As the North American Waterfowl Tour takes him further into Wyoming, Ramsey Russell falls in with Todd Helms, Managing Editor of Eastmans’ Hunting Journal and host of Eastmans’ Wingmen USA podcast. Between a couple epic mornings mallard hunting private stretches of the nearby Shoshone River, Helms tells Ramsey about his waterfowl hunting origins at family “Goose Camp” in Michigan, what life events led him to Wyoming, what duck hunting and living in Wyoming entails. Contemplating the ongoing drought, the 2 duck hunters wonder aloud to themselves where we are as duck hunters and what the future might hold.

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Hunting the Wilds of Wyoming

You want to see something crazy, you watch 10,000 mallards pitch into a pond the size of this room, or a creek that’s six inches deep and two feet wide.


Ramsey Russell: I’m your host Ramsey Russell, join me here to listen to those conversations. Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere and I am in the Wild West Wyoming and still good. Gosh, what a great hunt we had this morning, the kind of hunt you remember maybe the whole duck season. At least I will. It was just a very, very incredible hunt with today’s guest Todd Helms, Wingmen USA. Todd, man, what a great hunt that was this morning.

Todd Helms: Ramsey, thank you. Thanks for having me on the podcast. And I’m glad you enjoyed it.

Ramsey Russell: It’s such a good time on your podcast. I told you I wanted to do one with you. And I’ve hunted — we’ve got a US Hunt List outfitter down at WyoBraska, down touring to the other side of the state, which I’m coming right through here to get there. But I’ve never been duck hunting this close to Yellowstone, this part of the world. It’s incredible.

Todd Helms: Yeah. Between the birds — and you’re here way early. I mean it doesn’t get good until a month and a half, but between the birds, the habitat, the scenery, where else are you going to shoot birds at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains like that, right outside of Yellowstone?

Ramsey Russell: Your photographer this morning, kind of like, we had this big flurry of ducks, just like we said, and then it got quiet for a minute with the ducks. They did something, probably went to feed, and then they came back and we finished up real quick. During that low we were talking and carrying on, and Harrison asked, what kind of habitat do you like to hunt, yada-yada-yada. And the answer is I like all of it. But if I had to do just one thing all the time, like this is it, I can go on one hunt, it’s going to be mallards in a Wild West river setting like we hunted today. Don’t ask me why, maybe because it’s so different than anything I’ve done.

Todd Helms: Sure.

Ramsey Russell: I love my Cypress but I love what we did today. It’s enchanting. For a Southern boy to come up here — and I’m just imagining somebody in summertime throwing a fly rod out in that string, but it’s incredible. God, the cloud formations, the snowy caps in the background. And I know they’re not but the Russian olives are beautiful, the way they hug the shoulder, and the sage brush, and the way the escarpment goes up, it’s just absolutely incredible. I love it. I just can’t say enough about it.

Todd Helms: Yeah, good. I’m glad you like it. You talk about the Russian olives and that’s one of the big reasons that we have the birds that we do. We talked about that a little bit because you were asking about the blind, and why I built the blind, where I did. And I told you, I said, there’s going to be a bunch of birds. As they work, they’re going to really want to be down below us about 70 yards 100 yards, and they’re going to want to be up above us a couple 100 yards.

Ramsey Russell: And why is that? What’s different there?

Todd Helms: Well the water is a little shallow in — there’s some slack water and it’s shallower and it butts right up to overhanging Russian olives. And so those ducks they get right out on the banks and I’ve seen them literally like up in those Russian olives flapping around and trying to get those olives and —

Ramsey Russell: They eat the olives but they also got thermal cover to protect — it’s a noxious weed, man. It’s on the like USDA noxious weed list but at the same time it does of all the crap like that out there. It does provide a great wildlife benefit.

Todd Helms: And I think that’s why they brought it in. It’s erosion control. I was talking this morning you were asking about deer and different things down there, it’s full of pheasants. It holds a ton of pheasants, it holds white tailed deer, and the ducks love it, and it’s a big part of the reason that we winter as many ducks as we do. But getting back to that wild thing that you were talking about the wildness of it at the same time, I think that these valleys, these big Western rivers have been wintering ducks for eons. Since there’s been ducks. And it just kind of shows, like we were talking this morning about the Native Americans, they had to hunt this stuff, they had to hunt these birds.

Ramsey Russell: They had to.

Todd Helms: And how would you do it? Would you try to net them? Would you try to shoot them with a bow? Were you throwing rocks at them? Who knows but they had to do it because that there were just tons and tons of birds —

Ramsey Russell: I would think the sellers did too because you’ve got the venison, the pronghorn, the mule deer, the whitetail, the elk, which is pretty low-fat content. And I’m thinking if I was a starving pioneer right here in the cold winter, I want freaking fat. And my rivers are choked full loaded of it – and we’re breaking off. My mind’s going in five different directions right now, because for those of y’all listening, there ain’t no ducks down. They’re waiting on ducks like we do in the deep South, but it’s loaded with duck. It’s way more ducks than I’m accustomed to seeing back home on just an average day. A lot of mallards, a lot of good ducks, but it begs the question because y’all season runs, we’ve learned, through mid-January. So there’s an entire population of mallards and golden eyes, and these different birds, this is their wintering grounds. They’re just hopping down from Montana or you maybe got a local breeding population or coming down from Canada. And this is where they’re going and this is where they’re staying. They’re not going for the South and y’all get -30, -40 up here. And I haven’t seen a ton of corn. We’re not talking about Missouri corn ponds flooded. You ain’t got that for you.

Todd Helms: It’s not the Dakotas, or Iowa, or Nebraska —

Ramsey Russell: Ain’t no corn, shortstop going on in Wyoming, I can tell.

Todd Helms: No. 

Ramsey Russell: It ain’t going on, nowhere I don’t think, but it ain’t going home here.

Todd Helms: No, definitely not.

Ramsey Russell: Let me clarify. We ain’t got that excuse.


History, Irrigation, Whiskey, and All Things Wyoming


Todd Helms: No. And what we see Ramsey, is we see these birds get pushed around by weather. Later when we do get weather, and when it gets down into those below zero temperatures for very long, these rivers slush up pretty good. And I’ve never seen them real like freeze solid for the most part, they might slush up and be pretty tight for a couple of days, but they are almost always running. So there’s water someplace, plus with all the geothermal stuff that we have because we’re so close to Yellowstone, there’s all kinds of spring fed stuff that’s open all winter long. It doesn’t matter if it’s 35 below, there’s water somewhere. You want to see something crazy, you watch 10,000 mallards pitch into a pond the size of this room or a creek that’s six inches deep and two feet wide. It’s unreal, it’s unreal. And I know I just never seen anything like that until I moved out here from Michigan. Our ducks went south, and by Thanksgiving, we were pretty much out of ducks. There was a little bit of late stuff here and there, but not much. We had late geese, we didn’t have ducks, and so to come out here and hunt ducks late into the winter like that, it’s special. It’s really special. And you’re talking about the corn. Yes, there’s ag, what we have here is a world class irrigation system that was built kind of predicated on the ideas of Buffalo Bill Cody and —

Ramsey Russell: He was more than just a buffalo hunter. He was a community builder and leader —

Todd Helms: Big time —

Ramsey Russell: — and entrepreneur.

Todd Helms: Yes. And in the town of Cody, which is 25 miles to our southwest, that’s his town, and you saw the Irma Hotel which was his. And I think we could farm this stuff if we could figure out how to get water to it. Man, those Mormons are irrigating the desert down there in Salt Lake, let’s see, let’s bring them up here. Well, guess what? And now we have a very large population of LDS, Mormon folks here. A lot of farmers, and the farmers are not all, of course, but a lot and this is a world class irrigation. Here in this part of Wyoming, we grow like I think I want to say it’s like 90% or 95% of all the barley that Anheuser Busch uses.

Ramsey Russell: Wow I had no idea.

Todd Helms: And it’s produced right here. That grain is produced right here. That bourbon that you had last night, that grain produced.

Ramsey Russell: What kind of bourbon was that? Because that was good.

Todd Helms: That’s Wyoming Whiskey out of Kirby, Wyoming. And that was a special barrel called Thunder Basin. That’s kind of a special limited run. We filmed a video several years back called Ducknado and it’s on our YouTube channel. We had a dry land mallard hunt that was just obnoxious and we did it two days in a row. That farm produces all of the grain for Wyoming Whiskey. The one farmer.

Ramsey Russell: And here’s something I found very interesting last night and it was really good bourbon. It’s hard for a Southern boy to say.

Todd Helms: Come to Wyoming and go, I guess I’ll try it.

Ramsey Russell: It was really good bourbon. And you were telling me that when this company started up, it wasn’t good bourbon. They learned something, they brought in a bourbon master but they learned something very important, has to do with the climate, the temperature out here, and I thought that was just astounding.

Todd Helms: Yeah, you’re back in your neck of the woods like for lack of a better term, have to roll those barrels to keep that bourbon aging properly and keep the chemical processes going and out here because we have such a wild variation in temperatures in those cast houses, the bourbon does it on its own.

Ramsey Russell: It’s like the wood is contracted and expressed with the temperature extremes and drawing it in.

Todd Helms: And the acids are moving in and out. And so they bottled the first batch in the winter basically. This is what the guy down there was telling us that bourbon is dormant in the winter after below a certain temperature and it was awful. I mean it tasted like straight up kerosene and you couldn’t get people to try it again. And they’re like no, no, no, no, no, no because they figured out if we bottle it at a warmer temperature when it’s in bloom, it’s actually really good and it is. Even their white label stuff which is like I think $35 or $40 a bottle is very good.

Ramsey Russell: That’s good.

Todd Helms: And then that stuff you had last night, but that’s kind of cool because that particular farmer is 10 miles to the east of here, and the fact that we filmed two duck hunts on that are on the YouTube channel on his place. And all that grain comes out of his, it’s really cool. Small world. Because you travel all over the place and you meet all kinds of people and talk to folks, the world gets small in a hurry.

Ramsey Russell: Oh, the world is small. It’s a small world, especially in the duck hunting community. It’s unbelievably small. Backing up to last night, that’s how we got talking those Natives this morning, the Indians and the duck hunting. Thank y’all, you and your wife, and your children for having me come to your Friday night pizza dinner. Your wife rolls out this pizza from 100% scratch. It’s y’all tradition. It was absolutely delicious, but just, I’ve been on the road now since September, mid-September, and I’ve had been treated to just a world of tremendously good hospitality. But man, it really was nice to come in and just feel just as a part of a family, and at home, and eat some great pizza, and drink some great bourbon.

Todd Helms: They were happy to have you and I was.

Ramsey Russell: It is the prettiest welcome committee I’ve had all – yeah, maybe ever.

Todd Helms: Like I told you this morning, I not only married way out of my class, way above my pay grade, but I have two of the sweetest, prettiest daughters that you could ask. And I got a young son who’s well on his way to the NFL hopefully. Who knows? That was one of the things – when I was told my wife that you were coming out and we were going to hunt and record a podcast and actually get to meet – I said, I’d like to just have Ramsey over for supper. Instead of going out to dinner and doing all that. I said, I’ll bet he could just use a home cooked meal and a Lazy Boy to just kick back and have a chill conversation. So I’m glad you enjoyed that. And I’m glad you were up for it, because it’s not everybody’s idea of a good time. 

Ramsey Russell: No, it was perfect speed. And look, I get up at 3:30 – 4:00 o’clock every morning for a living. So we’re sitting there visiting out there and you shot like eight o’clock got to go, thank you very much.

Todd Helms: You did too. You would’ve ghosted me.

Ramsey Russell: Thirty minutes later I was gone but I was snoring.

Todd Helms: Yeah. No, and I could tell, I wasn’t worried about that. I’m looking at the clock and thinking we got to get up at 4:30 and you got up early and been up early. A whole bunch of hunting and traveling and driving. I’m like, let this man go to bed.

Ramsey Russell: Oh, trust me. I’m going to bed.

Todd Helms: Especially after a glass of bourbon.


How Did the Natives Hunt These Birds?

How are they killing these ducks, I wonder? Hello, if anybody knows, share it with us.


Ramsey Russell: If I drank another glass of bourbon sitting in that Lazy Boy, I would’ve woke up there. When we got there the oldest daughter gave me this feather and she said don’t tell him what it is, see if he knows, and I didn’t. And then you gave me another feather and I had no idea and I was sitting there racking my brain, but it was sage grouse. And then you showed me this picture of a headdress, an authentic Native headdress. Had no idea, bald eagle feathers. I had no idea there were like this headdress out of all these undertail feathers and tail feathers out of sage grouse. It’s a very definitive bird out here.

Todd Helms: Yeah, it’s the Wyoming state bird, pretty sure.

Ramsey Russell:  Yeah, should be.

Todd Helms: Yeah, if it isn’t it should it ought to be. But the headdress you’re talking about is the Cheyenne dog soldier’s headdress. Northern Cheyenne dog soldier. Ceremonial stuff and once you see that headdress, and you see that feather on the — it’s basically off the butt it’s like the underside of the tail rump of the bird. And once you see that —

Ramsey Russell: When he had displayed out, that’s when you —

Todd Helms: When he turned you see that and those feathers are just like quivering on him as he’s strutting. And they’re black, that dark black feather with those white snow white.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah, ivory tips.

Todd Helms: And so you can imagine where a Native person would look at those birds on the lake in the spring – and watch them dance because a lot of their ceremonial dances are based off of animal dances. And you watch some of these things and you can see the correlations. You watch some of these dancers and leaning over and it’s like that’s a sharptail. That’s all sharptail dances. You can watch that. There’s no doubt the way those feathers bounce on that bird and you put them on a head dress like that, its striking.

Ramsey Russell: But it’s such a lost piece of history. Like I’ve been to some of these Native American museums, and you see their paintings and the drawings of the war ponies, and the battles, and the buffalo hunts, and the deer hunts, but nothing about birds. And I know I’ve been down to South America where a lot of their Native Americans, some of their locals still do – believe it or not, like a lot of the Purdy’s the partridge and some of the over hunted hunts you might see advertised. You just don’t know it but they’ve got locals going out and capturing these birds using historic traditions of like a little tunnel, little wicket basket, and just sneaking up and grabbing them, just hand grabbing them. And how did the Natives hunt these birds? I’m just curious. I mean, something just tells me they didn’t go out there with a sling and arrow. You got way too much time in a piece of rock, you go out there and sling it at a bird.

Todd Helms: You would think. Maybe, who knows? Like you said, slingshots, or I would bet a throwing stick would probably be real handy. Anybody that’s spent any time bowhunting, archery hunting elk in the Rocky Mountains has been around grouse. And those mountain grouse that we have out here do not behave the same way that rough grouse back East and in the Upper Midwest do. They’re very, very naive I guess you could say. You can kill him with a stick, you can kill him with a rock. I would imagine that a lot of the birds out here, pre-settlement, pre-European settlement would be in a similar situation maybe. I don’t know.

Ramsey Russell: I don’t know either. I’d love to know. It’s like a whole forgotten art.

Todd Helms: Well, there’s got to be some connection to – I think about the Cree. The Cree hunters up in the tundra in Hudson Bay and James Bay, and voice calling Canada geese and snow geese, and using mud the grass and stuff for decoys until they get a few dead birds. Then they pile those up and there, they kill those birds.

Ramsey Russell: Well they found those old canvasback decoys in Nevada. But how did they kill them birds? I mean, they kill themselves a Native American or somebody that’s trying to survive. They got to have numbers, they got to have birds. It’s a benefit cost to going out, spending time doing this versus doing that, and they ain’t going out and being happy with just one or two ducks. They weren’t sport hunting. They had to feed families and tribes. How are they killing these ducks, I wonder? Hello, if anybody knows, share it with us. Let me know. Shoot me, shoot me a text or inbox. I’d like to know that. I have no idea.

Todd Helms: I would too because I don’t know the answer to it and I’m sure somebody does. I’m sure there’s a cultural anthropologist somewhere that has an idea, or they studied it or figured it out.

Ramsey Russell: Some museum curator or somebody somewhere has read a book.

Todd Helms: Yeah, exactly!


Bagging a Jack Miner Band

That type of stuff is just burned into who I am. That’s just etched in the fabric of my soul.


Ramsey Russell: When I was on your podcast and we were talking, I just assumed you were from Wyoming.

Todd Helms: Oh, yeah.

Ramsey Russell: I just assumed. You kind of look like Wyoming with a big beard and all, but you’re not, you’re from Michigan.

Todd Helms: Yeah, I’m a Yooper. I wasn’t born there but I got there as fast as I could and that’s the joke because the big status is if you’re not born in the UP, you’re not a true Yooper.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Todd Helms: But I lived there, I think I was six months old when my folks moved us up there.

Ramsey Russell: And you grew up, you grew up waterfowl hunting.

Todd Helms: Yes. Bird hunting in general was not something that was that something we always did and it was a big deal. It was kind of like deer season and out West, it’s big game, big game, big game. That’s the main focus out here and I love that. But deer season in Michigan was two weeks. And we could start hunting geese September 1st and then fired up upland birds – which we had sharptail, we had rough grouse, woodcock. And then late September usually through that early November, we’re chasing ducks because that’s when we had them. And I grew up on the St. Mary’s right across right by Sault St. Marie, Michigan and that’s a pinch point for the flyways, that’s a big – there’s a lot of birds that go through there. And so and it’s phenomenal habitat. It wasn’t just something that it’s like, oh let’s go duck hunting. No, it was as often as we possibly could, like every weekend we were chasing ducks.

Ramsey Russell: Ducks or geese?

Todd Helms: Both, I kind of lived on the edge of that Northern tier of farm country, it’s kind of hard scrabble. There was oats and hay and that was the only two crops anybody could grow – it’s dairy country. And a lot of it was some of the first agriculture that those birds would see coming out of Canada on their migration, and I lived right on the edge of that. There were big ditches that would fill with water in the fall and the ducks would just pour into those and then the geese would be out in the old stubble or in a hayfield or whatever, and we’d see them, and I could see them from my house. So there’d be a couple hundred geese out in the field and we go set up and it was rough shooting man. It was just hiding in a ditch and throwing out 8-10 super Magnum shell decoys and killing birds. And we kill all the birds we wanted doing that. And I was telling you this morning, it was a story we were talking about bands and I remember–

Ramsey Russell: Yeah, they don’t shoot very many out here.

Todd Helms: Not here, no, we’d killed quite a few bands back in Michigan, my dad killed a Jack Miner band when I was 10-11 years old. I was a little boy and I was with him when he did that. It was a foggy morning and, geese have a tendency to really trust a call in the fog. And this bird just come sailing out of the fog that long, just long goose, that moan, and he just wing set, and he sails right into it. My dad stood up and dumped him, and I tried it out and got him, and he had a band. It was a Jack Miner band.

Ramsey Russell: Wow.

Todd Helms: And that’s the first I’ve ever heard of that. Of course, now they’re famous. Now those Miner bands are famous, but I’ll never forget that. That type of stuff is just burned into who I am. That’s just etched in the fabric of my soul. And you asked me, what do you like to hunt? I like to hunt everything, kind of like what you said, what’s your favorite duck? The next one in the decoys.

Ramsey Russell: The dumb one.

Todd Helms: Yeah, the dumb one.

Ramsey Russell: Especially if it is dumb. Yeah, if you say.


All About the Game

If you’re tore up with it and you’re all about the game and you’re all about getting out and enjoying every moment, not just making piles, we’re probably going to get along pretty good.


Todd Helms: And I love that. And I’m the same way when it comes to hunting. It’s like when I’m elk hunting, I’m elk hunting. If I’m hunting deer, I’m hunting deer. But if you told me tomorrow – and please don’t ever anybody do this, I hope, pray to God it doesn’t come to this – but you got to choose one thing, every waterfowl. Hands down, hands down, and it wouldn’t even be hard. That’s who I am: ducks, geese, it doesn’t matter what it is, but chasing those birds, and I think that’s become more of a rare thing in today’s world. It seems like a lot of folks are just in it because it’s cool.

Ramsey Russell: It seems like it. Social media makes it seem like that. And I think I’ve had a conversation the other day. I think that some brands perpetuated. They perpetuate a young persons that may lack the upbringing that you had or I had. Their thought is that they need to behave a certain way.

Todd Helms: And I’m not saying – and please don’t misunderstand me – I don’t mean to imply that you’re less of a duck hunter than I am because I’ve been doing this my whole life. No, not at all. You don’t have to have that background. There’s a difference and it’s a difference from where I come at it from versus somebody else. If you’re tore up with it and you’re all about the game and you’re all about getting out and enjoying every moment, not just making piles, we’re probably going to get along pretty good. And it doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been doing it. Especially if you’re willing to learn something.

Ramsey Russell: Well, it’s like this morning, everybody I guess. I said something in an Instagram post, and you asked me about it, like we did take our time. We were not in a hurry. We doubled up on one pair, which I shelled out, let the second one of them go. Kill the first one and then connect with a second. And you helped me out there but other than that we took our time. I know every single duck that I shot and missed, and you do too.

Todd Helms: Yes.

Ramsey Russell: And there’s a lot of satisfaction in that.

Todd Helms: I think so.

Ramsey Russell: I’ve been on the crowd of 10 of us just shoot now. Nobody knows who shot what, that just ain’t my cup of tea man.

Todd Helms: Yeah, I mean it can be fun while you’re doing it. You’re wrapped up in the moment. And it’s like, that was unbelievable. But it’s like a whirlwind. And you get done when you’re done and it’s almost like you have to come down. It’s such a high that it’s like, wow. And then you’re trying to process stuff and you remember making a shot, but like you said, you’re not 100% sure if you’re the one that actually killed that bird.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Todd Helms: And that might be an ego thing. But I like the fact that you and I did it the way we did it this morning.

Ramsey Russell: That was the perfect pace. We never got chaotic. We had time, because on one of those pairs we shot the dog had to get one, the other one drifted. Now we had to get out of the blind, go down, recover that bird. And it wasn’t just chaotic. I don’t like it when it’s so fast that it’s chaotic.

Todd Helms: Yeah, I’m the same.

Ramsey Russell: I don’t like that. That’s just a buzzkill to make. Stages and phases and duck hunting is very subjective. I just don’t feel that that need to pile them all up, and this, that, and the other. 

Hunting Dog Accolades

Having a dog that’s just right of being controllable but having a mind of its own is a real asset out here. 


Todd Helms: I’m with you. The way we did it today was right for me too. Speaking of the help and the dog, had to help the dog twice today. She did phenomenal. Because I can’t imagine that she’s young dog, right.

Ramsey Russell: She’s three. Yeah, she’s been there.

Todd Helms: I can’t imagine she sees a lot of river currents like that.

Ramsey Russell: Not much. And I will say this, she’s learning because like, the other day we hunted Shoshone River and today she did the same thing once. Well if it’s on dry ground, or a lake, or something like that, that birds were the mark it, but this son of a gun is moving, whatever cubic feet per second mile converts to miles an hour from that mark. And it takes her a little bit of time to get there by the time she’s having to swim and birds not there. It’s 10 yards off from where she was and that’s daunting for a dog.

Todd Helms: Yeah, it’s a huge learning curve. That’s a huge learning curve. I remember when Mackinaw was a pup, I should say his first year of real hunting. Well, there were a couple spots that I didn’t hunt and I learned the hard way. I knocked birds down in a riffle. There’s real bumpy shallow water. He couldn’t find him. He’d run out there and mark the spot run out there. All the birds not there, it’s 30 yards down river already, but because it’s all ripply, he can’t see it. And finally, he got one where that was flapping real good. The wings are flapping like crazy, and he could see it, and he ran out there, and he looked down and there’s that bird down there flapping, and he found it and then it kind of clicked. But there’s definitely a learning curve out here. Having a dog that’s just right of being controllable but having a mind of its own is a real asset out here. Because they’ve got to be able to adjust on the fly, they can’t just be a robot that goes out, hits marks, hits lines.

Ramsey Russell: A good dog can think for itself. They got the nose. They’ve got the hunt there on the site. I’m 100 yards remote from it. They know what’s what and you got to work as a team. But the dog has got to be able to hunt.

Todd Helms: Yeah. We watched charter do that this morning.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Todd Helms: We knocked a bird down on the island. It was dead, went down dead. It wasn’t far, it wasn’t like it was a long shot, it wasn’t a cripple or anything, that’s just where it fell. And she marked that bird, but she obviously can’t see it. She went over there and it was like, oh she’s on that bird, let her hunt, she’ll find it and 30 seconds, a minute she had it.

Ramsey Russell: But we did cripple a green head that ended up in the middle of the river, I guess because it was alive and kicking and it didn’t drift. But boy, it was evasive in that current. She was having to pump to stay where the bird was with — she was having to fight that current to stay on the mark where that bird was. She finally dove under and called it.

Todd Helms: Completely submerged.

Ramsey Russell: That’s when I’m proud of her.

Todd Helms: I would hope so. Because I’m watching her and I’m like, man, if we get some separation, we’re going to have to shoot this bird again. But obviously don’t do it right next to the dog. But if there’s 20 yards of river between the dog and the bird, it’s like, yeah, we need to kill that bird. But I think it was underneath her. I think it was like it caught up in her legs at one point and she could feel it because that was the way she was reacting. And then she blew completely under the water and comes up with that burden. And I was like, yeah, that was awesome.


Tales of a Michigan Goose Camp 

It’s kind of like the church isn’t the building. The goose camp wasn’t the building, it was the group.


Ramsey Russell: We were talking about those leg bands and we got off on this tangent right here. But you were telling me last night about Michigan goose camp and some of the old timers, you weren’t a guide, but you took guys, you were the young guy, you were the muscle man, you could call, you have the energy. Tell me about some of those guys, those bands, there were a couple old guys.

Todd Helms: Yeah, that goose camp is — and that’s just what we call it, call it goose camp. And it was funny.

Ramsey Russell: Was a building, was it a property?

Todd Helms: No.

Ramsey Russell: It was just a group?

Todd Helms: It was a group that got together.

Ramsey Russell: My granddad had the same thing, goose camp.

Todd Helms: Yeah, got together every year in the same place and the hunt location was pretty much the same growing up. But it was in the Central upper peninsula Michigan by the town of Seney and Germfask, and we hunted south of the Seney Wildlife Refuge, and we’d hunt those birds, they would come off that refuge, didn’t go to their feeds. And again it’s that hard scrabble Northern farm country. I mean it’s pastures, they’re out there picking grass and pasture just what they’re doing or digging through cow pies. But those guys started that camp back in like, I want to see the twenties because the little town of Blayney Park, it was a hot spot, it was a hot spot for tourism. They had a golf course there, and they had lodges, and there’s two big inland lakes there, two or three in town of Curtis and Germfask and all these areas. It’s a resort area basically is what it was. Obviously, a lot of that changed with the Depression, but these guys started going up there to hunt geese because back in the day there weren’t Canada geese like there are now.

Ramsey Russell: Right.

Todd Helms: They’d go up there and hunt for 4 or 5 days and if they killed a couple of geese, that was successful.

Ramsey Russell: Isn’t it something.

Todd Helms: It is, it’s amazing. My dad tells stories and he was a kid in the sixties.

Ramsey Russell: As compared to Michigan now.

Todd Helms: When he was a kid growing up in southern Michigan in the 1960s. When they heard geese in the sky, they’d run outside to look at him. 

Ramsey Russell: God.

Todd Helms: It’s nuts. And now it’s like you can shoot ridiculous amounts of honkers in that place. So this camp —

Ramsey Russell: It’s just in bird crapping on your patio lot of time.

Todd Helms: Yeah, people hate them. But any anyway, so this goose camp was generations. Started with, would have been my dad’s dad, and that whole bunch that greatest generation crowd. And they get back from World War Two and they’re like, we’re firing this up again, and they come back, and they’re building businesses, they’re going into sales, they’re bankers whatever. And this is the one place – they’re all raising families at that point in their life – and this goose camp was kind of like their escape in late September, early October for a long weekend, as long as they could get away. And they would go up there and some of them built a cabin right off of highway US-2, the cabin is still there and we used to stay in it occasionally. They based on that cabin or they based whatever. But the point of it is that group always got together. It’s kind of like the church isn’t the building. The goose camp wasn’t the building, it was the group. That crew of guys man, that was a different breed. My grandfather that was a different breed of American. You’re right, I was young, I started going when I was 12 and I’ve always been fascinated with calling, whether it’s ducks, geese, whatever. So I would learn how to blow a goose call when I was very young, and I was pretty good at it. And this is back in the day of everybody using those flutes, everybody used the flute call. And it’s just starting to make a comeback, kind of crazy how that works. But I remember there was two years in a row where I called in this one gentleman. Man, he had to be 80 and he couldn’t even stand up and I didn’t know that. So I’m like off to his side and he’s kind of behind me. Well he just levels that big old fever 10-gauge double barrel. Wow, right next to my head. I think that’s where my hearing woes began. But he killed a band of birds. It was a band. I remember we ran out and got it, and he never came back, and I think I’m pretty sure he passed on. That was probably his last goose. But we had family friends, the Millers. And Grandpa Miller was very special man to my family. His son Kim, who’s passed on, was like one of my dad’s best friends. Well, Grandpa Miller, I always liked to go and hunt with Grandpa Miller because he was just like Grandpa. And I remember calling his last goose camp, I called in a flock and it was at the end of the day, everybody else was up at the barn having a cold beer hanging out, and Grandpa was the only one that hadn’t killed a bird, and limit is two. And he hadn’t killed a bird and he shoots, he’s got this old Winchester model 12-3 inch, and this last flock, it’s like 11 o’clock, there’s no more geese coming, and this last flock comes over the trees. It’s September, that country just lights up, the foliage that time of year is just, you can imagine those hardwoods, the green or the greens, the oranges and the reds, and these geese come over in that high bright sunshine with that blue sky, and they’re locked up already coming over the trees from the refuge. And I talked to him on the flute. They come over, they make a big loop over the decoys, and are too high. And I hit a little comeback with the flute and three of them break off and come right in the decoys, and he doubled.

Ramsey Russell: I’ll be darned.

Todd Helms: Killed both of them, killed two, killed his limit out of one flock, which Grandpa wasn’t known to be a great shot, but he pulled it off, and he died that winter. And I look back on that and I kind of kept a journal for a lot of years, my dad still does. And I can look back at that and go man, those were formative years. I remember when dad would take off to go to goose camp, I hated it. I mean it ate me up because I wanted to be there, and my brother and I, man, we just, we wanted to be at goose camp and the rule was not till you’re 12.

Ramsey Russell: Was that a state law or something?

Todd Helms: Well the legal hunting age for small game in Michigan was 12 years old at that time. But it was a goose camp rule, no kids.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Todd Helms: No women, no kids.

Ramsey Russell: And a 12-year-old knows what happens at camp, stayed at camp.

Todd Helms: Or you don’t go back, you don’t get invited back. Oh yeah, there was it was a, what do you call it a rite of passage, no doubt about it. I mean you got exposed to things and saw a side of men that you didn’t know existed. When they let their hair down, and their professional lives were back at home, and they could go. I did a lot of growing up in that goose camp, a lot of growing up. Had a lot of fun and they still do it. There’s still a small group of guys that still do it. I haven’t been in years.

Ramsey Russell: I think duck blinds are still a lot like that. I mean it’s like one of the last politically incorrect strongholds on earth is a duck blind.

Todd Helms: Yeah. 


Starting with Eastman’s Wingmen


Ramsey Russell: We can talk about what we want to talk about.

Todd Helms: No, it’s, you’re out there. Guy Eastman said, I finally got him, I got him out because I’m never going to hunt waterfowl. That’s the company, I mean that’s Wingmen, parent company is Eastman’s, and that’s three generations of staunch big game guys. And I got him out two winters ago, got him out on a goose hunt on the river and it was because of his daughter. His daughter and my oldest are the same age and she wanted to go goose hunting. I think probably because she wants to be around my lab, Mackinaw, she didn’t have a dog of her own at that time, and she liked Mackinaw an awful lot. So he calls me up, and he says, I want to go hunting with you this weekend. I said perfect, absolutely. Got one stipulation though. I said what’s that? I got to bring my daughter. I said perfect, I’ll bring mine too while we ended up with three 4-year-old little girls in that blind and it was one of the greatest hunts.

Ramsey Russell: Did y’all build a campfire?

Todd Helms: Oh no. The temperature was actually, it was crazy Ramsey, because the temperature was about like it was today and it was February. I mean they’re running around playing freeze tag and laughing and giggling and the video’s on YouTube. And I mean, I’m biased obviously because it’s my kid, but I think it’s the best video we’ve ever produced.

Ramsey Russell: As long as there’s birds, 50-60°, just right in my wheelhouse, it’s perfect. And like this morning there were birds. But talking about the weather and talking about this part of the world you come from Michigan, your wife come from Iowa, cold, snow, ice things that nature you moved to Wyoming, get bitter cold, -35. How does that compare? I mean is it all the same?

Todd Helms: No, no. In fact, when we go back to all of my family now, well, my brother and my mom and dad moved to Iowa. All of my wife’s family live in Iowa and they all live within like an hour of each other. They all live within like an hour of each other, right? So we’ll go back for Christmas, not every year, but every couple of years we’ll go back for Christmas. And I forget that how cold that Midwest, how damp that Midwest cold is. Oh my gosh, will go my brother, hey come on out and we’ll go pheasant hunting. And I’m dying where it’s 28°,26°, 27° there. Here, I’d be like in a hoodie, no big deal. There, I’m bundled up because of that damp. You told a story last night at dinner about an old guy that kept a coffee can with toilet paper soaked in. I don’t know what, but he was talking about, he guided some duck hunters from Michigan, and they were shivering so bad in the boat that one old man thought he was going to die. And he goes okay, and he covered him with a blanket, and let that toilet paper in that coffee can warm him up. That’s the difference. That’s the difference. Where we are here, we don’t get a lot of hard winter right here in the bighorn basin. It’s kind of a banana belt if you will. We’re high desert. Yeah, well it’s not like that all the time though. It’ll be 30 below 20-30 below for a couple of days or maybe a week and then it’ll warm, it’ll get nice and warm up. But that’s why the Indians wintered here. And you ask any farmer that’s along a creek or a river here, when they first turned those fields over generations ago they were plowing up teepee rings like crazy.

Ramsey Russell: How did they know what it was?

Todd Helms: They turn over circles of stones.

Ramsey Russell: Oh, I see.

Todd Helms: And fine artifacts. I mean you’re talking everything from arrowheads to pottery shards, to animal bones to, who knows what. They wintered here. They lived here in the winter because this is easy winter. You go south in Wyoming, we all joke that I-80 is the best thing that ever happened to Wyoming because that funnels 90% of the traffic through the state, and that is a godforsaken stretch of interstate. I mean you get between from Cheyenne to Rock Springs, I mean, that thing’s closed all the time. It’s the Continental divide. It’s 7500 ft, high elevation and they get winter down there boy. I mean hardcore winter. And when you’re blowing semis over, it was just the other day, they were blowing semis over, had a high wind advisory down there because it was blowing, tipping semis over right on the interstate. That’s brutal. But not all the West is like that, not all Wyoming is like that.

Ramsey Russell: Would those have been Sioux Indians?

Todd Helms: No, the Indians that we had here would have been  Shoshone and Crow, maybe some Northern Cheyenne here. But yeah, Shoshone and Crow. The Crow reservation is literally just a couple miles north of us here. And so that’s them. Sioux didn’t really get over into this part because they would have had to cross through Crow territory through the Bighorns and they pretty much stopped it at the Bighorns or the Black Hills, that area. That was all Sioux. And then you get too far up north into Montana, start getting into Blackfeet territory and that was – nobody tangled with the Blackfeet, not on purpose anyway.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah. Ain’t that something?

Todd Helms: It’s pretty crazy but super unique area though, and I’m glad you appreciate it.

Ramsey Russell: Gosh, I love it. I’ve been telling my wife we need to move out here. But I would have to come out here and spend a winter just to make dang sure.

Todd Helms: I am not. I am, you can ask any of the guys that we hunt with and stuff. I’m not a good judge of cold because —

Ramsey Russell: I know, I’ve noticed that. You didn’t wear your shorts and Crocs out to the blind this morning.

Todd Helms: Well, I know we’re going to be out there too long for that. But yeah, I saw you kind of look me up and down last night when you came over the house, and I was barefoot and wearing shorts and a T-shirt, and you’re like, we’re out there standing along talking and so yeah, I’m not a good judge of that. The other guys are probably can tell you a little bit better, but I think this is a really hospitable place, I like it here, it’s home.

Ramsey Russell: Do you think other parts of Wyoming overwinter the mallards and the ducks like this part of Wyoming? Because it’s a banana belt, but it is temporary and they can come here more or less temperature, so they can get in this valley and stick.

Todd Helms: Yes, yeah, basically. And I think this is anywhere in the Intermountain West, in the Rocky Mountain west from Montana, Idaho, I mean, Wyoming, Colorado. We’re talking about waterfowl, we got to have water, and a lot of the West does not have water, and I don’t care what state it is. It’s high arid country. And so these birds are relegated to rivers and big rivers. We’re talking the Missouri, the Yellowstone, rivers like that. Those hold the majority of the birds. And you have tributaries to those all throughout that holds birds too. And that’s where we’re at. But as far as Wyoming goes, it’s like a waterfowl destination, man, you’re looking at very small geographical pockets, very small.


What to Expect from Wyoming Waterfowl & Hunting Pressure

It’s pretty simple setup out here. It’s not a complicated duck hunt. I mean it’s just, there’s birds trading all up and down the river coming from ag to river.


Ramsey Russell: I have noticed since I’ve been here, we talked about this in the former of podcast, people guard relief. They don’t talk about it at all.

Todd Helms: No, you have to, you have to be real quiet.

Ramsey Russell: On one hand it’s not a lot of hunting pressure. But on the other hand it’s not going to take a lot of hunting pressure.

Todd Helms: That’s just it. Because you and you saw it today, once it got light, and you’ve been around, you’ve been here for a couple of days. So you’ve been out and about. There’s only 10 miles of agricultural land on either side of the river. It’s not a lot of habitat for these birds, they can feed 10, a couple of miles either side north or south, and then they got the river. You start increasing, you start jacking up hunting pressure on that river and increasing it and you’re going to notice it real fast. And those birds are not going to handle it because it’s so compressed. The suitable habitat is so compressed out here. And you got this part of the state gets some birds, you got that area down around Carrington, you were talking about earlier that gets birds, and then that goes of course all the way down the front range through Colorado. But it wouldn’t take a lot of pressure to ruin this, that’s for sure.

Ramsey Russell: Very interesting. It’s pretty simple setup out here. It’s not a complicated duck hunt. I mean it’s just, there’s birds trading all up and down the river coming from ag to river. But I mean we put out a dozen decoys, maybe to have a couple of dozen to include the ones you had, some on the little sand bar, and a few floaters in the current. Two or three Canada geese. That’s it. It was really pretty simple.

Todd Helms: And you asked me if I use a spinner. And sometimes, dry land hunts, absolutely. It’s like you have to. But on the river, I almost feel like the spinner sets me apart and makes my birds — it’s gotten to the point with spinners where I think if you could have flown this river last weekend when it opened on the second split open and there was gunfire all up and down the river. I think if you could have flown it, you’ve seen every single one of those spreads had a spinner, one spinner most of them, maybe two. You either got to go like all in on the spinners on the motion stuff so it looks out —

Ramsey Russell: It must be a floating spinner. I don’t, I mean short of bringing a sledgehammer and like one of the pieces still post, when they bust up rock and a stick, they bust a hole and stick a stick of dynamite in there. I don’t know how you’re going to stick a pole up in this in river thing.

Todd Helms: It’s hard. You can get floating ones but then the current affects them. You could set them and there’s always a little bit of mud around but you’re only going down a couple inches and you’re hitting rock. So the rig that we have is actually Noah Miller from Western Waterfallers, he kind of – necessity is the mother of invention – he took a wheel well and then welded spokes in the middle of the wheel well, and he welded a pipe that the Mojo stand or the Lucky Duck standing spinner stand can fit in that pipe.

Ramsey Russell: That’s a good idea.

Todd Helms: Thing weighs 40 lb.

Ramsey Russell: I think you can leave it there.

Todd Helms: If you’ve got a spot like what we have, where we’re hunting out of the same blinds all the time, you leave them and then you try to figure out something else. I’ve seen guys put augers, fabricate a big auger that screws into the river bottom, that works pretty good. Other guys use those big steel spikes like what you’re talking about you just keep working it down through the rocks and it finds its way down through, and but it’s not easy and that’s why guys don’t run more than one or two.

Ramsey Russell: The way that blind was located for reasons you say, you can’t get over here, you can’t get over there. We got there and the wind was kind of quartering in our face. But every bird, I mean middle of the river was 30 yards, 35 yards. But a lot of birds working the callers, working decoys would kind of hook up over dry land right over, or hug the bank, going to tuck into that little pocket right there.

Todd Helms: They side slip the wind big time on the river because it’s down in the bottom, so the wind isn’t as affecting them as much as it is hundred yards above them. Because you watch some of those birds this morning, boy, they were scooting when they came by us backed by us in the wind. It was like gone. But yeah, you asked me about why I put that blind where it was, and I didn’t actually but I’ve looked to replace it some place to relocate it someplace else. And on that particular stretch of river there’s just not a great spot. And it has to do with the way the river flows. Those birds really wanted to be 70, 80 yards down river, they really want to be there. Oh man, that’s where they want to go. And you asked me, well, why not just move everything down there. Two reasons, one, I can’t wade the river right there, it’s too deep on the side I have permission to hunt on. If I go to the other side I’m looking into the sun and I got to wade across that river all the time to do my thing. We can decoy enough of those birds and suck enough of those birds in where it didn’t — we shot ten birds this morning by 8:30. I think it was little early. Yeah, didn’t take us very long. And if we could easily killed more if we had more guys, there were more birds that we sat and watched, because we didn’t want to be picking up decoys while there were birds flying around. And so kind of trying to manage that pressure. But you’re right that these birds — I wish you could say always every bird you shoot his feet down backpedaling into the decoys. But that’s not the case. And if you only shot those, you wouldn’t shoot very many birds.

Ramsey Russell: I don’t need that.

Todd Helms: No.

Ramsey Russell: I want the belly, I want them vulnerable.

Todd Helms: And I want them to at least like they’re looking, they’re interested in me, in my spread. We had that every bird was shot today was that way. Every single one. And so that to me is — you’re not sky busting. You’re not just pass shooting.

Ramsey Russell: Oh god no. Well, the first greenhead this morning was my favorite one. We had four or five loose flocks all about us, we’re calling. And he just looked up and he just boom, right, freaking there out of nowhere. And I mean, oh he saw me too late and I showed it like it was too late. Yeah, he fell behind the blind.

Todd Helms: Well that’s the funny thing. He was so close that when he died, he fell on land behind the blind. So I mean, you’re wicked with that 28 gauge. That was that was pretty neat to watch.

Ramsey Russell: And I’m going to tell you what, it really ain’t a number four copper plated business is a number four copper plated business, but it’s got a — I really don’t know, two and three quarter inch, I’m going to say it’s got a half ounce of but it really throws a nice pattern. At the 40 yards, if the bird ain’t dying, it’s because I didn’t connect the dots, that’s all it is.

Todd Helms: Right.

Ramsey Russell: And it is for somebody shot a 12 gauge for so long. It’s extremely light which I love. But it’s different. I’m still getting kind of used to that lightness.

Todd Helms: We talked about that this morning, because I struggled last year with a little semi-auto 20 that I had that I thought was going to be just the cat’s meow, right? And the hunt that we just dropped today, the video we just dropped today on our YouTube channel is that I took that gun, and I struggled because it’s so light. Yeah, it’s quick, but it’s quick to start. That’s great. But it’s quick to stop too.

Ramsey Russell: That’s right.

Todd Helms: It’s short and it’s light and it’s quick, it’s fast, perfect point-and-shoot gun.

Ramsey Russell: Oh yeah.

Todd Helms: But swinging it man, you really got to concentrate.

Ramsey Russell: The older I get, the longer I like the barrel, the heavier I like, people act about that Super Black Eagle Three. I don’t shoot 3.5. I won’t to shoot a 3.5-inch shell on a lost bet or a dare. I ain’t doing it.

Todd Helms: There’s not a lot of reason to do it anymore. 

Ramsey Russell: Don’t need it anymore. But so why I have a 3.5 inch gun because I like that 30 inch with that extra-long receiver to accommodate that long shell and a 28 inch barrel. I’ve got practically a 30-inch barrel and that’s what I like. Now, I’m sure I’m taking a couple of inches off on a super light gun and it’s just taking some adjusting. 

Todd Helms: Well, I thought you shot well. We talked about that today. I we did not have — there was that one group of teal that gave us the buzz, and I got hung up in the brush on the front of the blind and missed. But other than that, nothing got out.

Ramsey Russell: Nothing. Yeah. Other than that, there was no prisoners.

Todd Helms: No.


Is there a Cold Weather Rule for Waterfowl Hunting?

Birds don’t fly in the morning when it’s that cold anyway.


Ramsey Russell: A few misses, but no prisoners. Every play resulted in the dead bird. How do you like the way I steered that one mallard over the bank?

Todd Helms: It was like —

Ramsey Russell: Boom, who knows how I shot behind him the first shot. A little bit closer to second shot to where he bounced to come right over dry land, and Char had to get wet.

Todd Helms: It was perfect. You’re just trimming his tail feathers with those first two shots and he came right over to you got closer. See that’s how you got to do it when it’s 20 below. You don’t you don’t wet dog when it’s 20 below.

Ramsey Russell: I don’t want one shaking, I can tell you that go shake over there.

Todd Helms: Exactly! And I have a rule –

Ramsey Russell: What do you do about a dog and that kind of weather? You don’t bring like a heater?

Todd Helms: You can, honest to goodness Ramsey —

Ramsey Russell: Can you bring a little five-gallon shop heater and —

Todd Helms: You can, yeah, you can.

Ramsey Russell: One for her, one for me.

Todd Helms: Towel them off, keep them dry. And food, give them some food. Mackinaw got hypothermic on me. The first year that I had him out here and I was hunting a bigger river, and it was cold, and he was in the water a lot that day, and he was a young dog, he got hypothermic on me. It was easy enough to revive. Well then the next year he got hypoglycemic on me, he bonked. Ultra-low blood sugar and he used up all the — basically what happens is the same thing that athletes get when — you see these marathon runners at the end of a marathon and their body doesn’t work anymore and people are literally carrying them across the finish line. You just walk. Well, you can’t. You can’t even walk when you’re at that point and that’s where he was. And it happened like that. It wasn’t like I’m pushing him to the point where, oh man, maybe just one more. It wasn’t one more. It was like holy smokes, he brought me a burden, just kind of went thump on the bank, and then he could barely walk, and I’m like running to the truck, and it was cold, but it wasn’t ridiculous cold. And I’m running to the truck to get him the heater turned on and get him warmed up, and I called my vet and he goes, do you have any Snickers bars with you? I said, sneakers, but you can’t feed it chocolate. He’s like, milk chocolate won’t hurt your dog, feed him a Snickers bar. Maybe not a whole one, break it up. If you got the, well, I always have those fun size Snickers bars with Halloween candy. Always got those things with me, you know? So I gave him one, watch him, and he’s like, just keep giving them to him, give him one, watch him and he’s like, he’ll turn around quick. It was like 2 Snickers, two of those little fun size Snickers bars, he’s like, right as rain. You’re not you when you’re hungry, it was obvious. And so I carry those when it’s cold, it’s not like it’s a constant flow of Snickers bars to the dog, but one or two when we’re out there because you can give them too much and make them sick too, and they’ll throw it up. But that’s a big one, keeping them dry, having a heater and I learned a very valuable lesson hunting those first couple of years with Mackinaw. Had an older guy, an older gentleman who I taught school with who was actually my athletic director at the time. And he’d been hunting, had lived there for a really long time and he said, I got a 0° rule. He said, in fact, the older I get, it’s 10°. If it’s colder than 10°, I don’t hunt. If it’s colder than zero, I don’t hunt. It’s hard on me, it’s hard on my dog. Well then, I remember, you got to be out at daylight, you got to be out like we were this morning, and he said, let’s go for breakfast. It’s getting light man, we need to be out there. It’s like one degree, two degrees, maybe three or four below. And we go out for breakfast and I’m kind of chomping at the bit, like, what are we doing? What are we doing? What are we doing? We wouldn’t get set up to hunt until 9:30 – 10 o’clock in the morning, and you hunt that midday, warmest part of the day. Birds don’t fly in the morning when it’s that cold anyway. They just sit. They literally just sit. And the middle of the day they’re up flying around their decoying. The water’s warmed up a couple degrees, a lot easier. A lot easier on you and your equipment, especially your dog. But yeah, I tend to gravitate towards chucker and towards chucker hunting when it’s that cold. Dry land stuff. Dog could still get out and run and doesn’t bother them to be out in that stuff. But yeah, you got to pay attention and we haven’t had to deal with that the last couple of years. It hasn’t gotten that cold. And subsequently we haven’t had the birds that, like last year, we struggled with bird numbers because they were in Montana. And you get a day where it’s storming like crazy up in Montana. And I’m talking 70 miles, 80 miles and then they get a big storm and you better be on the river in a blind somewhere the next day, because we get all their birds, they stay for a couple of days. It warm up, they go right back north. It’s like they want to stay as far north as they can stay. It’s wild.

Ramsey Russell: That’s in their nature. What have you got on tap for tomorrow? What are we going to do tomorrow?


That Special Goose Spot

And there’s a couple hundred geese that are trafficking through there. So we’re going to try to kill some of those honkers. 


Todd Helms: Got another blind. This is more of a goose spot. I built this one, it’s real wide open. The river is about two times the size as it was where we were today, it’s wide. With the big steep bank on one side and a big open like almost pasture and the blind sits in that. The reason I built that the way I did is just watching where the geese liked to be, they like that spot. You get up and watch them from a distance, and they’re walking around on the bank, and they’re on the islands, and there’s lots of room for 25 honkers to make a great big swing and just glide down, that power glide that they like to do. They don’t have to work real hard to get in and out of there. And there’s a couple hundred geese that are trafficking through there. So we’re going to try to kill some of those honkers. But there’s mallards too. There’s mallards too. Probably not quite the numbers that we saw this morning. Just because that part of the river doesn’t tend to hold as many ducks because it’s more open but there’s birds, there’s birds. Yeah, no doubt. It’ll be fun. 

Ramsey Russell: I have no doubt it will be.

Todd Helms: Yeah, you’re talking about simple.

Ramsey Russell: We’re going to pack a lunch because the geese move funny late. We’re going to miss Pepe’s breakfast tomorrow. Let me tell you what son, that green chili omelet was right on time.

Todd Helms: I asked, I said, where do you want to eat after this morning? Let’s go get breakfast. And I’m kind of thinking, well in my opinion, best breakfast in town is Pepe’s.

Ramsey Russell: Oh, there’s no doubt.

Todd Helms: And so that’s where we went and it’s kind of a Mexican restaurant, you think Mexican food for breakfast?

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Todd Helms: Oh yeah. Oh yeah.

Ramsey Russell: I’m a Mexican food 24-hour kind of guy and a breakfast guy.

Todd Helms: Me too.

Ramsey Russell: Combine the two, peanut butter and chocolate, I’m in heaven, son.

Todd Helms: I love it. Yeah, no, I’m home, I love it here.

Ramsey Russell: It’s a really nice town. It is absolute small-town America without the tourism and all the hubbub. It’s like, I got here a couple of days ago and starving and walk a city block to go get breakfast they were closed. So I kept walking and walked downtown. I’m like, holy cow, I mean it’s just a vibrant downtown. Like old downtown. Like I grew up downtown just vibrant, just hustling bustling shops and wow, it’s just nice. People are just friendly.

Todd Helms: Yep.

Ramsey Russell: It’s just real America type, small town America.

Todd Helms: And not every place is — not every Wyoming town is like this, Powell is exceptional. It’s a great place to be. But in general, yeah, I mean I found what I was looking for in Wyoming and I don’t ever see myself leaving.


The Wingmen Message

You and I kind of talked about it, if the best part of it is the connection that it brings to the waterfowl world.


Ramsey Russell: And you do a lot of big game hunting.

Todd Helms: Oh, I do, yeah. And that’s getting back to that Eastmans’ connection, that’s my job. I’m the editor for Eastmans’ Hunting Journals. And we produce a television show and it’s on Outdoor channel, 10 million views an episode or something like that, it’s crazy. One of the biggest Western big game hunting publication that there is.

Ramsey Russell: No doubt. I’ve heard of my entire life.

Todd Helms: Yeah. Well, it’s a three-generation company. Grandpa Gordon started it with filming for Walt Disney, and then all kinds of stuff. And then he – basically, Canadian government said, why don’t you go to the Northwest Territories and explore that country? Or British Columbia and film it because we want to increase the tourism there.

Ramsey Russell: This would’ve been back in the day when camera was about the size of a television.

Todd Helms: We have the camera equipment that he literally carried on his shoulders back here in the office. It’s ridiculous. The tripod alone is like picking up — you need somebody like Harrison to tote that thing around. And those of you that don’t know our cameraman Harrison we had this morning, played left offensive tackle at K State and he’s a big old boy.

Ramsey Russell: He is a big old boy.

Todd Helms: He ain’t as big as he was back in his playing days, but he’s still a big.

Ramsey Russell: Put on the full-sized waders that would have come up to my throat and they warm like a light weight waders. I’m like a pair of pants, like a pair of waste pants.

Todd Helms: So that Eastern story goes back a long way. And then Mike started the journals in ‘87. And then Guy and Ike came along and started the T.V. show and it’s just grown, and grown, and grown, and grown, and grown. And I got the opportunity to come on part time as a proof reader and copy editor while I was a teacher and it was pretty cool, pretty cool opportunity, right? And I pitched this — after I’ve done it for a couple of years, and I’ve done some staff stuff, and kind of gotten a feel for the company, like, this dude’s okay. I pitched this Wingmen idea. It wasn’t called Wingmen back then, we didn’t have a name for it. But I pitched this idea and it started out as a Western waterfowling magazine. And instead of going whole hog into print, we decided to play around with electronic media and different things, and it’s grown. I did crunch some numbers the other day and we have almost 15 million views on Facebook videos.

Ramsey Russell: Wow.

Todd Helms: And YouTube podcast, which that’s how you and I got connected in the beginning, an active blog newsletter, of course, all the social media stuff and it’s just grown. And it’s a subsidiary of Eastmans’ Hunting Journals. It’s really cool, it’s really cool. I tease the guys. I’m like, yeah, I get to be in the office all fall. You guys are out chasing stuff and I get to play weekend warrior and then in December, January, February, they’re all around and it’s my turn. So I got to have all my ducks in a row, pun intended there, so I can get out when it’s go-time.

Ramsey Russell: Absolutely.

Todd Helms: Otherwise it’s been great. It’s a cool project. It’s fun. You and I kind of talked about it, if the best part of it is the connection that it brings to the waterfowl world. And I’m not talking industry. Industry is great, right?

Ramsey Russell: Waterfowl hunters.

Todd Helms: Yes. The guys I get to talk to on a daily basis, the guys that you bump into and be like, oh man, hey seen your YouTube video or man, I love your Facebook page or whatever, and they’re just the everyday average waterfowl hunter out there doing it. And to know that, if you give them a little bit of entertainment, the kids go to bed and they flip on YouTube and —

Ramsey Russell: But what an entertainment you’ve got. There’s more than just entertainment, a narrative, a message.

Todd Helms: Yeah. And that’s where I was driving at. You said it last night over dinner that hunting is in trouble.

Ramsey Russell: I think it is. I hate to say that. I’m not a Debbie downer. I’m a duck hunter.

Todd Helms: I know.

Ramsey Russell: The more I do this thing, for example, and I said in the previous podcast, one of my associates, that cultural archaeologist, cultural anthropologist, and it made me think, duck hunting is a culture. Culture is made up of people. I love people, I love to talk, I love to hear their stories. Not just the Rockstar regular folks, the heartbeat of duck hunting.

Todd Helms: Those are the ones that keep it going.


The Effects of Drought on Waterfowl & Management

Then Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas are loaded with ducks because they’re getting the heck out of dry country and going somewhere and find a habitat to make a living.


Ramsey Russell: And I’m not scientific. I’m too imaginative it to be scientific, purely scientific. The more I run down this rabbit hole talking to hunters, talking to people nationwide, worldwide talking to biologists. The more questions I have, the more I get a pit in my stomach about — I just don’t perceive that as a culture. The duck hunters today appreciate the resource in the same way that my grandfather did. Well, maybe that’s not necessary. But, then when you get into the biology and the management of it all with this drought that’s going on – it’s like today, we shot ten beautiful mallard ducks, and it’s early and they were hauled climb because they were all adult birds. That little Char dog has picked up a bunch of birds since September 26. And of all the mallards I’ve seen, I’m going to say five out of hundred were hatched. And you go up, you go up to prairie, Canada, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, all through North Dakota, the whole pass through North Dakota, now into Montana, now into Wyoming, it is dry. Scorched earth dry. I’m hearing reports right now, record numbers. People calling me up, texting me saying we haven’t seen this many pintail in North Carolina back in September ever. Then Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas are loaded with ducks because they’re getting the heck out of dry country and going somewhere and find a habitat to make a living. But what are they going to fly back to? How they going to make babies? How are they going to keep this machine going and now just to be? Pit in the stomach type stuff. It is the agency in charge of managing this national treasure. Their policy is, yeah, we’ve cut our costs and done something so we don’t need the science. We haven’t done duck inventory two years. We haven’t done duck banding which is all about the harvest in two years. That’s like me saying, hey baby, go remodel the house. I have no idea how much we got, just go run the debit card. I don’t understand that. Don’t tell me there’s buffers in there. I refute that there’s a buffer built in and they’ve already set next year’s season for the Mississippi Flyway, 60 days and 6 ducks. But starting in 2016 –

Todd Helms: Do we have that in the bank though?

Ramsey Russell: I don’t know. And it’s like as far as that goes – and gentlemen, I’m not criticizing nobody. I’m asking questions here. Understand that banding is how we calculate harvest estimates. But just in the last few days I’ve learned that here in Wyoming there’s all these matters, very few band recoveries.

Todd Helms: Hardly any.

Ramsey Russell: There’s a cohort within this National population that comes here to Wyoming. We have no idea how many getting killed, how many other pockets around America are there? I mean is the data, I’m just asking with somebody pat me on the back. Hey dude look here’s the numbers, the date is good. Because right now, I’m dubious and I’ve got this pit in my stomach. I’ll tell you this. I walked in last night, one of the first things I noticed when I walked in your house above your fireplace, you got that Charles Russell painting of the old West.

Todd Helms: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: And boy we’re in his part of the world. The railroads were built, humanity came from East out to this freaking paradise. But everything that we think about the Wild West, the cowboys, the cattle drive, the Indians, the battles, the trains, the railroads, that whole drama really is about a 20-year window of time before it was gone. And little did a man like Charles Russell know, I think, that when he came out here to live it up in the Wild West and depict it, he was depicting the end of an era. And so I’m not a Debbie downer. I’m an optimist. I believe I’m going to shoot a good bird tomorrow. But my point being I just a small nagging feeling in my stomach, because of the data, because of the science, because of the management. I don’t know. And I’ve got an agency measuring this thing, and doing that, that’s in charge of this population. That won’t come on this podcast to explain it. I’ve got to hire a federal attorney and go read the Federal Digest to understand it. Thank the Lord I’ve got them NGOs out here, explained it for me in in fourth grade terms I can understand. But still I’ve got questions. I’ve got real questions about where we’re moving forward as a culture and as a vibrant population. This drought we’re seeing — I met with some farmers up in Saskatchewan that said that 2002 was a worst drought than what I’m seeing right now. But in August they got a seven-inch rain to fill up all the wetlands. So the fewer ducks flew South, when they came back, they had all the habitat in the world short of Noah built an ark miracle. I don’t see it happening this year. And I don’t want it to happen. But I foresee tough times ahead.

Todd Helms: You’re looking up this morning at those mountains to the west of us, right? And that’s the border of Yellowstone up there, that’s high country, that’s high country and big wild, arguably the most of the wildest stuff in the Lower 48 right between here and Idaho, basically. And that’s where all, that’s where the water comes from is up there. And there’s very little snow. You look at it like, oh, it’s white. But if you really look at it, and you can see those contours and those creases on those ones, you should be able to see those, it should be white already. And granted, we don’t get – those mountains especially don’t truly fill up with snow until April and then they get pounded, then they get lots of it. But that’s not forecasted. It’s supposed to be a pretty dry year, another coming off of one last year. There were not of mountain ranges across the West that did not reach 100% of snowpack, we did here. But we’re fortunate. So the water managers that are a in charge of water allocation for subdivisions, and farming, and all these different things, they’re already in the past. It’s kind of like – had a guy telling me the other day – he recently became a Water Master for his neighborhood because we don’t have water here. It’s not like groundwater, it’s all runoff water and it’s stored in a big reservoir on the other side. You got to store it if you want to keep it, otherwise it’s just gone. And so that’s why we have farming and back to that Buffalo Bill Cody thing. But anyway, he became the Water Master and for his little subdivision, his little neighborhood, and the head gate man or whatever who controls the flow just retired. And the new guy came in and he’s implementing schedule. So you will only have flow through your ditches in this neighborhood on these days for this amount of time. Well, in the past that water just flowed 24/7 because we have lots of water, it didn’t matter. He said, if I have to make the adjustments that I think I’m going to have to make, we’re going to be on a watering schedule, because we’re not going to have the water that we normally have. So that’s drought, and we don’t raise a lot of birds here, but we winter birds here. If those birds come here and their winter habitat’s in rough shape, they’re going to be in poor condition in the spring to go back and start making babies, right? They go back to a drought ridden degraded habitat in Canada, Northern Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, wherever, we’re going to have birds. And I think what we could be headed to. And again, Debbie downer thing, I don’t want to sound like that, but we have a whole generation of waterfowlers that have known nothing but plenty, for the last 10 20 years —

Ramsey Russell: 20 years. I’ve got a 24-year-old son that killed his first duck two weeks before his sixth birthday, and he is a duck hunter’s duck hunter. He has known nothing but 60 days, 6 ducks in the Mississippi Flyway his entire life.


Is Adaptive Harvest Management the Right Plan?

But I’m asking myself, I’m asking you listening, is it being managed as best possible?


Todd Helms: Point system? What’s that?

Ramsey Russell: Thirty days and three ducks, two mallards. Where is today’s culture going to be? Now let me say something just to clarify. Anything somebody may make — I’ve had two of the most astute waterfowl scientists in North America on this podcast and let out by the time this one airs from Canada, from Delta Waterfowl. They’re comfortable, they accept the drought, they accept the productivity, they ain’t in a perfect world with not having counted, but they’re okay with it. They feel good so I feel good. But what concerns me is just what you hit the nail on the head is where — I’m a duck hunt regardless. I’m not a culture, you’re not a culture, we are the culture of duck hunting. We need the money. We need the expenditures, we need the interest, we need the people active in the NGOs calling the Congressman and raising hell about something because of an agency. We need that. Hunting needs that.

Todd Helms: We need that activism.

Ramsey Russell: And whether it’s real or perceived because of social media, I worry that if there’s a preponderance of people out there building their egos and constructing their entire sense of self around huge duck piles. Good luck when the limit is two mallards.

Todd Helms: Yeah.

Ramsey Russell: And that concerns me, that’s what concerns me. We need more opportunities, not less.

Todd Helms: And those two mallards limits was 30-day seasons. I mean that gets back to — I didn’t necessarily experience that. I came in on kind of the front end of what we’re looking at now is the golden era of duck hunting. It’s as good or better than it’s ever been right now.

Ramsey Russell: The good old days have been —

Todd Helms: Right now, exactly. And but I remember it was a three duck, three mallard limit when I was a kid.

Ramsey Russell: Mr. Jim Lefleur, who’s head of the Aquatic unit in Canada, my interpretation of that title is Chief of Migratory Birds.

Todd Helms: Sure.

Ramsey Russell: He said that when they lowered the bag limits twenty something years ago, they lost an incredible amount of hunters in Canada.

Todd Helms: You got to get up at 4:00 AM, I got to haul this gear —

Ramsey Russell: I was talking about Gene down in, down in Texas, when those bag limits crashed a few years ago, he lost 75% of his clients. Man, we can’t take the hit. Hunting cannot take the hit, duck hunting cannot take the hit. And there’s nothing nobody can do about the drought. But I’m asking myself, I’m asking you by listening, is it being managed as best possible? Nobody can help the drought. No, only God can control that.

Todd Helms: Absolutely.

Ramsey Russell: But are we doing the best – I mean we’ve got entire career biologists out here that 20 years into a 30-year career have been blessed with that that heyday, that rain, that wet upon a prairie. Let’s see what you got now. If this drought plays out, that’s when the rubber’s going to hit the pavement, and we were talking this morning and blind, what state is it that has that experimental bag limit?

Todd Helms: Nebraska and South Dakota both did it I believe.

Ramsey Russell: To get hunter —

Todd Helms: Hunter recruitment —

Ramsey Russell: Man, my hat’s off and to those states, to their D and Rs for thinking enough about hunter recruitment to try something outside the box.

Todd Helms: Absolutely.

Ramsey Russell: We’ve got to think outside the box. I think we’ve got to think outside the box. My main question on this whole stimulating, this tirade, is adaptive harvest management the right, man, I’m just going to say is adaptive harvest management the right plan? I don’t think so. I don’t know anything better but I’m dubious right now.

Todd Helms: Sure.

Ramsey Russell: I just am I’ve been suspect even though during the heydays, she would really be shooting six ducks.

Todd Helms: Right.

Ramsey Russell: I don’t know. I’m no scientist, but when I say what’s happening, I don’t think so.

Todd Helms: We see it with sage grouse. We get back to last night’s sage grouse conversation, you were asking about hunting season. We kill here in Wyoming, we kill a couple thousand sage grouse every year, and by a couple thousand probably I think 430-500, somewhere in that neighborhood, maybe upwards to seven somewhere. Oh my gosh, that’s a lot of sage grouse, right? Well, yes and no. I mean you’re talking about a bird that is populations are cyclical, but we know that bird’s in trouble. So what we’ve done is we’ve reduced harvest to two birds a day for in possession in Wyoming. And we’ve shortened that season to basically 10 days. And there’s talk about making it a draw. You have to draw a sage grouse tag.

Ramsey Russell: There’s talk about closing it.

Todd Helms: And there’s a major talk about closing it and that’s where we don’t want to go. Because once we lose something like that, it’s gone. It’s off the table. I was able to see the end of sharptail hunting in the Great Lakes in Michigan. They brought it back, they started doing let counts again. And guys doing voluntary let counts a few years back probably, five years ago now, maybe more. We’re like, hey, there’s good populations of these things and they brought it to the DNR and they were able to get a limited season on them again. Yeah, that is so rare. Usually once something’s gone, when it’s off the table, when it comes to the government, it’s gone. You can forget it. So I think that’s where we’re at with the sage grouse where we need to be putting in the research. We need to be putting in and asking those tough questions. Are we killing too many of these birds? We don’t want to stop hunting them because we know how that works for the red because we see it in other countries around the world. If there’s no value placed on that wildlife, it’s not worth anything, then there’s no money.

Ramsey Russell: That’s the whole thing.

Todd Helms: And that’s where we’re getting, we could be getting, with ducks. I hope not. I hope not. But I do think you’ll see they chop the season, cut it way down, cut harvest bag limits back. Guys are going to be like, I got a 16 ft double excellent closed trailer and all this stuff is for sale because it’s not worth it.


Where Does Duck Hunting as a Culture Belong In This Modern Era?

The two are just massively intertwined to the point where if you took duck hunting out of my life, I wouldn’t be the same person, not even close. 


Ramsey Russell: I worry about it, I worry about it. And there’s just nothing I can do about it but worry, and worry isn’t paying taxes, you don’t know.

Todd Helms: That’s a good saying.

Ramsey Russell: I think Mark Twain said it, not me. But it’s the truth. I think we’ve got to start talking honestly about it, what I’m saying, what are we going to do? We got to ask ourselves where are we as duck hunters? And where is duck hunting? A thought I had recently was – when I was a little boy, I can remember man walking on the moon. I mean for the first-time man, those three guys, flew all the way up to the moon. That was a big deal. Well now we got four or five or six private US citizens building rocket ships and trying to fly to Mars. Where does duck hunting — where does duck hunting as a culture belong in this modern era? Where are we as duck hunters? Where are we as a duck hunting culture?

Todd Helms: I think the importance of it goes back to those cultural roots, the stories that —

Ramsey Russell: Connects us to the land, connects us to the people, connects us to the tradition.

Todd Helms: 100%.

Ramsey Russell: Absolutely.

Todd Helms: That’s guys like Mr. Dale Bordelon.

Ramsey Russell: Absolutely.

Todd Helms: Your friend, and who I was fortunate enough to come, he came on the podcast. What a storyteller, and what to talk about, and someone who is in the same vein of what you do with this podcast, trying to record stories, because those stories are who we are, that’s what duck hunting is, it’s a story. And if we lose that story, then we lose duck hunting. The two are just massively intertwined to the point where if you took duck hunting out of my life, I wouldn’t be the same person, not even close. Who’s Ramsey Russell without ducks? Ramsey Russell’s Get Ducks? Ramsey Russell ain’t got no ducks.

Ramsey Russell: Ain’t got no ducks.

Todd Helms: That was kind of poking fun a little bit. Man, it’s like there’s no mule deer on the winter range. This is Eastmans’ thing. Those animals, those birds, those big game animals, that’s our identity, that’s directly tied to who we are and it’s more than just going out piling up green heads. And we laughed this morning, we shot what, three hens, we’re talking about the stigma to shooting hen mallards and then how it doesn’t really surround other ducks, but you shoot a hen mallard and it’s like he killed a hen.

Ramsey Russell: Oh gosh, I’m the anti-Christ for shooting brown ducks. But I don’t know, I mean, I don’t know, why is there’s forty some odd species of waterfowl on the North American continent and the mallard duck that has polluted genetics because old world genetics started on the Atlantic Coast, was coming West, is the driving force of the whole freaking adaptive harvest management? What does mallard productivity have to do with scaup or canvasback or pintail?

Todd Helms: Other than habitat.

Ramsey Russell: I need to find somebody on here that can talk about this. Answer somebody’s questions.

Todd Helms: And you’re right. But we were joking about that this morning.

Ramsey Russell: I go to Argentina, I go to Australia and every other country in the world, and a duck is a duck. If the limit’s 10, if the limit’s 12, if its limit’s 20, a duck is a duck. But here a duck is a duck unless it’s a mallard then it needs to be green — and like we agree now, and I will say this – one of the best reasons to shoot a drake green head is because it makes a dang pretty picture. 

Todd Helms: You’re darn right. It does darn right it does. And we and we know that they pair bond and they do that, but we also know that like rooster pheasants you shoot roosters because they’re easy to tell the difference between. First of all —

Ramsey Russell: Doesn’t matter if it’s a mallard, or pintail, or a scaup, or canvasback.


Being Adaptable as a Hunting Culture

I think there’s room to think outside the box.


Todd Helms: And it doesn’t matter if it’s a hunter doing it or it’s a raccoon, or a possum, or skunk, or whatever it might be, or a raptor. I’m not talking Jurassic Park, I’m talking birds of prey, but yeah that the hen mortality is an issue. It’s definitely different. It kind of goes back to shooting doves. My dad to this day doesn’t like filling dove tags. I don’t think anything of it, but I grew up in a time where there are tons of deer, more deer than we knew what to do with. He grew up in a time where they found deer track in the garden, and people came out from town to make plaster casts of it. That’s how big a deal it was. And you didn’t see deer, and you shot the first buck you saw because that might be the only deer you saw all season in a place that now is so overrun with white tails, it’s ridiculous. It’s different. And I think it’s going to be the same with that — staying dynamic with our harvest, and with questioning science, or questioning the methods that we’re using to manage this resource. I don’t think that’s a bad thing because if we get stuck doing the same thing over and over and over again, we’re not adaptable.

Ramsey Russell: I think there’s room to think outside the box. I’ve had a there have been proposals to harvest three pintails instead of one. Harvest and one restrictive harvest didn’t work there. And the skewed ratios of drakes, the hens. A biologist actually told me not all hens lay eggs, and argued that there’s so much pressure on that hen resource with too many drakes, that they’re not as productive as they could be. I mean, there’s room to think outside the box I think. And I think we ought to take the opportunity of this drought. Could be a reset on duck hunting as we know it right now. Look, I really got into duck hunting back in the mid-90s. The limit was 30 days, two mallards. Two mallards, hook, line, and sinker on it.

Todd Helms: And you weren’t doing it to make piles because three ducks don’t make much of a pile.

Ramsey Russell: Don’t make much of a pile. But I loved it. 

Todd Helms: There was other things. It was the people, it was the places, it was the same reason that you good grief man. Since the middle of September you’ve been covering ground like a gypsy.

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Todd Helms: You know what I mean?

Ramsey Russell: Yeah.

Todd Helms: It’s not because of duck meat, you don’t need the meat, it’s not because of that.

Ramsey Russell: Oh yeah. I love it.

Todd Helms: Yeah, I do too. My little girls, we brought those ducks on today and clean them up, man. They were right there, Daddy can we have duck fingers? Yeah, we can have duck fingers. But when the limit is three that love for the love for what you’re doing has got to be a lot deeper than just Instagram pictures.

Ramsey Russell: Amen.

Todd Helms: We all do Instagram, and social media is what love is, and it’s fun.

Ramsey Russell: Talking about a small world, it is just the countless number of people that I have met and spent time with because of this new platform.

Todd Helms: I reached out to you on Instagram to come on my podcast and now we’re sitting here a year, a year later.

Ramsey Russell: Here we are.

Todd Helms: I can’t think outside of social media. I can’t think of any place where you could connect somebody from Wyoming and Mississippi that easily.

Ramsey Russell: It’s a small, small world. These road trips I do and I love it man. I feel like I’m just a cultural anthropology mining, and that really and truly had a lot to do with it. But it is social media and we do have professional outfitter relationships. But most of the hunts you see depicted on these road trips are just regular folks I have come in contact with, connected with, and get to share some time with, and see their little corner of the world, which is — let me tell you what, just in the last 15 days from Kenmare, North Dakota to here, every day, every location, it’s all different. It’s just it’s endlessly different techniques, the spreads, the calling styles, the the habitat, the species, it’s just different and I love it. I can’t get enough of it. Man, it’s my drug. Where would I be without duck hunting? I don’t even want to think about it. No place good. I can tell you that. No place good at all. Todd, tell everybody listening how they connect with you and Wingmen? Where can people connect with you?

Todd Helms: Well, like I said earlier, we’ve got lots of venues were on YouTube. Wingmen, just go and Google Wingmen on YouTube and you’ll see our logo. We have tons of video content on there, everything from hunts to gear reviews. We’re fortunate enough to work with some really solid people in the industry and they trust us to do some, some pretty in-depth gear reviews, and I’ve gotten to lay hands on and put some pretty cool equipment through the paces, and folks seem to like those a lot. And so that’s the YouTube side of things. You can find us on Instagram. It’s Wingmen_USA. And we got some all kinds of cool content on there. And then obviously Facebook. I kind of do Facebook a little different. We were talking this morning about how you do it. And I do Facebook, I treat Facebook almost like an entertaining news feed. I’ll post up, well this last week I posted up a thing, an article on sage grouse that was from the Wyoming Game and Fish having to deal having to do with — no, it wasn’t a Game and Fish, it was from a news source, but I’ll post that up and put a picture there for folks. And it’s a source of content and memes, funny stuff to make folks laugh and put that up there. I’ll put a podcast in its entirety on Facebook. I like that about Facebook because it’s so broad, I can do a lot of cool things with it and we’ve had success. People like that. So that’s where we’re at. You can find us at That’s what it is. That’s our website and there’s blogs on the web site, we’ve got recipes on there. We’ve got YouTube, again, more content —

Ramsey Russell: Kind of a big deal isn’t it?

Todd Helms: We’ve got a lot. And on there, you can sign up for our monthly newsletter, and we got a lot going on, and it’s fun. I enjoy it. And we’ve got the podcast as well. So you check us out, that’s on anywhere you get your podcasts were there, SoundCloud, Podbean, whatever. Wherever you find that it’s just the Wingmen Podcast and it’s fun. I’ve had some stellar guests, obviously you being one of them, some of the folks that have agreed to come on and do podcast, just, I scratched my head. I’m like, what are you doing talking to me? And folks want to talk, they want to talk about that story, and they want to talk about duck hunting, and it goes back to what we were just saying a minute ago, that’s what duck hunting is. It’s a culture, and it’s people telling hunting stories, and that’s what it boils down to.

Ramsey Russell: Thank you for being here. Thank you for the pizza last night. Thank you for the Wyoming whiskey. Thank you for the duck hunt. Thanks for your hospitality.

Todd Helms: We’re not done yet. We got one more to go.

Ramsey Russell: We got one more to go for sure. Folks, thank you all for listening this episode of Duck Season Somewhere. Where are we as duck hunters? Where are we as a duck hunting culture? Where are we going to be with this drought? How are we going to muscle through it? Duck season’s on right now. Most of you are probably going to the blind are coming back. Listen to this podcast, enjoy it for what it is and what it ain’t. Where are we going with it? Where are we as duck hunters? See you next time.


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Benelli USA Shotguns. Trust is earned. By the numbers, I’ve bagged 121 waterfowl subspecies bagged on 6 continents, 20 countries, 36 US states and growing. I spend up to 225 days per year chasing ducks, geese and swans worldwide, and I don’t use shotgun for the brand name or the cool factor. Y’all know me way better than that. I’ve shot, Benelli Shotguns for over two decades. I continue shooting Benelli shotguns for their simplicity, utter reliability and superior performance. Whether hunting near home or halfway across the world, that’s the stuff that matters.

HuntProof, the premier mobile waterfowl app, is an absolute game changer. Quickly and easily attribute each hunt or scouting report to include automatic weather and pinpoint mapping; summarize waterfowl harvest by season, goose and duck species; share with friends within your network; type a hunt narrative and add photos. Migrational predictor algorithms estimate bird activity and, based on past hunt data will use weather conditions and hunt history to even suggest which blind will likely be most productive!

Inukshuk Professional Dog Food Our beloved retrievers are high-performing athletes that live to recover downed birds regardless of conditions. That’s why Char Dawg is powered by Inukshuk. With up to 720 kcals/ cup, Inukshuk Professional Dog Food is the highest-energy, highest-quality dog food available. Highly digestible, calorie-dense formulas reduce meal size and waste. Loaded with essential omega fatty acids, Inuk-nuk keeps coats shining, joints moving, noses on point. Produced in New Brunswick, Canada, using only best-of-best ingredients, Inukshuk is sold directly to consumers. I’ll feed nothing but Inukshuk. It’s like rocket fuel. The proof is in Char Dawg’s performance.

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 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