Rocky Leflore and Ramsey Russell discuss the evolution of a hunter. Are there stages a hunters goes through? What is more important numbers or an experience? Ramsey channels his inner Joe Rogan for one heck of a podcast.
The Agenda of a Duck Hunter
I’ve got a general outline and on any given day, it’s liable to be amended in 32 different directions.
Rocky Leflore: Welcome to the End of the Line Podcast I’m Rocky Leflore in the Duck Sound Studios in Oxford, Mississippi. Joining me in the cockpit, the co-host with me today, Ramsey Russell. Ramsey, what is up today man?
Ramsey Russell: I’ll say it’s just another day in paradise Rocky. There’s no doubt about it. You know, just another day in paradise and glad to be here.
Rocky Leflore: Are you a process guy? You go through the same process when you’re at home every day?
Ramsey Russell: Man, I like to but no, I’ve got a general outline and on any given day, it’s liable to be amended in 32 different directions.
Rocky Leflore: All right, let me ask this in a better way. If your day is thrown out of whack by something surprising, do you get angry?
Ramsey Russell: No, that’s life. No, I just deal with.
Rocky Leflore: I just didn’t know if you were Nick Sabin-esqe. Every morning, he has to eat his oatmeal and cream pie at 6:50 in the morning, he gets mad if something happens to that schedule.
Ramsey Russell: I’m not that bad. I’m not that O.C.D. I get a drink of coffee and then I watch the news and visit with Anita, and go through social media, a couple of days in the week ago I go to the gym, a couple days a week I do some me time, and go bicycle riding something for a few minutes, and then it’s just take the day it comes. I’ve got an agenda laid out, phone calls to make, things I need to do, things I need to write, web pay stuff I need to do. Just a work list and that’s always – do the best you can target because the phone could ring. I mean Rocky, we were supposed to meet 10:00 this morning and I let you know at 10:15, I was running 30 minutes behind because the phone rang, or I got an email, or had something – had to go put out a fire and that’s just kind of how it is. I do like my coffee – I am not going to lie to you, I do like my coffee in the morning.
Rocky Leflore: Actually, your text said, I am running about 3/2 behind. So, I’m assuming that at symbol is a 0 when you match the shift key, is that right?
Ramsey Russell: Probably.
Are There Stages to Duck Hunting?
“Some people go their whole lives without ever realizing that it’s not just about dead duck.”
Rocky Leflore: Hey, you joined in that discussion of Duck South – That’s 2 days ago –
Ramsey Russell: Which one?
Rocky Leflore: The topic came up and I found it interesting, that you jumped in there and you made a wise statement to the kind of the debate or topic at hand, and it was talking about – the guy made the point that there are no stages of duck hunting, which I totally disagree with. He says that you just lose the competitive edge inside of you. You’re either competitive or non-competitive in duck hunting, there’s no in between.
Ramsey Russell: I don’t think you can – I’ve heard those 4 stages, I think they’re good guidelines and I can see – if I look back to when I was the 4th stage, where I am now, I can kind of see those 4 stages. I can see them, and that would be a damn good question. My friend Pat Pit; I think Pat Pit is 15, 20 years older than I am, and I know for a fact I haven’t hunted within 20 years. He’s mad at them. He’s good to killing them. He’s killed a bunch of them but I know it’s different now than it was then and I can say the same thing. I think any time we try to – any time you try to kind of put everything on pegs, you kind of run into round peg, square hole because the world really is not flat. It really isn’t. I mean, we can’t really just compartmentalize everything and everybody. I’ve had to let clients go – a handful of clients over 17 years. I’ve had to just part way with them because they are mad at them. I mean, they’re mad at them in a way that I don’t understand mad. They’ve got something missing, like there’s a big hole in their middle. They keep trying to fill it with dead stuff and there is no bottom to it. Most of us, I think, you know Rocky, I think the process for me, I think it kind of fit the narrative of those 4 phases of duck hunters, in terms of being mad at them, and I get what he’s saying – I am not angry but I’m going to kill them ducks. I dare to ask anybody I’ve ever hunted with. Randy likes to shoot duck. I like to shoot duck. But here’s the distinction, I think, between an older and more experienced hunter and a younger, more heavy metal, hard-charging, get them like Attila the Hun, coming over the wall hunter. He is my ego, my sense of self-worth, and all that value. I don’t roll another 1, or 5, or 10, or 500,000 ducks, it isn’t going to change how I feel about myself, how I’m perceived in this world, and I don’t need the proof of dead animals as a measure of my self-worth, or my work too. People that entrust me to go places, it is a relationship to me. Do I have the energy I had 20 years ago? No. Am I willing to walk 300 yards across the soybean field, carrying 36lbs of decoys, and blah blah, blah, blah, blah, like we used to? Hell no. No, man, I’m all in. We set up, that will bring the good thing and the bad thing about hunting with Ramsey Russell, which is why I just – my close friends and kids are really willing to do it, once I’m in, I’m in. I thought about it, I grew the coal, I thought about it. I know where I’m setting up, I know how I’m setting up, and I’m going to get them decoys just right. I am going to move that duck 2.5 ft, or that Mojo, just 3.5 ft or something. Oh yeah, I’m laying the stage. If those ducks are landing 125 yards away for whatever reason, guess what? They win. We live to fight another day. I am not walking 125 yards to go shoot 2 ducks, 3 ducks. Are you kidding? Come on.
Rocky Leflore: Let me say this and see if you agree with it. Every wild animal, creature, human being, whatever it may be, evolves, just like human beings evolved in a lifetime. You go from being in diapers, to running wild and free, to guess what, returning to diapers, when you get older. Now, because that makes sense right now. Now, okay, let’s talk about it in the duck hunting sense. You go from – I’m going to change up the stage is a little bit – I’m like you, I agree that there’s four. You go from respecting what you’re hunting and trying to learn about them, to kill, kill, kill, to taking me out of the equation and making it about others and enjoy seeing them, doing what you love, and then I think there’s the last stage. We return to a respect of the game that we hunt. It’s so different, in that last stage, we almost make these animals like the long-lost kid we never had, or the long-lost kid that returned home to us, in the sense of we feel we do everything we can out of love for that game, to provide a home, an area to rest. It just becomes about respect and love for that animal, in that last stage. You still kill them, but you have a respect and love for that animal because, you spend a lifetime with them, chasing them.
Ramsey Russell: It’s relational. But you know, there’s somebody on – there was a forum and I posted a picture, a little meme I had done years ago. I can’t remember exactly how it’s worded, but it’s something along the lines – it’s a picture of four. He and his dog had gone out to retrieve some birds, I just grabbed my iPhone, the back light right, click, took a picture, made a meme, it says, “Some people go their whole lives without ever realizing that it’s not just about dead duck.”
Rocky Leflore: No.
Ramsey Russell: I don’t hunt with anybody. I don’t know anybody that would go through the effort and expense of duck hunting just to go watch the sunrise. I’m not out there to watch the sunrise, I’m out there to hunt, I’m out there to play the game play, by the rules. My rules, the duck rules. Sometimes they cheat. Sometimes I have to adjust, you know what I’m saying? There’s no hard and fast, there are general guidelines. I’m out there for the total experience, and as I look back over all the days, even back in the days, I didn’t know anything about duck hunting. Even in those days, I made the blunders, I made errors, I did the stupid stuff, I almost sunk the boat, I almost got hurt, did this, did that. You know, the winds will lose the trumps. When I look back, I’m sorry, I love to eat duck. I eat it. I love to shoot ducks, I love to figure those ducks out, I like to own that duck, but I like to shoot that duck. I’m going to adjust the road to those ducks that aren’t decoying. I’m going to shoot them at 35 yards, 40 yards. Ask anybody that’s just – I’m a play for keeps kind of guy when it comes to duck hunting. But as I look back in retrospect, and maybe what we’re talking about, the difference in the person that made that comment versus some of the guys that responded, that are looking for – maybe what it really is, it’s not a disagreement. It’s just the inability to reach a common ground or lack of the same perspective because times you –
Rocky Leflore: You have not walked in –
Ramsey Russell: Looking in the rear-view mirror, things look differently than they do looking out your windshield. Yes, you get older, you get tired, but it hasn’t – I can tell you this, son, sonny boy – it takes one heck of a lot more effort for a 55, 75-year-old man to put it out to a pit blind than it does to a 25-year-old buck, okay? So, really and truly, all things equal, the average being made, there is nobody lazy, going out to a pit blind, or going out to hunt where I hunt, where we parked the bike and walk in, and sometimes hunt in blinds, and sometimes stand belt deep in the brush. There is nobody lazy doing that. It takes effort but things are different. Things are different when you’re looking through the rear-view mirror and when you’re looking through a piece of glass. And you won’t see that until you’ve just organically culminated that kind of experience. There is a love and appreciation. When I look back in all the years and all the ducks – I’m going to tell you something really quick right now. I don’t matriculate duck numbers. I asked Mommy Duck, I shot and I couldn’t tell you, I don’t know how many ducks I shot, I don’t care how many ducks. To me, I need to know limits, I need to know the number of a species, but the body count of what I do, what I love to do, is just a sheer quantifiable body count. It just, to me – we’re all different – it cheapens my experience. I shoot ducks, I shoot lots of ducks. I hunt a lot. It’s just what I do.
Rocky Leflore: Hey, I want to ask you this. Let me ask you this. So, if I told you on December the 17th, 2008, Ramsey Russell, you killed 17 ducks, would you remember that hunt?
Ramsey Russell: I call your lie because I have never shot over limit.
Rocky Leflore: I’m saying you and your group shot 17 ducks.
Ramsey Russell: Well yeah, I wouldn’t have any idea.
Rocky Leflore: Hold on. If I told you, on December the 17th, 2016, or 2008, man, Forrest was walking, he was walking with you to the spot where you were going to stand, tripped over in a beaver hole, drank a gallon of the muddy water that he fell over in, filled his waiters, near froze to death. You would remember that hunt, by me saying that would you?
The Best Duck Hunting Partners in the World
I go to the same duck hole, we’re hunting shoulder by shoulder, nobody’s made more effort, nobody’s made less effort into the production of us sitting in that duck run on any given morning.
Ramsey Russell: We would have talked about it a million times. We’d never forget it. You know Rocky, we always talk pre-discussion and get a little off topic, kind of a warm up, before we just jump into these podcasts. I used an example earlier, talking about time and memories and things, I think it’s very apropos right now. When you start numbering and trying to construct your worth, and your productivity, and everything in your timeline – you try to timeline it, like a hostile outline for a term paper, it’s all linear. For me, hunting and the hunting experience – I guess I’m crowded 30 years, maybe more, since I killed my first duck – it is different. It’s like, it all looks linear, and laid out nice and neat when you look at your grandmama’s favorite gumbo recipe, but at the end of the day, it is all just gumbo. You bite into a piece of garlic, piece of celery, by the duck, by the oyster, it isn’t laid out in layers, like it is on the recipes, it’s different. Memories become kind of sort of who you are, who you all are, who your family is, those connections, and it’s not just dead ducks. I see people that I perceived, is it all being strictly about dead birds? And I’m lumping, I’m trying – I’m trying to paint with a broad brush and you can’t do that, but I am. Kind of, sort of, generally speaking, those people are typically younger, or they’re newer to the sport. We’ll have no more energy, no less energy, blah, blah blah. It’s just different. Time frames it differently. There is that respect you’re talking about because, Rocky, I’ve shot the ducks, and one thing I’ve learned from The End of The Line Podcast, from the many, many folks you got on – and I listen to you pretty regularly – is probably I’m not a good caller, I’m not a good hunter, I’m not a good shot. There’s probably a lot better on all accounts that go into this, from listening to some of these podcasts, people you’ve had on, talking about the technicalities of it all, somehow man, close the deal on a bunch of ducks a year. But you know, Rocky, it’s an experience for me, isn’t it? Okay, this is really going to try to – I’m going to try to frame what I’m trying to say – God, I really think that this kind of clears it up. Some of my favorite hunting partners are Forrest and Duncan. They’re just my favorite 2 hunting buddies. Period. End of discussion.
Rocky Leflore: Why?
Ramsey Russell: Because they’re family, they’re blood, we get along, they know what to do. It’s like one unit moving, it’s like 3 people get up in the morning, load the bike, and drive out to the duck hole, the decoys end up where they’re going to be, there might be some adjustments when it gets light but it moves as a unit. We get along, we talk about things we need to talk about. It’s just a family connection, you know, maybe –
Rocky Leflore: All right, stop.
Ramsey Russell: No. This is important because Forrest is 21 years old Ramsey is 52 years old and there is a huge – for all the commonality, that he and I have and function together as a pair of hunters in a blind – I’m talking shake and bake. 4 gadwalls, 6 ringnecks, 2 mallards come in, it’s shake and bake, automatic. I might as well be split into 2 people; everybody does their job. If you’re lucky, you got a hunting buddy like that. Duncan’s a little bit of a free – he’s a free spirit like his daddy. So, he’s a little bit of a wild card in the mix sometimes, but nonetheless Rocky, it’s just a really profound difference. I go to the same duck hole, we’re hunting shoulder by shoulder, nobody’s made more effort, nobody’s made less effort into the production of us sitting in that duck run on any given morning.
Rocky Leflore: Exactly.
Ramsey Russell: It is a very profound difference in how I feel and how he feels. Yeah, 2 of us shoot 10 ducks versus 12 ducks. If 3 of us shoot, 15 ducks versus 18 ducks, it’s a very profound difference, in how I feel about that morning’s hunt, and how he feels about that morning’s hunt, and it’s not about being mad at ducks. It’s a product of age and stage, and those stages aren’t like bam, bam, bam, stages, it’s like you can paint four colors on the chart, and to me it’s like the paint is red, white, blue, black, and then he took a brush and smeared it while it’s still wet.
Rocky Leflore: It’s kind of blurry.
Ramsey Russell: It’s not just step, step, step. It’s a gradient and there may be some invisible stages in between them all, but yeah, I believe it’s a function of age and experience. I know from having been there, I know one day Forrest is going to be just like his old man, and he’s going to go out with his kids, going to go out with his friends, and they’re going to come up 3 scaup ducks shorter, or 2 mallards short because they didn’t want to shoot those heading mallards. And he’s going to be happy because 2 or 3 ducks, in the grand scheme of things, bless their hearts, just really isn’t that important to the overall experience.
Rocky Leflore: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: You know, if you’re starting, okay, I’ll give you a couple of ducks.
Quality vs Quantity in Duck Hunting
It’s the ducks, it’s the flash of the wings, it’s the dog work, it’s his family, it’s the laughs, it’s the jokes. It’s the time above the grave, doing something you love.
Rocky Leflore: If we’re putting duck hunting into a box and we’re saying it’s about the numbers – and if it’s not about the numbers, just not about competitors, then you might as well just quit hunting. It is, in Ramsey’s explanation, right there. It proves the point – because it’s about the numbers? That’s robotic. It’s about the experience as emotional. Ramsey, you couldn’t imagine sharing that experience at Willow Break with anybody else. First people that you think of when I asked that question is Forrest and Duncan, right? Because you want to share that experience with them.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. You know my old 71-year-old uncle, is going to come and join us in a blind, and I’ll tell you right now, that man grew up shooting ducks. He, and my daddy, and my granddaddy – you have heard the story back then – got me into this thing, he grew up shooting at night. Now, he deer hunts a lot, or more. He’s been hoping for last couple years to come join me in blind, and I was telling Forrest about it, and I said, you know, I bet he doesn’t even pull the trigger. I bet he doesn’t even pull the trigger. But he wants to connect his roots, and his foundations, and his family in a duck blind. Now, I’m not at that stage but I can guarantee you his stage absolutely supersedes to pull another trigger. It’s the ducks, it’s the flash of the wings, it’s the dog work, it’s his family, it’s the laughs, it’s the jokes. It’s the time above the grave, doing something you love.
Rocky Leflore: Man, I can sit here and listen to this whole day, Ramsey.
Ramsey Russell: We’re all different people. Go ahead.
Rocky Leflore: No. I was just – different ages, different stages. You put it perfectly.
Ramsey Russell: Different ages, different stages, different folks, different strokes. Here’s the real confounding factor about quality versus quantity. I believe that may have been the topic. Quality versus quantity. Well, you know what, go down to Argentina, quality is quantity. Go knock yourself out in a $1,500 a day, fat cigar lodge. A bunch of people born on third base, walk around like they’re Hunter Renfroe. Go ahead. Have fun, shoot your 15, 20 ducks. But there’s better places down there to shoot a bunch of ducks. Well, I don’t want to shoot more than 20 ducks. Well, don’t. Unload your gun, see what it’s like to have so many ducks coming over your decoys that you could have shot 70. But here’s the thing, Rocky, quantity versus quality. Duck hunting is a numbers game. Whoa, wait a minute. Don’t count though. Wait a minute, by law coming to numbers game, I didn’t write the rules, but it’s a numbers game. It all matters to not to exceed 2 hens, 2 pintails this year, 2 black ducks, 2 red heads, whatever. 3 scaups, 6 ducks. No more than 18 in aggregate, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah – it’s a numbers game. One of my close friends in college, Mr. Scott Baker, old Duck South member, biologist, and you know, he used to be the state waterfowl biologist. He and I flew for fish, in my life, in some of the same survey areas in North Mississippi, and we talked quite a bit. As the Internet came about, there seemed to be a lot of people unhappy with the duck season. You know what? For as long as the Internet has existed, we have not had a good duck season in the state of Mississippi. If you read the Internet, I believe that. And for as long as the Internet has existed that I can practically remember, we have been on adaptive harvest management, and we have shot 6 ducks in the Mississippi Flyway. I just do not remember, since the Internet, us being in a moderate or restrictive framework. 6 Ducks. Rocky, there are entire people right now listening that in their entire lives haven’t shot leads because that went out in the 90s. They never walked into a Mississippi duck season that you couldn’t shoot 6 ducks not to exceed 4 mallards, 2 hens, blah, blah, blah. The numbers game, hunter satisfaction, and I don’t know. You know, I would almost bet that it’s just for shits and giggles. The limit was lowered to 4, I say, it’s just funny to me how I go out today – how did you all do? Or what would you all kill? 3 at the limit. How would you feel if the limit was 4 and you shot 3, 4 off your limits? That’s half the limits. I mean it’s just 3 ducks I didn’t get that morning, big deal. There’s always more the next day, the next day, the next day, next day. Trust me. It all works out, it’s dead ducks. But when I saw the truth – when I say that it means that it’s not just about dead ducks. I’m going to tell you a kind of a gruesome description. If it’s just about dead ducks to you, here’s what I envision. I envision every duck you shot last year, sitting in a pile, on a concrete floor, wet, stinking, nasty, bugs flying around. And I think it’s pretty freaking sad that with all the people, and places, and dogs, and elements, and aspects, the whole romance and pageantry, the hard times, the digging, the figuring out, the improving the skills, the winds, the losses, the little triumphs, when you get those mallards to break down, on a tough day, when you prevail, when you beat it, when you play the game by the rules and win. All the good meals your buddy cooked, all the good meals you cooked, the times you freaking bust your liver laughing so hard in a duck blind over something crazy. Your kid’s first duck. The time you sat there and didn’t fire shots with your buddy, shared something with you that you needed to hear. You tell me, that all of that is not even pointed to a big, stinking, dead, pile of duck carcasses? Get real. Nobody’s after sunrise, nobody’s out there to watch the sunrise. It’s way more than ducks, and to anybody out there that misinterprets the way that people advertise, and mope, and do stuff – come on, Rocky. You know what? That resource – not that duck, but those ducks, they command more respect. They exist for a value beyond propping up your ego, and for all you young guys that are moping around – isn’t killing ducks like they’re killing that boy over there? And that boy over there on Facebook – just remember, that there’s a lot of guys that pile up all the ducks after 3 days because – I’ll say this and I’m not the best duck hunter, I’m not the best shot, I’m not the best caller, whatever. But I’ll say this, it’s just been my experience hunting worldwide, hunting mallards on 5 continents, hunting some of the same species that we shoot, complete, whole arctic species, completely around the globe, in the Northern Hemisphere. All of the sea ducks, the putters, from this, to that, let me tell you about duck hunting. You have got to limit, it’s imposed by biologists and enforced by law enforcement, to ensure the perpetuity, to continue the management, subsistence, and forever to have these duck populations under management. Those are just numbers for conservation of the species. On good days, you’ll never forget it. On the great days that the stars line up and the duck guy dropped the ball, and the weather is right, and you’re shooting just right, and it just – boom, the plan comes together. Eighteen plans come together. It’s right. And then there’s days, you step out on your front porch, and your concrete’s wet, it’s humid, and there is no wind, and it’s 75°. Go home and rake leaves. If you aren’t going to be happy just hammering ducks, chances are you are going to have no ducks. It’s just the weather isn’t right, migration isn’t down, something, stall, whatever, whatever. But most days, on a bell-shaped curve, plus or minus three signal – that’s what Pat calls it – you have got your good days and your bad days on the left and right ends. Most days are right there in the middle, somewhere between none and 6. Take it and enjoy it for what it is and what it isn’t. I’m going to get off heavy. I’m going to tell you this story. I told Josh Raggio this when I was in his shop. I heard this, years and years and years ago, and I’ve kind of adapted it to my own lifestyle. I heard so much about last week’s podcast, the bike ride, and all that stuff, and this is going to be just a peek in the grass, a little bit, but I want you to think about this. What do you love to do? Name this podcast. Name my creation Life’s Short, Get Ducks. I like to get ducks, I like to hunt ducks. I like to be around duck hunters, duck camp, duck places, duck marshes. I like the whole aspect of everything, we talked about it. But you know, the average life expectancy in America, which is high – read it just this morning. When I learned – by the way, thank you Donald Trump, that America is now the most productive economy in the world again, where we should have been and where we should have stayed. Despite everything else, everything is going pretty darn good. And then that report of all these metrics, and then the market watch report, they were talking about one thing – they just mentioned – I needed to hear today. Life expectancy of the average American is 68 years old. How old are you? I’m 52 years old, they give me 16 years. How many times between the time, I have got to be home for Christmas, I have got to work. I can get off, I can maybe travel to Kansas for 3 days, I can go to Canada every other year for 5 days. How many days a year do you really get to do what you enjoy? Duck hunt, for example. 10 days a year? 20 days a year? We’re doing math. 50 years old, you have to be 68, that’s 18. Let me do something. You have got 20 years, you hit that average, that probability – 20 years, and you get to duck hunt 10, 20 times a year. Okay, 200 to 400 times. You have got 200 to 400 times on average, statistically. You go do what you like to do. Go out to the dirt driveway and pick up some gravel, and drop 400 pebbles in a jar, and every time you go duck hunting, take a pebble out and throw it away. You may not live – you may be below average. I’m reaching that expected. You may not get to the bottom of that jar before you get struck by lightning. Life’s short. Point is, you can sort of quantify something you like. I’m sorry guys, if it’s about you going out and shooting 3 more ducks, don’t play golf. You better enjoy those times. Rocky, one thing I didn’t share in my whole big long podcast – some of the stuff. We’re trying to tell a linear story but I’m digging in a pot of gumbo for ingredients. You follow what I’m saying?
Rocky Leflore: Oh yeah.
Ramsey Russell: They gave me an 8% chance of life, one time. 50 odds. It’s like one of my major professors said, there’s lies, damned lies, and statistics. Thank you, for what it’s worth. You know, something I said in public, shared this with Joshua Davies, you all say this. Stumbled across some paperwork, one time. I was a young man, after the rabbit hole period of life. I read a piece of paper work, I had a life expectancy of 52 years old. Did it bother me? No. I live my life to the fullest, full steam ahead. I’m 52 years old, May 28th, this year. So, can I put all of them pills in a jar? The jar’s empty. All I’m saying here, Rocky, if you think that all the spent pebbles boil down to a dead, wet, pile of stinking ducks? It’s way more profound than that. Times I spent with my sons, times I spent my friends, times we triumphed, the times we failed. You look at life in a fox hole – think of life as being in a fox hole. Marriages, relationships, a lot of your best friendships and relationships in life are forged in tough times. Not great times. They most bond in 20-minute duck hunts, you are too big to load your gun to shoot every time. You know, those 2 or 3-hour hunt, 4 or 5-hour hunts, in between the volleys, waiting on them ducks – it’s where life happens, Rocky. A senior in high school, my life was changing, and organically, naturally. Things we’ve never talked about, sitting in the den, at the house, or in the cab of the truck, or texting; it just came up. We talked, until the ducks came in and we took an intermission on that, shot some ducks, and got back to it. You know, quality versus quantity. For me, it’s all good. Think of what it is, man. You’re not going to go out, I don’t care who you are, you’re not going to go out and remember every single day, unless you’re hunting over 200lb of corn for 4 months, baited down in Argentina. Come on. But if you hunt like we hunt, and you’re going to play by the rules, and the ducks have got no offense in disguise, and then fly anywhere they want to, it is what it is. Sometimes, the ducks win, and there’s no dishonor in that. Your goal, I think we have all got a competitive nature. I told Forrest – my buddy Josh Criswell – I’ve known Josh probably since he was Forrest’s age. Young man. Josh is as country as bacon grease and a cast-iron skillet, and that boy, I watched him grow up, we were friends. We duck hunted something together, we duck hunted in someplace around Mississippi – with him, maybe I didn’t know him as well. Boy, we have got stories, we started telling stories each other on the phone the other day. He reminded me of some stuff that we did that I just had completely and utterly forgotten. But I am not going to talk about it now either. He invited me to come up one time – let me finish my thought – I’ve known him since before. He was the most no-nonsense, and in my humble opinion, best bird taxidermist around. I did not see creativity like that in him because, he’s just such a working kind of guy. And you want to talk about a guy. My bike ride across America, or whatever I’ve done and hadn’t done, I’m not unique. My friend, Josh Criswell, did the same freaking thing. Had a great job, trying to be a firefighter, trying to be an E.M.T., he had a wonderful job at FedEx, and he just was one of the great, mindless mass, living a life of quiet desperation as the road would have put it, and he wants something different, and he had a skill set. He made better on it, and he just shrugged it off, and went chasing his dream, and look at him now. Man, some of the foremost clubs in America presented him birds. GetDucks.com – all my clients are sending him birds and they’ve never been happier, because when you’re working with a taxidermist who’s out in his shop at 5:00 AM, he takes your business seriously. He’s a no-nonsense taxidermist, and he’s creative. You don’t have to be artistically inspired to go out and work, turn out business. He just does it because he works hard. That’s the fabric of who he is. But I’ve known Josh a long, long time. One day, there was a property, public. He called me up, he said, bring your boys up, there’s 2 ducks in the woods. I said, alright. Forrest and Duncan kind of grew up hunting, not like their daddy on public. I grew up on public. To this day, I believe public hunting makes a duck hunter something because you are competitive. You’ve got to set up better, you’ve got to play a better game, you have got to play a harder game, you have got to dig deeper, get further. You have got to be there, when you have got to be there, beat everybody to it. You have got to call better, know when to call, know not when to the call, and you have got to get lucky. It makes you a better hunter. Forrest and Duncan were young men, young boys. God, you know, that kind of age where the waders come all the way up to the breast bones, up to the neck when they’re walking in waders. We got out there 3:00 AM, and we walked a country mile, got off in them woods, and we shot ducks. We didn’t win. But it was high quality, Rocky. With those birds coming through the treetops, rocking the branches when they come through, you can hear the primary hitting the lamb tips when it comes down. We shot ducks and one of the boys in the crowd, old Matthew Higgins, he volunteered. He came in, ate supper that night. He volunteered to go spend the night in the woods and hold the hole, and we went out the next day and had a good shoot. We did not limit. We had a good shoot, gadwalls, mallards, the different hole. And as we were leaving on a long walk out, we were leaving, and one of my boys commented, “We didn’t even get a limit.” Rocky, I think we shot 10 ducks and there were 5 or 6 of us. But we shot 9 more ducks than anybody else in the woods that morning. I said, “Son, don’t you understand? I wish I had way more duck than anybody else in these woods because we were the right team, and we dug hard, and walked further, and we called, and we set up, and we executed a well old plan,” and I told him it would be my ambition that as you grow older, do not hunt with break as much, that you go out, and explore, and hunt public because in my heart Rocky, that competitiveness, we all have got. Forrest is fiercely competitive. He’s at that age, playing sports, all that good stuff in the day. He’s fiercely competitive, always has been and he’s done it, it has made him a better hunter, it has made him a far more confident hunter. So, I think, you know, yes, we’re all competition-driven. But at some point, looking through the rear-view mirror, miles don’t really matter. Let me say it this way, what we’ve seen along the way, what we’ve accumulated really doesn’t matter. For me it’s more about the experience than just the raw dead body count. You know?
Rocky Leflore: Was it about the number of miles that you actually drove or was it about what you saw on the way?
Ramsey Russell: Experience. It was about the scenery along the way. It wasn’t about the miles, the 10,000-mile trip and all that stuff is besides the point. It was it wasn’t a cup of coffee I bought, it wasn’t a doughnut I ate, it was the whole experience.
Rocky Leflore: Let me say this before you go any further. I don’t know where your inner Joe Rogan came from today but holy crap. This is some of the best stuff you ever said.
Ramsey Russell: Highly opinionated Rocky, you know. Opinions are what they are and I don’t dispute.
Rocky Leflore: Opinions without passion are shit. Opinions with passion and love are good. Excuse my language.
What Percentage of Hunted Ducks are Eaten in America?
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. It is what it is. The world isn’t flat Rocky. It just is not flat. We’re not all clones of each other. You know, I’ve said it before. I was telling somebody just the other day, we’re talking about doing some stuff – I said, you know, I wish I sold light bulbs. Light on, light off. Light, dark. Everybody expects the same result. I don’t sell duck hunts, and each hunter is unique unto himself because, generally speaking, it’s a very subjective experience, and everybody expects something just a little bit different. Yeah, I shot 30 ducks down in Argentina, but they’re all rosy bills. I wanted to shoot more silver teal. Well, we didn’t shoot any rosy bill, we just shot a bunch of silver teals. I mean, they’re all just a little – they’re not wrong, okay? But they’re very subjective, and I can relate that to myself because, brother, let me tell you something. You have a big clipper hit, things get kind of hard on the water, and there are mallards buzzing around, like in the South Delta. I’m all in on green heads. I love shooting them. But on any other day, gadwalls, ring necks, shovelers, I don’t care. Dog don’t care, I don’t care if we have a good time. It all stays the same. Rocky, I was on a podcast the other day, doing a little guesswork, and we got talking about ducks. I’m going to ask you a question – we’re talking about duck numbers. We’re talking about quality versus quantity. I agree with my friend Pat Pit again, strongly, that duck hunting is not a meat sport, that this is not about subsistence. It is purely recreational and don’t ever do the math. If you haven’t done it, for God’s sake, don’t let your wife ever do the math on how much money you spend per ounce of duck meat. Just don’t do that. We’re not out there to eat. But you know, I like duck meat. I know how to cook it. I know how to cook it in a lot of different ways. A lot of people, I hunt with, know how to cook in a lot of good different ways too. I could rattle off a list of mine alone. A really good L’Anguille Lounge teal pot, holy cow – You know what I’m saying? Smoked ducks and geese. Jeff Anastasio cooks his grandmother’s pot roast canvasback. I would walk to Venice, Louisiana to eat a pot of that. I’ve got a few favorite recipes. I’ve got a recipe. I breast ducks a lot. But now, when I breast mallards, and I’m that guy at camp, guy that comes in with just a couple of mallards, don’t feel like to clean them, I’ll take them. I breast those mallards. Pick them first, then I breast those mallards. I want that mallard fillet with that fat on, and I take brant and duck from around the world. Everywhere I’ve ever been, I have taken duck breast, the same way, by the same size, and I cook generally the same recipe. But the adventure is what’s in the cabin, when I make that sauce reduction, that’s where the adventure comes in, that’s what makes it different. You know, you get out to Argentina, they don’t have a lot of flavors we have, in terms of preserves and liqueurs and things of that nature. So, it’s just purely winging it and I like that. I love to eat duck gumbo. I love making gumbo. It is an all-day commitment for me, but I like the results of a good gumbo. Every gumbo’s different. Someone asked this question Rocky. I’ve got thoughts about it. You know, when we go to Europe, Sweden, Netherlands, Azerbaijan, other places, they can sell their birds over there. Why would you sell them? Like, if you go into the natural food store in Amsterdam, and buy goose or duck, a hunter who is despised in that country could have got anti-hunters. Nonetheless, a hunter shot that bird, took it home, cleaned it, processed it, sold it at the market. Or he may have gone out and had a great pheasant hunt. He may have walked through the sugar beet fields, not twisted his ankle too bad, to keep on walking and shot a bunch of pheasants, and stopped at the local restaurant, the little inn and knock-on door stay, would you like to serve pheasant? Yes, please come in, and walk into the dining room and hold up 6 peasants, and patrons start raising their hand, and want 2 of them, or 1 of them, or something, for him and his block to eat. They sell them right there, and here we don’t because of the laws being what they are, and the Migratory Bird Treaty acting, squashing out market hunting and all that good stuff. We don’t sell and trade in ducks. Okay, but here is the question: how many ducks – what percent of ducks in America that you see posted on Facebook in the season – what percent of those ducks are eaten?
Rocky Leflore: I think that is an awesome question Ramsey and I will give you my answer next week. I know you might get mad at me for saying that, but we’re about out of time and I think we could spend the whole podcast talking about that topic. It is a very good topic. It is a topic that will raise a lot of emotions from the listeners. A lot of discussions created out of it. So, let’s save the answer and the discussion on that question for next week. Man, like I said, talk about channeling your inner Joe Rogan, or maybe a feisty black preacher from the 1970s. Geez man, I wasn’t imagining – you know, as you were going through that spiel, I was imagining this little black woman in her purple dress with the yellow hat on, jumping up in the back, with her fans going, yeah, preach her, brother, and that was good stuff. Geez.
Ramsey Russell: Well, that came out of nowhere.
Rocky Leflore: Another great episode with Double R, Russell himself. Ramsey, thank you for being here. We want to thank all of you that listen to this edition of the End of the Line Podcast, powered by DuckSouth.com.