A seasoned veteran wildlife conservation officer from BC, Randy Nelson compiled game warden stories from all U.S. and Canadian jurisdictions for his book, The Wildest Hunt. The scale of poaching in modern-day North America is hard to comprehend. Describing why and how he wrote the book, Nelson shares some interesting stories involving polar bears, salmon, eels, raptors, cacti, whooping cranes, waterfowl and deer. I’ll bet some of these stories and facts are going to shock you, too!

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A Friendly Way of Life

Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere, I am on a North American road tour, I’m off for a couple of days, I’m in beautiful downtown Saskatoon, Canada. The weather’s beautiful, it’s windy, it’s clear as a bell, it’s a bright moon, birds are flying south and been trying to track this guy down for a few days. Today’s guest is Randy Nelson, who is a retired game warden, AKA Fisheries officer here in Canada from British Columbia that’s written a cool book slap full of very interesting and humorous stories. Randy, how are you today?

Randy Nelson: I’m very good, Ramsay. You’re in my home province there and I hope you’re having a good time and seeing lots of birds.

Ramsey Russell: Man, we’re having a great time. I absolutely love prairie, Canada. I love being up here at the headwaters of the North American flyway, it’s a spectacular time. And I’ll break off like this because this is your home, to me, Randy, Canada, not necessarily the cities like Saskatoon or Regina or wherever, but Canada, real Canada, off the communities, the villages out here throughout all of Prairie Canada remind me of Mayberry RFD, a very happy and simple and fun and it’s like going back to the 1950s and what I see on television in America, it’s just a very simple way of life, a friendly way of life.

Randy Nelson: It is that and that’s a real compliment. We all look back at those times and there are parts of the US sort of like that, too in Northern, there are states I know a lot of friends of mine are American game wardens and I’ve been in some of these areas and it is the same way, it’s that simpler life where it’s not all about how much you make, it’s how much you give. It’s kind of a neat way to live.

Ramsey Russell: My wife is up here visiting. We were driving down, it’s a gravel road, but that you can drive pretty fast on. I mean, it’s just a very nice road way out in the middle of nowhere, we hadn’t seen a farmhouse in miles and she said something. I’m like, well, the thing about this part of the world, about Saskatchewan, is if we run out of gas or we get a flat tire, there may be an hour for somebody drives by, but every person that drives by is going to stop and see if you need help or how they can help you, everybody.

Randy Nelson: That is true. Everybody, yeah.

Ramsey Russell: Talk about growing up in this part of the world, Randy, how did you grow up and when did you get into hunting?

Randy Nelson: Exactly as you described. I grew up on a very rural farm, no running water, outdoor toilet, lots of chores to do, no mechanized equipment, just a good old farm boy that grew up and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I look back on it now and say, I’m so glad that I was brought up that way, because it really makes you appreciate life in general. And as far as hunting, the only firearm on our farm was a 22 Cooey single shot rifle with open sights. And that was made to shoot gophers or that was bought to shoot gophers.

Ramsey Russell: To keep gophers out of your garden? Was it made to keep gophers out of your garden?

Randy Nelson: Out of the fields, like the wheat fields. 300 to 400 gophers can consume the same as one cow. So when you got thousands and thousands of gophers, there are some ridiculous infestations of these things, they can clear off acres of your farmland. So you were born and raised to go after gophers as much as you go after mosquitoes and you would get them in any way you can. You drowned them out, you trapped them, you shot them and it didn’t make me into a serial killer, but I look back on that and I guess that was my only real hunting until late my teens, my brother in law introduced me to whitetail hunting, he handed me his old 303 British rifle with no scope on it and gave me an empty 5 gallon payload and sent me out to the pasture, said, learn how to shoot this. So no instruction, just a gun and a barrel and I think I fired 5 shots and hit it twice and he said, that’s good enough.

Ramsey Russell: How old were you? You were 18, 19?

Randy Nelson: Yeah, 18 at that time and a group of us went out hunting, white tail hunting, the first morning, there were 7 of us went out and by noon, 6 of us had deer already.

Ramsey Russell: Were you all driving or pushing?

Randy Nelson: We were driving, yeah, driving and you would drive around the open prairie and when you go to a clump of trees and if a deer jumps out, you bail out and shoot, it’s not the most sporting way to hunt, I don’t hunt that way anymore, but that was my introduction.

Ramsey Russell: Well, shooting, running deer ain’t easy. I grew up in the Deep South, where some people say hunting with dogs is not a sporting way of hunting, but it’s probably one of the most traditional southern ways to hunt whitetail deer, way back in the days, I mean, back in the dawn of century, back in the 1800s, 1900s, dog hunting was a big thing and I caught kind of the tail end of that in the Deep South. And shooting a deer stretched out, running, trotting through the woods is not easy.

Randy Nelson: No, it’s certainly not.

Ramsey Russell: But it’s certainly traditional. And I’ve heard that hunting up here, hunting whitetails up here is how you do it, you kind of push the thickets and stuff like that.

Randy Nelson: Yeah. You can bait for whitetail in Saskatchewan, too, so that’s my preferred way of hunting. I sit in the ground blind and just watch and wait for something to come see.

Ramsey Russell: Are you a trophy hunter? Because you all got some big whitetails up here.

Randy Nelson: There are some big whitetails. When I started hunting, it was strictly for meat. I would shoot the first legal animal I would see and our family was raised on wild meat and they still rely on it. If I’ve got enough in the freezer, then I will look for something bigger. And when I come back to Saskatchewan, I’m pretty much looking for a big whitetail. I’ve got some dandies that probably never shoot anything below a 150 class deer and the biggest one, my son, has got a 170 class.

Ramsey Russell: Wow, those are big.

Randy Nelson: They are. Yeah. They’re beautiful deer back there.

British Columbia Hunting Laws

Well, in British Columbia, where I am, I think you can legally hunt at 10, but I think it might be 12 in some provinces, it’s 10 or 12 and you have to be accompanied by an adult, of course. 

Ramsey Russell: You talk about getting started hunting when you were 18 years old is what you told me, but what is the legal age for hunting in Canada? How old does a child have to be before he can start hunting? Somebody told me the other day it might be as old as 12 or 15 years old.

Randy Nelson: Well, in British Columbia, where I am, I think you can legally hunt at 10, but I think it might be 12 in some provinces, it’s 10 or 12 and you have to be accompanied by an adult, of course. My son shot his first elk at the age of 12 and that was a fun experience, that was his first year he could hunt, so young enough.

Ramsey Russell: You grew up farming in Saskatchewan, you had no mechanized equipment, you had a 22 single shot for shooting gophers, your brother in law gave you a 303, you got into deer hunting. What led you into Canadian law enforcement?

Randy Nelson: Well, I really didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, I kind of thought I wanted to be carpenter – yeah, I still don’t. I wanted to be a carpenter, my parents said, you’re too smart for that, you got to be a veterinarian and I ended up being a game warden, so that kind of threw everybody off. But I was always interested in the outdoors and I think that comes from being a lot in the outdoors on the farm and appreciating it more than most people. So I went to college in Saskatoon, where you are, for 2 years and came out of that college and had my first summer job in northern Saskatchewan, where I worked part of the summer and then I worked 9 months as a full time officer after I graduated in northern Saskatchewan. And then I got a call from British Columbia that they had a position to hire me as a fishery officer. So I had only been to BC once, I’d never even seen a salmon, a live salmon and I went out and took a job to help protect them and never looked back. I had 35 long years of fun and games and it was a great career. Kind of crazy things happened, but it was a lot of fun and I became known as one of the best poacher catchers in the province.

A Famous Poacher Catcher

And I would crawl in as close as I could get, didn’t have night vision equipment back then, until I could identify who was being the poacher, and then turn on my flashlight and they would take off like a flock of grouse in all directions.

Ramsey Russell: You told me a little bit about this story the other day, that you had developed quite a reputation. Tell me how you became this famous poacher catcher, this famous salmon poacher catcher because I want to hear this story.

Randy Nelson: Yeah, that’s a handful, see that 10 times real fast. I had a lot of fun and when I got married, shortly after I moved out to BC, I got married, married a fine lady from Saskatchewan who’s still with us and tomorrow is our 44th anniversary. So anyhow, I had a lot of fun and her cooking was so good, she was a great cook and I like to drink a few beer occasionally and I found out I put on about 10 pounds. So I said, I got to do something, and I started to run. I just decided to run and I enjoyed it and I became a very fast marathon runner. I still run today, I’ve run for over 43 years. And that skill I found out came in very handy when you’re catching salmon poachers, because the way salmon poaching often works in BC is people go out at nighttime down along the Fraser River or Skeena River, some of the major rivers we have at nighttime to catch salmon out of the river. And I would sneak up in the dark and that was the other thing I was very well known for, was being sneaky and that’s probably why I like hunting whitetail today, because it’s very similar to sneaking up on poachers. And I would crawl in as close as I could get, didn’t have night vision equipment back then, until I could identify who was being the poacher, and then turn on my flashlight and they would take off like a flock of grouse in all directions. And I would run down the guy that I wanted to catch and I never tried to catch him right away, I would just run him till he got tired.

Ramsey Russell: Until he just stopped, said, okay, stuck out his hand and said, handcuff me, I’m tired. Is that Right?

Randy Nelson: No, seriously, that’s how it worked. First couple of times, I caught people right away and there was some fight left in them and I thought, well, wait a minute, I got to be smarter than this. So I just would slow down, if they slowed down and I would wait until they literally stopped and dropped. And never had a physical confrontation and in one community I worked, the first year I worked there, it was salmon poaching was out of control and I caught people just about every night I went out and every single person ran. And by the end of 5 years, there weren’t near as many poachers out there and not a single one would run anymore. I would give them the best trail out and just word got out. It was almost, like, disappointing, it was like a hunting dog that the birds don’t fly anymore.

Ramsey Russell: Just became like writing tickets in, you didn’t get the thrill of the chase?

Randy Nelson: No, it wasn’t. It was like shooting fish in a barrel, I guess, it just wasn’t as much fun anymore. But, no, I had a great time.

Ramsey Russell: When you talk about salmon poaching, a lot of questions I’ve got as somebody that’s not familiar with that part of the world or fishing some of those rivers. What kind of salmon are we talking about?

Randy Nelson: Well, there’s all 5 different species of salmon are in the main rivers of BC. The ones that are poached the most are sockeye salmon. Yeah, the red ones. They’re the most sought after and then there’s pink salmon, chum salmon, chinook and coho. But the focus of most poachers that I caught, they focused on sockeye salmon because they are the ones that were most abundant, easiest to sell and best quality overall to deal with for poaching.

Ramsey Russell: You said easy to sell, I mean, are we talking about guys, when you say poacher, are we talking about guys going out and catching just, I guess there’s a creel limit on how many you can catch per day or per season. And so are they going out and just catching extras to put in their freezer or is this a commercial venture?

Randy Nelson: Yeah, a lot of them are commercial ventures. For years, legally, only natives would be allowed to catch sockeye salmon in rivers, but everybody was out there doing it. When I say everybody, I don’t mean literally everybody, but it could be anybody. I’d come across doctors, lawyers, people with full time jobs, it was a socially acceptable thing to do in some locations, to go out at nighttime and catch 10 or 20 sockeye and you would take them home, some can them, some freeze them, but there was always this element of people of the real bad poachers that were doing it commercially. They would catch hundreds of fish and then sell them door to door or commercially under the guise of a commercial license, there’s all sorts of ways to do it. Some of these people make big money. There are criminal organizations that are involved in salmon poaching because it’s so lucrative. There was one fellow that we know was making over a million dollars a year.  Yeah, it can be big business. And then there’s the commercial side, commercial poachers, like the vessels out on the ocean, sail boats and trollers, some of those can be poachers too and catching extraordinary amounts of fish. And then we have international poachers, we know that out in the North Pacific, where the salmon spend the majority of their lives for 3 or 4 years before they come back to spawn, there are international illegal fisheries from foreign countries taking a lot of our fish. And I will say that sometimes your Alaskan neighbors take some of our fish, too. There’s an agreement between the countries and they try and work those things out. But both sides are responsible for taking some of each other’s fish sometimes.

Ramsey Russell: That’s a whole another level of what I was expecting, when you talk about being a fisheries officer and going out and writing tickets, I’m expecting a guy that doesn’t have a license, maybe he’s catching a few fish extra, I had no idea. When you start talking about, like, the guy that was making a million dollars a year poaching fish and I know these salmon are running up the rivers to spawn and they got different runs. Was he out there catching them conventionally? Was he out there catching with a fly rod or catching them with a spinning reel and just a really good fisherman or was he doing something, was snagging them? Was he doing something different?

Randy Nelson: Well, he was the organizer and he’d have a group of people worked under him and they used gill nets, used golden boats and used gill nets. So they set gill nets in the river and they would actually drift over shallow bars when the salmon are migrating up and they can catch hundreds of fish in a matter of a few hours by using that method. So it’s very lucrative and, yeah, it’s big business.

Ramsey Russell: Were there a lot of repeat offenders or did the court system have teeth like you brought in a guy – did you writing them tickets or were you arresting them?

Randy Nelson: Combination. For smaller offenses, you would write a ticket, for larger offenses, they would go to court and go before the courts. And it’s extremely difficult to catch those higher level poachers, just like it is to try to catch a high level drug dealer or something, they’re very organized and the best method you can use is an undercover operation to try and catch them.

Ramsey Russell: Did you do undercover work like that?

Randy Nelson: I just dabbled in it a bit, but not officially. Get out of uniform and you go pose as a citizen and get some information from people. To me, that wasn’t as much fun, but some people thrive on that, it’s something that every Fish and Wildlife agency has to have if they want to be effective. You have to do some undercover work.

There’s Money in Breaking the Law

So what I decided to do was try and find a poaching story from every jurisdiction in North America.

Ramsey Russell: Well, to the point one of the questions I wanted to ask you was, why do people break game laws? And I mean, this is major criminal enterprise, when you start getting into real money like that, this is major.

Randy Nelson: It is. And I guess that’s why I wanted to write this book. Like, I wrote a book about my career and that did fairly well and then I thought, you know what I wonder, the whole poaching that’s happened around or happens around North America, I thought I knew quite a bit about it until I wrote this book and I was shocked at what I found and how much I found and the value of all this stuff that’s going on. So what I decided to do was try and find a poaching story from every jurisdiction in North America. When I wrote this book, “The Wildest Hunt” and I contacted hundreds of game wardens from every state in the US and every province and territory in Canada and I’d find the craziest, wildest, funniest, most bizarre, deadly stories I could find and I would track down an officer who was involved in the investigation and have a conversation with him and write the story and get some of his personal insight into the story. So I’ve got some information about, you read some stuff on the internet about cases, but it’s kind of boring, it doesn’t give you the nitty gritty fun details. So I got details about some stories that have never been told and some facts that have never been told. So it’s all true and it’s all been authenticated by the investigating officers. I let them read my finished story about them and then there’s probably upwards 150 different poaching stories in the book and all but 3, I was able to connect with an investigating officer. But what I was blown away with was the diversity. Like, I got stories about polar bears and narwhal tusks and eagles and bears and turtles and snakes and alligators, in the plant world, orchids and cactus and black walnut trees, all of these things, anything that is really rare in the outdoors will usually develop a market. If somebody wants something, like you look at a rare cactus plant, the rarer they get, the more money they’re worth and the more pressure there is on for people to catch or pull the remaining few that are around and that applies to a lot of different species on the planet. And I wanted people to think about what’s happening in North America, not in Africa, there’s been dozens of books written about that, but there’s never been one that’s focused strictly on all the poaching in North America, so that was my goal. And then another goal I had in writing the book was to raise funds for the Game Warden Museum, which is a museum on the international border between North Dakota and Manitoba and it honors officers that are killed in the line of duty. So I’m raising funds for that museum to operate as well.

Crazy Poaching Stories

So it’s estimated less than 1% of poachers ever get caught. The game wardens rely heavily on the good hunters and in my mind, legal, ethical hunters are the best conservationists out there.

Ramsey Russell: Let’s talk about some of these stories. I want to hear some of these stories you mentioned, you’ve told me some and I’ll lead off with this right here. I went to work for US Fish and Wildlife Service very briefly many years ago, I was a forester, refuge manager up in that area and one morning I walked in, I had a lot of hardwood seedlings coming in that time of year, I had a lot of planning crews out that time of year and I walked in on a Monday morning and the whole bottom of my walk in cooler was filled with paddlefish. I mean, it was knee deep in paddlefish and it became one of the biggest cases in the state that year. And what had happened is our refuge officer had been out on a refuge nearby and it was duck season and little Tipo bayou ran on the boundary and of course, after all the years of agriculture, it had a mud on the bottom. Siltation had caused apparently, a mud bottom, but it originally had a gravel bottom. And what I learned, pursuant to all these dead paddlefish in Milwaukee and cooler was that paddlefish spawn on gravel bottom creeks. And he had gone out one Saturday, there were a lot of duck boat trailers in the parking lot, but there was a particularly big one and smart that he was, educated law enforcement, that he was, he said, I don’t think that’s a duck hunter and the guys with said, well, you waited out, I’m fixing to go get a cup of coffee nearby and he did. He sat right there on that boat trailer and waited for the big boat that belonged to that trailer to pull up and when he walked up to it, it was all those dead paddlefish, those guys had come from out of state, they knew that it was a gravel bottom waterway, they knew that it was historic for the paddlefish. And I’m sure a lot of those paddlefish filets, very similar to catfish were being sold at fish markets and whatnot around town, but it was for the caviar, for paddlefish “caviar”. But what struck me was that there are enterprises, there are people in enterprises. You talk about endangered cacti, I have no idea there was endangered cactus in America, it may make sense, but I mean, I’m unaware of it, there are people that specialize in that. They know that there’s a monetary value, a lucrative monetary value, these guys had come from a couple of states over, knew exactly where that waterway was, when those fish would be spawning, had probably been doing it for years and were strip mining it for black market caviar, which, honestly, at the time, I didn’t know there was a market for paddlefish.

Randy Nelson: You’ve just hit on one of the very reasons I wrote this book. Like, I came across a paddlefish story, I didn’t write one in this book, but what you described is what happens over and over again with all kinds of species and I tried to put this together in one book so that people will think about it, what poaching could be going on. When I go out duck hunting or something, and I see something that doesn’t look quite right, take a license number, chat to them casually, don’t get involved, if you know they’re a poacher, don’t take them on, because these guys, some of them are dangerous dudes and criminals. But there’s things you can do as a legal, ethical hunter that really help game wardens out. And that happens over and over again in my book, where it says some concerned citizen just drops a little bit of information that leads into this network of stuff, not always, but too often, it leads to a network of illegal activity. There’s one story in the US with some turkey hunters, it was in Mississippi, the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

Ramsey Russell: I’ve heard this story tell it, this is a good story.

Randy Nelson: They did a search warrant on these 4 individuals just before Easter, before turkey season opened up and these guys had some turkeys and with the search warrants, they seized all the turkeys, their rifles, their phones, their computers and it just grew into this massive network. And poachers often will turn on their fellow poachers if they think it might help their cause, so there’s no honor among thieves. But that investigation led to, I think it was over 14 people being charged with killing over 100 turkeys without licenses and I think there were 282 violations that resulted from that.

Ramsey Russell: And for those of you all listening to the state limit on wild turkeys in the state of Mississippi is like 3. But, yeah, go ahead, that’s astounding.

Randy Nelson: Yeah. And there was one individual had shot, I think it was 25 or 26 birds himself in one season. And again, that’s just one case that two officers took on and you think about the time it would take for them to go through all that information and then go to the next guy and go to the next guy, it takes months of time. And of that, now they’ve got one case dealt with. So it’s estimated less than 1% of poachers ever get caught. The game wardens rely heavily on the good hunters and in my mind, legal, ethical hunters are the best conservationists out there.

Ramsey Russell: We’re out there in the field, we’re feet on the ground, we’re observing out there, we’re out there all the time.

Randy Nelson: Yeah. You know the legal limits, you know what’s going on, you know how important that wildlife is. And some people that don’t participate in hunting might drive by something and think, oh, that must be okay, instead of trying to deal with it. But that’s one example, it’s quite amazing. And the value, I think you mentioned, the World Bank did a study in 2019 of the value of poaching worldwide and they estimate that the value of poached wildlife to be between $100 and $200 billion worldwide.

Ramsey Russell: How much?

Randy Nelson: $100 to $200 billion worldwide. And they also estimated if you take into account the job losses and if you count in the illegal logging practices and high seas poaching, that number could be $1 to $2 trillion and those are astronomical numbers. And if you have ever heard a politician talk about poaching, I’d like to know his name, because I have not heard one. It’s something that no politicians ever seem to want to address, in fairness, they may not know, but that’s what I’m hoping is word gets out about this and some do tweaks their interest and say, I should look into that and become more aware of it. Because poaching has to be made aware to everybody and everybody’s got to be part of the solution, it can’t just be left to the game ordinance to fix, politicians have to help, too. Yeah, there’s a polar bear story that is in the book that’s quite interesting. And as listeners will know, Americans can’t import polar bears into the US, that’s been banned. But in Canada, polar bear hunting is legal and we often get people from other countries come here. And there was a case a few years ago where two wealthy Mexicans came up to Canada and they went up north, shot a couple of polar bears, a couple of walrus and they got a few other animals, none of them taken legally.

Ramsey Russell: They were not taken legally?

The Importance of Regulated Hunting

We talk about a lot about hunting being good for conservation, but we mean regulated hunting.

Randy Nelson: No, they were not taken legally. Now, it’s hard to poach a polar bear because you got to go way up into these remote Inuit communities, everybody knows you’re there and everybody will know if you shoot a polar bear. So they weren’t the brightest of people, but some people with money think money can buy anything. So they went up there, shot these bears and they were on their way back to Mexico when they stopped in Winnipeg, Manitoba for a fuel stop. But while they were in the air, somebody in that Inuit community phoned the authorities and the Fish and Wildlife officers in Winnipeg zipped out to the airport and caught them just as they were refueling, they were only going to be on the ground for half an hour and they caught these fellows and seized all the bears and all the stuff they had taken, they were actually held in custody, put overnight. And I forget what that amount of fines, they were fine some very hefty fines, which they paid in cash, which a wealthy Mexican farmer would be able to do and they went home. But something about the polar bear hunt is rather interesting. I did some deep dive into the science of polar bears and the state of their population and there are about 13 or 14 subpopulations of polar bears in the world, not different subspecies, but population groups. And of those, only 3 are in trouble by numbers, so most of the polar bears are in healthy shape. But what happens is anti-hunting groups who pose and disguise themselves as conservation groups get on these bandwagons and in order to achieve their goal of anti-hunting, they create these conservation concerns and that’s what’s happened in some of the polar bear hunting community. And it even went so far as National Geographic magazine put out an article, this is back 5, 6 years, they showed a photograph of an emaciated, starving polar bear and this whole article focused on the impacts of climate change and how it’s killing off the polar bears, it was an absolute fabricated story, it had nothing to do with climate change. It was one individual starving polar bear that was sick with who knows what disease and they actually had to recant that story. I thought about that, so I dug deeper and I found all this information about healthy polar bear populations and they are doing well. I talked to experts, but maybe climate change will impact them in the future, but as of now, they are legally harvesting, properly harvesting polar bears and the population is doing good. And in one case, each Inuit community is given an allocation to harvest X number of polar bears and if they do that, they’ll shoot the polar bears and take the hides and sell them. What some communities have learned is they can make far more money by selling a polar bear hunt and they shoot less polar bears because people that want to hunt a polar bear are usually looking for a big one. So they’ll sell all these licenses and only shoot half as many polar bears. So ironically, it’s a case where hunting is saving animals because there’s not as many being shot, because not everybody will shoot one. So it was an interesting twist to a story.

Ramsey Russell: We talk a lot about regulated hunting. We talk about a lot about hunting being good for conservation, but we mean regulated hunting. And throughout the whole world, there’s a lot of unregulated hunting. You get up in parts of Africa, we’ve had conversations on here about the bush meat trade, because there’s a lot of people that just have to eat and it reminds me, your story about the Mexican nationals coming up to shoot polar bear reminded me of down in eastern Mexico, there are a lot of locals that go out and eat and feed their families with the local fauna, such as oscillated turkeys. And one of my outfitters told me one time, he described, once he brings some of these guys into his employee, they realize that they can go out and shoot an oscillated turkey during the offseason or whatever to feed their family one meal. But with the money, the value that that turkey represents to them in terms of income from employment and tips, they can feed their family a lot of meals. And he said something transitions with them, they begin to value that local resource far beyond as supper and a meal.

Randy Nelson: Very true. I’ve heard that a lot of various African countries where that realization and that shift is being promoted and is happening and some of that same thinking can happen in North America. People hear of a neighbor who’s poor and destitute, they’ll go out and maybe steal some cactus plants out of the park or shoot a deer and take it home and people will turn a blind eye, oh, they’re just putting food on the table. Well, why don’t we say that about drug dealers? They’re only putting food on their table, it’s no different. The theft of a wildlife animal should be treated, no different than a theft of your TV or your car. We’ve got to change that mindset. The wildlife belongs to everybody and if somebody’s taking it without a license, we should do something about it, it’s not a welfare check.

Ramsey Russell: I tell you what, that’s a good way of putting it. Public trust species are not welfare, that’s a good way of putting it. Tell me a duck story, tell me some waterfowl stories.

Randy Nelson: Oh, I got a good duck story from Alberta, next door to where you are in Saskatchewan, there’s a wildlife officer there, he was out on a patrol and he comes across this cornfield on a pivot irrigation, one of those big round fields and he hears some shooting and there’s ducks flying over and ducks falling out of the sky, these guys are right in the middle of this pivot irrigation, set up hunting ducks. And he drives around the field and finds where they went in, finds their vehicles and recognizes one of the vehicles as one that he’s been trying to get for some time, a guy that’s been a bad dude. So he sees the tracks going into the field and saying, well, no sense me walking in there, because he’ll just know I’m coming and the game’s over. So he climbs this poplar tree, he gets up about 35 ft in this poplar tree and there’s not many trees 35ft high in the prairies. So he’s up there in this tree, swinging around, he said, this probably looks rather silly if anybody drives by, but he’s watching in binoculars and he sees these guys shooting ducks and they got a dog with them and they start packing up and putting all their ducks away and they start walking out and the guy that he wanted to catch takes one of the ducks and throws it over his shoulder in the cornfield. So he goes, oh, that’s kind of interesting. So these people all come out and he checks them and of course, everything’s legal, they all got their legal limit and the officer says, what happened to that duck you threw over your shoulder? He said, oh, I was just training my dog, he went and got that dog. So he says, oh, is he a good dog? Oh, he’s a fantastic dog. You don’t mind if I take him for a little walk and do a demonstration? So the officer takes this hunters and his dog back to the middle of the cornfield and the officer sends the dog to go fetch the duck and he comes back and drops the duck at his owner’s feet. So he got busted by his own hunting dog.

Ramsey Russell: Oh, good gosh. That’s a good story, Randy.

Randy Nelson: Yeah, that was rather funny how that one turned on him and you never know who’s going to turn on you and it might even be your own dog, so be careful out there.

Ramsey Russell: Throughout a lot of your research in waterfowl, did some of the waterfowl poaching, the waterfowl overharvesting, was it primarily just a trigger pull addiction? Is that what was going on there?

Randy Nelson: I think that’s what happens with a lot. Like duck hunting, you get so much shooting going on, I think it’s just some people get caught up and some of it’s is, I will call accidental poaching. But some of it is organized. And there’s a case out of North Dakota, this goes back about 5 or 6 years, where a hunting outfitter for waterfowl had a resort set up and there were 2 resorts fairly close to each other in this remote valley in the heartland of American duck country, it was really well known for being lots of waterfowl. And these people were doing a pretty good business, but they started doing even a better business by finding people that wanted to just shoot all day and they really overharvested time after time again. And the way they caught them with an undercover operator, went in there and the day at this resort would consist of 3 hunts, you would hunt a waterfowl in the morning, shoot your limit, you’d go on a midday upland game bird hunt and then in the evening you’d go for another waterfowl hunt, it didn’t matter if you had your limit, they shot and wasted thousands of birds. When this officer went in there, they had a dump where they just dumped the birds, the birds were thrown into windrows like the rows of trees.

Ramsey Russell: They weren’t even cleaning.

Randy Nelson: They weren’t even cleaning most of them. They had some clean birds in a freezer, so that if a guest wanted to take some home, he could take some home. But none of them were marked, it was a total illegal operation. And what happened with that business is they primarily focused on out of state wealthy hunters because it would be less chance of them getting reported or caught. And when you run an illegal operation, it’s more likely you’re going to attract the illegal hunters, so people who like that, most outfitters are wonderful and this happens very rarely because people appreciate what they have. But in this case, they just got caught up and they were running a total illegal operation. And in the end, they charged, I think it was over 90 guests from this lodge with gross over limits and massive wastage of birds. And that’s the extreme end of the waterfowl poaching. As I said, most outfitters are wonderful operations, but that there are a few bad ones as risen any segment of society and those are the ones that collectively we have to try and stop.

A Success Story: Whooping Cranes

So a lot of money is being spent on it, but there’s still hope for them, their numbers are climbing, but as their numbers climb, so does the conflict with some farming operations. 

Ramsey Russell: Speaking of endangered species, did you tell me anything about whooping cranes when we talked the other day?

Randy Nelson: Yeah, we did. We talked a bit about whooping cranes and they’re kind of a bit of a success story. They were down to as few as 20 birds back in the 1930s or 1940s and they’ve come back a long ways, it’s now estimated there’s about 800. And they’re fairly well protected, you get a whooping crane in an area all the duck and geese hunters are very aware of that and I think in Saskatchewan, they even notify people when they’re in an area. But where they live down south in some of your states, I know there’s Louisiana as an example, where the birds live for most of the year. And what’s happened there in some cases is their habitat is being destroyed. People create crayfish ponds, so they’ll drain swamp areas that is crane habitat and put these crayfish ponds in. And, of course, cranes, whooping cranes, that’s where they used to live, so they’ll stop there and they’ll start eating crayfish. And there are examples in several states where farmer says, hey, that’s my crayfish and we’ll shoot whooping cranes –

Ramsey Russell: Thinking they’re blue herons or just some other problem, they’ll go out and shoot this endangered species.

Randy Nelson: Well, no, they don’t care. It’s a case where in some cases they knew what they’re doing, but they were just frustrated because they had invested in this crayfish pond. So that’s a tough one because it’s their livelihood and we’re trying to build that species back up, but there’s got to be more emphasis, more working with state agencies to stop some of the draining, some of this habitat, protect some of the habitat, similar to work what Ducks Unlimited does for ducks, crane habitat. Sandhill cranes are part of that, too and will get shot because they’re in the crayfish ponds. So that’s kind of an odd one. There are a few cases of people out and out shooting a whooping crane because I got to get one before they’re gone. There’s a few cases and the way the courts have dealt with them is really all over the map. Somebody will receive a fine as low as a few hundred dollars for shooting the whooping crane and others will receive thousands of dollars. So that’s a matter of educating the courts, judges are only as good as the information that’s presented before them. To raise a whooping crane and they still do it in captivity, they’ll rear it and raise it and release it in the wild, it cost in excess of $100,000 to raise a crane to be released into the wild. So a lot of money is being spent on it, but there’s still hope for them, their numbers are climbing, but as their numbers climb, so does the conflict with some farming operations. And that’s something that happens with a lot of species. We’re trying to bring bison back in some areas and then bison interact with cattle and get in grain fields and wreck fences, we can’t go back to where we were, but we got to find a middle ground somewhere to make things best for what we have today.

Ramsey Russell: And it seems like there may be some bison may compromise cattle health with brucellosis and at least that’s what I remember watching too many cowboy movies back in the day.

Randy Nelson: Yeah. It happens a lot of times where we think we’re doing good when we are bringing something back, but it’s not always the case. We’ll high five because we brought some species back, but we might have pushed a button on something else or changed something else, it’s a very complex world we live in and we shouldn’t always use the simplest solutions to fix problems.

Ramsey Russell: I’ll tell you, lead into a story you told me the other day I really liked a lot. I was traveling to Azerbaijan over on the Caspian Sea, I think I was flying through the country of Qatar, I think that was it. It was over on the Arab Peninsula, up in that and big, fancy, nice airport, man, with Rolex stores and all kinds of high end stores in it and you’d have these conveyor belts, kind of like escalators, but flat and boy, I mean, they’d run for miles through that airport, and I got to notice it immediately, I’d be going one way on one of those conveyor belts and here would come a middle class Sheik and there were just a lot of these what my outfitter in Azerbaijan described as middle class Sheiks because they flew commercial, not private, but they all had falcons, different falcons on their arms. They were just walking through with big gloves on, say their left arm with a falcon and a hooded falcon sitting on their arm and, I mean, just everywhere you looked. And that’s a big thing over there. And when I got on the flight, the whole back of the flight was those middle class sheiks and they’re in one seat, their falcon sitting next to them in another, I learned that they had to buy a seat for their falcon. But I don’t mean just one or two, I mean dozens of these guys, it was a big deal. And apparently they go to some of these countries and hunt a bird called a bustard with their falcons, it’s a really big deal. Did you ever run across any falconry or falcon stories?

Randy Nelson: Yes, actually a very big one in my book and it could almost be a book in itself. I went down so many rabbit holes and found out way more than I ever dreamt was happening. I did not know falcons were such a high price commodity and were so highly sought after illegally in the poaching world. But what I learned is, I talked to a fellow who ran an undercover operation a long time ago in the 1980s out of the US and it was an incredible eye opener. They ran for a couple of years and what this fellow would do is he wouldn’t make it known that he had falcons for sale and that he was sort of a wheeler and dealer, buyer and seller. And over the course of that operation, in one case, he sold a falcon to a Saudi prince and this was before we had such security on people coming in and out of the country. But this fellow flew his private jet from the Middle East, landed in mid US, paid $50,000 cash for this falcon and flew home. No customs, no questions, just that was done. And when the operation came down, there were, I think, close to 70 people that were charged throughout North America, a few from Germany and they requested this prince be extradited. Well, that wasn’t going to fly. But his daddy, the King, sent a check to the US government for $150,000 to make the problem go away.

Ramsey Russell: Just pay the fine.

Valuable Wildlife: A Lucrative Poaching Industry

And the wild birds are sought after because they’re different genetics, they’re stronger because they’ve been raised in the wild, so they’ll bring a premium dollar.

Randy Nelson: Yeah. Rather than just say, here, take this and the case is dropped kind of thing, which was an okay to do, way to deal with it, I guess. But what I found out about in the poaching world is a lot of Northern Canada have – that’s where the falcons often go to nest, like, through the Yukon, Northwest territories, northern Quebec and a guy that was considered probably the biggest falcon poacher ever, he just got out of jail, being caught in England. But back a number of years ago, he flew into northern Quebec and his cover was, he was a photographer for National Geographic, so that was his cover story. And he rented a helicopter, flew out to these steep cliffs where peregrine falcons were nesting and he rappelled down a rope and plucked eggs out of the falcon nests and took them back to his hotel room and put them in an incubator because it’s easier to smuggle eggs than it is live birds. So that was his gig was to smuggle these eggs and then hatch them and sell them. Now, that’s how he got caught in England about 4 years ago and he’s been caught 5 times on three different continents. He was born and raised in South Africa and his dad was a falcon expert poacher and he became one and he traveled the world poaching falcons.

Ramsey Russell: That must be an extremely lucrative poaching industry, when a bird back in the 1980s was commanding a price of $50,000. I wonder what they charge today for something like peregrine.

Randy Nelson: Well, I guess the ultimate bird is a white female gyrfalcon. They come in different color phases, but they’re larger, the females are larger, so they’re worth more. But one of those can bring hundreds of thousands of dollars, it’s just ridiculous. And the wild birds are sought after because they’re different genetics, they’re stronger because they’ve been raised in the wild, so they’ll bring a premium dollar. And I contacted one officer who had been over to the Middle East at a falcon conference, they had it there, of course and he was exposed to some of the stuff you describe on the airplane and some of the history behind falcons, traditionally, what Middle Eastern people did is they would catch live falcons as they were migrating south and then they would go hunt in the desert with them for these bustards, these large birds that run on the ground and then they would release their birds back into the wild. So that was all well and good, it stalled the birds, but it didn’t keep them from the wild. And then it evolved into ownership where people kept these birds, started breeding these birds and I guess now a status symbol is how many falcons do you have? And this officer was taken to a building much like a hangar, the large building and was taken in there, it was an air conditioned building and around the perimeter were over 100 falcons, each on its own stand, each with its own handler. And that was one Sheikhs falcon collection, over 100 birds.

Ramsey Russell: When I was in that airport that time and on that plane, I’m 8000 miles from home, it never even crossed my mind that those birds may have originated in North America. It just never even crossed my mind.

Randy Nelson: No. Some can be legally sold. Like, there are thousands of people that belong to the North American Falconers Association and some of those are legal birds, but some aren’t. And unless you do an undercover operation, it’s very hard to discern which is the wild bird and which is not, because they can take bands off of one and put them on another, there’s all sorts of techniques they use to hide them, but it’s a highly lucrative form of poaching, and it’s just something that nobody really thinks about, including officers, many officers, game wardens, don’t know this is happening.

Ramsey Russell: You mentioned some of the syndicates over the salmon syndicates, let’s say that you dealt with millions of dollars, now we’ve got a syndicate with the falcons. Boy, millions of dollars trading back and forth internationally, did you ever uncover any direct ties to organized crime? Because you mentioned drugs earlier. I mean, crime is crime, whether I’m trading in bootleg booze or methamphetamine or falcons, it’s all kind of the same.

Randy Nelson: It is. Valuable wildlife is just another form of currency for the underground or the illegal world. Criminals will use whatever form of currency they have and there is a very clear case of conch meat, which are the big shellfish. They used to be prevalent off the coast of Florida, but they’ve been fished out and you can’t fish them legally in North America anymore. But some South American countries have a legal harvest, but there is a tremendous amount of illegal harvest. And there was one case I came across where a fellow from South America was poaching conch and taking the meat and freezing it and shipping it in a container, a freezer container, to Florida. Well, he got caught once, and so he said, okay, well, I can’t ship it direct to Florida. So he put it on a container on a ship, shipped it up the east coast of US, came into Canada, into Halifax, put the container on a truck, trucked it to Toronto, held it there for a while, repackaged it as a legal meat product and shipped my truck from Toronto, Ontario, all the way down to Florida, that’s a lot of work to get some fish to market. But what the same guy was, he got involved in the cocaine world, because cocaine can be used as a form of currency in Colombia and a few other places, so he was trading conchs for cocaine and then he got tied up with the Colombian cartel and started becoming a cocaine smuggler as well as a conch. You could hide the cocaine in your shipment of fish. A couple of his shipments got seized by border authorities with cocaine, so he was out $300,000 or $400,000 and if you take that money off the cartel, they’re not very happy people. So he ended up in a US prison and that’s probably the safest place where he could be. But it’s just a clear example of the high amount of organized crime that the money that can exchange. There’s another one involving eels. Now, baby eels are called elvers. And there’s these little things about 2 inches long, shaped like a willow leaf and they are found on the east coast of US, Maine, primarily New York and then eastern Canada, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia. And there is a legal harvest of some of those and they can bring upwards of $2,000 a pound for these little live, but they have to be live because the live elvers are then shipped to Japan to be put in aquaculture farms and raised to a size for market. So there’s this huge market for these elvers and a lot of it comes from Europe as well as North America. And I came across a case where an individual was caught, he was a Korean born fellow, but he lived in the United Kingdom, he was recently caught and over his 3 or 4 years of smuggling elvers, they were able to prove that he made over $60 million individually. The way they shipped these is they line a suitcase with plastic, fill it full of water and elvers and put an oxygen bottle in there and try to keep them alive. They seized one shipment of 264 suitcases filled.

Ramsey Russell: Were they trying to fly commercial with these suitcases?

Randy Nelson: Yeah, they’d put them on commercial freight. No, they’d put them on as freight, but it would be suitcases. It would draw a little suspicion if you checked in with 264 bags.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah. I maybe if they just checked one.

Randy Nelson: But the sad thing about this story, the guy was caught and when he went to court, he claimed he had some health condition, so the judge wouldn’t put him in prison for fear he might catch COVID.

Ramsey Russell: This was a recent.

Randy Nelson: Yeah, it happened right around when COVID was just starting. So the world was panicking and I guess $60 million can buy you a pretty good lawyer, he convinced the judge that he shouldn’t go to jail.

Ramsey Russell: It just seems like if that were in the aquaculture world, that’s what’s got my head spinning, that they would have adult eels producing elvers themselves, like a lot of other commercial fishing enterprises, like catfish farming down south, they produce young fish and they stock them with young fish that turn into big fish.

Randy Nelson: Yeah. Apparently eels don’t breed in captivity, they haven’t been able to successfully breed them in captivity. So that’s why there’s such a high price for them.

Ramsey Russell: Eels are an interesting fish because I had heard a similar story while I was in Netherlands, not about the poaching, but about the life history of eels that they fish, a lot of the ditches and canals and whatnot that are proliferate in Holland for eel and smoke eel, it’s a big tradition, is smoked eel. And those eel are probably a foot long and they’re absolutely delicious. I found out that I really like smoked eel, but they explained that all the eel come from the Atlantic Ocean. He described to me a real deep hole off of South America, I thought he said that was real thousand feet deep, that these little bitty fish. And he said from the time that they hatch and are an inch long until the time they have migrated and end up in a Netherlands canal, that they’re fished at all life stages from an inch long to as long as your finger to as long as your hand that there are different regions or cultures around the world that favor them at different life sizes.

Randy Nelson: That’s exactly it. Yeah. They spawn off roughly the area known as the Bermuda Triangle, the Saragossa Sea, it’s called. That’s where they start their life and they float in the Atlantic Ocean and they look like little silver willow leads as they move up into the northern waters. And that’s where they come in northeastern US and eastern Canada and in Europe. Europe is very big, very big eel populations, but are being decimated because of poaching. The legal fisheries are just taking a fraction of what’s actually being taken. They’re just worth too much. When something becomes so valuable, it’s pretty hard to protect it without a lot of resources and a lot of awareness. We’re talking here and there’s probably many people listening, saying, what are you talking about an eel? That’s just another one of the things you’ll find in the book, that you’ll shake your head and say, I did not know that.

Ramsey Russell: Well, you mentioned earlier you wrote the book The Wildest Hunt, when did you write this book? When and why did you write this book?

Randy Nelson: I wrote it when COVID first started. I’d had this idea to write a second book, the publisher liked my first one so much and they suggested do another one. And I had enough stories to do another one of my own career, but I thought I wanted to do this just to bring awareness to everybody of what’s happening. And I learned so much, I got so enthralled in this, when COVID first hit, of course, we were stuck at home and I thought, now’s the time to do it. So I got on the phone and I would find stories and it was like a big investigation, because you can’t just phone up a game warden and say, tell me your best story, because they got to know who they’re talking to and I had to find somewhere to start. So each story was a little investigation of its own to find somebody that would talk to me and give me the goods. But I did it for that reason and all the reasons we’re talking about to bring awareness to North American species that are being poached and getting people to consider helping your local game warden talk to them, ask them what’s going on, is there anything you can watch for or do, because there are far too few of them. And if you’re so inclined, get a copy of this book after you read it, ask your local politician or governor or somebody to read it. If we can get people more aware of what’s going on, then we have a chance of doing something about it.

Ramsey Russell: I mean, you were involved as a fisheries officer in British Columbia in some pretty big and lucrative cases, but did you have any idea that the scale of wildlife poaching in North America was as big before you started this?

Randy Nelson: No. I had no idea of the amount of different things that were poached. One of the first stories I wrote was about cactus plants and I thought, cactus plants? You got to be joking. What can that be worth? Well, they’re worth a lot of money. There was a case of a Russian cacti collector came over to Texas and he posed as a tourist out in a park taking pictures of these rare cactus plants. And what he was doing is the picture also recorded the GPS coordinates on his camera and then he would go pay some local to go in there and harvest these cactus. And when he got even smarter, he was harvesting the seeds from the cactus plants and they had an undercover operation where they caught him, there’s a picture of him in the book putting rare cactus seeds that were taken out of a park, he’s putting them into a box of Uncle Ben’s rice so he can smuggle them back to Russia.

Ramsey Russell: God. Boy, these are clever guys. Was there ever a story that left you, you heard this story and then you just sitting there at night, then it almost makes you sick. I mean, you’re like, oh, my God. What was the hardest hitting story you heard?

Randy Nelson: Yeah, a couple that were officers are almost killed. There’s a couple in there. I don’t write any stories about officers getting killed, that’s too disturbing to me because it happens too often. But there is a couple of stories in there and one in particular of a young officer from, forgive me with forgetting, but it was in the eastern US somewhere. Young fellow going out with his female boss out checking deer hunters and there was a field they went by and there was a vehicle, suspicious looking vehicle, getting near dusk. So they carried on and came back to that after dark and they noticed some lights in this row of trees. So they parked a vehicle and they walked across the field, kept low and got within about 40 yards of these 2 individuals. Again, not telling them they were there, they’re laying in the field and the young guy steps up, they’re going to step forward and go apprehend these guys. When he stood up, a shot rang out, the poacher thought he was a deer and shot him in the hip, blew his hip all to pieces. He said it just destroyed his hip. And his lady boss, who was with him, immediately put her hand on the wound, said it was like milk pouring out of a jug. And these two poachers running towards her in the dark, in the pouring rain in the middle of nowhere and fortunately, they realized what they had done and they actually tried to help assist to get the officer to medical attention. By the time he got to the hospital, it was an hour had expired and he had lost consciousness and wasn’t in very good shape. So the lady officer saved his life. She shared the 911 call with me, which was about 12 minutes and hearing that conversation, it was tough. Anyhow, he survives. They put him in an induced coma for 3 weeks, while he’s in a coma, his lovely wife decides to go cheat on him. He comes out of his coma, his wife is gone, a short while later, his grandfather died, this poor kid has been through the world in a bad way. But he is upbeat now, he’s survived, he’s remarried, got a kid and living a wonderful life, he’ll have some recurring problems with that hip forever. But he’s alive and it’s just a sad story about – And this young kid did something, I was shocked. He was asked to give an impact statement in the courtroom and he told the judge these guys were poaching, but they didn’t shoot me because I was a person, they thought I was a deer and putting them in jail probably won’t do society any good. Because he didn’t think the guy should go to jail, there’s more important things to do with his life. So the guy got some fine and paid his dues and I don’t think that guy will go poaching again. Crazy story.

How Market Hunting Led to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Ramsey Russell: Randy, we’ve had some people on here recently in the past. Rob Sawyer, a historian down in Texas and I did a two part series that began with market hunting, went into the advent of game laws and then some of the later – how it kind of evolved into waterfowl, very similar to the waterfowl story you just told previously about how it was so interesting to me, the transition, how society, the American society, North American society, consumed waterfowl. While most people were working at the office, guys were out plying the waters, killing ducks, selling them illegally at market back in the day, pre Migratory Bird Treaty Act. And how when the game laws came onto the scene, most of the local zip code, most of town kind of was used to buying their ducks, it wasn’t just a few poachers, it was the whole society. And then that evolved to where society began to realize we need to conserve waterfowl and what was so interesting is some of the later, the big stings down the deep south later really weren’t about selling ducks for market, it was just about hunters going out and melting a gun barrel, just kind of how it evolved. Is there still any illegal commercial waterfowl type stuff going on now or is it all the waterfowl stuff, just like the greedy sportsmen and outfitters?

Randy Nelson: I expect there might be, but I didn’t come across any. But you raised an interesting point about the history of sort of where we’ve come in the hunting world and how we treat our wildlife. And I cover off some of that in my book too, about the history of wildlife officers. And one of the first places in the US, it wasn’t really called a game warden, but they hired a fellow was in Florida, it was in early 1902. They used to hunt birds for plumage, they’d go into rookeries in the swamps in Florida and shoot all these big birds with the fancy feathers and for hats, they’d go to these areas where the shore birds were concentrated. And the American Ornithologist Union thought, we got to do something about this. So they hired a guy by the name of Bradley was his last name to stop some of this. And he caught a guy and the guy told him, if you catch me again, I’m going to kill you. Well, true to his word, he caught the guy again and Mr. Bradley was killed trying to protect birds. And that resulted in apparently in a nationwide recognition of this is a problem and his life was awfully died, he left behind a wife and two kids. But it sparked a conservation movement that inspired the whole US to advance legislation for bird protection. So that was a really interesting story that I dug up. And that’s what we’re trying to do today, trying to do with this book, trying to change some of the current thinking to move it a little bit further down in the right direction where it should be. Market hunting happened, yes, it was okay when it happened, shouldn’t happen today. Poaching, putting food on the table happened in the past, maybe it was okay, it’s not anymore. And all of this international movement and market of billions of dollars worth of wildlife, we need to collectively try and do something about it.

The Wildest Hunt

Ramsey Russell: Right. Randy, the name of your book is The Wildest Hunt. Where can I get my hands on a copy?

Randy Nelson: Well, for listeners in the US, it’s not available until the springtime, probably April, but you can pre order it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, I see it on the internet, it’s available there. And I have sent some copies to people that wanted know, I could do that for a few if people can’t wait, but it was released in Canada about a month ago, but it will be released in the US in April of 2023. Any bookstore can get it in when it becomes available, but I would recommend preordering it or I don’t know, if somebody gets hold of you and really wants one, I can make arrangements for that, too.

Ramsey Russell: I’m going to make arrangement when we end this podcast for my copy with you Randy, now. I’m going to tell you right now, I’ve really enjoyed these stories. It’s a very interesting topic to me, very interesting, I never would have dreamed that in the year 2020 in this modern era that wildlife poaching was so rampant. And you describe it as an illegal currency and I just would have thought, no, that can’t be anymore, but it is.

Randy Nelson: I think I’ve made my point with you and I hope I’m making my point with listeners is you don’t believe it, buy the book, read it and I guarantee you will have a different view of what’s happening around you. And that’s what I want to try and do is make people aware of it and just encourage some people to try and help out where you can, it’s really what it’s about.

Ramsey Russell: Randy, thank you very much for the time. Mr. Randy Nelson from British Columbia thank you very much. Congratulations on 40 years marriage, that’s a milestone in and of itself. Folks, you all can get your hands, go to amazon.com, preorder a copy of The Wildest Hunt. Thank you all for listening to this episode of Duck Season Somewhere, we’ll see you next time.

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Tetra Hearing Delivers premium technology that’s specifically calibrated for the users own hearing and is comfortable, giving hunters a natural hearing experience, while still protecting their hearing. Using patent-pending Specialized Target Optimization™ (STO), the world’s first hearing technology designed optimize hearing for hunters in their specific hunting environments. TETRA gives hunters an edge and gives them their edge back. Can you hear me now?! Dang straight I can. Thanks to Tetra Hearing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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