BEFORE HE WAS THE DUCK MAN, HE WAS THE DEER MAN
In this edition of The End Of The Line Podcast, Ramsey Russell and I get together and discuss some more of his personal story. Who knew he was a deer management prodigy before he became one of the most known duck hunters in the world? In the beginning, we discuss the Safari Club International Convention he is at right now and the release of the first Life’s Short GetDucks: Australia webisode.
Telling the Story of Duck Hunting
I want to push the story of duck hunting and there’s a lot of interesting stories, a lot of traditions, and cultures, and ethics, and very different than America sometimes, and I think that should be the story.
Rocky Leflore: Welcome to The End of the Line podcast, I’m Rocky Leflore sitting in the Duck South studios and alongside with me today is gosh, you’re way out west, Ramsey.
Ramsey Russell: Yes sir.
Rocky Leflore: What kind of place?
Ramsey Russell: Man, Rocky, this is – I’ll be honest with you listening folks, it’s a terrible duck season back home for Ramsey Russell. We’ve killed some ducks. But I was real glad that convention season rolled around like it did. Normally we go to Dallas first and then we go to Reno or Vegas SCI this year, they cranked both right together, so for the next two weeks we’re working. I’m glad to be here, it’s coming out west, it’s a really, really nice shock. If you can imagine, it’s the largest hunting show on earth. Just imagine 10 solid acres hunting booths. I’ve seen everything from markhor to beagle-chased rabbit hunts at these shows and some of the most elite artwork, man, there’s some bronze statues laying around, if you got to ask, you can’t afford it but some of these statues go for six figures, it’s incredible. It’s just an incredible hunting show and we do real well here, make a lot of contact with a lot of the Western market out in California and the West Coast. But look, yesterday morning, I’m in Reno, Nevada and yesterday morning the show opened at 10:00 and before noon, we had been swamped. I mean all hands on deck, swamped by people from California, Indiana, New York, Mississippi, I mean just all over. People try to come to this show. People fly to go on vacation to come to this show – but like we had a guy from Montana come in and I mean Rocky, show started, boom, I’m sitting down talking to somebody that knew us. Knew our reputation, was talking about all that, just come and have a seat. Once he started talking Argentina, it looks like he’s going to go on and he knew everything about the hunt he wanted to go on and was ready to go. Then Martha says, Ramsey, this guy wants to buy a king eider hunt. I stood up, shook his hand. He’s like, yeah, I know all about you. I’ve been researching you. I want to go these days, two years from now. Boom, check. It’s the most incredible show and I enjoy it. We really enjoyed it. Chris Wuji from Michitobi Outfitters comes down and works with us, Martha from Argentina comes up and works with us, and it’s all hands on deck. We’ve got a nice display and just have a real good time and meet a lot of hunters. You know what I was surprised – I can’t remember who it was, but it’s just the ocean of humanity but somebody started talking about the podcast, so people are listening to this podcast apparently and yesterday I scheduled it before I left, not really thinking about the date. You know the way we have to release stuff online. I’m never sitting at a computer at home for too long. We released our Life’s short, Get Ducks Australia feature finally. A lot of people have been – I’ve been getting texts and emails, even Forrest asking about it, when are you going to release it? What are you going to do with it? Forrest had never seen it till it come out yesterday. I didn’t show just everybody, but when we look that little trailer, it had Getducks.com presents. Somehow or another though, an algorithm from Facebook picked it up and put us in a little black box under the counter in a dark room and said, no, nobody’s going to see this. The reason they cited was because it went to a landing page, Getducks.com. In other words, that video led people to a page that had firearms on it. A Benelli ad and man, they just put the kite on us. That hurt my feelings just a little bit. I ain’t going to lie to you because that didn’t have ducks doing a hunt, that was just about me and my story and that really hurt my feelings. Well, Jake and I went back through some of the pieces we put together to the feature piece, and we just removed the .com and I know it’s been live now for about 17 or 18 hours and it is getting some traction. It seems to be doing pretty darn good. If you all haven’t seen it, check it out. I know Rocky posted up on Duck South and I’d appreciate everybody just sharing it and posting it and tagging people that they think might be interested in. One thing, I warn everybody is that – we got a pipeline of destinations coming and we’re trying to present something Rocky in a real different format. We’ve gone back and forth. We’ve talked to some people, we’ve talked to sponsor types, we really done our due diligence this thing. At the end of the day, we’re right back where we started. The vision that I had when I called Jake Latendresse, I said Jake, I got a face for radio, I don’t want to be a star, I don’t have an ego to feed, I want to tell a story. I want to tell a long chronologically evolving story. A truth in duck hunting. I want to show people real duck hunting around the world, real people. In other words, I want to start to be the people that I’m in contact with around the world. Little Adil, my bird boy in Azerbaijan, David down in Argentina, Diego down in Argentina, Glenn over in Australia, Trent down in Australia. I want the people because no matter how funny they talk or what their religion is or what kind of economic strata they come from, they’re duck hunters. There’s just universal truth in duck hunting that exists, it just blows my mind that I can be sitting in a duck blind with people of all races, cultures, religions, economics, and skill sets and accents, and everything else, and if they’re duck hunters, we don’t have to speak the same language. We’re duck hunters and it’s just this thing. All these different bird species, I mean, there’s people out there chasing the 41. Baby look, there’s 50 subspecies plus geese just in America but when you start stepping out across the border into the world, there are hundreds of waterfowl species, even though the fundamentals are the same set up and the habitat. It’s almost like Rocky if you’re a baseball player and you’re a baseball player, high production baseball player and I used to think about a quarterback like Archie Manning. Archie and his boys, great quarterbacks but it’s a business and it’s everything else but at some level it’s as fundamental as just tossing the ball to your daddy in the backyard. But then you start traveling around all these playing fields and the fields change and you revert to your fundamentals of duck hunting to shoot red crested poachers or rosy bill poachers or pintails or scaup or whatever, bar headed geese – you stick to the fundamentals in this whole great new stadium that you’ve never been to. And then you evolve a little bit, you up your skill set, you try something different, and that’s just a real interesting story. I mean, we’ve done well on social media, we’ve done well building brand because people that have never left their home county shoot nothing but wood ducks and mallards, they can relate to that and that’s the story I want to tell. So as we explored different ways and distribution and different partnerships and everything else, I finally realized I don’t want to get lost in the noise. What happens too many times on TV and in some of these different pursuits in video and everything else, you see, the story gets lost in the money, in the industry. I’m like, Jake, I don’t want to do this. I want to just tell the story and as much as I can afford to tell it as a part of our existing business model but I don’t want to paint the story by driving around the world looking like a Nascar car with all these sponsors and having to push their story. I want to push my story. I want to push the story of duck hunting and there’s a lot of interesting stories, a lot of traditions, and cultures, and ethics, and very different than America sometimes, and I think that should be the story. I think the hunt, and the hunted, and the hunters, they should be the star of the show, not Ramsey Russell. So, that’s what we’re trying to do, Rocky. And because it’s not scripted, because we don’t have a format, each destination is going to be different, even the same destination twice, like we filmed Argentina. We’ve already done the field work for Argentina, very remote location. You’ve heard me talk about Rio Salado, I love it. And it was dry last year when we did a story and this year we’re going back and it is full to the brim, full of water, full of ducks, everything. The magic of that marsh is alive and we’re going to do a different story but it’s going to be the same location and that’s where we are with that. If you all haven’t seen it, check it out. Share it, tag it, help us get distributed because I’ve said it before, we talked about anti-hunting, we’ve talked about the whole liberal politics of hunting hanging by a thread, and baby it’s no more evident than on Facebook. If you think Facebook agrees with this stuff that we do, this duck hunting, you’re wrong baby, they don’t like it. Some little blue haired fairy-looking girl with a bone in her nose is sitting in a dark room in San Francisco somewhere in Silicon Valley running heavy handed on what the message they’re going to allow to get out on Facebook is. So, it’s kind of just us organically do it. I mean, I’m out on Facebook.
Rocky Leflore: There’s a room full of people that are going through all these posts.
Deer Hunter Before Duck Hunter??!
Ducks were just something I did when a cold front blew and I walked by a beaver pond and it’s full of mallards or I saw them wrap it up somewhere.
Ramsey Russell: Thousands of them. And they don’t agree with guns and they don’t agree with bullets, they don’t agree with hunting dogs, and they don’t agree with anything we do. So if you see something you like and believe in on Facebook or any social media format, man share it, distribute it, get the word out, we appreciate it. But it’s doing good and I think that the reason that the Australia story is making its way slowly and surely around the internet like it is, I think it’s because duck hunters just can relate to it. Yeah, it’s Australia. Yeah, it’s a different species. Yeah, it’s a different looking habitat and everything else but at the end of the day it’s duck hunting that everybody can relate to. So it’s new and on one hand it’s very new because it’s Australia and there’s kangaroos and pink eared duck and everything else, but on the other hand its duck hunting, it’s fundamental and familiar, it’s calling mallard in the timber. And so that’s the kind of story we’re going to tell with this thing right here. And for the next 4 days I’ll be in Reno, balls to the wall selling hunts and talking to folks about hunts and just doing what we do man, it’s duck season somewhere and we’re going to leave here. Some of the people, Chris and Nance, man, they’re going to leave here I guess Sunday or Monday and drive to Dallas. We’ll pack our stuff up, Sunday, crate and ship it to Dallas. I’m going home Sunday, ironing clothes, washing clothes, getting ready and driving Monday back out to Dallas. We’ll set up Tuesday and we’ll be ready for that show next week. We laid out our plan for next year last night at dinner. Next year, we’re probably going to do about a month stretch. We’re going to do Dallas, Reno, probably Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and hopefully go to Nashville for NWTF, just do a full month of it. So it’s my time of year. It’s what I do, it’s really kind of the work part of what we do. You get to see me on social media and we talked about a lot of stories doing the fun stuff but it is kind of work stuff – but I enjoy it too. Rocky, I love people, obviously I love to talk but I like to listen too. When I’m there on the show floor people come up and ask a lot of questions, lot of specific details about these hunts because this – when you look at a collection of people that fly – it’s one thing if I’m just going to drive 15, 20 minutes down the road to the Mississippi Trade Center to walk around and eat some buttered popcorn and talk to somebody about a hunt but it’s something else entirely different when a man leaves Indiana or Boston or Montana and flies to Reno which is a very nice town. Sleepy cowboy town compared to Vegas. There’s not the distraction. When you go to Vegas, there’s a million different things to do besides come to this hunting show. A lot of stuff competing for the attention of that hunting show here, there’s not. People are here to go to this hunting show and they’re very knowledgeable and very experienced and usually very well-traveled hunters and they’ve already done their research, man. We’ve probably already talked on the phone and if not they’ve been all over the internet and read our stuff and they know and they know what questions they want to ask. At the same time as you’re getting to know people like you do, when you meet with them talking about these hunts, you get to listen. It’s always interesting to hear their stories from these guys that have been – now here’s the deal, a lot of these guys are big game hunters too. It’s very rare that somebody comes to my booth at these shows that is just a bird hunter. Rocky, some of the big game collections, these people have a mast that is just jaw dropping, stunning. It is unbelievable. One day they woke up, maybe they were older, and they didn’t have the mobility to go climb the mountains and shoot the Markhor, and the sheep, and the Ibex, or maybe they’ve done it and they realized, hey, oh, these birds sure do sparkle and pop. Man, they look good in my game room too and it sets them off on a whole new journey of collection. Again, like myself, I think a lot of these guys they collect animals, trophies but at the same time, you hear it when they’re talking to you, same as me what they really collect are the experiences, they really collect experiences. I tell everybody I got a – there’s a bunch of dead birds around my place – but they’re just placeholders for memories for me. You know, I’m saying? I tell my kids all the time, look, these are just stuffed birds, they don’t mean anything to anybody but me. When I die or when I retire whatever, you all are welcome to back up that big green dumpster and toss aside everything that you don’t want. In fact, they just mean something to me. They’re just where I can see it and look at my stuff and remember, oh yeah, I forgot about that time, I was up on that mountain shooting those barheaded geese. That kind of stuff and collectors of experiences is what a lot of these people are. And I’ll tell you this little story, Rocky, getting into my backstory. You may remember, maybe I didn’t mention, but I went to Mississippi State University, chomping at the bits to be a deer biologist. Man, Harry Jacobson was a hero, Jim Kroll, Dr. Deer, I grew up in that era and I wanted to be white-tailed deer biologist. That’s what I wanted to do. That was my ambition at high school. I really hunted a lot more deer than I did ducks. Ducks were just something I did when a cold front blew and I walked by a beaver pond and it’s full of mallards or I saw them wrap it up somewhere. I’d go chasing ducks a little bit. But man, I wanted to be a deer biologist and I went to Mississippi State University and the reason makes me bring the thought of this because I’m walking around 10 acres of some of the most incredible – name an animal on God’s Earth that is hunted, and there’s one heck of a taxidermist, player 50 sitting at this show. Just incredible taxidermy of all these big games. So, I’m walking around man, I’m telling you, I love my birds, but it’s hard not to want to go shoot some of these animals. Very few people know that on my 50th birthday, my wife said, do you want to do something big? And I found a deal on the Africa hunt. I duck hunt for a living, I duck hunt for work and I explore and I do all this stuff but if I go on vacation – like one time I was giving a presentation to a Lions Club or Rotary Club or something – I got this little presentation, this little slide show, Duck Season Somewhere. We run around the world and talk about some stuff and it’s a little organic but anyway, at the end of the presentation, a little old man raised hand and said, you do all this stuff but what would be – how did he ask that question? He said, “What’s your trip of a lifetime? You’ve done all this stuff, so what would be your trip of a lifetime? Where do you want to go for vacation?” “Oh, next question. You don’t even deserve an answer. You don’t want to hear that, it would be boring.” “No, where do you want to go for vacation? What is your trip of a lifetime?” I said, “I want to go somewhere and not shoot ducks. That’s what I want to do. For vacation, I don’t want to shoot ducks but I do like to hunt.” On my 50th birthday, we found a deal, a heck of a deal man. We just worked through some friends, worked through some networks and my wife and I went to Africa – South Africa. It reminded me so much of when I was in my early 20s, about Forrest’s age, and I worked down in South Texas. We’re a hired act, we saw this wildlife. I broke out my belt, 300 magnum I’ve had since 1989, and it’s like the finger of God when I pull the trigger. Stuff just falls and I had a wonderful time. And look I didn’t bring heads back to get mounted, I didn’t care if we had anything at all. We shot Kudu and Eland and my wife had never – she had never hunted a day in her life and leading up that trip, I started her off with a little 17 HMR. She’s a good shot. Got to a 270 siding with that bullet, we’re going to shoot and let her pull the trigger three times. Didn’t want to get recall flinch, man, she aced it – bullseye three shots in a row. Then we brought it over here to Africa and she shot three animals, she was proud as could be. Dropping dead in their tracks. One of them bucks about 250 yards, just killed it dead on the wedge. And people don’t know that but I like the big game hunt some – I just don’t have time to do it as much as I like. I don’t have money to do some of this big stuff they sell here at shows, to do it like I’d like. When I went to Mississippi State University, my ambition was to get a degree in wildlife, get a job on a ranch or just maybe become a PhD and do wild white-tailed deer research. I never will forget, I was at Mississippi State University my first semester and I was in a biology lab and we were dissecting earthworms. I can remember that my lab partner was named Jeremy, I never really got to know him too good because he is one of the students that came in as a freshman and was going to be in wildlife. Then just somewhere between there and summer camp, he dropped, I don’t know if he’s swapped majors or just dropped out of school, I don’t remember but I never forget as we were dissecting them earthworms, he started telling me about this job he’d applied for. It’s unbelievable, I’m going to go down to South Texas and they’re actually going to pay me money and I’m going to manage white-tail deer and I’m going to plant food plots and I got to shoot a bunch of does and we’ll do all this stuff. I’m like man, I need that job!
Rocky Leflore: That’s what I was going to say.
Ramsey Russell: He’s sitting there telling me about my head spinning, going, that sounds like that sounds like a job I need and he said, “Well you got to go in there to co-op,” he said, just right down there on engineering alley and where do you think I left? I mean the minute that South African grad students that ran that lab cut us loose, where do you think I went? I grabbed my book bag and went straight to the co-op office, walked in and said I want to apply for a job to do this. He gave me my paperwork, I went home that night and I made an application and just did everything went back and dropped it off and I don’t know, 2-3 weeks later I was walking down going to a class or something in the Wildlife building, Dorman Hall is where Forestry and Wildlife was at the time. Harry Jackson, “Hey Russell,” I didn’t know Dr. Jackson from nobody. Except I know who he was, I didn’t know he knew me from nobody. And I said, “Yes sir,” and he goes, he said, “Come here and talk to this guy.” I got on the phone and it was that biologist down in Texas. He had called Dr. Jackson to see if he knew me, said he liked my application and I got on the phone with him. I remember what all we talked about but I remember he told me, he said “Can you start?” I said, “Yes sir.” Now look this was – the start date would have been right after that big bike ride we did because this was a semester leading up to that bike ride. And I’m like, yes, and my brother was getting married in early August, I knew I had to be home for it I, was the best man I couldn’t miss it. I said, well I can come down right after that wedding which would be by early the 2nd week of August and he said, “That’s fine, you’re hired.” He said, “But I’m going to warn you, you need to leave your upbringing, everything your granddaddy taught you, you need to leave it at home. This is white tails – this is intensive white-tail deer trophy, white-tail deer management South Texas and all that kind of stuff. I want you to leave it home and I want you to come down here open minded and I want you to do what we tell you to do, okay?” I said, “Yes sir.” I got the job, I’m coming to Texas, and that was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I had shot some deer back home, what he meant about my granddaddy’s upbringing, I’m telling you this Rocky, I grew up hunting and around Inverness, Mississippi with my granddaddy. My granddad was a very practical man. He was old school, he was an old attorney, comfortable but old school and practical and the “if you kill it, you eat it” mentality. Well a lot of my friends on the dove field were breasting doves and going on about their business. Oh heck no man, we picked our doves. Recipe my granddad, how he liked cook doves, he pluck them. Pluck them, gut them, and he had a whole little carcass. Same with ducks, there weren’t no breast meat floating around, baby. He plucked the whole thing, was a big desk, what we did but you ate it. He’s a good cook and we show up down in south Texas and marching orders, man. I started off on a 107,000 acre ranch about 30 miles north of the Mexican border. That ranch sprawled across three counties, parts of three counties that have been known since the dawn of time. It’s producing Boone and Crockett deer, low fence, not high fence. It was owned by a couple of Texas, oil bearing, a couple brothers, oil bearings. I mean, money beyond my imagination at the time. Very practical people but nonetheless, they traded and dealt in ranches like kids like me would swap baseball cards. The ranch we started on, 107,000 acre ranch. As far as I know, they’re great, great granddaddy killed Apache Indians to put that piece of land together. I mean, I don’t know, it’s just been a family, forever it was their home ranch. But then they had a lot of satellite ranches. They ran cattle on this thing, but it wasn’t like running cattle in Mississippi or other parts of Texas, we see all the grassy plains, son. This was brush country. It was brasada, it was a lot of mesquite and everything down there would cut you or bite you, rattlesnakes galore and thorns and cacti and just mesquite trees. So, the grazing was less and the carrying capacity for deer was less, but it was very, very productive soil.
Learning Deer Management Techniques on a Texas Ranch
Rocky Leflore: This was 1991? Ramsey, this was 1991?
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, this musta been 1990. And the 2 years I worked down there on over ranches for this guy was the 4th and 5th consecutive years of above average precipitation, which made that dry, parched desert like landscape extremely productive. So I got to be down there in year 4 and 5 that had benefited from above average precipitation. You follow what I’m saying? It’s like every year this buck’s life was above average precipitation. So, it’s a lot more brows and his potential for antlers was just incredible. Rocky, we found a pair of shed antlers one time stacked on top of each other. Look, on 107,000 acres, there were 3000 acres around headquarters. They called it a pasture. You just look at the map, 3000 acres. Don’t shoot nothing. Out here, marching orders were shoot does. And two of them boys, of his co-op students, two of them boys, upper seniors or juniors, they didn’t give mess about nothing. We’d get done working out in the field fixing windmills and hanging barbed wire and planting food plots, whatever we had to do out there, they wanted to go back and sit around the house. Me and my old buddy Rodney, not us, we was out there, we’d go find something to do. Fishing and stock tanks or whatever have you. And it was so incredible. Now we couldn’t shoot buck, oh heck no, not unless you want to go to jail, you didn’t shoot a buck on that place and at the end of the year, if you did good as a reward, my boss who to this day is one of the foremost white-tail deer biologist, trophy deer biologist in the world, Mr. Bob Aklen, was his name. At the end of the semester if you did good, did right, for bonus he let us shoot a management buck which had to be an old deer. Old down there ain’t 5 years old, it was 7 or 8 years old and it had to be a slick 8. Rocky, I lived a little hand me down, the cowboy, the cattle part was the big part of that is a cattle ranch. It’s where they raised cattle. And so there was a family of Mexicans and they were all brothers, and the span of years between the youngest and the oldest was, I guess 20 years. Some of them have been grandfathered in from back in the day, in terms of citizenship, and they worked man, they would work. They were such good people and we kind of lived this whole co-op student, college kids living like a hand me down house from there. From the cattle operating everything we had, like the pickup trucks we drove had 200,000 miles on them, and were hanging down from the oil operation, and stuff like that. Flat tires were a part of life down that part of the world. Tractors – we would get so many antlers stuck in the wheels out there – disking those food plots, just have to go out there and put it in the shop, break that thing down and pick it ourselves. It was work. I mean for a white kid from Mississippi going to college, it was work. Hanging fence and putting fence through that stone soil and gosh, it was wonderful. Rocky, right off the back we had to start shooting does, no problem. I mean, and I never will forget those boys saying, he said, “Look, you can’t eat all this deer, I need deer killed, you can’t eat them all. Take what you want by all means. You all are co-op students who are making a whopping $500 a month, okay?” And 30 miles behind a locked gate, which was 60 miles from the nearest town, which didn’t even have a grocery store, it was even further to get to the nearest Walmart. And so yeah, you all need something to eat, you all eat but you can’t eat all the deer I need killed. You can’t possibly but do what you want and antlerless deer have to be shot. And but one thing I know as we started planting those food plots –
Rocky Leflore: The reason being you were shooting so many does was for food?
The Hard Work a Ranch Life Requires
I’m talking cowboy, his hands aren’t even like hands, they’re like tools they are like steel from where he’d sit there and undo the braid of lariat with his hands or do anything with his hands, it’s almost like he can make a fist and pound a nail with them, they’re so hard and tough and worked.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, basic white tailed deer management, you want to – you’ve got X nutrition sitting on a piece of property and the ideal of trophy management is to put that nutrient in the form of antlers. And so the more he had to eat, the more energy he had to put towards antlers. And the less does there are, the less mouths there are to feed.
Rocky Leflore: Hey, I got something for you, I’d left this real quick. Actually two questions. 1990, I remember this is the first question very well because that was huge in deer hunting at the time. In 1990, was somewhere right in there where Mississippi just started bringing their doe season back. We had just enough deer that, you were like, I think we had doe days in 1990?
Ramsey Russell: It was. That’s back when we had doe days.
Rocky Leflore: And so you can see a lot of deer in the woods. I mean if you – we had a great place and I mean you saw 6 or 8 deer in a day’s worth hunting. That was a great hunt but from what you’re saying it sounds like it was a ton of deer down there.
Ramsey Russell: It was a 107,000 acre ranch. I think the helicopter surveys showed one buck for 300 acres. There were more does and I know that that year, that semester, he told us to quick shooting deer or to go way out to shoot deer because based on the helicopter surveys flown around early November he said, the doe ratio we got is real tight, real tight.
Rocky Leflore: And if you ever have to do a deer survey by helicopter, you got a pretty nice place.
Ramsey Russell: Oh you’re dang right son. You know like the thing about that country, that mesquite stuff is you – after a while your eyes got adapted to it. You could kind of see through it, but when you first get there, it’s like all you see is a thicket and you can’t really see through it, you can’t see deer much very far and you can’t see things in it. But your eyes get adapted to kind of looking through that cover. But once you get up, even on the high rack on top of the truck or let alone a helicopter survey and you’re looking down on it, it’s like looking at the African savannah. Like, I mean like you can just see anything when you’re up high. We flew helicopter some and I got to ride up in there and look at deer and chase deer with it. That land was so big, all we had for a map, understand this is 1991 there wasn’t internet, there wasn’t Google, there wasn’t a GPS. Well there were some stuff like that. Like one of the brothers had this big old white bubble on top of his truck, it was a Loran or something he called it. He had this phone about the side of a cinder block. He could talk to his buddy in Houston, Texas from that ranch. I’ve never seen nothing like this man. This is like Richie Rich convention stuff to listen to a man be driving down the road and listen to a man break out the big 3 ft. long antenna on a box and start talking on like a telephone while we’re in a pickup truck. I’ve never seen nothing like it. Our map was about a 3 x 3, you have to stop and put on the hood of your truck and it was just a line map roads. All it was a blank piece of paper with hundreds of miles and little dots that were windmills. So you’d be just out on the part of ranch, you ain’t never been to, I mean you didn’t know where you were and what you do is get on top of the truck or just keep driving till you saw a windmill. Then finally go up to the windmill and see what the numbers said on it and find that dot on your 3 x 3 piece of paper and say, okay I’m over here. Talking about those brothers, let me tell you this story, you go to rodeos, Dixie National, you see these professional cowboys and you think cowboy, man let me tell you what, think about a Mexican, from old country of Mexico, a pair of maybe cowboy boots, maybe high top hand me down Reeboks been riding a horse since he was 2 or 3 years old. I’m talking cowboy, his hands aren’t even like hands, they’re like tools they are like steel from where he’d sit there and undo the braid of lariat with his hands or do anything with his hands, it’s almost like he can make a fist and pound a nail with them, they’re so hard and tough and worked. One of my favorite of those brothers, the one I remember was the little brother, the baby brother, the next to baby brother, his name was Louise, he didn’t speak lick of English. Somehow I know that Louise’s foot, one of his legs was 6 inches shorter than the other one. He’s a big man. I mean, real big belly guy.
Rocky Leflore: 6 inches? 6 inches is a lot.
Ramsey Russell: Well, it’s a lot and he had kind of a boot to kind of help things out but his mobility was real bad.
Rocky Leflore: He could put high heels on.
Ramsey Russell: Well, I asked him one day because my job – Louise could fit – we did a lot of habitat management, like root plowing and drum chopping and it was for cattle and the deer benefited too. Well my job for – I remember that semester part of my job was there for a stretch of time, Louis was on a bulldozer that bulldozer had to be cranked every morning. I don’t mean it had to be jumped on top and turn the key. I mean it had to be beat on with a ball paint hammer and magic wand and sprinkled and bless and everything else to get that thing running and there was one man on the ranch, the equipment operator named Louise that could make it run. If we got stuck with our old John Deere tractor planting food plots and we was in a bind and couldn’t get it cranked, all we have to do is find Louis. He’d make that son of a gun run. I had an old pocket knife, I never forget a solenoid was out or something and to crank that tractor every morning I had to take a piece of – I’d take my knife and make an arc somewhere on that starter, that’s how Louise taught me to crank that tractor every morning. I lost that pocket knife, I had that pocket knife forever, the old Victoria Knox pocket knife, little multitool, and I lost that thing. When I lost it, it still had a big gash on the top of that blade from being burned so many times throwing that art to crank that tractor.
Rocky Leflore: Do you know how many memories you just struck up in my mind, talking about that?
Ramsey Russell: Man, it’s just – it’s white tailed deer.
Rocky Leflore: Kids that work on a farm or go drive a tractor on the weekends on their food plots, they don’t understand what in the world you’re talking about.
Ramsey Russell: No, we just jump on that boat and turn the key. But back in those days – look man, we were 30 miles down a dirt road from the gate. There was no – if it broke you fixed it. Man, look for a 20 year old kid that didn’t grow up on a farm when once or twice a week, one of those great big 6ft tires on that John Deere 43, 50 or whatever size tractor that was, got a flat tire, there was nothing to do but jack it up and get that tire off, and run 15 or 20 miles back to the shop, which was just a steel building. Not one of these hydraulic things, not one of these motorized wheel breaker downers, but you put it on there and got a big old cheap bar and hopefully there’s enough of you around the shop to break the seal. That was the easy part is getting that son of a gun back on there, that would about break in half but we did it. That’s just what you had to do was get that tire off and plug it and patch it and put it back on and get back out there she’d keep on planting those food plots. Well, the reason the Louis’s leg was shorter than the other is because when he was a little boy in poor Mexico, a cowboy raised, I mean, it’s like, I guess those folks, it’s like when they was old enough to get on the horse, somebody put him on a horse and said, giddy up, go round up cows, that’s what we do. And Louise had been a little boy, as best I could understand, I didn’t think of him as a little boy like 12 as he told me the story and me not speaking Spanish, him not speaking English. I was sitting there sharing a sandwich because every day at lunch I had to go find Louise down on whatever part of the ranch he was working on. I’d have to look at my map and windmills and go find him and when I found him, he would have parked his truck where the bulldozer was – I had to find him, bring him back to his truck and then he and I would go back to the bulldozer and find a shade tree and eat lunch and then I head on back, whatever I had to do. That’s how I kind of called him up, so he didn’t have a – man, couldn’t walk five miles to get back to his truck at the end of the day and he just couldn’t do it. And so that’s how we kept progress going, where he could get up the next morning and start where he left. The reason his leg was busted up was because when he’s a little boy, the horse hit a hole and flipped over and crushed his leg. Falling on this – look I mean I’m guessing 5 or 6 years old here and tell the story and it crushed his leg. All his poor family could do was put him in the bed, hope he didn’t die until he could walk again. That’s why his leg was so much shorter, his leg got crushed and they just put them in a bed at home until the boy could get back on the horse.
Rocky Leflore: All right, Ramsey making me feel bad for laughing about a 6 inch limb.
Thoughts on Immigration from Mexico & the Wall
I send my son to school, my son does well in school, maybe he qualifies to get the proper paperwork, and he goes to the United States and gets a real education and he becomes employable in the greatest country in the world. Why should he have to compete with somebody who snuck across the border and didn’t play by the rules like we did?
Ramsey Russell: I mean, he didn’t care about it but it was just his life. So some of his older brothers had been working on a ranch since their granddaddy died or whatever, and they wanted to bring all the brothers on and get Louis to the ranch, and this would have been 50, 60 years ago they got him to the ranch. They coordinated with whoever was the cattle foreman at the time for 3 or 4 days off and they went down to Mexico and got their brother Louis who couldn’t walk like that and smuggled him, swam him across the river, and snuck him into the country, and brought him to that ranch and that’s where they lived. I mean they brought them in this country because they needed an equipment operator, somebody that could do that and they needed their brother, and they wanted the brother because the Mexicans are tight man. They’re family-oriented folks and that’s how he got to this country. Let me tell you the story – the name of this ranch was Palencia – now it’s just like the bottom of the ocean with a bunch of mesquite on it. There’s the highest cartman cliff, you know, kind of where the big main house was the ranchers, granddaddy’s house, the big house they stayed in when he was on the ranch. If you looked out to the west, out in the middle, as flat as the bottom of the ocean, pancake landscape full of brush, there was a rock formation and I mean, a big formation sitting out there miles away. It looked like if you took an old waffle cone, big waffle ice cream cone and stuck it upside down, that’s what it looked like. Well, the name of that waffle cone in Spanish is Palencia. And so it was named after that rock formation. Well that rock formation at the time was on a whole lot of maps, underground maps that went back to use when they immigrated across the Rio Grande river into our country to work. And that ranch – man, border patrol would run some of our roads on the south end, they would come on the ranch and drag-pull some chain link along miles and miles and miles of trails so that they could fly or look and find footprints and kind of try to catch people. October, November, we’d be out there hunting or working early in the morning and you see those folks out there moving around. I mean they were moving in the cool – man I’ll tell you what full moon, October, November there was folks coming through. They’d come across that ranch because that Palencia was a landmark for them, it would help navigate them.
Rocky Leflore: A very hot topic right now in the world.
Ramsey Russell: I’m going to tell you, don’t get me to talking about it because I’ll talk about it all. I work down in Mexico a lot and it is not the hot button topic down there that the mainstream media is making it out to be. Most, if not all of the Mexicans I worked with, they’re in support of the wall, hell, you build a wall. You know why Rocky? Same reason you would be in support of you were them because the people I work with, they don’t spend a little money, they spend a lot of money giving their kids an education, a good education to build a better life. And to hear somebody down in old Mexico today last year, tell me the story, why? Hell yeah, I’ll build a wall. We’re all in support of building a wall because of watching my son. I send my son to school, my son does well in school, maybe he qualifies to get the proper paperwork, and he goes to the United States and gets a real education and he becomes employable in the greatest country in the world. Why should he have to compete with somebody who snuck across the border and didn’t play by the rules like we did? This is a Republican and conservative answer to get some support to build the wall if you’re Mexican. That’s what the mainstream media is not saying Rocky, but you know their agenda. He said, I watched this morning the Today Show, we’re all against Trump not to build the wall and the government shutdown, blah-blah. Come on man, everybody’s in support of that wall, just the right way to do it. But now I’m going to tell you this and share my idealistic side with you. Folks in Mexico work. There ain’t no social support system. That’s why when you pull up to a red light in Obregon, some guy jumps out. You don’t ask him to, he jumps out of the shadows and starts washing your window with a broken piece of squeegee and a water bottle and some soap in it. And man, he washes your window because it’s dirty and he hopes for having done the effort, you drop a few pesos out the window in his hand because that’s what he got to eat on. He does the work and hopes you’re the guy that will give him a few pesos, and a few pesos ain’t much, Rocky. We’re talking dropping 3 or 4 cents in his hands, or a quarter. He ain’t asking for it, he’s working for it and that’s been my experience. Back when I was working with Fish and Wildlife service and all of them had a lot of immigrant labor coming in – green card labor – doing hardwood trees. Them son of a guns worked, I mean worked for pennies and we’re proud to have it, glad to have a job for that reason, I’m all about letting them through. My whole politics are, hey, make me president. Do you think the world hates Donald Trump? They’ll hate Ramsey Russell. Because I’d probably fire half the government, keep the ones I had – here’s a card table, go down and find a trail, when them folks come across, here’s their citizenship, here’s a worklist, give him a job. Let them pay into the system. All they want to do is work Rocky. That’s what the ones I know, they hunt, they want a job, they want a future because down in Mexico they’re making $10 a day, working 12 hours. They come up here and make twice that. They make a lot more than just working.
Rocky Leflore: We need to finish this story up next week. But I’ve got a better idea –
Ramsey Russell: Wait, I want to end this story or one story because I don’t want to end on that note, I want to end on this note, we’re talking about Mexico, we’re talking about the wall, we got sidetracked on that. Let me tell you a story.
Rocky Leflore: Hold on, let me say this, you make people hungry enough in this country, they’ll go to work. They’ll plant a tree.
Ramsey Russell: This is a 2 minutes story. Pat Pitt and I went down to old Mexico, Eastern Mexico one time – one of my favorite trips I ever did with Pat – that’s a turkey hunter man. You think he’s a duck hunter? That guy is a turkey hunter. Oh yeah, he’s a duck hunter but he is a turkey hunter. He and I went occeolated turkey hunting down in Eastern Mexico one time, stayed in this little village, poor beyond poor. A lot of the towns and houses and stuff didn’t even have doors, it was just simple and poor. Pat made a comment one time like, he wondered, this little girl walked across the street with a baby and he just wondered what their future was. I said, I don’t know Pat but they’re smiling. He noticed that everybody down here smiles when they talk to you, they smile. One day we’d been out turkey hunting, that morning we were coming into town on this little dirt road town. The police car was sitting in front of the police station and had an inch of dust – hasn’t have been cranked in a month, because there was no crime to speak of down there, just a simple little country town. Walking up ahead of us was a guy pulling a hand cart with one of the big 5 gallon things of water – one big commercial water jug – just kept walking down. But he’s kind of listening, he’s kind of walking to the right and stops at the curb and lines himself up and starts walking forward and walking to the left of the curb, very odd. Our host said something to me in Spanish and the translator said, that’s – I can’t remember the guys name – Juan Miguel, the most beloved man and I’d like you to meet him. Sure we want to meet him. So he took a left, went way around a couple of blocks, we got up to where the guys coming to us now instead of away from us and we stopped. We got out of the cars, we stood, and this guy is making his way to us, and there’s a speed bump. He tips over and crawls over and starts walking fast again until he gets all the way to the right curb. Lined himself up, began to walk until he gets to the left curb – very odd pattern of walking. Well, as he gets up close to us, he ain’t got glasses on. I realized this man’s eyes were all messed up, he’s blind since birth, so we started talking. There was 400 doors – businesses, houses, homes whatever in the town – this was the year Obama got elected, by the way. And we start talking to him in Spanish and he’s blind since birth, this man’s job, his work, he delivers water. He lives just outside of town in a little house that’s built of wood that has been cut and lashed together and dried, so there’s little cracks. If you drive by at night and they got a candle, you can see right in their house. But his job is – you can’t drink the water down there – he goes to town every day, he goes to the water store, there’s your order, so and so ordered this water he puts it on his hand cart and he delivers it to 400 doors in this little dirt road town. A blind man delivers water to every door in that town. It was unbelievable Rocky. I mean, Obama’s getting in office, he’s going to redistribute American wealth, blah-blah, and here’s a blind man in Mexico that delivers water to 400 doors for maybe $10 a day. And Pat pulled out $20, he put it in a man’s pocket, and he patted him on the chest and he says, “I just put $20 US dollars in your pocket and it’s not charity. That was a very inspirational story and I just wanted to give it to you, may God bless you.” For the first time in that conversation, when Pat said may God bless you, the man’s smile dropped. And he said, because he’s confused, he goes, “Sir, God has blessed me. I’m the blind man that has the most important job in my town. I deliver water to every house.” That’s a heck of a story now. But here comes the rest of the part. That same year, there was a man named Carlos Slim who thought Mexican telephones should occur and started making cellphones, and very briefly was the richest man in the world. Probably because of the Obama phone, that’s where they got it from. Carlos Slim. That was the wealthiest man in the world. When he was announced the wealthiest man in the world, at the press interview, CNN or somebody stuck a mic in his face and say, what would be your charity? What Carlos Slim said is Santa Claus is a children’s myth. My gift to my people is work, my people want to work. Rocky, not being all political and everything else, but manual labor in America is woefully in high demand. If you listen to Ramsey Russell, heck yeah, let’s build this wall. Let’s start getting some people in this country that want to come to our country like the folks did to start with: work. Heck yeah, anybody wants to work, welcome in my country. You know what I’m saying? But just come through the right channels. I just thought that was a heck of a story.
Rocky Leflore: When we pick this story back up next week, I want you to take on this, when it comes to deer management. I know this from managing goats that the doe has more influence on your males than the actual buck does.
Ramsey Russell: That’s what they’re saying, genetics ain’t my strong point.
Rocky Leflore: Well, we spent so much time shooting these bucks, managing bucks, but you don’t ever hear anything when it comes to managing does.
Ramsey Russell: No, but how would you know? See that’s the whole rub, I’ve heard that for a long time, that does have a lot of genetic influence. But unless you’re in a controlled environment with tags and numbers, how do you really protect the doe? Because what you’ve got to shoot is a doe. You got to remove those from the landscape, antlers are easy to manage for and really, in the state of Mississippi, especially. Man, you think about this Rocky, I said this back in the ‘90s working with them boys down in Texas, especially those Texas down, in forsaken drought induced country down here. If Mississippi would ever commit themselves to trophy deer management – I said this in the 90s – like the state of Texas, which is all about age structure, we would have something. Well, you know what Rocky, one of the largest deer in the world, the largest non-typical white-tail ever shot by a man on court was right there from Winston County, Mississippi. We got big deer. It’s all about age structure.
Rocky Leflore: I agree with that.
Ramsey Russell: But anyway, we got a lot of talk about Texas deer hunting next time you want to talk about it again. But I got to hunt, I got to sell me some ducks.
Rocky Leflore: I’ve got to go because I’m going to get people found that they are to run that long. It really keeps a timer on all our podcasts.
Ramsey Russell: I enjoyed it Rocky.
Rocky Leflore: Oh yeah, man, I enjoyed it Ramsey and thank you again for being here. And we want to thank all of you that listen to this edition of The End of The Line podcast powered by ducksouth.com.