Terry Denmon, Mojo Outdoors, and Ramsey Russell remember their good friend, the late Mike Morgan. They recall memorable times duck hunting together and make plans for the future.
Team Mojo Travels and Sheltering in Place
“It’ll wear you down. But if I stay home about ten days, I’m ready to go again.”
Ramsey Russell: I’m your host, Ramsey Russell. Join me here to listen to those conversations. Man, what a beautiful day it is today. It’s the middle of April, the sun’s shining, and it’s 50° in the state of Mississippi. It’s just a beautiful, beautiful spring day. We’ve been sheltered in place for two months; starting to get antsy. I’m visiting today with my friend Terry Denmon from Mojo Outdoors. How are you, Terry?
Terry Denmon: I am great today, Ramsey, and yourself?
Ramsey Russell: I’m fine. What’s it like over in Monroe? Nice, I think.
Terry Denmon: Oh, yeah, it’s great over here. I think it was 39° at first light this morning. It’s up to about 50-something now, so it’s kind of cool for this time of year. I don’t think it’s doing the turkey hunting a whole lot of good, but it makes the weather awful pleasant.
Ramsey Russell: Yes, sir. Tell me, are you getting antsy with this shelter in place order? Just having to stay at home like the rest of the world?
Terry Denmon: Well, two weeks ago, I think it was, I was supposed to go to South Texas to go turkey hunting. Mike Morgan and I hunted the same place last year, and I killed four turkeys on the first day. I was really looking forward to that, and then Texas shut their border with Louisiana and I couldn’t get there. Well, Team Mojo, which is Kyle and Nate and Jared and all those guys, were going to kind of work their way North. They were going to be in North Texas next, and they were going to go to the Turkey Fest that we do every year in Clay County, Henrietta, Texas. They were going to a place Kyle’s got up in Oklahoma, and then they’re going to leave there and go stay with our buddy Romo up in northern Kansas. All three of those states have shut their borders to Louisiana. It really doesn’t have anything to do with the part of Louisiana I’m in. I’m in rural North Louisiana, but New Orleans was a hot spot, so I guess they just had to shut everybody from Louisiana out. I’ve been here since late February. We’re in the middle of April now. That’s probably the longest I’ve been here since I’ve been in the TV business.
Ramsey Russell: My goodness. You travel as much as I do, Terry. A lot of years you hunt and you go and see a bunch of things. Are you starting to get stir crazy yet, or are you glad for the break?
Terry Denmon: Well, actually, I was glad for the break, believe it or not. It kind of brings up an interesting story. I was at a duck lodge in Mexico in February. They picked me up at the airport in Brownsville, Texas, and when I pulled up in front of the lodge and got out of the van, this guy walked over to me and introduced himself and said, “You know, I’m here because of you.” He had a whole group of people there with him. That always makes me a little nervous. I think, “Oh, I hope the hunt comes out good.” Anyway, every night in the lodge, that guy would come over and talk to me. He said, “You love doing what you’re doing?” And, actually, the answer’s yes. I do love what I’m doing. I said, “No, I hate it. But after I’ve been home about ten days, I’m ready to go again.” The travel like you and I travel, Ramsey, is not the same as being a tourist traveling. There’s so much pressure and so many hours. It’s so demanding and so extraneous. It’ll wear you down. But if I stay home about ten days, I’m ready to go again.
Ramsey Russell: Well, that’s the way I describe it. I will say honestly that I love what I do. I love everything about what I do. I could not have said this late February, but around the second week of March, I just realized that I had started to burn out. Not from duck hunting. Oh, Lord, I’ll never burn out from that. Just from traveling. To get so many places, to get down to Mexico; if you start adding up all the cumulative hours that you’re in an airport and packing and under the gun and doing this and flying— Just cumulatively, it’s stressful.
Terry Denmon: It absolutely is, Ramsey.
Ramsey Russell: It just gets you away from your normal routine.
Terry Denmon: Just to go duck hunting is one thing. People like you and I could never get tired of that, but to go hunting when the pressure’s on you to accomplish something makes it a whole new world. I have all kinds of people, and I’m sure you do too, who tell me, “I want to do what you do.” I say, “Well, you might want to think about that again. It ain’t always so green on the other side of the fence.” That’s because of the pressure to accomplish something.
Ramsey Russell: That’s right. I always worry about my clients. I always hope it’s going to be like they want it to be. It is pressure, it is stress, but it’s good stress. I’m not complaining. But the entire world stopped spinning, and, whether I like it or not, I had stopped spinning with it, too. It really gave me a break to go back and examine things around the house that had been neglected, examine things in my business that I just hadn’t had time to pay attention to. I look at it like it’s just giving me an opportunity to sort through all my tool sheds and to rest up and to get ready for the next planting season. That’s the way I’m looking at it. I’m really kind of embracing it as an opportunity. But I ain’t going to lie to you; two months into this thing, I’m ready to roll. I’m ready to go pack my bags and go to duck season somewhere. Dying if I’m lying, I’m ready to go. Starting to get stir crazy, Terry.
Terry Denmon: Well, you and I were lining up to go to Argentina. Now, all that’s a great uncertainty. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We don’t know if we’ll get to Argentina this year or not. We have to start thinking about, “Well, if we can’t get there this year, we’ll get there next year.” You and I live in the Deep South, and once you get to, say, late May or early June, the heat becomes a factor. Let’s call it a factor. The heat becomes a factor all the way through the month of August and on into September. So our relief, for people like me and you, has been to go south of the equator, where it’s wintertime in our summertime. It doesn’t look like, maybe, we’re going to get to do that this year.
Ramsey Russell: Nope. That’s kept us pretty darn busy, because the whole entire world is sheltered in place. All international borders are sealed, coming and going. At least through May, we’ve been having to defer a lot of our clients. We spent the first few weeks putting together contingency plans. We’ve got a lot of our clients deferred to the following year. That’s keeping us kind of busy right now. I will say, as summer’s approaching, that it’s been a long, long time since I spent the entirety of a Mississippi summer in Mississippi. That’s the advantage of Duck Season Somewhere; you’re always in duck season. I like that duck season weather. Terry, are you at the office today? What’s going on in the world of Mojo with this Wuhan Flu going around? What’s that done for y’all?
Effects of Covid on Mojo Outdoors & Business in General
“We’re carrying on business out there, but we’re carrying it on in totally different ways.”
Terry Denmon: Well, as you know, Ramsey, I’ve got more than one business. I have an engineering business, and I have the Mojo business. They’re radically different types of businesses. I only bring up the engineering business because, under the lockdown orders that we are under in the state of Louisiana as issued by the governor, some businesses are called “essential,” and they’re not forced to do the lockdown. The engineering business is that way. Mojo is not considered essential. Who would think that making duck decoys wouldn’t be at the top of the list? I don’t know what their thought process was. I don’t know what they were thinking when they decided that. Nevertheless, it’s not considered an essential business, so we’re forced to go into the lockdown mode. Now, the lockdown mode does not require that you close your business, and we certainly have not. It requires that you minimize your business and lock the doors to the public. So that’s what we’ve done. Everybody that can is working from home. We haven’t laid off anybody, and we’re not going to unless we just run out of money, which I don’t expect to happen. We’re carrying on business out there, but we’re carrying it on in totally different ways. We have different people that come in on different days. This virus supposedly started in China, and that’s where most of our products come from. So you couple the virus with the typical Chinese New Year—they always shut down for about two or three weeks there in China for the new year, anyway—and it’s making the arrival of products delayed. Naturally, that’s causing us a problem. It will be a problem through the year. It’ll be a problem for almost every vendor that’s making their product anywhere offshore. It doesn’t just have to be China. Anywhere offshore. A lot of people make them in Mexico. Mexico’s border is shut down, also. So we’re getting products in. We won’t get in all of the products that we had hoped to. You have the issue of the retailers in many states being closed, so most of the sales are going to online sales. Thank God for online sales. Even though I love to go into the sporting goods store, just like you do. I’d like to touch it, feel it, and see it. Because if I buy something online, I just buy something that I already know. How did I learn that? I don’t know how I learned that, but if I’m going to a store, I can check all the duck decoys, I can check all the shotgun shells, I can check all that stuff, and you learn a lot. There’s certainly some challenges out there, but Mojo’s operating. If you’ve got a problem with a Mojo product, you just either email us or you can call and leave a message on the phone. We’re retrieving those. We’re helping people with what problems they have. Now, this time of year is not nearly as frantic as it would be, say, if it was fall-winter duck season. So, if it had to happen, for a company like Mojo this is probably the ideal time of the year for it to happen, because this is our slack time of year. All we can do is hope that the world is back in business by the time we get close to duck season.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. I’m thankful, too, that it is the month of April, because it is typically our slack time. The thing that keeps us, in a normal year, as busy as anything right now is just fielding phone calls from guys who are fixing to start traveling in a few weeks. But in terms of sales and things like that, the last couple of weeks have been pretty darn normal for April. It encourages me, and I hope it encourages anybody listening, that tomorrow’s going to come. I know it, you know it, they know it. Tomorrow’s going to come. The sun’s going to rise. Duck season is coming somewhere. I’m encouraged by the fact that we are receiving a fairly normal amount of phone calls, right now, from people that are planning to go to Mexico this spring, that are planning to go to Argentina in 2021, that are asking about trips around the world because, I guess like myself, they’re cooped up and ready to go do something. So I’m encouraged. Boy, I tell you, my fingers are crossed that this thing gets back off the ground and gets rolling. But 2020, boy, sure came to a screeching halt like a stick in the spokes, and it didn’t start off crazy. Terry, the last time I remember seeing you, we were talking about doing some of these trips together. It was at a celebration of life for our friend, the late Mike Morgan, and that was a terrible way to kick off the year anyway.
Memories of the Great Mike Morgan
“He was always that perpetual tinker, but the whole time he was doing it, behind that archery store, he was always telling these stories.”
Terry Denmon: It was. That was a total tragedy and a loss. A personal loss to me and you, but also a loss to the outdoor industry. Mike was a true pioneer in videoing hunts, and fishing trips, too. He started when there was hardly any outdoor TV. They started making videos. First, they were making VHS tape videos, and then they were making DVDs. I think he told me one time that they made like eighty titles in the video business. Then they transitioned from that into outdoor TV. So he’s been around, probably, as long as that industry has been around. He was a wealth of knowledge and a great guy.
Ramsey Russell: History is kind of written in hindsight’s 20/20. If you witness it, like Forrest Gump, you’re kind of walking through that. You see what I’m saying? I can remember, gosh, being 19 years old, and a new archery store in the Jackson metropolitan area had opened up. Back in those days, if you were a bow hunter, you just went somewhere out to BFE, the middle of nowhere, and walked into somebody’s shop, or somebody’s little tool shed, and bought your archery equipment. All of a sudden, this new place opened up. That’s where I met Mike Morgan: Indian Archery, back in the day. The energy that was coming through there, what they were bringing, what they were doing— In my earliest memories of Mike Morgan, when I was just a kid, Mike was always behind the work counter, always glad to see you, and always working. The people that went on to become big call manufacturers, like Primos, or big camo titans, like Mossy Oak, I met right there in that little shop. It started me kind of, sort of, down a path because Mike always had a story. He was a storyteller of epic proportions. For a nineteen year old that hadn’t hardly been out of his home county at the time, to listen to him— When I imagine Mike and think back to those days, every memory I have of Mike is him doing something with his hands. Tuning bows, fixing arrows, or fletching arrows; or, later in life especially, doing the cameras and tuning and focusing, headphones on, getting everything miked up and everything done. He was always that perpetual tinker, but the whole time he was doing it, behind that archery store, he was always telling these stories. It just absolutely lit a fuse. I wanted to travel. I wanted to experience things like that. I didn’t know it then, but I can look back and see now how Mike’s storytelling and that archery store— It’s funny you bring up talking about the videos, because I can remember when he and his partner started videoing archery hunts, and archery deer hunts especially. I can remember those days, those big cameras and all that kind of stuff. That’s back in the days when you had those great big kind of like cassettes that you put into DVD players. Not DVD players—
Terry Denmon: It was cassettes. It was like a part of the camera that you strapped around you and put cassettes in.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. He was a pioneer. He really pioneered doing that, didn’t he?
Terry Denmon: He absolutely did, yeah. You know, Mike loved filming. Mike filmed our shows. I used to film shows with him back in the Hunting Across America days.
Ramsey Russell: I never asked how y’all met, Terry. How did you end up meeting?
Terry Denmon: Well, the very first Shot Show. Most everybody who’s listening to this will know what the Shot Show is. There’s shooting, hunting, outdoor sports. It’s one of the largest trade shows in the US today. The first one I ever went to was in New Orleans, and we didn’t even have a booth. Avery let us share part of their booth because we didn’t have very many products. We only had two or three products. So me and my partner, Murray Crow, were in New Orleans attending this Shot Show, and these two guys walked up. Murray starts talking to them. I don’t know who they are. We only had two or three of the brand-new Mojo mallards. That’s when we molded our own decoy body with the breast pig and all that. Before then, everybody that was making those devices put motors in the existing decoy bodies. We were the first ones who molded a decoy body just for doing that with the duck in the landing position. Well, I think Murray came over and asked me, “Look, these guys need a decoy. I’m thinking about giving them one of ours.” I said, “Well, who are they?” He said, “Well, they’ve got that Hunting Across America show, and they need a duck decoy.” So I didn’t know who they were, and I didn’t have outdoor TV at that time. If I had it, I didn’t know I had it. I didn’t know who they were. So we gave them one of the very few—we probably didn’t have five—that we had. There were a couple of weeks of duck season left. I wish Mike was here to tell this story himself. What happened is, they hunted this little lake up above Greenwood, Six Mile Lake. you probably know where it was. They had a camp on the banks of it, and the upper part of it was a huge flooded cypress trees. They had hunted it so long that—no matter what the wind was, the weather conditions were, or this, that, or the other—they knew where to go to. So they would always kill more ducks than anybody on that lake. Then, all of a sudden, somebody was kicking them. So, one day, they said, “Let’s go and see what that guy’s doing.” They go down. Well, he had a Mojo, so they had to have a Mojo. So they come to the Shot Show—probably not for that reason, they probably would have come to the Shot Show, anyway, but—and that was their occasion to get themselves a Mojo and get back in the game. That’s how I met Mike Morgan.
Ramsey Russell: And the rest became history.
Terry Denmon: Yeah. It did.
Ramsey Russell: I had fallen out of touch with Mike. I just got busy going to school, going to college, and doing things. It’s a small world. I think he lived probably ten miles from where I’m standing right now, and you always kind of kept up, always knew people. I kind of, sort of, was aware—I couldn’t afford cable TV back when I was in college—of Hunting Across America and a lot that he had become involved in and how he had evolved, but I hadn’t seen him in forever. I always think of birds of a feather flocking together. How I met you, Terry, how we became friends back when, was via Mike Morgan. I just never will forget. Well, I remember meeting you the first time, and shaking your hand, when Ducks Unlimited had organized a waterfowl hunting show or something down around Dallas, Texas.
Terry Denmon: Grapevine, Texas.
Ramsey Russell: That’s right. Grapevine, Texas. I remember y’all’s big travel van was across from us, and Mike came over. He hadn’t changed a bit. The big cowboy hat he wore and everything else. We called up and talked a little bit, he introduced me to you, and that had been ten or fifteen years, maybe, since I’d seen him and talked to him. Break, break. The first year we exhibited at Dallas Safari Club— That was just a hectic weekend anyway. Wow, that was incredible. Mike showed up out of the blue, and you came up and talked with him. We met, we talked, and we hatched a plan to go to Argentina for the first time. I believe that you and he and I and Annette went to La Paz. On one hand, it seems like yesterday. On the other hand, it seems like a lifetime ago that we all went down and hunted together in Argentina for the first time. That was good. It turned into a good show.
Terry Denmon: Yeah, it did. It really did. Mike had mentioned you to me before I met you, Ramsey, a couple of times. He said, “Look, this guy who lives not very far from me, that I know, books these hunts all around the world.” You had apparently told Mike, before I met you, that you’d kind of like to work with us. So about the second or third time Mike said this, I said, “Well, okay, go hook up with him. Let’s see what he’s got to offer.” The rest is pretty much history.
First Meetings…and the Rest is History
“I got to know you pretty good, and I got to know Mike better.”
Ramsey Russell: Mike, I’ve got to tell the story. I’ve got a face for the radio and an accent for the Andy Griffith show. That’s the first time, hunting with y’all, that somebody stuck a big old camera in my face. I guess like a lot of people— You can break out an iPhone video and people start acting differently. It’s just human nature, I guess. I never will forget hunting that morning, and he was like, “Alright, Ramsey, y’all get over here. I want you and Terry to talk about this duck, talk about this, and talk about that.” I was kind of positioning myself, and he said, “No, no, I need you to square up.” I kind of positioned myself, and he said, “No, no, I need you to square up.” I said, “Well, you know, Mike, I want to show my good side.” He said, “Well, I ain’t going to show the back of your head. It’ll make lousy TV, Ramsey. Just look at the camera and talk.” That was just Mike. He was all business, all the time, and he knew what we needed to do. Slowly but surely, I guess, I got comfortable enough in front of a camera to talk to it. That was a pretty darn fun hunt we went on that time. I got to know you pretty good, and I got to know Mike better. Where did we go next, Peru? Was that the next big hunt we did, was going to Peru?
Terry Denmon: I don’t know if Peru was the next one or not, but Peru was early on in mine and your professional relationship. Before you get into the Peru thing, people ask me all the time—and I’m sure they do you, too—”What’s your favorite type of hunt?” I don’t have one of those. Anything suits me fine. But if they ever get around to asking, “Where’s the most interesting place you ever went?” I’d say Peru. That’s the most interesting place I’ve ever been in my life.
Duck Hunting & Dining Adventures in Peru
“I had just never seen anything like that.”
Ramsey Russell: Well, that is a very interesting place. I had been there before. Peru is still a very interesting place. We still go to Peru. Still send some people. We’ve got probably a couple of dozen folks going this year that we’re probably going to have to defer to next year. Peru’s locked down just like everybody else because of COVID. But you go way up in the Andes Mountains and you spot, stalk, and hunt some very unique indigenous species that you’re just not going to find anywhere else on earth. Andean geese and crested ducks and puna teal and some stuff like that. But then you jump down into the coastal area between the Atacama Desert and the Pacific Ocean, and you’ve got that little rice belt, a little bitty valley of rice, that has the highest density of cinnamon teal on earth. That’s what we went for, and I do remember that we made a two part series out of that.
Terry Denmon: We did. It had so much interesting stuff. It had those human skeletons that are 3,000-6,000 years old. You had that fresh market downtown. We went to two different ones. That’s something I had never seen before like that. They killed a cow in the alley right there and bled the blood out of it and processed it. You could buy a cleaned chicken with eggs. I had just never seen anything like that.
Ramsey Russell: It was totally different.
Terry Denmon: They had fish head soup. Fish eye soup. What was it? They put the fish head in the soup, if I remember correctly.
Ramsey Russell: Fish head soup?
Terry Denmon: Yeah. You and Mike Morgan ate it. I didn’t eat any of it.
Ramsey Russell: I was talking about that last week. Mike was my brother from a different mother when it comes to eating stuff. We were eating fish head soup. I think we ate ours and liked it so much that we ate yours and Annette’s because y’all wouldn’t eat it. I don’t remember what I said or how it was said, but he said, “No, I don’t eat anything blue.” I said, “You mean blueberries?” He said, “No, I like blueberries.” I said, “You mean blue cheese?” He said, “No, I like blue cheese. I just don’t eat blue food.” I guess I don’t either, Terry, because I’ve never seen any blue food. Mike and I would dive into anything and try it at least once.
Terry Denmon: You’re right about that.
Ramsey Russell: I had been there before, and I had been to that place before. We were right along the river, the Colca River, I remember it being. I had hunted the mountains, and that river ran for a thousand miles, let’s say, and went into the Pacific Ocean. A year or so before y’all, we had come down there with Mojo. The translator and my host were explaining to us. They knew I was kind of into this kind of national geography and the history and the culture and stuff like that. They talked about a lot of the pre-Incas being buried there in that Atacama Desert, which is just a bunch of sand dunes and stuff, that part of it. There’s a big cave they call the colca that served as an old, ancient granary. They started talking about people being buried there, and I said, “Really?” They said, “Well, yeah, there’s a bone.” The truck slowed down, I looked out, and there was a human femur just on top of the soil. Well, I remember, when we came out from a great teal hunt that morning—it was a spectacular teal hunt—Mike wanted to stop and film you and I just doing some B-roll. I learned that word from y’all. We were sitting on a high bluff, the river was down below us to the back. As he was setting up the camera, Nate had just taken off way up behind him, up that sand dune, to go take some more B-roll of the landscape. He came flying down the hill all excited. I didn’t know him. I think that was the first time I ever met Nate, was on that trip. He told us we had to come up there and see what he’d seen. We trudged up there.
Terry Denmon: I thought he’d found Bigfoot or something, he was so excited.
Ramsey Russell: I didn’t know what he found, but I hoped it was worth it. It was kind of a steep hike in the sand. We walked on up there and looked. What he had found, just over that hill up there, was an ancient graveyard that had been dug up. It was weird. There must have been a hundred graves dug up, and there were bones laying everywhere. It was bizarre. Somebody had taken bits and pieces of a skull and bones, and they had fabricated a human skeleton out of just random bones. To me, I just couldn’t get my mind wrapped around it. Was it a bunch of high school kids? Who would do this? Our translator explained that those had probably been dug up hundreds of years ago by Spanish conquistadors or something. Who put the skeleton together is anybody’s guess. But, obviously, they had been there—they were sun-bleached—for a long, long time. It’s just not everyday that you go duck hunting and come across something like that. It was a tad unsettling, you know? But she explained that those people were poor. They weren’t a wealthy culture. They’re just simple people. She explained to us that a lot of those ancient chieftains would wear a feather robe, and that they were worth tens of thousands of dollars to whoever hit the jackpot and found one.
Terry Denmon: Yeah, she told me that they’d be worth up to $50,000 USD. To give you some perspective, she said that the average person in Peru was making $500 a year. So if you’re living on $500 a year—equivalent to US dollars—and you could come up with $50,000, that’s—
Ramsey Russell: That’s like hitting the jackpot.
Terry Denmon: It is. Very interesting. If the video quality hadn’t changed so much in the last ten or fifteen years—and it changes pretty much every year—I’d air that show again. But it’d probably look like home movies, today, so the channels don’t allow us to do that. But I wish I could. We have actually aired little bitty pieces of it on social media. It’s extremely interesting.
Shooting Shovelers, Mallards, and More
“Between you and Mike Morgan, y’all have diminished my character. Now, I shoot spoonbills.”
Ramsey Russell: Now, that would be good. I’m going to have to go dig around and find it. I haven’t seen that in a long time. I probably need to put it on my website because it’s still very interesting footage, and it’s still a very interesting location. The people that go want to collect those species, but a lot of people that go to Peru— Really, as I talk to them, I realize that they’re wanting to go just to experience the adventure of it all. Now, one thing. When I think of Mike Morgan, I think of the time we went and hunted with Diego for the first time. That was a fun trip. We were hunting way south of one of those areas at the time. When I think of hunting with Mojo and Mike Morgan, I never will forget the first time we hunted at Diego’s. We were running through the list of species we’d shot. I mentioned shoveler and this and this, and you went “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.” Terry says, “I did not shoot a shoveler.” At the time, Terry, I don’t believe you would shoot a shoveler in any shape, form, or fashion.
Terry Denmon: It would be a mistake if I did.
Ramsey Russell: I like to think I changed you. I like to think I had that positive influence on your life and got you shooting shovelers now.
Terry Denmon: I don’t know if it’s positive or not, but you have had that input. Between you and Mike Morgan, y’all have diminished my character. Now, I shoot spoonbills. I’ll kind of look around and make sure nobody’s watching. Why I do that, I don’t know. The camera’s always running.
Ramsey Russell: Well, besides shooting and always being up for the adventure of eating different foods, Mike would shoot shovelers with me. In fact, we liked to shoot them.
Terry Denmon: Well, y’all are both from Mississippi. That explains it perfectly. In Louisiana, we shot mallards.
Ramsey Russell: Maybe. It may be. Actually, the last time I talked to Mike— This is just getting off the shoveler part for just a minute. I never will forget it. I had just gotten back from Ontario, Canada. I knew he was scheduled to go up there and film with y’all. I’ve said a lot about Mike. The last conversation I ever had with him, I called him up and said, “Mike, I’d like to record you for a podcast.” We talked a little bit about it and set a date for “whenever you’re feeling better.” I said, “Mike, how are you doing?” He just described it as that he woke up with a crick in his back. That’s just Mike. He’s like, “Ah, yeah, I’m fine,” and, just like that, he changed the subject. He knew I was going to Utah, and he started talking about shooting shovelers. “Y’all going to shoot a bunch of shovelers out there? I know there’s a bunch out there at times.” So we started talking about shooting shovelers. Everytime we talked about shooting shovelers, we ended up talking about the time he and I went down to Texas together and filmed that episode “Spoon and Crockett” on Mojo. That was a pretty popular episode for y’all, wasn’t it?
Terry Denmon: Oh, it absolutely was, because a spoonbill is a shoveler, if you want to go by the better name. It’s a controversial species. I think most duck hunters shoot shovelers, but they don’t admit to it. It’s one of the things where you’re okay to do it, but you’d just as soon nobody else know that you do it. I’d have to give you total credit for this, but shooting shovelers today is much more, shall we call it, acceptable than it was before. You came up with the idea of the Ramsey Law. You individually made the shooting of shovelers, or spoonbills, an acceptable practice in the duck hunting world. You deserve the full credit for that.
Ramsey Russell: I don’t know if that’s good or bad. Here lies Ramsey Russell, inventor of the shoveler decoy with teeth.
Terry Denmon: Well, that’s what I’ve been saying for years, and you and Mike Morgan said I was wrong. I don’t know if I was right or wrong, but, nevertheless, I don’t know if history will give you credit for it or not, but history should.
Duck Hunting Shows: Fact or Fiction?
“You just enjoy it for what it is, enjoy it for what comes, and have a good time.”
Ramsey Russell: Well, that brings up a good point, because we’re talking about Mike Morgan. What I learned, hunting with Mojo, is what goes into making a television show. Real duck hunting isn’t always like you see on 22 minutes of hunting footage. There’s 3 to 5 to 10 days, sometimes, in tough seasons that go into making 22 minutes of high-quality footage for television. If you weren’t a duck hunter, and you watched an episode of TV, you’d think, “Holy cow, it’s like that everytime.” But it’s not. There’s a lot of time you spend in a duck blind not shooting, waiting on the ducks to set up just right for the shot or something like that. What I’ve learned, Terry, and I know I’ve hunted with you enough that you agree, is that some days are just those days that you can do no wrong and ducks do come in like that. Some days, you don’t fire a shot because that’s just the way the duck gods are smiling at you. A lot of days are just average days in a duck blind. It’s not just fast and furious all the time. It’s duck hunting. One of my favorite quotes Mike would say is that it’s sometimes chicken salad and sometimes chicken shit, but it’s always chicken. And I like chicken. That’s what keeps me going. I do like chicken, and I’ll take the good with the bad and have a good time. Mike would always say, when we’d talk about shovelers or teal or mallards or whatever was coming in— I’ve said it a million times: my favorite duck is the next one in the decoys. Mike would say that a duck is a duck is a duck. I think that’s a good way of looking at it. So a shoveler— There are places in this world that I’ve hunted where shovelers are extremely uncommon. On one of the last hunts Mike and I did together, we went up to Idaho and hunted with some friends there on the Snake River, and we shot wigeons and mallards and a few goldeneyes. In fact, we’d gone up there because I’d heard that I might get a shot at shooting a Barrow’s goldeneye mixed in with those common goldeneyes. I did get a shot at one. But when you start talking to those guys up in that part of Idaho, to them a shoveler coming through the decoys would be a huge treat. It would be a trophy because it’s so uncommon. You get down here in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Utah, and other parts of the world, and, man, shovelers are just another duck that comes in. It never ceases to amaze me that only in North America, right here in the US, are shovelers a joke or a smiling mallard or a Hollywood. Everywhere else in the world, they’re a prize trophy. They’re just a duck. I take that Spoonzilla over to Azerbaijan or different parts of the world, and they like it because it’s a shoveler decoy, but they don’t understand the teeth. It just flies right over their heads, because to them—
Terry Denmon: Nobody understands the teeth.
Ramsey Russell: It’s a smiling mallard! It’s a Hollywood!
Terry Denmon: Nobody understands the teeth. It’s a cartoon. It’s a Ramsey Russell cartoon and a Jason Tooley cartoon.
Ramsey Russell: Other parts of the world will embrace a shoveler. In fact, over in Australia— That’s a hunt that I would like to do with Mojo. I’d like to go down and film with Glenn Fala. There’s only certain places we could go in Australia, at certain times, that we could shoot Australasian shovelers, which is what they’ve got down there, not the Northern shoveler. To them, it’s one of their top prizes. We could go to New Zealand and shoot all we wanted to, but, to those guys, shovelers are a pretty big deal. They really like them a lot. I don’t know why, but they do like them a lot.
Terry Denmon: Well, Ramsey, I don’t know what makes people like this, but if something’s rare in your part of the world, it becomes more desirable. That’s not really how the spoonbill, or the shoveler, became undesirable in some places like Louisiana. I really can’t explain what caused that to happen other than that Louisiana was always a mallard state. There were mallards, and there were other ducks. People used to use those terms. “Well, only four of our six can be mallards, so we’ve got to kill two other ducks.” That just got passed on from granddad to son to grandson, and it became a cycle around here. But there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a shoveler duck. I don’t know. I can’t explain it past that point. I’d kind of like to go back for a minute to something you said a couple of minutes ago about Mike Morgan talking about how a duck is a duck is a duck. I had a thought while you were saying that—and I’m saying this for your younger audience out there, or maybe younger in terms of how long they’ve been hunting, maybe not in terms of their age—that that’s an indication, from you and him both, of being people that have hunted long enough to understand that it’s not necessarily about killing ducks. It’s about having experience. If you’re in a duck blind with a friend, you can talk in a duck blind. You can’t talk hunting whitetails and things like that. You can talk all you want to in a duck blind as long as the ducks aren’t coming in. So that’s an indication, to me, that someone has hunted long enough to enjoy the experience of duck hunting.
Ramsey Russell: That’s right. I think you hit the nail on the head, Terry. You just enjoy it for what it is, enjoy it for what comes, and have a good time. Because the whole point of this thing we do is to have fun. It’s recreational.
Good, Solid Duck Hunting
“The whole process is just being able to step away from the hecticness of real life and into the duck vine, which is real living.”
Terry Denmon: It’s a sport. Now and then, we go a little bit too overboard in trying to justify our sport and say it’s all about the collecting of food, but it’s not all about collecting food now. I am very glad to see the entire industry put some emphasis on the fact that they convert their game into food, if not for themselves—like we do in South America and places like that—then to give to the needy. They make some good use of it. But, look, we’ve got to accept that it’s a sport. That’s what causes us to get up at three o’clock in the morning, go out there in the rain, and do that. Because I could go to Brookshire’s and buy some food. I couldn’t do it at three o’clock in the morning, but I could buy some food. We go out there for sport, but it is an honorable sport.
Ramsey Russell: It is, Terry. It’s so much more than just the trigger pull, and it’s hard for a non-hunter or anti-hunter to really see that. All of us hunters know that, heck yeah, we’re there to shoot ducks. We’re not there just to watch the sunrise. We all like to shoot ducks, but it’s the time we spend and the people we spend it with in the blind. You and I have had some great visits about stuff way off the charge of duck hunting. You and I, Mike and I, and anybody I’ve hunted with have talked about some great things in between the volleys. That’s where real life happens, is in between the volleys, to me. One thing I’ve learned during my time at home with this COVID thing is how distracting real life can be. Real life at home, real life at the office, real life at work; it’s full of distractions, now more than ever. Normally, in a duck blind, it’s less distracting. I think of my life, as recently as eight weeks ago, and it was just a flurry of activity. It was coming home for a few hours, packing, and going again. Going to a show and people coming up all day. It’s just busy, busy, busy, busy. In between all that human contact and travel, the phone— You don’t leave the office anymore like I used to back in the old days. I’ve got that phone in my pocket. It’s always chirping and beeping and buzzing. It’s just a constant distraction. But when I’m in a duck blind, it’s not that. It’s just me and my buddies and my dog and the ducks coming in. In between the volleys, the talks and a cup of coffee and talking about life. The whole process is just being able to step away from the hecticness of real life and into the duck vine, which is real living. That’s the way I look at it.
Terry Denmon: That’s exactly right. If you have to kill ducks every day, then, probably, this is not your sport. I get asked a lot of questions, and I’m sure you do too—I do quite a number of interviews on decoy ducks because I’m in the decoy business—about what you can do, and dealing with fresh ducks and stale ducks, and the different techniques you’ve used. My ending statement always is, “And there’s just some days those ducks aren’t going to let you kill them. They’re just not going to let you. But you can have just as much fun on that day as you can on the other ones, even though you don’t have the same feeling of success that you had on the other ones. You can still have so much fun.”
Ramsey Russell: I like that. I don’t feel like I have to earn every single duck anymore, especially down here in the Deep South. It’s nothing easy. It’s just that process that I appreciate. One more Mike story. We had gone down to Texas—I’m getting back to that “Spoon and Crockett” episode—to hunt with the late JJ Kent. Right there in that part of northern Texas, along the Red River, the hunting can be incredible. Still is. Man, we had gone out on one hunt, we hunted the river, and we had shot mallards and greenwings. One hunt we’d done in the fields, and we’d shot pintails. We were chipping along. It wasn’t just fast and furious, but it was good, solid duck hunting. I never will forget. We had hunted the river, and we were sitting on this little shelf. The ducks were coming in below us, but, to get to that shelf, we’d had to come in down off the high bank. So to pick up decoys, we had to go down this old cattle trail, a pretty straight cattle trail, and pick up those decoys and haul them up the same way we put them down that morning. As we all started going down to start picking up decoys, we noticed there was a piece of barbed wire. It was like the bank had fallen in and stretched that barbed wire tight across that trail. If you weren’t paying attention, it’d trip you. You had to be careful. We all talked about it and told everybody, “Be careful. Be careful. Be careful.” “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” You’re sitting there thinking. You’re not paying attention. I had stopped at the top and dropped off a decoy and turned around. Right about that time, Mike tripped on that wire. It looked like a combination of a professional gymnast and Charlie Brown going down that dadgum bank head over heels. Literally like doing handstands all the way down the bank. He landed at the bottom on his feet and never broke stride. It was like he did it on purpose. He just continued to walk right out there and pick up those decoys. I sat there just for a minute watching him. I started down the trail, very careful this time not to trip on that barbed wire after seeing that. It would have killed me. He’s tough as woodpecker lips, he was. As I came up to him, I was just fixing to say something to him about seeing it, and he looked at me and said, “I bet you can’t do that,” and walked back up. It never fazed him. I don’t know how— It would have killed an ordinary man. A couple nights later, we were sitting at camp, coming into our last day, and JJ came in and said, “Man, I have got a duck hole, a little stock tank, just absolutely black with ducks. Black. But they’re all shovelers.” Without missing a beat, Mike said, “That ain’t no problem.” I said, “No, it ain’t no problem. We’ll go do that.” When we got out there that morning, it was me, JJ, Mike, a couple of other boys, and Dakota Stallworth, who was working for JJ at the time and now runs his own outfit out there. I believe we shot six limits of ducks, and only one was not a shoveler. We had so much fun cutting up and coming up with funny names and funny quotes and everything else. After the hunt, we laid out that pile of shovelers on the side of a blue cattle trailer, and Mike and I stood with it and took a picture. He texted it to you—or I texted it to you, I can’t remember which—and we got a text back that that was the last time you were going to let us hunt together without adult supervision. I said, “Mike, is he kidding?” He goes, “I don’t know, but he better send an adult unless he wants to eat more shovelers.”
Terry Denmon: Well, if your kids go off and screw up, you can’t let them go again without some kind of adult supervision.
Ramsey Russell: Oh my gosh, that was one of the funniest, most memorable hunts ever. I think we got years of mileage out of that. I might go days or weeks or months without seeing Mike after that hunt, but, building on that momentum of all those little shoveler quotes, he just built this massive list of little shoveler quotes. He was my fellow shoveler killer, I’ll tell you that, man. We sure had a good time with it. Mike’s spoony list. I think he had envisioned that he was going to do a t-shirt series with all these little spoony quotes on it. What a great guy he was, Terry. I’m going to miss him, I’ll tell you that. I’m going to miss him a lot. I know y’all are too.
A Tribute to Mike Morgan
“What a great guy, man.”
Terry Denmon: Our last show of the quarter is going to be a tribute to Mike. I think they probably interviewed you for that, did they not?
Ramsey Russell: They did. That’s kind of what had him on my mind this morning when I was going to talk to you. What a great guy, man. The world, and the outdoor world, has got some big shoes to fill with Mike Morgan, I’ll tell you that.
Terry Denmon: Yeah. You’ve probably heard me say this at his service, but when you’re in business, you have to address all kinds of things. Even though Mike passing was a huge personal loss to me, and to you, you’ve still got to figure out, “Okay, what are you going to do about business?” The first thing I concluded was that if we don’t have Mike, we’ve just got this huge void in our business. How are we going to fill that void? Because he did a lot of things for us. It’s hard to find somebody that’s been around enough years that can do all those things for you. My conclusion was, in the end, that there are some voids you just can’t fill, and Mike Morgan was such a void. So we just have to go on, and we just won’t be able to do, or accomplish, some of the things that we did when we had Mike.
Ramsey Russell: No. Just in this conversation, a lot of people probably learned that Mike was an archer well before he got into the outdoor world. People recognize him as a duck hunter, but he was a world class stick-and-string archer. He was a business guy. He was an entrepreneur. He was a pioneer in the outdoor TV world. He was a big influence in my life personally, notwithstanding the fact that he introduced me to you, who has also been a big influence, Terry. But at the end of the day, I guess what I like most about Mike, and from talking to people that knew him, was that he was just Mike.
Terry Denmon: He was always the same. Always the same. I traveled with him for years under adverse conditions, and I never heard him complain once. Not once.
Ramsey Russell: Never. Never heard him say a cross word about anybody or anything or the weather. He was a hunter. He hunted anything, but ducks were his passion. I sure am going to miss him, Terry. I ain’t going to lie to you.
Terry Denmon: Yes, sir. It’ll be a different going forward, but I guess that’s just part of life. There’s nothing we can do, but we sure have a lot of video footage of him and a lot of memories. I was telling his wife, “You know, I doubt there’s very many people in Hollywood that have nearly as much video footage as Mike does.” I’m talking about the big-time stars of the past. They’d make a couple of movies a year for ten or fifteen years. Mike’s got thousands and thousands and thousands of hours of video footage.
Ramsey Russell: Thousands. That’s good. Terry, where are we going next? That’s the big question. When I got back from Azerbaijan two months ago and called you, that was the plan. We were going to Argentina this year. We’re going to go next year together?
Terry Denmon: Absolutely. Absolutely. We can’t miss that. That’s a must. We’ve got to do that. I don’t know where else, but I’m open. Once we take a year like 2020 where we don’t get to do a lot of things that we typically do, that kind of puts you into make-up mode. Let’s go make up for some of this time that we didn’t get to do what we liked to do. So certainly we’re going to Argentina, I don’t think there’s any question about that, and wherever else you can cook up. You’re the cooker. You’re the hunt cooker-upper. Wherever else you can cook up, let’s go do it.
Ramsey Russell: All right. We’re going to. Folks, I appreciate y’all listening. Terry, I appreciate your time. I always enjoy meeting with you. Folks, I appreciate y’all listening. Y’all can keep up with Mr. Denmon and the world traveling of Mojo on their social media. They’ve got a heck of a social media presence. Check us out @RamseyRussellGetDucks. See you next time.