Though he and Ramsey connected over their shared waterfowl hunting interest, Trevor Santos is Director of Government Relations and State Affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. In the same way that neither great duck hunts nor quality habitat happen by accident, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes efforts in ensuring that the firearms and hunting industries remain healthy in today’s political climate. Today’s episode gives us a glimpse behind that curtain.
How Policies & Laws for Hunters and Firearm Owners Came to Be
There’s a lot of political stuff going on behind the scenes to make hunting, fishing, and firearm ownership possible in this country.
Ramsey Russell: I’m your host. Ramsey Russell, join me here to listen to those conversations. Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere. Final morning at SCI. I had a great guest today. It’s all about making sausage. I’m going to say it’s kind of about how our policies and laws and the way that we as hunters, firearm owners, and industry people came to be. And why is it important? Or is it important? because I don’t even watch Fox News anymore. Today’s guest is Trevor Santos. He worked with the National Shooting Sports Foundation. He’s also a board member and is active at several levels of Safari Club International. Trevor, thanks for joining me this morning.
Trevor Santos: Hey, Ramsey, it’s great to be with you. Thank you so much for having me, and what a time we’re having here in Las Vegas at the 50th anniversary of Safari Club International.
Ramsey Russell: And I got to tell you, I’m very pleasantly surprised and relieved going even into Dallas Safari Club and then a few weeks later over here to Las Vegas with SCI. I was really wondering what the public response would be; I almost expected it to be bearable. I mean, it’s been absolutely like a ghost town, and it’s been anything but it. In fact, we count media and other metrics within the booth that we use for show success. We think that these two events were some of our top events of all time.
Trevor Santos: No doubt, Ramsey, I think people are ready to get back out and have some sense of normalcy if we’ll see that here in the next couple of years, but not only that, they wanted to gather with their friends and the hunting community. People have been kind of stuck. Some international hunting had been shut down. So what better place to gather than SCI, where you can see your friends from abroad and outfitters you hunt with all around the world, gather and tell those stories, and hope that we’ll be able to get back out there very soon? I know a lot of the countries are opening back up for international hunters, but we’ve still got several that are closed. But that’s what it’s all about. is gathering, telling those stories, and recounting those memories, and there is no better place to do it than at the SCI Convention.
Ramsey Russell: Of course. And I’ll tell you, it took a couple of years’ absence for me to really realize how many friends and “family” I had at these shows. You know, people like yourself talk to me on social media, and we stay in touch. I don’t see it except here on a hunt, and countless of the people that came by saw the familiar faces, the warm handshakes, and the stories, and it was almost like a family reunion. But we were very, very pleased that this is the last year. Thank goodness for me that SCI is going to be in Nevada. You know, a lot of people come to Nevada for this show, but man, they’re going to move to Nashville next year, and it’s going to be outside of normal hunting season. It’s going to be between ducks and turkeys, and I’m already fired up. I think it’s going to be the greatest show ever.
Trevor Santos: And as much as we’re excited to be here in Vegas this year, you can’t hide the excitement in a lot of the voices that we’re going to Nashville next year. It’s as good a city as Las Vegas is Nashville. I’ll personally say it’s more my speed. I’d rather go into a country bar and listen to some country music. And look, I think the opportunity in Nashville to introduce SCI to an entirely new audience is what I’m excited about. Look, when it comes down to it, Las Vegas is a tough place to get to. It’s an expensive place to get to, stay, and eat, and I think we can touch so many more people once we get to Nashville. It’s an expensive place to get to and stay and eat and I think we can touch so many people, so many more people once we get to Nashville.
Ramsey Russell: I know this even though they’ve heard a few of these episodes; so many people listening are like I was years ago with regard to Safari Club International: it’s just a bunch of rich white guys going and shooting elephants and tigers and things that mean nothing to me as a duck hunter, but that’s not the truth. You know, the first year I was here, I was telling somebody this yesterday, and the first year I was here, I was next to New Zealand, and sheep, and black bear. I’m selling duck hunts. The guys next to me were selling something, but the guy behind me said it was like a party going on with all the people piling in. Do you know what he was selling? Rabbit hunts over Beagles in Missouri. And I was telling him about how busy they were, and I went to look, and every single person can relate to small game hunting with their folks. probably rabbit hunting over Beagles. I mean, I think he sold out every day. He was taking folks from around the country rabbit hunting, and you can find anything here in this show. But one of our associates came by that year and invited me to lunch, and I didn’t feel like I had time. He said, “Oh, you’ve got time. Come on and eat with me.” I walked into this room, and I met two or three of my Mississippi delegates, had lunch with him, and watched people and organizations stand up and pledge large sums of money. And it was a lobbying arm of Safari Club International, and what they did with those funds was lobby for hunter-friendly elected officials nationwide. And that’s when a light bulb went off in my head. And I go, “Holy cow, this is not just a big old hunting show; this is the real deal.” These people are on the frontlines fighting for hunting in America, and having come from Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and even a lot of these countries, we talk about gun laws in America. We got it made, man. Going to some of these other countries—Mexico, South Africa—is a whole other world when it comes to firearm possession, purchase, and licensing, let alone hunting and fishing, so that just brought to mind to me that there are a lot of people working behind the scenes. It ain’t just happening organically. There’s a lot of political stuff going on behind the scenes to make hunting, fishing, and firearm ownership possible in this country.
Trevor Santos: SCI is the one out there on the front lines, advocating on behalf of hunters, whether you’re hunting in your backyard in Alabama or chasing dangerous game in Mozambique or Zimbabwe. SCI is going to be there to protect what you’re doing, and not just SCI, but there are so many other organizations out there that are fighting for these freedoms, whether it’s our Second Amendment rights or our right to hunt in the US and beyond. It takes not only these organizations, but also the organization’s members. And those are the advocates who ensure that elected officials hear from us on these issues. Now is not the time to sit back and be complacent, because when that happens, those freedoms start to erode. Now is not a time to sit back and be complacent because when that happens, those freedoms start to erode.
Ramsey Russell: As recently as Obama’s administration, he signed an executive order. I would never have known about it had Safari Club International not sent out a news release, and he signed an executive order that basically said that for me to import or export firearms, I had to, in each instance, take a test with a government agency and get a tax number. So all of a sudden, I was plugged in. Every time I took my gun to Arkansas or Argentina, I was in a system with the ATF, FBI, and IRS. And the National Shooting Sports Foundation, SCI, and NRA collaborated to get that knocked down. They got it put on the back burner long enough that Obama finally went away. And I mean, the average guy never knew that was happening. And if they can pull that off, that’s when it’s going to really get serious, with you just going down to the local farm store and buying a new shotgun, am I right?
All Politics are Local
So you’ve got to engage with your county commission in your city council; you’ve got to talk with your state senators, state representatives, your governors, your United States senators, and your congressmen again.
Trevor Santos: And you know, all politics is local, as they say. So you’ve got to engage with your county commission in your city council; you’ve got to talk with your state senators, state representatives, your governors, your United States senators, and your congressmen again. We can’t sit back and think, “Yeah, you know they’re not going to take this or that away.” We can’t sit back and think that yeah, you know, they’re not going to take this away or that away.
Ramsey Russell: “They’re taking it away.”
Trevor Santos: They’re absolutely taking it away, and they’re doing it piece by piece. They’re going to go after the low-hanging fruit, and we as hunters and gun owners need to stand together, Ramsey. Because if it doesn’t impact us, a lot of times we think, “Well, I don’t need to engage in that fight.” Well, that fight is ultimately going to come to you at some point, and you’re going to be the next domino to fall. So we do have to stand together, whether it’s fighting against a ban on hunting with hounds or hunting bears. You know there are several states out there where you can’t even dove hunt Ramsey.
Ramsey Russell: Wow. As a southern boy, I can’t believe that.
Trevor Santos: I was going to say that’s probably one of the first things a lot of us in the south went out and hunted. We went out into a dove field with someone.
Ramsey Russell: It’s in my roots.
Trevor Santos: Absolutely. And to think that there are states around the country where the antis have pushed initiatives that have banned that And once we lose it, it’s a whole lot harder to get it back.
Ramsey Russell: I can trace a lot of my life path and career in personal terms to those first hunts and then just getting beat up with them and cultivating a lifestyle around them as a career. Where did you start hunting? Where are you from? Who would you hunt with? Who’d you hunt with?
Trevor Santos: I grew up in Tampa, Florida, and there is not a whole lot of hunting around Tampa. Now, a whole lot of good fishing I had family in South Georgia in Albany, Georgia, and I was fortunate enough to have an uncle that took me out hunting with him. Without that, I wouldn’t have ended up where I am today. Someone who grew up hunting in Georgia, ultimately getting invited to Ducks Unlimited events and in high school, it really started to build that passion of mine. And upon graduating college, I’ll be honest: I had no idea what I wanted to do. I wasn’t politically active. My parents didn’t talk politics. I didn’t keep up with policy and legislative issues. I wasn’t involved in student government in college, but I knew that I was passionate about hunting, and I knew about an organization called Ducks Unlimited, which had an office in Washington, DC. I had been the president of our chapter at the University of Florida and heard about this internship in DC. I was kind of ready to get out of Florida and see something new and different, and I ultimately applied for this internship for the summer that I graduated. I didn’t get it that first go around, and I was absolutely heartbroken, to be completely honest. The interview didn’t go well, but I knew I was going to go after it again. So after working for a family friend at home for several months and saving up money because Washington, DC, is an extremely expensive place to live, I went through that interview process again, and I was ready this time. I ultimately ended up moving to Washington in September of 2010 and working in a government affairs office. I had no idea what I was going to be doing. I knew that I was in the most powerful capital in the country. All the laws were coming out of that capital. But I honestly didn’t know how things worked. You know, you go through civics class and kind of learn about the legislative process, but until you’re there, you can’t see exactly what all goes into it. And that’s ultimately what I saw in Ramsey and in the lobbyist for Ducks Unlimited on Capitol Hill, day in and day out, cultivating those relationships with our elected officials and their staff. Staff is one of their key components to ensuring legislative advances in our nation’s capital. And what it’s really all about when it comes down to it is relationships. You’ve got to be a people person; you’ve got to be able to talk and share your viewpoints on an issue. So about a month ago, I said, “You know what? I think maybe this is what I want to do: be a lobbyist.”
Ramsey Russell: You’re a young man now. But how old were you then? But how old were you then.
Trevor Santos: At that point, I was 22–23 years old.
Ramsey Russell: And you wanted to be a lobbyist?
Hunter to Lobbyist?
But I don’t just want to be a lobbyist. I want to be a lobbyist who lobbies on issues that I’m passionate about.
Trevor Santos: I wanted to be a lobbyist, and people who aren’t involved in the policy arena here think it’s just a dirty word, kind of like a lawyer sometimes.
Ramsey Russell: I think that the mainstream media, whatever it has cultivated, has turned lobbying into a dirty word. Big, big farmers out there—just big farmers right now dealing with this issue right now. You know, “pandemic” is kind of a dirty word, but that ain’t my issue; hunting, fishing, and gun ownership are. So go ahead. So go ahead.
Trevor Santos: Well, when it comes down to it, every possible thing you can think of to buy, sell, eat; they have a lobbyist advocating for their issue. But when it came down to it, I saw the relationships that were being built and the personalities that were engaged, and I just said, “You know what? I think I can do this.” But I don’t just want to be a lobbyist. I want to be a lobbyist who lobbies on issues that I’m passionate about.
Ramsey Russell: You’ve got to be.
Trevor Santos: Absolutely. So after five or six months as an intern with Ducks Unlimited, I was fortunate enough to go to work for the National Rifle Association, where I worked in the NRA’s state and local affairs division. I started at the bottom as a legislative aide, and at Ramsey, I was answering phone calls and doing expense reports for lobbyists. But again, I got to see more of what they were doing, and over the next year and a half, I moved through several other positions through promotions and was ultimately given the opportunity. Chris Cox was an executive director at the NRA at that time, and I think somebody gave him a chance when he was young and he was hungry, and I guess Chris saw something in me at that point, when I was 25 years old. And Chris gave me an opportunity to go be a lobbyist for the NRA. And again, it was that passion. You know, I was out there on the frontlines, fighting day in and day out for gun owners. I had Alabama, Tennessee, Missouri, and Indiana as the states that I covered, dealing with the state legislature. So state representatives, state senators, and governors are advancing the pro-gun agenda and fighting back on that anti-gun agenda. So I worked for the NRA for about three and a half years and heard about a position with the National Shooting Sports Foundation. For those who aren’t familiar, the NSSF is a trade association for the firearm industry. So we represent fire manufacturers, retailers, distributors, shooting ranges, and anyone engaged in the business of making or selling firearms ammunition or related products. and they were looking to grow their government affairs team. And I basically came on as the number-two state guy. And I went from having about four states with the NRA to now having half the country with the NSSF.
Ramsey Russell: b Is the American political system engineered for that? because we’ve got elected officials up there. But how do they really know what’s important enough for us to call them? Is that kind of where the lobbying comes in? Is that kind of where the lobbying comes in?
Trevor Santos: As we were talking earlier, I kind of compare a lobbyist to a salesman, because when it comes down to it, I’m trying to sell an elected official on an issue, whether I want them to vote one way or the other. And I have to advocate on behalf of the firearm industry and explain why they need to support XYZ or why we need them to oppose it. And I’m talking about the impact on the industry, and that comes down to jobs, taxes, and really law-abiding citizens’ opportunities and the ability to exercise a constitutional right. But again, you’ve got to build those relationships. It’s one thing to go in with a fact sheet and talking points, but it’s another thing to really get someone to know you, to trust you, and to use you as a resource, and that’s ultimately what a lobbyist does: build relationships and advocate on these issues. And again, across the board in Washington, DC, you’ll see trade associations for every industry across this country, lobbyists for companies across this country, and contract lobbyists for trade associations and companies across this country. But again, those lobbyists are on Capitol Hill advocating on behalf of a company or a consumer. And it’s one thing for us as constituents to reach out to our elected officials, but it’s a whole other thing to be in DC, to be meeting with members and staff in their offices, and after hours again just conversing and building those relationships to be successful in advancing your legislative issues. And it’s one thing for us as constituents to reach out to our elected officials, but it’s a whole other thing to be in DC, to be meeting with members and staff in their offices, and after hours again just conversing and building those relationships to be successful in advancing your legislative issues.
Selling Firearm Initiatives to Non-Owners
But what it comes down to is reaching out to that office, asking for a meeting, and going and kind of telling your case.
Ramsey Russell: What a big distinction! There’s something I want to ask you. Here I am at SCI, and the people I’m telling and selling to are people that opt to come to my booth because they’re duck hunters that are interested in going to Argentina or wherever. But on the whole national scale of things, there are a lot of people you’re selling your product to, so to speak. I’m just imagining you going up to Maxine Waters and trying to sell a firearm initiative to somebody from somewhere that doesn’t hunt, doesn’t fish, or has never owned a gun. That’s a whole different thing than what I do in sales. How do you do that? Are you following what I’m saying? How would I reach out to someone I’m picking on, Maxine Waters? How would I reach out to her and convince her that shotguns and camo shotguns for duck hunting are important?
Trevor Santos: We’re always going to have those opponents that are going to be opponents no matter what, whether it’s just philosophically or some of the partisanship that we deal with on specific issues. But what it comes down to is reaching out to that office, asking for a meeting, and going and kind of telling your case. But that’s just one component of what we do. Yeah. We may be the ones who are there in DC. But Ramsey, we’re going to rely on our members. So in SCI’s case, we’re going to rely on SCI members and chapters to also reach out to those elected officials. We’re going to contact members and Maxine Waters District and say, “Here’s the issue at hand; we need you to reach out to your congressman or congresswoman and tell them why this is important to you.” Because when you get one, two, three, and then 1,000–10,000 people reaching out to a congressional office, that’s when it becomes even more of an issue and on their radar. But to go back to your initial point, how do I get someone? Yeah, there are times where we’re reaching out directly, but we’re also hoping that we’ve built a good enough relationship and been a good enough resource that when these issues start to come up, a lot of these people are reaching out to us. Hey, can you give me some information? We’ve got this bill before the committee, and a committee hearing is coming up. Where do you stand on this issue? What are some talking points? And again, we’re a resource for these elected officials and our members to share some of the talking points and why our organization is taking this or that position. So, again, we want them to come to us knowing that, okay, I can get information from SCI that we’ve got an importation ban coming up. Why is this bad not only here in the US, but how is this going to affect those countries in Africa? Who is no longer going to see the income from hunters coming from around the world? So again, it goes back to building those relationships. So again it goes back to building those relationships.
What are Some Issues that Firearm Owners and Hunters Should Be Aware of?
You would think that hunters as a community would be united in wanting more hunting opportunities, another day in the week to hunt.
Ramsey Russell: You know, we go hunting and fishing with our friends and family; we go to the store and buy guns; we go duck hunting; we watch football; we hang out; and life goes on. What are some of the issues that we are probably unaware of at your level with Safari Club International and the National Shooting Sports Foundation that you’re aware of that we might need to know that we’re completely unaware of? They’re not showing these topics on Fox News, CNN, or anywhere else. I mean, what issues are going on? I have heard about a lot of import bands going on, and that is how they backdoor us or import how they backdoor. I mean, that’s really how the anti-virus can backdoor the whole system. What are some of the issues you see pressing that we firearm owners and hunters should be aware of? What are some of the issues you see pressing that we firearm owners and hunters should be aware of?
Trevor Santos: Well, I think the biggest one is you, and you bring up import bands. And again, I think a lot of your hunters who may not be going internationally are going to say, “Well, that doesn’t impact me.” But the opponents showed their hand about six months ago when the Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition with the US Fish and Wildlife Service that would have ultimately prohibited the transportation of wildlife across state lines.
Ramsey Russell: So if I’m a Mississippi duck hunter and I want to run right across the river and shoot ducks in Louisiana, I can’t bring my ducks home.
Trevor Santos: Correct.
Ramsey Russell: Wow! Holy cow. All you boys that are driving from Kansas are heading back home. Think about that for a minute. and that was on the books. The antis were lobbying in their circles to press that.
Trevor Santos: And that showed their hand, and a lot of people may say, “HSUS only cares about puppy dogs and cats.” You see the commercials on TV, but when it comes down to it, if they could stop hunting today, that would be their goal. Their former CEO said it. Wayne Pacelle said back in the 90s that if he could put an end to hunting today, he would. And in this petition that was filed with Fish and Wildlife, it showed their hand because they know if they can stop people from crossing state lines to transport wildlife. Okay, well, now we’ve contained people to hunting in their own state. Again, they’re taking bites at the apple. What is it? Death by a thousand cuts.
Ramsey Russell: Death by a thousand cuts.
Trevor Santos: They’re going to use the term “trophy hunting.” And you know what? As a hunting community, we’ve got to stand together because there are a lot of hunters out there who say, “Well, I’m not a trophy hunter.” Ramsey, I’m a meat hunter. The term “trophies” polled high in opposition, and that’s why they grasped, you know, mountain lion trophy, bear trophy. Guess what? My first pintail I shot is a trophy. It’s sitting on my wall. That dove I shot last season is a trophy because it’s sitting in my freezer.
Ramsey Russell: You bring up a very, very interesting topic because among hunters, we are fractionalized; the antis are unified; no more hunting. Every anti-hunter can agree on that one point: no more hunting, but within the hunting community, trophy – and now I’m all about trophies – but there are people who might criticize me for being the guy who goes to North Carolina to shoot a 259-pound meat bear, not a 600-pound trophy. And there are people within the hunting community who might resent the guy always hunting the Boone and Crockett animal or something. And by that same token, traditional archers versus compound bows versus crossbows versus rifles versus mojo ducks versus, I mean, it goes on and on in the way that we hunters become fractionalized, and it doesn’t help that we’re all becoming highly distilled on less land, so I’ve got a lot of interspecific competition on public land. Now I really have an ax to grind against that other guy or another camo pattern. Am I right? Am I right?
Trevor Santos: Absolutely.
Ramsey Russell: What do you do about something like that?
Trevor Santos: So whether it’s compound archery versus traditional or muzzle loader versus center fire again, they’re just going to let us beat each other up. You know, one of these issues I deal with is repealing Sunday hunting laws or Sunday hunting bans in several states, and you would think that hunters as a community would be united in wanting more hunting opportunities, another day in the week to hunt. Ramsey, most people work Monday to Friday and Monday to Saturday; they only have Saturday or Sunday to hunt. Kids are in school five days a week, and they’re pulled in so many different directions these days with activities. So if we want to ensure that this tradition of hunting lives on, we need those opportunities.
Ramsey Russell: Absolutely.
Trevor Santos: But because in some states, this is the way it’s always been. And we didn’t hunt on Sundays; a lot of people aren’t open to that change and supportive of repealing these antiquated blue laws.
Ramsey Russell: You know, that’s why this pandemic is so upsetting. It’s gotten in people’s heads because it is different; normal is different now, and things are normal right now. I’m going to tell you, I’m right here at the convention, and I’m loving it. But it’s just like post-911, post-World War II, and post-atomic bomb: all the same things change. But it’s just like post 911, post-World War II, post atomic bomb, it’s all the same things change.
Trevor Santos: And the division isn’t just amongst the hunting community; I’ve seen it for nearly a decade in the firearm field. You’ve got your — what I’ll call traditional list — who grew up hunting with a side by side or an over-under or knows I’ve got plenty of those in my safe. And my first deer hunting rifle was a Winchester Model 70. But I’ve also got those scary modern sporting rifles—those black rifles. And what we see at times is that when we’re facing a ban on modern sporting rifles or magazine capacity, a lot of people who don’t have those are willing to let them go. And what we see at times is when we’re facing a ban on modern sporting rifles or magazine capacity, a lot of people who don’t have those are willing to let those go.
Ramsey Russell: Because it doesn’t directly affect them.
Trevor Santos: Exactly.
Ramsey Russell: But it does.
Trevor Santos: For sure. That’s the low-hanging fruit for the other side. You know, we talk about how if the antis could end hunting today, they would; if the gun grabbers wanted a ban on all firearms or if they could get it today, they would, but they have to go incrementally. So they can take the low hanging fruit, what polls well with the general public, what they can spin in the media, what they really can confuse people on, and you know, these scary guns, as I’ll put it, are a firearm that looks similar to what our military utilizes, and that’s kind of what they’ve clinched on, and they’ve been able to get a big part of the gun hunting community to say, “I don’t care about that.”
Ramsey Russell: Right.
Trevor Santos: But it’s going to start with those, guess what’s next?
Ramsey Russell: I mean, what do I care about somebody hunting mountain lions? What do I care about somebody out in Washington State springing back? What do I care? But it builds as a precedent; take away one little opportunity. What do I care? But it builds as a precedent; take away one little opportunity. Now I’m going to build on that success and take another one, and another one, and another one. No Obama again signing an executive order that was anti-wildlife trafficking, and what a noble sounding act! But you open it up and read it, and it was real, real muddy, nothing but gray area, and it talked about protecting iconic species, and in my world, I’m going to say the mallard duck emblem. A duck head—what did that tell you? Mallard duck head Boom. There ain’t no more iconic species in the university, in my world, or in my universe than a mallard duck, and that’s an iconic species. Start with rhinos; that’s easy, and go from there. Now, all of a sudden, I can’t take my Arkansas mallard home to Mississippi.
Trevor Santos: Well, now we’ve lost that segment of hunters as advocates, right? Well now we’ve lost that segment of hunters as advocates, right?
Ramsey Russell: And our voting base and political relevance get that much smaller.
Trevor Santos: So we’ve got to stand together; we’ve got to stand united, whether it’s on the hunting front or the gun owner front; otherwise, we’re going to see it all go away. You know I’m talking about modern sporting rifles. But guess what’s next? You shoot a Benelli Super Black Eagle III semiautomatic. Can you own those in Australia right now? Can you own those in Australia right now?
Ramsey Russell: As a matter of fact, there’s a picture online that looks like it would be Photoshop or something. But it is an absolute mountain of firearms going through a metal compressor, and that is when Australia demanded their citizens turn over all those Remington 1100s and all those semi-automatics, and that’s it. There are no semi-automatic guns in Australia for recreational use, for duck hunting, for big game hunting, or for anything else. Other places have tried. so that can happen. And Australia is a modern, contemporary Western country. But it can happen. Am I right? I mean, it can happen.
Trevor Santos: So people have to stay engaged. You have to be members of organizations like SCI and the NRA and know that they have teams that are fighting for your rights. But you can’t just leave it on them to do it when there’s a call to action to reach out to your local elected officials; you have to do it because those officials have to be hearing from their constituents when you get 500–1,000 emails or phone calls on an issue that’s going to go to the top of your list. and hopefully it’s going to fall our way. and I think recently it just happened. I think you’re aware of the Washington black bear hunt that was not reauthorized for the Spring 22 season. and a lot of politics played a part in that. And I think it was the Washington Department of Fish and Game there. They made the recommendation to have bear season. But politics got involved, so our side started to get engaged and reach out to the commission there, and I got word yesterday afternoon that the commission is now going to reassess and reevaluate and start the rulemaking process again. They voted 4-3 in favor. This was after the resignation of a previous commissioner. So maybe there’s a chance that due to the uproar and support for a spring bear season, they may ultimately have one there in Washington State. So maybe there’s a chance that due to the up well and support for a spring bear season, they may ultimately have one there in Washington State.
What Can Duck Hunters Do to Be Heard?
He does follow up; he does care about me, whether I am a business owner in his district, a taxpayer, or a voter.
Ramsey Russell: I couldn’t tell you who my congressmen were. I know now how important it is. I’m just a regular guy with a regular job. I live in a regular home. I duck hunt a little bit. I mean, really and truly, these guys will listen to me if I call them? Is it that easy to just call my congressman’s office? Is it that easy just to call my congressman’s office?
Trevor Santos: And as a young college graduate, I told you about that interview for Ducks Unlimited and that internship and how poorly the first one went. When I was asked who my congressman was, I didn’t know Ramsey, but I’ll tell you from that point on, I did my homework, and it’s so important for people to engage in the process, vote, and call their elected officials on issues that are important to them when we send out these action alerts, whether they’re from SCI or any of the other organizations, NSSF, which I represent in a professional capacity. We need people to act. We’re not going to tell you to act on something that isn’t important. But these elected officials have to be hearing from you and know that you’re engaged, and the more they hear from you as a constituent, they may start coming to you and saying, “Ramsey, you seem to know about some of these issues; how is this going to affect hunters?” We’re not going to tell you to act on something that isn’t of importance.
Ramsey Russell: There was a bill proposed in Maryland last year that would have essentially closed a major portion of the Susquehanna Flats to duck hunting except for a singular method that kids can’t do and a lot of folks can’t do. And a small team of people in Maryland that used that body booting method went to their politician, and she proposed a bill, and within about a week or two, it got shut down, torn up, and thrown away because the hunting public took the initiative. Now the people who had been directly affected, which were thousands, took the initiative to call. For the average guy listening, could he call in about anything? I mean, that’s how the system works. That’s the whole American way.
Trevor Santos: It’s one thing to have lobbyists there speaking on your behalf. But again, when those elected officials hear from the people that vote for them or vote in their district, they’re going to be listening to them. And when you start to see more emails and more phone calls coming in on this issue, one, it means that those organizations are getting the word out and engaging their membership, and it works, and it worked in that issue in Maryland. I remember seeing that bill introduced, and I remember talking with colleagues at Delta Waterfowl. And they got hunters engaged, and I remember that bill being pulled from its committee hearing.
Ramsey Russell: We live in the greatest country in the world, but so many of us, myself included, at times don’t really appreciate it. It’s not that the American system fails us. We failed the American system because we were complacent. We don’t call; we don’t know who our politicians are or what our role as tax-paying citizens is. And it’s almost like an obligation. And I’ve got my congressman on speed dial; he’s in my little town; I never talked to him; he wouldn’t know me if I walked up to him; but I talked to that kid that wears the navy jacket; I talked to his interns; and the first time I ever called my congressman, I had a question; I needed some help. And I talked to whoever answered the phone, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I hung up. My wife said, “Dumb ass, he didn’t even leave your name and number.” I’m like, “Oh my gosh, they didn’t need my name and number.” They called me back, they followed up, they knew my name and number. They knew my name, but they knew my telephone number; it’s on their system. They called me back and they followed up, and that was my aha moment when I went, “Wow.” So that’s what that guy does. He does follow up; he does care about me, whether I am a business owner in his district, a taxpayer, or a voter. One person can change, can’t they? He does care.
Trevor Santos: Absolutely. And earlier, you were speaking about when an associate of ours took you to a luncheon here and we were raising money for SCI’s political action committee. Well, SCI’s political action committee is helping to ensure that these pro-hunting and pro-gun candidates are elected to the US Congress. Again, it’s one thing to get out there and vote for someone, but again, “pack the political action committees” is another kind of bad word that people associate with “paying elected officials.” No, we’re ensuring that people who are going to support SCI and our members are elected to Congress. Again, it’s one thing to get out there and vote for someone, but again, packs the political action committees is another kind of bad word that people associate, oh you’re paying elected officials, no we’re ensuring that people who are going to support SCI and our members are elected to congress.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah.
Trevor Santos: Across the board. Just about every industry has a pack, and people are contributing to elected officials that they want to see in office who are going to support their way of life. They’re going to support hunting and firearm ownership. So it’s just part of this process. The legislative process is one thing. But making sure that those legislators are in those offices is a whole different story.
Ramsey Russell: You’re a board member at large; you’re a board member; you’re active; and you’ve got a pretty cool job. Now I’m going to tell you, Trevor, I’m sitting here looking at a photo of you sitting there with Governor Gnome, presenting her with a fancy shotgun. I’ve seen you post similarly with Don Jr., Charlie Daniels, and all kinds of folks. But what’s important is what you do. Why is it important? How did those people come into play, and why is SCI important? Why should the average guy sitting in Arkansas drive a tractor? Give a damn about SCI? Who cares? It’s a bunch of guys shooting elephants. Who cares? Who cares?
Trevor Santos: Ramsey I thought the same thing about eight years ago, right before I joined SCI. A friend of mine at the time was working at the NRA and our local Washington, DC, chapter. The president was an NRA employee, and he came to me and said, “Hey, I want you to join our local SCI chapter.” And I looked at the membership form, and I saw a lion on the logo. Ramsey, I grew up deer hunting in South Georgia. I like to shoot deer. I like to shoot ducks. Never in my life did I think that I’d go to Africa and lion hunt, and I haven’t, but the more I learned about the organization and what they were doing for all hunters, And that’s why I stick to the tag line, “First for hunters.” “Protecting your right to hunt from your backyard and beyond”
Ramsey Russell: Wow.
Trevor Santos: SCI was engaged in that. SCI has been engaged in this black bear spring hunt issue in Washington State. SCI has been engaged in repealing these antiquated Sunday hunting bands. SCI has been engaged in fighting for our Second Amendment rights. SCI is there for us as hunters. You don’t have to be an international hunter. going to hunt the Big Five in Africa. You don’t have to be going to chase animals in New Zealand; you don’t have to be going to shoot ducks in Australia or Argentina. You’re a duck hunter; you’re hunting Mississippi; your deer hunter is hunting South Georgia. You’re out west chasing elk and mule deer. You need to be a member of SCI. That’s what it comes down to. Yeah, you may see Safari and International in that name, and the origin of the organization may have started that way, but it’s evolved and brought in people like me who are passionate about hunting. I mean, you’re not traveling the world after the big game; you’re going to shoot ducks, and you’re doing it in Mississippi. And I followed your travels for years, and whether you’re going outside of the states or you’re never traveling outside of your home state, if you can afford to join the organization and get engaged, know that your money is going to fight for your rights as a hunter, not on a single species, not on a single continent. SCI is first for hunters; no matter what, where, or how you do it, as long as you’re doing it legally and ethically, SCI is going to be there to protect you as a hunter.
Traveling Allows You to See Your Home and the World at Large in a Different Light
Now we know how the American way works and where we should be with it.
Ramsey Russell: Mark Twain had a quote; he was so articulate. Man, I love Mark Twain quotes, and I wish I dug this one up so I didn’t butcher it, but he talked about traveling abroad, allowing you to have wholesome charitable views, and in that whole passage, what he’s really talking about is that the world’s a lot bigger than your backyard. And traveling allows you to see your home and the world at large in a different light. And I really think it’s important, Trevor, for me to have people like yourself on here and talk about these subjects, which may not be as sexy and exciting as some other subjects. The reason it’s so important is because having traveled outside of America and seeing what’s going on, knowing people like yourself, being a member of SCI, and doing this. It’s scary. It’s terrifying. I feel like I live under the delusion that, because I grew up watching John Wayne and the American way and all this stuff, my gun ownership and my ability to go shoot ducks are God-given rights, and like rust never sleeps. The anti-hunting and anti-gun movements are working 24/7 to destroy my way of life. And I’m made to feel anymore that I don’t have a choice; I cannot just get up and go duck hunting, go to work, come home, watch the news, and repeat. I can’t do that anymore. I have got to become active. I have got to rise to the occasion and begin to participate in the American way. I don’t have a choice. Am I right, am I overhyped, or am I right?
Trevor Santos: Well you can’t think that someone else is going to fight your fight for you.
Ramsey Russell: No.
Trevor Santos: If you say, “Hey, you know what I’ve been able to do all my life and what I’ll probably be able to do until the day I die, and the people that come after me, they can fight this battle on their own.” That’s not what I want to do. I want to make sure that my two-year-old daughter gets to enjoy the same opportunities I’ve been able to enjoy. And I hopeful that down the road, when she’s older and married, they can do the exact same. But I’ll tell you what: there are things that we can’t do that my ancestors were able to do before, and that’s because of complacency at times. But I’ll tell you what, there are things that we can’t do that my ancestors were able to do before and that’s because of complacency at times.
Ramsey Russell: And it seems to be dwindling. You know, and I’ll say this, you know to me as I’ve gotten into my part of the industry and become involved and become older, it’s not enough to be a member of Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, SCI, or NRA. I need to be active and involved with all of them, and I need to know who is running for office that affects me directly, starting with my mayor on my city council. And nowhere was that more obvious than how important local politics have been in the last two years, sitting at home and watching cities burn. Boy, I better know who my folks are that are going to protect my community when the shit hits the fan and who’s going to roll out law enforcement and fire departments to stop the looting and stop the building from burning. I better know, and I better be involved. But then it goes up to two national issues that directly affect me and my children. And this thing we do, which is called hunting and fishing, I mean, that’s just how I feel, and I’m becoming passionate about it. I mean that’s just how I feel and I’m becoming passionate about it.
Trevor Santos: But for a membership organization like SCI. SCI employees are a useful resource for members. So you, as an SCI member, can reach out and say, “All right, what are the issues that may be impacting me in Mississippi, Washington, California, Nevada, and again across the board?” Well, here’s another one: we have these elections coming up. Where do these candidates stand on the issues that are important to me as a hunter? Who should I be voting for? Who is SCI supporting through its pack? Because I’ll know that if SCI has supported them, then they’re probably going to get my vote because they think that hunting is important enough to continue into the future. So you know what I want them to do: represent my interests in the United States Congress or the state legislature. So you know what, I want them there representing my interests in the United States Congress or the state Legislature.
A History with SCI
But I see your world getting a little bigger too. You ain’t just a Georgia boy shooting deer any more.
Ramsey Russell: Now we know how the American way works and where we should be with it. Talk about something fun. How has SCI—your involvement for eight years, you said—changed who you are as a person and as a hunter because it has affected me beyond the politics of what’s going on behind the scenes. SCI has changed my life for the better. Now I’ve got to share this story. I went to Africa way back when, gosh, 10 years ago, 12–13 years ago, to go duck hunting. And I woke up, and some of the clients had gone out and shot critters. And I thought to myself, “Well, I am in Africa to go shoot something, you know, an animal.” I used to shoot; I got into this whole thing with deer hunting; I want to be a deer biologist, you know? And I got up one morning and went to shoot an animal. Boom-boom. And the ice cracked; it’s like going to a duck cold as ice and you go stomp a little bitty hole, then the wind starts blowing, the sun comes out, and the hole starts getting bigger, and it opened up something where now when I go to Africa I like to shoot animals, and I walk from here to the front door and I see critters from all over the world and I stop and go, man. But I don’t know what that is, but I want to shoot one, and I met you. How I really got to know you, Trevor, was years ago, when you and your wife and some friends went to Argentina and had a wonderful time. But I see your world getting a little bigger too. You ain’t just a Georgia boy shooting deer any more.
Trevor Santos: I was happy with deer hunting in Georgia, and at that time, when I was living up in the DC area, duck and goose hunting on the eastern shore of Maryland was a historic tradition there. But yeah, about five or six years ago, I reached out to a former colleague at the NRA and said, “You know what I think? I want to go to Argentina and do some wing shooting.” He said, “But I really want to shoot ducks.” He said if you want to shoot ducks anywhere in the world, you should reach out to Ramsey Russell at GetDucks.com.
Ramsey Russell: Thank you.
Trevor Santos: So that’s when you and I connected, and I kind of told you about what we’re interested in doing, and we went down there on that combo hunt. And I’ll tell you what, the duck hunting is down there. And I know Argentina’s, you know — you hear Argentina anything about high-volume dove hunting. The duck hunting down there was out of this world, and we just had such a great experience in those three days. So that was my first taste of leaving the States to go hunt internationally.
Ramsey Russell: That was your first international trip; I did not know that.
Trevor Santos: That was it, my first international trip. And I’ve been back to Argentina once for just a duck hunt, but Ramsey, I’m going to do Africa this summer.
Ramsey Russell: There you go.
Trevor Santos: I want an auction item at one of our local SCI events and we’re going to go Chase plains game.
Ramsey Russell: I love it.
Trevor Santos: And I’ll tell you what, I am very excited, and when I tell people this and I say, “You know, this summer is going to be my first trip to Africa,” they say it’s not going to be your last because I understand you get bit by a bug when you go there, and for so long before I was really getting involved with SCI, I just thought, “You know, Africa was really out of reach,” but in learning about it, sometimes you can do it for less expensive than an elk hunt.
Regular Duck Hunters, The Heartbeat Of Duck Hunting
And besides all the hunting, it really is a tremendous collection of people that are just like me and just like you; they may hunt something different, but we’re all hunters, and I see that here and I feel that here, unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been.
Ramsey Russell: And I was in line the other day talking to some people. You know, birds of a feather flock together when you’re at this convention. I can be anywhere on this floor and strike up a conversation with anybody. And so, I mean, I love being here because I can’t talk, right? And we got to talking about Cape buffalo, and let me tell you, that’s a big, gnarly, expensive critter at times. But you know the upshot of a pandemic. No, this stuff is super affordable now. All things are equal. It’s super affordable. We ain’t talking about a $50,000 animal any more; you know, anybody with a job can save, prioritize, and go on a trip of a lifetime. But Trevor I got bad news, for I shot those one or two animals all those years ago, and four or five years later, when I turned 50, my wife said, “Well, we found a heck of a deal to go to Africa.” So we went for it. She had never hunted a day in her life. shot three animals. We went to a shooting range back home. I started with 17–18 more. She was drilling it. She got bored. She shot so much she got bored to give her 270 punches in a row. I wouldn’t let her shoot any more. I watched her; I put an empty cartridge on shot number three, trigger pull number three, and she didn’t flinch. And I said, “No, no, you’re ready.” And she smiled outside her face for the entire eight days, and she came home and said, “I want to take the kids one day, and we’ve been back, and now I’m at the point where there’s all kinds of stuff I want to shoot over there.” It just never ends. And what else did it do for me? Trevor is, you know, I do these road trips; you’ve seen me do all these big road trips and engage regular folks. I love to meet just regular duck hunters, the heartbeat of duck hunting, and share a morning with them and see how they hunt in their corner of the world. But now I’ve added other stuff. Now I’ve got some friends down in Georgia that know that in terms of shooting cull bucks and antlerless deer, I’m their Huckleberry. I care nothing about the trophy I want, man. Once the word got out that Ramsey doesn’t care nothing about a 500- or 600-pound bear; he wants a meat bear, everybody had meat bears they wanted to get rid of because they were tearing up their stuff. Come home with me. And so I put that, you know, kind of into the equation, and I like it. You know, it gives me a little diversity and something fun to do besides just shooting ducks. You know, it gives me a little diversity and a little something fun to do besides just shooting ducks.
Trevor Santos: And speaking of diversity, you can find just about anything in the world here at SCI Convention. You can book a gator hunt in Florida, a whitetail hunt in Alabama, a waterfowl hunt in Saskatchewan, or, you know what, you want to go to Africa or-
Ramsey Russell: Climb up to the top of the mountain in Pakistan and shoot one of the rarest animals in the world, and it’s all right here. And besides all the hunting, it really is a tremendous collection of people that are just like me and just like you; they may hunt something different, but we’re all hunters, and I see that here and I feel that here, unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been.
Trevor Santos: Right. I think that show is going to be towards the end of February, so it’s not going to cut into anyone’s duck season. And look, that’s a whole new crowd that gets to learn about SCI and come out and see what this convention is all about. See what SCI members are all about, because I think a lot of your listeners, who may have a preconceived conception of who an SCI member is, will be very surprised when they come to a convention. And like you said, you can strike up a conversation with anyone here from anywhere around the world, and your backgrounds and experiences are going to be so different. But we’ve all got that one goal and that one interest, and that’s hunting, and that’s what’s going to connect everyone here this week. And as we move to Nashville, that’s going to connect all of us there, and we’re just really excited. I’m personally excited. It’s a little bit closer to home for me in Georgia, and I can drive up to Nashville. Nashville is just such a great city, and a lot of hunters can just come in and check it out for a day if they want to or stay for a couple of days or the entire week. So I’m ready to do it. Nashville is just such a great city and a lot of hunters that can just come in and check it out for a day if they want to or stay for a couple of days or the entire week. So I’m ready to do it.
Ramsey Russell: SCI Convention, February 22–25, 2023, in Nashville, Tennessee, and don’t conflict with your hunting season. I’m going to be there. I don’t know if I’m going to give away ball caps or something, but I am inviting you all to come to Nashville and start with my booth, and then I’ll introduce you to whoever you want to see. Do come to this show next year, come as my guest, come get a ball cap, come do something. I want to see you all there, and I know how crazy it sounds to a lot of you to know who your congressman is. Even if it’s Maxine Waters, know you’re an elected official. Call them. Call them tomorrow. Call them today. Just call them and introduce yourself and say, “I’m a hunter.” I want to know that you’re working for hunting for firearms, and every time you become aware, if you come to SCI or keep up with Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, and all these other NGOs, you’ll become aware of the issue. Call them, call them, call them, call them, call them, and call them. It is the American way. Thank you all for this episode of Duck Season Somewhere from the SCI Convention in Las Vegas. But we’re coming to Nashville next year. See you next time. See you next time.