when I lived in Minnesota, one of our bucket list items was to be on the Perch Train. There was a train that left Minneapolis and would head to the Devil’s Lake, North Dakota, and it was full of ice fishermen, and all they would target is perch, and they would come back with tons of perch, and do fish fries all summer long with those perch. We used to have a great recipe for perch filets where you take the cheapest mustard you can find in a grocery store, that yellow mustard, like French’s Yellow Mustard, and a little bit of pancake batter, and throw that in a plastic bag, and then dump those filets into a fish fryer. It’s the best tasting fish you’ll have. I mean, I don’t know if I can compete with some of the shrimp and saltwater stuff that you guys catch down south. It doesn’t take much to meet the palate of Minnesota, I guess.
Ramsey Russell: Last night at dinner you were telling me you were fly fishing somewhere, and oh my gosh, you are talking about the breakfast special.
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah, at the Gunnison. So one of my favorite places to fish in Colorado’s Gunnison River, and on the Gunnison River is a place called the Gunnison Pleasure Park. And the Gunnison Pleasure Park will rent you a tuff shed for a night, about, I think it was 40 bucks a night at the time. It was 40 bucks a night. And you pile in there with a bunch of guys and then they jet boat you up to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and you fish your way down, float down. And there was this character at the place, guy named Leroy Jagodzinski, and he was awesome. He would help everybody there. And it was kind of his operation, but there was a little bar, restaurant slash sporting goods store at the Gunnison Pleasure Park. And when you walk in there, they have one of those dry erase board signs, and this would be like 5:30 in the morning when everybody was getting ready, and there’d be a bunch of fly-fishing guides kind of chaining themselves at the bar there, and eating some breakfast. And sign would say “Breakfast Special: Fig Newton and a shot of whiskey for $1.” That’s the way they start the day. You are in for a long day then.
Evolving as a Duck Hunter
But really, the people that you spend time with, if they’re good people, you can find out a lot about people in a duck blind, it’s kind of like eating dinner with them.
Ramsey Russell: Oh my gosh, one thing I have enjoyed over our phone conversations and the last few days hunting with you, we duck hunt, we talk about family, we talk about duck hunting, duck hunting styles, calling styles, decoys. But like myself, it seems to be that a lot of your outdoor pursuits are about people and about places. And that’s weird. We are out here duck hunting, but the ducks are almost on the back seat. Do you find that to be true?
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah, Especially the older I get. I kind of feel like, as a hunter, you evolve. And I definitely went through that phase where it wasn’t a great day unless you had a strap full of ducks, or limit full of ducks, and all that stuff, but, as you get older, you evolve, and there’s something that’s a little bit more pure about it. And yeah, it’s cliché to say it, but it’s wonderful to watch the sun rise over the mountains like we saw this morning and all that. But really, the people that you spend time with, if they’re good people, you can find out a lot about people in a duck blind, it’s kind of like eating dinner with them. You can find out a lot about the way what their ethics are, how they carry themselves through their lives. And I think you got to evolve as a hunter, and it becomes about other things, maybe working a couple of mallards just perfect, and maybe that’s all the ducks that you get in front of you that day but if they did it textbook, you can take some pride in that. I don’t know, becomes a lot about teaching your kids about nature. That’s a big deal for me, and my boys are nine and seven right now, and I’m trying to put as much nature in front of them as possible. Get them to camp, and get them fishing, give them the sickness, right? Let’s get them out in the woods. I think it makes better people. But yeah, as a hunter, you got to evolve. And I have never been impressed by people who are chest beating about how many ducks they’ve killed or how good a duck hunters they are. You and I were talking about dogs, sure way that, you are going to have a rough day with the dog is when the guy comes out of his truck and tells, let me tell you about this dog here, how good he is. As soon as that starts up, you are never going to see that dog again for the next four hours of pheasant hunting, or whatever the case is, more people brag about their dogs, the more they chest beat.
There’s Nothing Better Than Watching a Good Dog Work
But I love going out and spending a day with a good dog, good company, good people, and good setting.
Ramsey Russell: Man, look, I have owned and hunted with, including no Char Dawg, there some damn good dogs, but at the end of the day you got to remember, they’re just a dog. I bet a dog like a kid, they’ll embarrass you if they can, you know what I’m saying? They have a bad day. Every day with my dog, I just take it moment by moment and just hope it all works out.
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah, but they’re the best. You talk about taking joy out of duck hunting man. There’s nothing better than watching a good dog work.
Ramsey Russell: A good hunting dog is to me the most willing and enjoyable accomplishment you’ll ever have in life. I mean, I know why I duck hunt. I don’t know why she does. I don’t know why she hits that cold water, or that fast current, or whatever with the absolute passion that she does, but it’s what she’s born to do, and she don’t care if we shoot a duck or shoot 100 ducks, she’s just glad to be there with me. You know what I’m saying? I love adding a dog.
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah. I have been fortunate. I have had a couple of good ones. I like training them myself. And you’ll find that all of a sudden, you’ll be working on a dog and they’ve got all the potential in the world. But then life comes up and hits you with some other issues. Like I remember this dog that I hunt with now, my pup now, his name is Dutch. He was, unfortunately for Dutch, because he had all the potential in the world, but I had kids when he was a young pup, and trying to take care of that on the home front, and have two little ones, and then at the same time training a duck dog is a pretty tough task. So any faults that this dog has is probably due to me. But I love going out and spending a day with a good dog, good company, good people, and good setting.
The Best Kept Secret in Decoys: The Flashback
It’s ingenious. How in the world did you come up with that idea?
Ramsey Russell: Nothing better. I’ll tell you a story, getting back kind of the mate of today’s topic I want to talk about, is I had seen somewhere along the way it was a your product advertised. I had just seen it in social media and looked at it, looked at the website. There’s a lot of junk out there, so I just put it on the back burner, and man, that is a good looking decoy. Break, months later, we are hunting on Flag Lake up in Washington County, I believe. Mississippi up in the Delta. Beautiful morning. It’s clear. It’s cold. Ducks were stale. It was late season. One much wind blowing. And I got invited to go with a good friend of mine, Dr. Sam Pierce, and some of his buddies, and I knew some of them. We get out there, and we stand in Cyprus, and we throw out some decoys, and the lake is just kind of rimmed with ice but out in the middle it’s just this beautiful placid oxbow. One of them breaks out that decoy and throws it out there, and we were feather pillow and ducks coming into it. You had to call quietly, not call much, just let them, if they’re working, shut up, because they had heard and seen it all. This was late January. And the ducks we killed were coming right into that real life like rippling effect. And finally, one of the boys, man, where’d you get that decoy? What is that decoy called? And the guy was like, man, screw you, this is my secret. You want to find this decoy, you find yourself, I ain’t telling nobody about it. Well I’m sitting there looking at it, going, this thing works. I like to look, and I didn’t say a word cause I’m like him. I’m like, let them find it on their own. I’m going to go find this decoy. I know I have seen it before, and I went and bought one, and then I bought another, and then you and I got to chat. And it really is a very ingenious decoy. Unlike a lot of – I have had a lot of motion decoys. I use a pull string. The problem with a pull string I have had, and I love the pull string, the problem with a pull string is, ducks are working, I’m yanking on a pull string, I need three hands for the pull string and the gun because at some point time I got to put both hands on my gun to kill that duck. And if I have got a pull string over here and I’m trying to call him, you know what I’m saying? It becomes complicated.
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah, I have never been a good enough puppeteer to run all that stuff.
Ramsey Russell: No. I need a third hand or I need a buddy pulling that pull string and let him worry about that when it does come in. I got both hands on my gun. But you know, like, some of the motion decoys I have used in the past, I like the sputter flutters, but they throw so much water, so much motion at times. It’s not good. And then a lot of the swimming, chugging, whatever type of decoys, I have seen it. You know, down the deep South especially, we’ve got duckweed, we’ve got submerged, aquatic. It doesn’t take much to clog up ports, and then I have just got something out there making battery noises that ain’t doing nothing. The Flashback decoy kicks ass. That’s all I can say. It is a very lifelike motion and I have never put it out that just like those boys on Flag Lake that morning didn’t want to share what it is and where can they get one, because it is so lifelike, it puts out a good ripple. But now I’m going to back up that this is not a big endorsement, but it is. How in the world did you come up with that idea?
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah. So-
Ramsey Russell: -It’s ingenious. How in the world did you come up with that idea?
Tyler Baskfield: Well, I appreciate that, Ramsey, that you say that. That’s flattering to hear, especially from a guy like you. But so I was out here and I was hunting, this is back when I worked for the Division of Wildlife. You know the way my farm situated here is we’re kind of in a holding, in a huge landowner’s area, and he doesn’t allow hunting on his acreage. So I’m essentially surrounded by sanctuary sloughs, warm water sloughs. Where in Colorado, the ducks really like to sit on a warm water slough and loaf. And I was hunting one day, hundreds of mallards flying over me at 100 and 50 yards, and they would not stop. I put out more decoys, you go through the whole checklist, put out less decoys, move decoys over here, try spinning wings, try this, try that, try that. And I just could not turn these mallards. And it was the most frustrating thing that’s, like, even worse than not seeing ducks, right?
Designed in a Dream & Built in a Bathtub
All of a sudden, with two of these out on this pond in the late season, we were turning groups of 20 mallards. I knew we were onto something.
Ramsey Russell: You got this little pothole, I’m assuming the one we hunted this morning. There’s a lot of cattails. It’s down out of the wind, which is where ducks want to loaf. But because of that environmental condition, it’s pretty still water.
Tyler Baskfield: Oh yeah. I would say it’s like less than two acres and it takes a 40 mile an hour wind to put a ripple on that little wetland there. So I went home and it was frustrating day and I’m like, you check yourself a little bit as a duck hunter. What am I doing wrong? Am I calling too much? I might not. It’s frustrating when you don’t feel like you are good at your craft. So took a nap because it was an early morning to start with. And while I was napping, I just woke up from this nap after having this dream and I had the idea of the Flashback and that night I put together.
Ramsey Russell: What did you what idea did you have? What were you envisioning that became the Flashback? What were you thinking? You were thinking about motion on the water, what were you thinking?
Tyler Baskfield: Well I wanted it to be realistic. I wanted to create a feeding decoy that was realistic. Not just a water feature, or water fountain, or moving water around, but I wanted them to see the flash of the black and white on the back of the mallard. I assume like other wildlife, ducks get competitive when they see other ducks feeding, they have to know that it’s a safe spot and that there’s a food source there. So I thought, if we put that together, and we actually made a motion decoy that looked like a realistic feeding duck, we’d be on to something. And it was more so I could kill these ducks that were passing up my little wetland here, so I wasn’t thinking about business or inventing anything. I just wanted a product that would help my hunting here.
Ramsey Russell: Just like any other hunter, I want something that will make me more productive.
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah, that’s right. So that night after I woke up from that nap with kind of this flash of here’s what it looks like. And what I compared it to, I don’t know if this is going to sound crazy, but there’s an episode of the Simpsons where he’s got one of these things that looks like a bird that its head fills up with water, and it comes down, and dabs nicely in the water, runs out, and comes back up, you kind of see him an Oriental garden, and that kind of thing. Simpson was using it to push a key on his keyboard, so he didn’t have to go to work, right? And I was like, if I could make something that did that, I’d be on to something. And I filled up my bathtub at home, of all things, if you can believe it, and with a piece of Styrofoam, and a couple of pieces of metal, and some nuts and bolts, I put together this thing. It would flop the head down, and sure enough, the ass end of this piece of Styrofoam would flop up in the tub, just like a feeding duck, like a dabbling duck. And I was like, I got to keep going with this. And so I started chasing it and talked to a bunch of different engineering groups and we started putting stuff together. It took a couple of couple of years R&D to get this thing right. And finally, we’re hunting over and watching these things, these prototypes, these 3-D printed prototypes that I had. All of a sudden, with two of these out on this pond in the late season, we were turning groups of 20 mallards. I knew we were onto something.
From Prototype to Product
I want craftsmen making these things, and I wanted to feel good when people open the box and pull this thing out.
Ramsey Russell: What was it like, how did you go from your bathtub to a homemade prototype out here on your pond to like a full-blown development scale? What were some of the obstacles? Who did you reach out to? What were some of the setbacks? What were some of the successes? How do you go from there to here? How do you go from your bathtub to a product?
Tyler Baskfield: You know, I knew the concept was good. Like, the physics of the concept was good. I knew it would work if we could dial it in right. And the biggest part of that equation is honestly my wife. My wife’s name is Heidi. And I came home to her one day, and you are never going to believe this, but I said, Heidi, I want to quit my good State job and start making these things. And she didn’t throw me out of the house. She said, okay, what can I do to support you? Which is unbelievable, unbelievable. I mean, most of people I told about this idea, they said, oh, you are going to become the Duck Commander, and all the nonsense starts, right? And, it’s tough, your ego takes a little bit of blow. And everyone’s like, why would you leave the Division of Wildlife to go start doing that?
Ramsey Russell: Paycheck every two weeks.
Tyler Baskfield: It’s been a ride. I mean we worked with some engineers that, honestly between you and me, I wanted to choke out. We spent tens of thousands of dollars on prototypes and everything else, and they would never get it right. I don’t speak engineering. I’m a work, pray, save type of guy. I’m pretty simple, black and white type guy and I’m not definitely not a physics major or anything like that. But trying to get this thing right, it was a task. But I couldn’t be more proud of our product. You have seen our factory. I have got a bunch of great craftsmen working for me.
Ramsey Russell: Wait a minute, wait a minute. When you are sitting there working them engineers – you were telling me the story about one of them asked you a question, and it just really hit home with me yesterday. You gave me the little tour of a very homespun modest shop that you are turning this stuff out in, and along the way you said something to the effect about – and this just blew my mind, Tyler, because in this day and age of disposability, I mean, nobody really goes to Walmart, or anywhere, and buys the product. Like I’m sitting here looking at some old wooden family decoys on your wall that are still around 50 to 100 years later. Nobody really goes and buys anything and expects it to last forever. And yesterday we were walking through and looking at how you are putting these decoys together. You said I want this to last forever. I want it to be durable and I want it to last forever. I want somebody to take this out of the box and shoot ducks for the rest of their lives with this thing. What was one of the questions you told me about that an engineer asked you?
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah, this engineer across the table from me, kind of geeky little kid, but nice enough kid. But he said, have you ever thought about planned obsolescence.
Ramsey Russell: Planned obsolescence. What is planned obsolescence?
Tyler Baskfield: Planned obsolescence is we plan for the fact that this is going to break and your customer’s going to buy another one in a year from now. And I said, engineering kid, I’m not even sure what your name is, but if you talk about planned obsolescence in my company, it’ll get you fired. I just don’t buy into that.
Ramsey Russell: I mean there was a time in America that it was bought to last forever.
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: That’s what made America great. I’m going to turn out a great product, it’s going to be the best, and it’s going to last forever. And we still see them. I mean, my gosh, man, back in the day, I still walk into some people’s grandmama’s house and they got a 70 year old refrigerator that still keeps drinks cold. I mean, I wonder how much quote planned obsolescence is built into a lot of American products or a lot of product in general now.
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah, I think it’s built into a lot of stuff. And I’m a contrarian. I like to zig when everybody else is zagging. I feel like all of our products have planned obsolescence, the vast majority of our products as a country have planned obsolescence.
Ramsey Russell: I have noticed – as a sidebar – I have noticed too. I’m certain a lot of this stuff is planned obsolescence. You start talking about a pickup truck, or some of this kind of stuff here with the services, it’s a big income on some of these big-ticket items. But you always hear this Made in China, and I know we’re going to talk about that in a minute, and some of the stuff, a lot of the products out here in the outdoor world is cheaply made. And I have become aware of the fact it’s not, how am I trying to say this Tyler? Distribution, middleman. If you want to be in the big catalog, you want to get done. They got to make their money. So you come up to them and say, I have got this product and I’d like to sell it in your catalog and they say, great, we can sell it for $152. So you got to give it to us where we can make our 40% margin and you make your margin. You say, well, I got more money than that tied up in the cost. So then you got to go to China, say, well, I can’t afford $150 a unit turnkey. I have got to make it for $79. And they shrug and say, we can make it for $79. It’s going to be a piece of shit. That really is kind of what we’re dealing with a lot in this modern era. We’re not just building product. We’ve got to build products that satisfies everybody’s margin, so that we can scale and get it out to market. Is that kind of kind of right, isn’t it?
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah. I think you are dead on. I’m not a business genius by any means Ramsey. But I will tell you this, I had to learn some tough lessons. I knew right away that painting was our big labor cost, right? And I thought, well if I can get the painting done in China, we could save a ton of money, and then we can put these things out, and the lifeblood of it’s the motor. So we’ll do that, we’ll make the motor here and we’ll have these things painted in China and I can save on labor. So I ordered a couple of shipping containers full of pre-painted decoys, and got samples and all that stuff. And sure enough, six months later, and tons of money later, two shipping containers full of junk shows up. And I said, never again, never again. We learned a hard lesson that way. It was just junk. I want craftsmen making these things, and I wanted to feel good when people open the box and pull this thing out. We talked about, we started a conversation about family. How much time do you get to hunt with your family when you really think about it? how much time do you get to spend with your boys in the duck blind?
Ramsey Russell: Not enough.
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah. So the last thing you want to have happen when you get everybody’s schedules on, and people are traveling from all over the country, and you get your plan together, you get your family together and you are out there hunting, is to have something break it on you. It drives me crazy. It’s a pet peeve of mine. So I can’t stand crappy hunting and fishing equipment. You don’t get enough time to hunt and fish anyway, so to have a piece of equipment blow up on you is the worst possible case scenario.
Zig When Others are Zagging
I mean, it’s a finite experience at best and I want every experience to count. That’s why to hear a guy like yourself say, I want to turn out this product, and I wanted it to last, and I want it to be the best, and I want it to increase people’s lives, it kind of resonates with me.
Ramsey Russell: I’m going to bring this home. My creed is “Life’s short, get ducks.” If you don’t duck hunt, life’s short, do what makes you happy, and do as much of it as humanly possible. I’ll never forget one time, way back in the chatroom days, I read this story, and this sums it up for me – I’m just going to take a sidebar and follow from what you just talked about. Think about this, there’s 365 days in a year, duck season in Mississippi’s 60 days let’s say, under liberal framework. I have got a job, I have got family obligations, I have got life, but I’m going to steal away as many days, doing what I really love to do which is duck hunting, that I humanly can. And back when I worked for the Federal government, that worked out to about 15 to 20 days a year. I got to really hunt Mississippi 15 or 20 times a year. Well, let’s take it to another level. The average life expectancy of a white male in America is 72 years. And we start thinking of 15 or 20 times a year and I have got 30 more years, let’s say, or 40 more years. 40 years a long time but it’s finite. 20 times 40 is 800. So just imagine if I put 800 marbles in a jar. That 800’s gone, boom, it’s over. It’s finite. It’s hard to think when I got 40 years from now, or 50 years from now, or 20 years from now, I duck hunt as much I can, but it really is kind of finite.
Tyler Baskfield: It’s tangible.
Ramsey Russell: It’s very tangible. If you were to convert that into little marbles in a jar and take one that every time you do something you love and when that jar is empty, you are living on borrowed time. And that brings home that whether you like a duck hunt, or play football, or whatever it is that you love to do. It’s a very finite experience. And there’s no guarantee that you are going to live to be average of 72 years old. You could pull out your driveway next day, get hit by a train. And that jar still got marbles in it, but you ain’t going to get to pull them out no more. It’s over. If you really can get your mind wrapped around, I guess because of my life experience, I can. By God, I’m going to make it count. I’m going to suck the marrow out of that bone, and I’m going to make it count. And that’s why I do want dependable product. I do want products and experiences that are going to enhance it. And make it better. It is a wasted day if my waiters leak. It doesn’t matter if they replace them later. By God, I just gave up one of marbles and I’m bald deep in ice cold water. This ain’t no fun. That’s my only point. I didn’t mean the sidebar. I mean, it’s a finite experience at best and I want every experience to count. That’s why to hear a guy like yourself say, I want to turn out this product, and I wanted it to last, and I want it to be the best, and I want it to increase people’s lives, it kind of resonates with me.
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah. That’s reflected in our customer service too as we set up this company. Like you said, there’s only so many days in a duck season. On the off chance that we do have a piece of problem equipment that we’ve sold to somebody, I tell my guys who work for me, the most important thing we can do is handle it quickly, and get them a new decoy, or a new motor, or whatever the case may be. But get it to them quickly. If we get to the point where we can get drones hovering over a duck line and dropping down a new battery or whatever, we’ll do that, but it’s so critical to get this equipment working, and that way people can get back to focusing in on their family and their friends that they hunt with. I don’t know, I think it’s all part of the equation. I like to zig when everybody else is zagging. It feels like there’s a lot of Chinese made stuff out there that you fight with and struggle with. Life’s too short. There’s not enough time in duck blinds.
Ramsey Russell: How long after you came up with that idea and you realized you were onto something? And your buddies, chad and you about being the next, whatever. How long before you had that talk with Heidi about pushing in your chips and betting the farm, walking away from a secure government job to do this? How long a time was that?
Tyler Baskfield: If I remember correctly, it’s about two years. So I watched this thing and it all hinged on how ducks reacted to our prototypes. And I had three prototypes, I still have them by the way, they still run the 3-D printed prototypes. I took a business class at night on how to write a business plan with the Small Business Administration here in Denver. And honestly, I didn’t really get a whole lot out of that class, but I was surrounded by guys who wanted to start breweries and that kind of stuff. And I don’t know, I was kind of weighing it in my mind, is this a smart thing to do? I got kids on the way, I mean holy cow, there’s a lot of pressure, and this understanding wife. But that almost makes it worse if it turns into a disaster, right? So anyway, I was walking to the train from my business class that was downtown and I got a call on my cell phone. We had put up a video of one of the prototypes in a pond. I got a call from a guy named Keith Fransky, he’s a guy in Minnesota. He hunts down in the Mississippi River Valley. He’s a Sheriff’s deputy for Minnesota City, Minnesota. And I still know the guy, and he said I’d like to buy one of those, and I said I’m not selling them yet. He said, well you are crazy for not selling those things. He’s like I want to buy one of those things, I’m a diehard duck hunter, I want to buy one of those, tell me what it takes to get one of those. I said, well, give me some time. I’m just finishing up this business class and we’re going to get this thing rolling. He said, well, you keep up with what you are doing, keep taking it down that road, and I’ll be the first one to buy one of these things from you. So just like every other – Apple computers and everything else, I started making these things in my garage with a guy who still works for me. His name’s Steve. And I still talk to Keith Fransky on a regular basis. He’s still running two out of three decoys that were the first to run off of my assembly line, they are still working.
Ramsey Russell: So that’s five years later. And he was just super encouraging, like nobody understands how good people are in this fraternity of duck hunters. This guy, he really just kind of kicked me in the ass and said start that business. Enough with the business plans, enough with the nonsense on the side, just get that business rocking and rolling. So that’s what we did. So Keith, if you are listening to this, I appreciate what you did. There was like a JV football coach grabbing me by the facemask and saying get out there and do it.
Made in America
As I’m watching this unfold with a big American flag hanging over the door, and I’m just looking at it, man, this is made in America. This is seven or eight American families eating off of this idea, and they are committed to a quality.
Ramsey Russell: You got a real interesting thing going on. Walked into your shop yesterday, and small little modest shop, just what you expect from a startup company made in America, family group, small. Almost want to call you boutique but I don’t mean that in a bad way. My wife and I have got this company. We’ve been in business 20 years but it’s a very indie-type business. I mean, we’re experts but we’re so small we can respond quickly. We take it very personally. But just like when I walked into Ball Shot Shells for the first time, one of the first things I noticed in your shop was one of the first things I noticed in their shop. There’s this great big American flag. And it just kind of hits home. I mean, I have got an American flag hanging outside my home because my son is a US Marine. I don’t have one hanging in my office, but you do, they do, others do. What does it mean to you? And I understand some of your earlier setbacks and stuff like that. But what does it mean to you to be made in America?
Tyler Baskfield: It’s a big deal for me. And not so much like that it needs to reflect on every product ever made, I understand that there needs to be products made in other countries and that kind of thing. I’m a realist, I understand that. But when it comes to duck hunting, duck decoys, actually when it comes to art or anything, duck decoys are the first American folk art, right? And there’s an art to it. And we hear about decoys that sell for $1.2 million at some auction somewhere or whatever the case may be. It’s the first American folk art from those first grass decoys that were dug up in a cave in Arizona. And guys have been using decoys for a long time and I have always seen decoys around our family cabin, old ones, new ones, all that kind of stuff. And yeah, most decoys have gone the way of plastic. But you saw in our shop and this means a lot to me is that I actually have craftsmen and hand painted these things just like Old Mason decoys. And yeah, it’s mass production just like Old Mason decoys, but there are craftsmen doing it, and they’re doing it by hand. It’s kind of the way we tie back into the tradition of duck hunting because that’s an important part of duck hunting. Every duck hunter I know, and the vast majority of duck hunters I know, talk about tradition. My dad used to do this, my uncle did this, my uncle did this, or my brother does this, and generations ago they were hunting here and doing that. A huge part of hunting and fishing is tradition. And we put a burlap bag, you and I are talking about the burlap bag that I wrap these things in, and I want people to feel good, like somebody made this thing special for them when they open up one of our boxes. I don’t have fancy boxes with photos on it. Number one, this thing doesn’t look too sexy when it’s standing still, but it’s sexy as hell when it’s in the water working, so it doesn’t do me a whole lot of good to put fancy pictures on the side of it. But number two, you said sorry for calling us a boutique company, I want to be a boutique company. I want somebody to can’t wait to see that box show up on their doorstep.
Ramsey Russell: I asked you about that burlap sack because when I got the second version, when I reordered, they came with a burlap sack you put them in, and that does hearken. I mean, my granddad carried his decoys and burlap sacks covered his outboard motor in burlap sacks. And man, burlap sack decorated his duck blind, I mean covered up all the about a boat. Every burlap sack was like the material of a duck hunter. And you mentioned yesterday how it reflected, you got this modern technology, it’s a mechanical battery-operated decoy that’s very lifelike. But the functionality of that kind of reflects your old school ethos and your heartbeat in duck hunting. I think that that resonates a lot with me. I mean the whole purpose – you talk about those old canvasback decoys they found in that cave down, I think it was Nevada. I mean the purpose of a decoy since that mud covered, built out of reed decoy, was to attract ducks. That’s the whole purpose of whether it’s battery operated or not. The whole purpose of the decoy is to lure wild bird nearer to the shotgun for ethical shots. That’s it. That’s what decoy do. Yours’s does a very good job. Very life like. I don’t think ducks will ever figure out. It’s very simple in design. Very, very terribly simple in design. The head revolves through the body and makes it tip. It’s an engineering feat to me because when I plug this thing in and watch it, me holding it in my hands, the head doesn’t want to revolve like mechanical. It just, when you put it in the water and that body can move with it, then it does what it’s supposed to do and it tips. And then you have got that surfing, I can make a little adjustment with the wire and the head doesn’t spin, but it tries to move and it looks like the head underwater. And both of those just put lots of ripples on the water, lots of natural movement on the water. When I used to fly surveys with the Federal government looking down at ducks, you could always tell the difference in ducks versus decoys because a lot of times with the decoys the water was still around them. And when you got over a Willow thicket full of sanctuary looking down in ducks, the water was anything, but it was anything but clear. It was always muddy because ducks when they’re kicking and swimming and the water always had a ripple on it because the ducks are like, the birds constantly moved. They are always fidgeting. They are always printing, doing something. They are not ever just motionless unless they are asleep. And so from 500 to 1000 ft in the air, at a glance, I knew they were decoys. I knew they were real ducks and it all had to do with that movement.
Made to Last
I take it personally. I don’t want anybody ever saying that our decoy is junk, or not effective, or gave them problems, or anything like that.
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah. A couple of things on that front. Ramsey, you and I have talked about this, you know, at the same time that you got to respect tradition and it is important to hunt in a certain way and do things in a certain way, especially as you get older. Duck hunting especially is an arms race. I have talked about this, right?
Ramsey Russell: It’s an arms race.
Tyler Baskfield: And if somebody’s got something on the other side of the lake that you don’t have, you are in for a long day usually, especially if it’s effective as the Flashback is. But at the same time, it’s important that we acknowledge the tradition and that we just don’t have a cyborg duck out there. So, the other thing that I really take pride in is the interchangeability of the parts on the Flashback. As hunters and fishermen, we all treat our equipment differently. There’s some guys who are just particular when it comes to their equipment. They’re not going to let shotgun, bother their shotgun touch the ground of a blind or anything like that, right? There’s some guys who really pride themselves on how they take care of equipment. I have seen other people who can throw $2,000 shotgun in the back of the truck and have a dog stand on top of it. It doesn’t bother them at all. So people run the gamut in terms of how, how they take care of their equipment. So we know that eventually there’s going to be accidents and people are going to drop decoys off the back of their truck or whatever the case may be. We wanted to create a motion decoy where you could get just buy parts and very simply and intuitively change them yourself, where you are not sending the whole decoy back to the company, and paying for shipping, and all that stuff. Hey man, I dropped this decoy off or this Flashback off the back of my pickup truck the other day and somebody ran it over or whatever, can I get a new body? Yeah, you can get a new body. Yeah, you can get a new motor. You saw how slick these things work together.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, yeah.
Tyler Baskfield: Remove one bolt or one nut and you can replace any part of it.
Ramsey Russell: You know, yesterday went by your shop and you have got, I don’t know, seven or eight employees. And all the, very minimal, but all the pieces, this guy’s over here painting, this guy over here doing something else, this guy is doing something with the bodies. And then it starts kind of moving down this little casual production line, and all of the motor, and all the few pieces end up on this table. And this lady, I call her the Flashback whisperer, puts in the final piece, and she dropps it in the tub of water, and it swims, and while she’s putting the next one together, she picks the one that has been tested up, and she hands it off to the lady that boxes it. Every single one of those things gets float-tested, boom, right there on the water, and it works not just for a couple of seconds but for a few minutes. Every single one of them is tested. Why is that? It’s just hard for me to get my mind wrapped around with all this container’s worth of thousands, and thousands, and thousands of stuff coming out of China in a box that’s going direct from the container to the warehouse, to UPS, to the consumer. Here’s Tyler Baskfield with his own Flashback whisper, hand testing every single product before it goes to the box, wow. Why is that important to you?
Tyler Baskfield: It’s important to me.
Ramsey Russell: What do you care? What do you carry that some redneck down in Mississippi named Ramsey opened it up and it works or don’t works? You made your dollar, what do you care?
Tyler Baskfield: No, no. Look, I have explained to you, Ramsey, on how much effort I put in, and how much time I have spent sitting in reeds watching this thing work, and seeing how ducks react to it. I take it personally when somebody calls up and says, hey, my Flashback quit working. Like I almost, almost tailspin. Each one of these things is my babies. They might be kind of Frankenstein babies, but each one of these things is my babies and I feel like it’s my reputation on the line. In social media today, everybody knows the face behind stuff, right? Everybody knows what the catalyst was, who the catalyst is behind this thing. I take it personally. I don’t want anybody ever saying that our decoy is junk, or not effective, or gave them problems, or anything like that. And the other thing is, we’re asking people to pay a lot of money. They’re opening up their wallets pretty wide for these things when it comes to motion decoy. My part of that bargain is better be a damn good decoy. It better be built like a brick shithouse and that’s what this thing is. But you can ask the guys who work for me. If we get a call and somebody’s not pleased with this decoy, my day tanks. I’m kind of a wreck. I need a shot of Prozac and a shot of whiskey.
Ramsey Russell: Speaking of the people that work for you, how does it feel? I wondered yesterday, how did it feel knowing that those seven or eight families – I mean there’s not just seven or eight people working in the warehouse turning out a great product, with this idea you had as a duck hunter – you are now feeding seven or eight families. How does that feel?
Tyler Baskfield: It feels good. Feels like I’m on the right track in life.
Ramsey Russell: Because it just dawned on me yesterday as I was just sitting there, you were talking to somebody about something. I was just sitting there for a minute, taking it all in, and I could see seven or eight people doing their respective task, working together as a team quietly. Everybody seemed happy doing their job, doing it well, like the little lady sitting in the booth hand painting every single mallard. As I’m watching this unfold with a big American flag hanging over the door, and I’m just looking at it, man, this is made in America. This is seven or eight American families eating off of this idea, and they are committed to a quality. I don’t know, it just, man, it just gave me the feel goods.
Tyler Baskfield: Well, we talked about how we evolve as hunters, and I feel like you have to evolve as man too, and I’m not curing cancer or anything like that, I’m making good decoys. But I’m making good decoys with craftsmen, and these people take pride in what they do, and that’s a big deal.
Ramsey Russell: It’s a big deal.
Tips on Using the Indestructible Flashback
Other than that, you keep the didactic grease, and the connector connected, and make sure those cable glands are tight. This thing, grandkids might be hunting over it one day.
Tyler Baskfield: When what you do for a living gives meaning to your life, and these people can live vicariously when we get a video text to us with a bunch of kids with a bunch of ducks on strap or whatever, thanks to the Flashback. They take pride in that and they love it. And we have a good time at that warehouse. We have a good time at that factory. And these people find meaning in providing good products to duck hunters. And I have just been real fortunate, I have got a great team. We get some good kids, and if I can teach kids a little bit of a work ethic, and teach them what I have learned so maybe they don’t bang their head on the wall as many times as I did, and kind of groom these kids to, to understand that life’s about persistence and hard work. You don’t have to be the smartest guy. You don’t have to be the handsomest guy. It’s about persistence and not giving up on hard work.
Ramsey Russell: You know, Duck Season Somewhere podcast is sponsored by very few people. And I think you have learned, I think the people I work with have learned my soul can’t be bought. The sponsors on this podcast are products that I believe in. I used Benelli 20 years before I ever talked to them about anything. I used your product and believed in it. It was my secret weapon before you called me up one day because you listen to our podcast and wanted to be a part of it. My soul can be bought, but it ain’t going to be a free coat or a free shotgun, let me tell you that son. It’s going to be Powerball stuff. And I mean we all got a price, right, that $250 million-dollar Powerball, I might sell a piece of it to that. But short of that, we’ve all got principles. I believe in what I use. And it goes back to the finiteness of the experience that I want to have in my life. I’m going to ask you this some practical questions because since I have started using your product and started talking about it on social media stuff, I love it. Every time I set that decoy in the water, the people around me like, where’d you get that? Where do I get that? What is that? It’s just a visceral reaction. They want it. But there are some practical questions I’d like to ask. I know people are asking themselves. Shine, does it shine? Why isn’t it flocked? What’s up with that?
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah. So, version one, we just painted the Styrofoam that the decoys made out of Styrofoam and plastic that the decoys made out of. I wasn’t thrilled with it. Number one, it wasn’t durable. You couldn’t bang it around in a duck boat without it getting scratched up and that kind of thing, and that drives me a little bit crazy. So I looked into solutions. Back when Covid hit, supply chain broke down and I knew we weren’t going to be able to get a bunch of Flashbacks on the shelves right away. So I said, now’s my window of opportunity to pivot and make the second version even better, and do some R&D and get this second version better. So I went in to make a bunch of changes. We went to a lithium battery and we also went to a truck bed coating. A gentleman down from your neck of the woods called me up and he was talking to me about the original Flashback, and he was saying there’s too much shine on that. And he said, you know what we say down here, shine’s for drinking, not for decoys. And it was a good quote. I should have that up on a banner in our factory. So I looked into solutions and we found our truck bed coating, and man it knocks down the shine. It’s good. It’s just makes it a way more durable decoy. And it feels good when you pick it up, even out of the water.
Ramsey Russell: It does. It got a little grip to it and you come a long way since the first time with that outer. I call it a turtle shell you have got on it. It’s bulletproof, there’s not much on it that can break at all. Several listeners and associates of mine, they hunt in brackish and saltwater, and anytime you get moving pieces of electronics and everything else – I mean, I have gotten four or five inboxes in the last few hours, since last night, about, will it last in saltwater? Will it last with junk? Will it break? Is it going to last forever? But what about saltwater? How are these going? They all listed name brand products out there that they had used in the past that did not last at all in saltwater. With the Flashback decoy, how is it going to hold up in brackish or saltwater?
Tyler Baskfield: It’s going to hold up beautifully. It’s going to hold up beautifully. Let me tell you. So here’s what I recommend if you are hunting, and we’ve got guys who hunt in the Chesapeake Bay, we’ve got guys who are on the Texas coast who have tons of our decoys, and they’re thrilled with them. Big thing is like anything else that you use next to saltwater, in saltwater, like fly rods, or anything else, you wash it off with clean water. And the other big thing that we do is each decoy comes with a little, what would you say, pouch, of didactic grease. That’s the same grease that you put on like trailer lights before you plug them in and it just helps that electrical current a little bit. But what that prevents is within the connector, if you smear that didactic grease in there, and I mean take it in there, take all that grease in there, that prevents water from hitting that connector at all. And when that saltwater hits anything metal, obviously it corrodes really quick. So that didactic grease is just a shield, a force field against water hitting that, like you and I talked about earlier. Once you make that connection, use the battery as the off on switch, and not the connector as the off on switch, if that makes sense to you, Ramsey. So you are not unplugging this, that connection is real stiff and it’s got that screw on cap cover thing there that prevents any water from getting in there. And then the grease is the kind of final guardian there from preventing water to get in. But use the dry box and the battery to turn off and on the decoy. That’s the easiest way.
Ramsey Russell: I’m glad to have that advice because I keep mine in two pieces and every morning when I get ready to run, and I put it together, I wondered what that little patch of fluid in there was. I had no idea. I thought it would just loop to kind of make the pieces go together good. I didn’t know I was supposed to cover my contact with it. I do now. And I like the idea because you are waterproof, self-contained battery boxes, the anchor, and that makes perfect sense. I can just hook the battery up, shut the box, drop it, boom, it’s done. And now I’m just carrying it all in one piece. I think that’s the smartest advice. I asked you why not have just an on-off switch? Why not just have the whole thing together and click on and off? And you had a very good answer. It’s the truth because I can’t tell you how many other electronic products have an on-off switch that everybody’s cut it out and just start wiring direct to the battery, and it’s a weak point. It’s a weak linkage. It’s just another something that can break or get damaged.
Tyler Baskfield: Instead of going through all the effort to design and something that isn’t a weak point, which is really difficult to do. Simpler is always better, especially when it comes to hunting and fishing in my mind. That’s kind of been my philosophy with it. So, the other thing is as far as maintenance on these things, after the season’s over, just hand test each cable gland. There’s two cable glands, one on the battery box and one on the decoy itself. Hand test, make sure they’re tight. Other than that, you keep the didactic grease, and the connector connected, and make sure those cable glands are tight. This thing, grandkids might be hunting over it one day.
Words of Business Wisdom
Put out a good product and follow it through.
Ramsey Russell: That’s something else. Grandkids might be hunting over a mechanical decoy. That’d be something else. That would be something else. Your dad wasn’t a stupid businessman. You’ll spend a lot of time together, and just along the way we’ve talked about your dad, off and on, and some of the things he said to you, and some of the things he shared. And I just made a note here as we were talking earlier, you are a grown man, you got a family, you are building a business. Made in America. Durability. Last forever. Generational type stuff. What were some of the words of wisdom or just something you remember some advice your dad gave you that still stuck with you? Did you find yourself pulling from as you are doing this business?
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah. Obviously, my dad was a big influence on my life and he always had these great sayings, he was kind of larger than life himself, and always had great quotes. Was just a heck of a resource for great quotes, but he said, Tyler, the fact that you are starting your own business is wonderful. He said, remember now, 2% of the people out there try to screw you. If you do it right, then the other 98% will make you rich. And he said, at the end of the day, most people are good people. He said, treat them right. Put out a good product and follow it through.
Ramsey Russell: That’s a good word to advise.
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah. It’s a magic formula, right? If you think about the products that you buy in your life, they all seem to kind of follow that formula at least the ones that you buy repeatedly.
Ramsey Russell: I think there’s a lot of truth that. I really do. I think you got to treat people good and right. And I think that some people just, like somebody told me, some fatherly advice at one time, and said, man, you got a great job but it’s going to sometimes suck because you deal with people. A few people suck. You can take that to any profession, anything in the world, and that’s going to be true. Some people just have a bad day, when you have to deal with them, they’re having a bad day. But yeah, I mean, I think you do right, and do good by people, and good and right will come.
Tyler Baskfield: I’ll tell you this, though, and you and I were kind of talking about this earlier while we were in the blind, but we belong to a pretty cool fraternity of people, this duck hunting crowd. The men and women who duck hunt are fantastic people, and understanding people, and overall are just a good group of people. And there’s nothing worse than spending the morning in a duck blind with somebody who’s a first grade A-hole. But the vast majority of people that I deal with, I think are really good people and they’re family people.
Ramsey Russell: I think it’s because duck hunters are optimists.
Tyler Baskfield: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: It’s 70° tomorrow afternoon, but I’m going duck hunting, and I’m going because it’s going to be a good day.
Tyler Baskfield: It’s always water levels and weather, and hope springs eternal for duck hunters.
Ramsey Russell: Hope springs eternal for duck hunters. Yep. Real quick, Tyler, how can everybody get in touch with you?
Tyler Baskfield: Flashbackdecoys.com is our website. Flashbackdecoys.com. We have our contact number which escapes my brain right now, it’s on our website, but Flashbackdecoys.com. Check us out. We’ve got an Instagram account. We’ve got all kinds of stuff happening here. We’re really proud of our decoys. We’re going to keep growing, we’re going to grow in a good way. So we keep our product quality high and keep people working here in the United States.
Ramsey Russell: It was great to meet you and spend some time. I enjoyed being here in your cabin. And I enjoyed getting to see this stuff up front, seeing where it came from, and meeting you, Tyler. I have enjoyed the last couple of days meeting with you. Thank you for being on the podcast. And folks, thank y’all for listening to this episode of Duck Season Somewhere. We’ll see you next time.