LIFE’S SHORT GETDUCKS: FURTHER THOUGHTS ON AZERBAIJAN DUCK HUNTING
In this edition of The End of The Line podcast, Ramsey Russell and Jake Latendresse join me from an Azerbaijan duck hunting adventure, where they’re filming a future Life’s Short GetDucks short film. The perspective Jake brings to the table is life changing. First, we visit about the upcoming series of podcast guests that start next week with Jeff Foiles, and Josh Raggio. Then, we talk about the connection that hunters have no matter the language, ethnicity, geography, etc. We all are connected through the sport we love, duck hunting. Jake tells us about his experiences since getting to Azerbaijan. Ramsey and I close it out talking about a few of the recent topical videos and photos he has recently posted.
Everybody Has a Story
I love sitting there listening to people that are successful and how they got there. It drives all of us to want to be the same.
Rocky Leflore: Welcome to The End of The Line podcast, I’m Rocky Leflore sitting in the Duck South studios, save that for my two partners that are here with me today that are almost halfway around the world (we can’t say halfway): Jake Latendresse, Ramsey Russell.
Ramsey Russell: Rocky, how are you?
Rocky Leflore: Jake dude, it’s good to have you back. You’ve been a busy man for about 6 months.
Jake Latendresse: I’m starting to feel it Rocky, but it is good to be back here and it’s good to hear your voice. We need to get back in the groove, Bubba.
Rocky Leflore: Hey Jake, let me tell you something real quick. Yesterday I was at the Oxford Farming Ranch and this guy comes in a full boat run to me. “You Rocky Leflore?” I said, “Yes sir, I am. How you doing?” He said, “Man, I listen to every podcast. Every single one of them.” I said, “Good, that’s awesome.” I mean, he’s going to hear this. “Anyway, I listened to every single one of them, man, they’re awesome, they’re great,” he said, “But I’m going to tell you something man – and this is no offense to Mr. Ramsey – best one I’ve ever heard Jake Latendresse’s story, The Climb. Man, that thing was awesome.”
Jake Latendresse: Well, I’m glad I know I touched somebody.
Rocky Leflore: Anyway, we sat there and talked for probably five minutes and he said, “Man that was just an inspirational deal.” There were so many people that we’ve done stories with just right in this area. You figure that I thought he was going to say Ramsey, he kind of had that look on his face, like he was about to deliver some bad news, because the story, the burn story kind of just hit so many people and I thought that was what he was going to tell me but he didn’t. And because I hear Ramsey a lot too. But I hear The Climb a lot also. Those are two of the top ones that I hear about.
Jake Latendresse: Well, let’s pat you on the back here Rocky, let’s think about how far and how evolved you’ve become since those stories, and how many people. Those stories really started the snowball effect and you built that snowball, and as I understand it, you’re pretty much worldwide now, bud.
Ramsey Russell: I’ll say the same thing Rocky. I’ve enjoyed every single podcast series and hung on every word. I listened to them all. I’ve enjoyed and I appreciate somebody like yourself being able to pull together the depth and the content that, to me, it’s in a very enjoyable way as compared to a lot of the other podcasts out there. I’ve just really enjoyed it.
Rocky Leflore: I think the thing that I enjoy about it the most – the reason that I enjoyed the story of the podcast series versus doing a how-to or just a one day interview with somebody – most of the people that we’re talking to or dealing with are very successful people. They’ve gone through a lot of tough times to get where they’re at and they’ve got a lot of great stories to tell, to guide them there. I love sitting around listening to those. I don’t have to sit around and talk the whole podcast. I don’t have to be that guy who’ll sit there and talk for an hour and a half. I love sitting there listening to people that are successful and how they got there. It drives all of us to want to be the same.
Jake Latendresse: If you think about what we’re all doing – Rocky Leflore, Ramsey Russell and Jake Latendresse – we’re all telling stories. That’s what we do. You’re telling stories on your podcast, you’re bringing people in that have good stories and at the end of the day, everyone has a story. Ramsey travels all over the world and he tells these peoples’ stories. The people of Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Australia and Mexico, whatever it is. With my photography and filmmaking, that’s my goal too, is to tell stories. So, I like to say that there’s an old cliché in the filmmaking business that everyone has a story and the story never ends. So, I guess what we’re doing is a testament to that.
Rocky Leflore: Yeah, a wise person told me that everybody has a story. I can’t remember who that was.
Jake Latendresse: Instagram.
Rocky Leflore: No, Jake Latendresse.
The Power of Failure
It’s not always about being embarrassed, it’s because people can relate to it because it’s real.
Jake Latendresse: Well, it’s true right? We all have a story and everybody has a different story and they’re all interesting because even the failures – sometimes the failures are the most. In fact, one time I remember early on in my filming career with Jay Gregory, I missed a big buck on film and I was just beside myself. As much as I hate to admit it, at that time in that immature stage in life that I was in, my biggest concern was that I missed it, that I failed and like, is he going to show this? Is this going to embarrass me or did I fail? They’re not going to air it because I missed it. I was worried about the wrong things. I remember Jay said, we’re going to air this and I think you’re going to see that sometimes the misses are what people remember the most. It’s not always about being embarrassed, it’s because people can relate to it because it’s real. That really hit home with me when he told me that.
What to Expect Next on End of the Line Podcast
That is going to be a freaking – that’s the Hiroshima of Ducks South End of The Line podcast – that is huge.
Rocky Leflore: You are exactly right. At The End of The Line podcast, we’ve got three and I just announced it this morning. Kate Wood that founded Avery and Drake will be joining us to tell his story next week. Let me tell you something, Kate doesn’t hold anything back. You both know this, you all know the whole story behind it, a lot of people don’t. When he left Avery, that’s a very touchy subject and I said, “Kate, you can tell what you want to tell, that’s your business, I’m not going to dig into that scab or that wound.” He said, “I’ll tell whatever you ask me. I don’t give a – you know what.”
Jake Latendresse: Yeah, I heard that coming out. That is going to be a freaking – that’s the Hiroshima of Ducks South End of The Line podcast – that is huge.
Rocky Leflore: I think that guy changed the duck hunting world for the better but just changed it forever with Avery and Drake.
Jake Latendresse: Oh yeah. Me and Ramsey, we were just talking in here earlier. At one time there’s probably no brand that dominated the waterfowl world ever like Avery did at that time. And to know he was part of the brainchild behind it. I can’t wait to hear that one, that’s going to be freaking amazing, actually.
Rocky Leflore: Let me ask both of you all this, can you imagine walking away from a company that has your dad’s namesake on it? I mean, I can’t and that’s one of the things I asked him this week, I said Kate, how do you do that? I think that part of the story is awesome, because he did, he walked away from it. I’ll tell you another one that we’re starting next week. I think it’s going to be off the charts. We’re going to be talking to Jeff Falls. What an unbelievable story that is.
Ramsey Russell: Rocky, I’ve been looking forward to that. I’ve really been looking forward to hearing that story. You and I talked about it last summer and I’ve been anxious for Jeff to come on. There’s always two sides to every story. I’ve been really looking forward to hearing Jeff.
Jake Latendresse: Wow, those are two back-to-backers there, bud.
Rocky Leflore: Yeah, with Jeff there’s a lot more to the story than what you read in a memo that was sent to the newspapers by the Feds. There’s a lot more to that story.
Ramsey Russell: I bet Jeff ain’t no holding no punches either, is he?
Rocky Leflore: I don’t know how I’m going to hold either one of these guys back.
Jake Latendresse: Let them roll. Just let them go buddy. Whatever they say, it’s not your fault.
Rocky Leflore: I guess I’ll have to put Josh Raggio in the middle because Raggio kind of evens both of them out. He’s a great story. Man, he is flipping the call-making world upside down. Josh Raggio is a good friend of mine and Ramsey’s. So, that’ll be a really cool story.
Ramsey Russell: Raggio has got a very good story. You step into a lot of workshops and it’s just an organized chaos and such precision, such cleanliness. Going to Raggio’s is like going to an art studio, he takes it that seriously. Just to sit there and talk about whatever, and watch him turn a piece of wood into your call. Tune it for you from scratch. It all takes place in an hour and a half, two hours. I get to get back in my habit and dial back in. I still got to get caught up on some of these podcasts and some of these episodes that have wrapped up in the last few weeks but I’m truly looking forward to the upcoming weeks. This is going to be very good.
The Inspiration Behind the End of the Line Podcast
Shoot, all came from one quote: everybody has a story.
Rocky Leflore: Well, I’ll end it with this before we talk about Azerbaijan. Jake, you’re the inspiration behind all this, I appreciate it. I mean, you have driven this from a couple of years ago. Whenever people ask me, where did all this come from? Shoot, all came from one quote: everybody has a story. Jake said that to me. Gosh, what was that, three to four years ago now, Jake? You just got to ask good questions.
Jake Latendresse: I’m going to tap on to that for one second, if I can get this quote right. Someone said something to me that means the same thing, in so many words. They said – we were talking about mentors – “A good mentor will answer your question with questions to make you answer your own question.” I thought that was good.
Rocky Leflore: Yeah, that’s pretty good. So, thank you Jake. You’re never able to tell people, a lot of times you go flying off on your own, and you’re not able to say thank you. So, I say thank you. It’s all because of you.
Jake Latendresse: Well, I’ve never looked at it like that but thank you for saying that.
Where the Heck is Azerbaijan
I’m 6800 miles from home in a country where nobody knows where it exists, talking in a foreign language with guys that are hunting like we all did 150 years ago, and we’re all just falling together like we’ve duck hunted together for years.
Rocky Leflore: All right, so let’s talk about Azer – let me make sure I’m saying this, right – Azerbaijan, right?
Ramsey Russell: Azerbaijan. Yeah, that’s it.
Jake Latendresse: Azerbaijan.
Ramsey Russell: Rocky, there’s a lot of people following on social media right now because we’re doing these stories and doing these pictures, and when Jake shows up, it just goes through the roof because he’s doing it too. The number one question asked so far is where the heck is Azerbaijan? Everybody knows.
Jake Latendresse: I still don’t know where it is.
Ramsey Russell: Everybody kind of sort of heard of it but where is it? I sent a text to Terry Denman this morning because at this little house we’re staying in, on the back door is a Mojo decoy. I just find it so interesting that like any duck camp around the world, here I am in Azerbaijan, and there’s a Mojo Outdoors decoy on the back door. Of course, then it’s got about 15 or 20 of them laid out, they believe in that product. Denman wrote back, “Where’s Azerbaijan?” But here we are killing it. I don’t remember what all we talked about last week, but I knew Jake, I’ve worked with him in the past. We’ve talked a lot and I just knew Jake’s going to love this place. I’ll let him speak to that but I feel like he does, I think he’s really getting it. This morning we got in these little p-rows, we went deep off into the marsh and we’re just sitting there, kind of balancing and each in our own respective boats. Our guides are standing up, push-pulling, and where to go in the fog, in the dark, and the winding trails is anybody’s guess. But they did and we got there. Jake and I were talking about here’s Ramsey and Jake doing our thing, and here are two Azerbaijani duck guides doing theirs. We don’t speak the same language and they’re not even vaguely similar. The craziest thing, Rocky, the only foreign language I kind of, sort of, don’t really know is Spanish. “Si, O, por favor,” that’s the only three foreign language words I know and they get it. We’re sitting there talking to each other in three different languages and everybody’s nodding and doing what we could. We’re all working together because we’re just really just four duck hunters following in together. That’s the craziest thing, man. I’m 6800 miles from home in a country where nobody knows where it exists, talking in a foreign language with guys that are hunting like we all did 150 years ago, and we’re all just falling together like we’ve duck hunted together for years. Because we’re all just duck hunters. That’s the language, I’m trying to explain. It’s just a duck hunting language. Nobody has to say anything else.
Jake Latendresse: Exactly.
Rocky Leflore: Automatic connection just because of waterfowling.
The Language of Duck Hunters
There’s a universal truth ubiquitous in duck hunting that exists worldwide and it’s awesome to get to see it.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, duck hunters are duck hunters, man. It’s just the same. I saw a thread earlier this week, I thought it was on Duck South, it could have been anywhere, I was just scrolling through Facebook when I had some Wi-Fi. And somebody posted up a YouTube video, some friends from Pakistan had posted up Pakistani hunting. Jake’s been to Pakistan, I’ve been to Pakistan, I went duck hunting, he went hunting sheep and we both speak finely in that hunt. We don’t like curry on our food anymore, but other than that we loved Pakistan. We love the people, the culture, the traditions. That thread and the way it reverted the way people were talking about it and just painting with the broadest brush humanly imaginable. Something I’ve learned and I think guys like Jake have learned is that the world is so much bigger than our backyard. Just because a guy doesn’t talk the same language or hunt with the same state-of-the-art decoys, or hunt with the same state-of-the-art gun, it doesn’t make him any less of a duck hunter. There’s a universal truth ubiquitous in duck hunting that exists worldwide and it’s awesome to get to see it. Rocky, one of the clients came back yesterday and he had a picture of his guide. Some of these guys don’t carry their guns out to the blind with them and they’re not trying to poach your duck or shoot your duck. But hey, they’re duck hunters themselves, and I personally appreciate that. The guy, he took a picture of his guide posing with this shotgun – he was shooting his personal shotgun and it had to have been 150 years old. It had big rabbit ears, Damascus barrels, and the whole right barrel was completely blown out where they probably shot a modern load in a very old gun, so the guy had him a single shot. Hunting with these little decoys (and homemade sometimes are just scratched up) but just following the fundamentals of duck hunting, and going out and doing it. To me it is such an awesome experience. I just realized what led me here was chasing a unicorn-type species like red crested pochard. We’re here at the very last few days of duck season. A lot of birds have chased away, have gone back north. There’s a huntable number of birds, but not tons of them. We’re killing the species this place represents, but not tons of them like last year. What I just realized here, what this hunt really drove home was it ain’t the species, it’s the experience. The reward for me had become just the whole process of duck hunting itself.
The Universal Connection: Hunting
It all connects us, this little thing we call hunting.
Rocky Leflore: Hey, Ramsey before we jump into that, I want to go back to something you were talking about. I can give you another compliment, Jake. I’m going to tell you something – on January 30th, you made a post and I went back and found it. It goes back to what Ramsay is talking about. No matter where we are in the world, and I hadn’t traveled a lot and hunted like you have, I sat there and just stared at that photo that you posted on January the 30th. I guess you were in Pakistan, and there is a guide sitting on the side of the mountain, and I sat there and I just looked at that photo. Hunting brings all of us together no matter where you are, what you look like, it’s just amazing the words that can come just from just one photo. I was sitting there looking at that photo when you posted it for 15, 20 minutes. Then I was looking at that one that you posted of your guide last week, Ramsey. It all connects us, this little thing we call hunting.
Jake Latendresse: It’s amazing. I feel bad for the people, particularly in Central Asia. A lot of people call it the Middle East, it’s really not, it’s Central Asia. Those places like Azerbaijan, now that I’ve been here for a few days, and Pakistan and Mongolia and Tajikistan and all these countries, I almost feel sorry for these people because honestly they just want us to like them. You see it all the time and I hear it and I don’t know how deep we want to get into this part of it but –
Rocky Leflore: I do because nobody can speak to it more than you and Ramsey.
Jake Latendresse: Well, okay then I’m going to speak from my heart because it breaks my heart sometimes because you see the prejudice and racism going on – the presumptuous racism, that’s what I call it. It’s literally the opposite of what it really is. These people want us to like them. They want the economic value of bringing Americans to their country to hunt, but they also want to be like us, they want our clothes, they want our waiters, they want our guns and they can’t have it because they’re limited as to what they can buy, what their government will allow them to have, and they respect us. When you go to these countries, they literally treat hunters like kings. You look at that and you go man, sometimes where I live (it’s not so much the same in the South because a lot of people hunt and fish down there and that’s the culture), you have to be careful what you say and what I wear in certain areas because I feel like people are looking at me. Anti-hunters going to look at me and it’s just got a bad vibe to it. Then you come over here and these people they love us and they want to do us right, they take us and they worked their butts off to make sure that we get what we need and we get what we asked for and it’s like man, this is what it’s all about right here man, it’s the experience.
Rocky Leflore: It goes back to what Ramsey was talking about when he was in Mexico. All these assumptions are made when you go out of the country, like am I going to be safe? Man, these people are looking out for you, they want you to come back. They’re going to make sure everything is taken care of.
What’s It’s Like to Hunt in Azerbaijan
I keep trying to make that parallel that I’m 6800 miles from home and I’m kind of sort of in Greenwood, Mississippi and it’s just very hospitable.
Ramsey Russell: Rocky, they don’t judge us. They don’t watch CNN, they don’t judge us. Man, they’re proud to have us here. Jake hit the nail on the head: they’re so happy to see us. I asked my guide yesterday, “What do you think of us politically because it seems to me that nobody cares,” and he shrugs and says, “Nobody cares, Ramsey, you all are duck hunters, you’re our guest. No, nobody cares.” Azerbaijan is one of the (according to him) one of the most hospitable countries in the world. They don’t care if we’re French, if we’re Italian, if we’re Arab Emirates, they’re just proud to have us – Southern hospitality kind of speak. I keep trying to make that parallel that I’m 6800 miles from home and I’m kind of sort of in Greenwood, Mississippi and it’s just very hospitable. The food is very good, the accommodations are great. It’s just a wonderful experience and I keep telling everybody, the world is a lot bigger than your backyard man, and when I see comments like I saw on some of these threads… Talk about opening yourself up to be judged as a bigot or as narrow minded or a stereotyping, boy, think about that. I don’t see that behavior coming out of other cultures and from other people, resurrected towards us. I don’t see it at all, ever. I’ve been here for 15 days now and it’s been nothing but just greatness and duck hunting. I’ve been thinking about how duck hunting is a lot like baseball, all boils down to the fundamentals and it’s a game of errors. You minimize your error, you just keep repeating it over and over and trying to minimize your errors and put points on the board. There’s so many uncontrollable variables. Migration, and weather, and baseball, it’s just luck of the draw if you get a bad skip with a line drive or something. I mean it just happens. But man, I know what this place is capable of. I’m on my second group this trip and everybody’s loving it. Everybody would come back and I know I’ll be coming back for the foreseeable future because I’ve got a lot of clients that want to come back over here and experience this for the adventure, for the off-the-beaten-path, for the chance. I mean, Rocky we shot one red-crested pochard in eight hunting days, one! Well, I have one nice drake and two other ones, but I know from having traveled around the world that I am standing in the best duck holes on earth to shoot those birds in the average year. Heck yeah, I’m coming back. It’s wonderful. Yesterday Jake and I went out, I don’t remember how many we shot, we shot a little over half dozen green winged teals and gadwalls – you want to talk about a wonderful hunt. It was wonderful. Everything about it.
Duck Hunting in Azerbaijan
It’s a time capsule. It’s a message in a bottle buddy.
Jake Latendresse: I want to go back in time. It’s a time capsule, isn’t it, Ramsey? It’s like you want to go back to 1964 and duck hunt. And it’s no different. The language may be different when everybody’s quiet. It’s like these people – I know Ramsey wants to get in this – I don’t want to steal the thunder on this topic. But there’s market hunting. There’s these crazy, primitive wrapped decoys that they use. There’s horse tail hair rope, they used to tie the decoy anchors. Hell, it might be 1938.
Ramsey Russell: It’s just simple people, Rocky, simple people. Even if there were a big box store nearby where they could buy the latest and the greatest, most of these guys couldn’t afford it. They’re just using materials, simple materials they’ve got on hand to deploy the fundamentals of duck hunting and that along with persistence. My gosh, they’re just killing a lot of ducks, day in and day out they’re putting birds on. Rocky, you got to understand or think about the Arkansas debate this past summer, too much hunting pressure. Boys and girls, let me tell you something, you all ain’t seen hunting pressure, you see the marsh we’re hunting. You can’t conceive hunting pressure. The season starts sometimes in September it ends on March 10th this year, and these folks are hunting them every day from the time the first duck shows up until the time the last duck leaves. We’re pushing and pulling in the dark in the mornings. Their shots, BOOM, I’m talking 04:30 in the morning, two hours before shooting time before I see, I shoot a duck. They’re out there at night with decoys sitting and listening for coots mostly to land in their decoys, flip on the lights, and shoot it. They’re doing it 24/7. The fact that we’re even shooting a duck, let alone shooting decoying birds, for me it goes to the heart of doing it right. That’s just amazing that we’re not killing dozens of birds and you want a trigger pulling vacation, let’s go to Argentina. But it can’t be that way at times, when the birds are in and late in the season. Last February, we’re shooting quite a few more birds and shooting some cool species but they’re decoyed because these guys are doing it right. They’re doing it right with materials and technologies from last century. There’s something profoundly rewarding about doing it that way.
Jake Latendresse: Yesterday ahead of time, I don’t even know, time stands still sometimes. The day before yesterday we got to the first spot or to the first boat launch and I’m like looking at these p-rows and this little homemade flat bottom with a 15-horse Yamaha on it. I said to Ramsey, “Man, they need an express mud motor, and a mud boat and a gator tail mud motor here.” First thing he said to me was, “Man, I don’t think so. I think that would ruin it.” I thought about it and I said, “You’re right.” That would completely ruin this experience and what they have. They don’t need none of that, they don’t need to change because that’s what’s so great about this Azerbaijan hunt. It’s a time capsule. It’s a message in a bottle buddy.
The Power of the Decoy
It’s not how much money it was worth Rocky, it was every dime that boy had to his name, he wanted that Mojo.
Rocky Leflore: I can remember when you all were telling that. When I first started duck hunting, I got my first dozen decoys. Man, as crazy as this may sound, I remember tying weight tone with trot line string and having cotton spindles or whatever I could find in the thrown away the metal pile at the farm shop for weight.
Jake Latendresse: We use railroad spot.
Ramsey Russell: I’ve seen it all over here. Just whatever they’ve got on hand, it’s just practical and it doesn’t cost anything. The people we hunt with, our operator, has got some nice decoys. I know I brought a bunch of green head gear pochard decoys over here last year we continue to bring Mojos every visit. He’s got some other nice decoys but they’re the best in town. I mean, day in and day out guys, the market hunters, the guide you’re contracting with out here, they don’t have that at all. I hunted one of the first hunts that I went on last week, there were 17 decoys and 9 or 10 of them floated for the entire hunt, none of them had more than 20% paint. We shot a bunch of ducks, gadwalls, and mallards decoying. The head guy, the boss, said tomorrow he’s going to bring me some good decoys, better decoys. I showed up and well, they all floated but that’s where it began. I mean that’s where the difference began and ended. Those decoys looked like some 1970 era carry lights, mostly black plastic. But they worked, they put out a nice spread.
Rocky Leflore: What was their reaction to the first spinning wing decoy that you ever pulled out?
Ramsey Russell: Last year I brought them and I hadn’t seen that bird boy this year, Adil was his name. Really nice kid and great guide, I really enjoyed hunting with him. I brought one of the new king mallard or something over here and put it out in the decoys and he kept going on and on about it. I was trying to communicate with him using google translator and it doesn’t translate, you have one word sentences like yes, no, hungry? We got about halfway back with push poling and I was sitting in the boat – I had shot – just a slam. I’ve gotten everything. I’ve gotten Red crested pochard, tufted ducks, Eurasian wigeons and Eurasian teals, indigenous pochard, everything. It was just everything I dreamed of on this hunt. We were halfway back to the ramp and he kind of stopped push poling, he tapped me on the show and he started kind of rubbing his thumb over his fingers like money, the universal sign for money and I go, oh yeah, here we go. Getting shut down in the middle of marsh by a mean old duck guy that wants my money. I just kind of shrugged and said the host name, well he pulled a handful of little money out of pocket, kind of rubbed it. Like I didn’t understand what the universal signs of money was. So, I called the host. Unbelievable, I got four bars, 3G out here in the middle of the marsh. He answered and I said, “Hey see what this guy wants, I think he wants money.” He took the phone and handed it back and the host said, “How much money did he offer you? How much money did he hold up?” I told him, he said, “Well that’s about $4 in United States money. That’s every dime he’s got and he’s offering to buy that Mojo. He don’t want money, he wants to buy your Mojo.” It’s not how much money it was worth Rocky, it was every dime that boy had to his name, he wanted that Mojo.
Jake Latendresse: So, bad. Like he knew it was going to change his life man.
Ramsey Russell: I mean keep your money, you can have it. They work over here Rocky, I don’t care what you say back home, they work. And it’s just a – everybody knows me man, whether they work or not, I’m going to use them. I believe in them and I’m going to start with them anyway. They work over here and today was a prime example. For most of the morning it wasn’t but for 2 or 3 mile an hour wind. There are ripples on the water. Next time what I’ll bring over here is going to be a ripple maker, some sort of splash or shaker flash, or something on the water, these ducks ain’t never seen that. Well the jerk cord too, but just having a jerk through that grass and then getting in and out of that p-row going out to fetch ducks, I don’t know how that works, it could be a cluster. But just having those flash wings today with no other movement, it gave us some movement that I felt like the birds we shot certainly came into them. That was a big help for us.
The Road Less Traveled – Getting to the Duck Hunt in Azerbaijan
You got to just sometimes just kick back and go along with the ride. It’s going to go somewhere good.
Jake Latendresse: I want to mention the truck ride this morning. Let me paint this picture Rocky. So, me and Ramsey, get into what looks like a miniature 1968 Ford Bronco – smells like one too. We pack the back end of it is about the size of an EA metro or whatever. It’s a compact car and four wheel drive – it’s a Russian vehicle. So, we pack in there and I’m fairly comfortable. It’s a really small back seat, but I got my camera bag, my read, my tripod just banging against the window and Ramsey’s up in the front. We got a driver and it’s dark, it’s super foggy, like you can’t see 20 yards in front of us, and this guy is going 50 miles an hour. Then he stops, turns down this dirt road, across this bridge, across this river, which incidentally we’re on the border of Iran – we’re literally hunting 10 miles from Iran. This river comes out of Iran, across the river we go, down this dirt road and I mean, it is just beating me like a freaking donkey getting stung by hornets. I’m bouncing in the back seat trying to protect our cameras and then we stop. I mean it seems like this road goes on forever and then we stop and pick somebody up, and I’m like where is he going to sit? So, I had to scoot over and we crammed in the back like clowns in a telephone booth, and here we go. I mean it’s just banging – I’m telling you it was like being inside of a milkshake shaker. We finally get to our spot, we’re driving through calves and again this is super foggy, it’s still super dark, we have no idea where we’re going and we’re on the Iranian border. We finally stopped and get to these two handmade canoes but they operate like p-rows and we step out we’re in mud, and I’m just sitting there going, “This is insane.” I’m thinking about people that would come here and sign up with Ramsey to come hunt this, they don’t know what to expect. I’m thinking, you can’t not appreciate this experience and while we might want $80,000 raptors and $80,000 bass boats, we’re in this mini SUV going down this beat-up road that has never seen a road grader. This is an old cattle ranching road and it’s like a roller coaster at freaking Disney world, right? If you’ve been anywhere, and you don’t have to travel the world, but you go to the swamps of South Louisiana or the big ranches of Nebraska, and you see a culture and you see an experience. If you can’t appreciate where you are and what you’re doing, and who you’re doing it with, man something’s wrong with you. I think life gets stale sometimes. When you go do things like this and you see stuff like this, and you appreciate and respect the simplicity of it all, not to mention the fact that these people have gone so far out of their way, they’re taking us to their deepest darkest duck hole that they could possibly find because they want us to succeed, then you know, you’re in the right place. Whether you kill 2 ducks or 50 ducks, whatever, it doesn’t even matter.
Ramsey Russell: To add to that story, these two boats are sitting in a little dugout ditch. I mean basically what it was, was just a little diversion off of the river that was about 10ft wide and 6 inches deep and we must have gone a quarter mile just in that. It was about as wide and got down to the marsh, about as wide as the boat is. And you’re thinking where the heck is this going to? Then all of a sudden it opens up into this big marsh and that’s where the ducks were. Back in the old blogging days, I wrote a blog one time about how half the adventure was just getting there and you got to just enjoy this world and enjoy everything Rocky. You got to just sometimes just kick back and go along with the ride. It’s going to go somewhere good.
Jake Latendresse: Exactly. Just go along for the ride.
Rocky Leflore: I’ll have to admit though, I saw the p-row rides in through Instagram stories last week on your Instagram page, Ramsey, and I was thinking about Jake coming over there this week. I know how protective Jake is of his equipment and I was like, oh my God, Jake is going to be holding all his equipment bear-hugging it going in.
Ramsey Russell: Well, you weren’t far off the mark, that’s for true, that’s the truth matter. You weren’t far off the mark. But it’s real doable. The bottom’s hard once we get where we’re going to and the staff, the guides are very understanding. I mean, they understand without being told what that camera costs, they just understand and they get everything done just right and they’re very accommodating. It’s crazy how Jake, he wanted one of them to come back. The duck down probably 50, 60 yards off in this dog hair, thick jungle of grass, 8-foot tall and one of them skiffs took off of that push pole. Just as surely as a lab picking up a duck out in the rice field, coming right back with that duck and Jake had said something to him and the guy knew just how to come past Jake to get some footage. I mean they get it man, they just totally get it. It’s an adventure. That’s the whole thing is, this hunt has the promise of a lot of really cool things but it’s also got the promise of one of the greatest off the beaten path adventures. Rocky, that’s really, I think how, as a brand and a business doing what we’re doing, that one of the big things we’ve done is somehow find these new adventures and just kind of bring them to the world. Bring them to the American market, bring these experiences out of the darkness. That’s for me personally, one of the most rewarding things I do. I love this part of my job.
Jake Latendresse: Hey, speaking of camera guys, I hate to tell you all this. But Rocky, there’s more to this story about filming here than meets the eye. Azerbaijan is a country that wouldn’t allow me to bring my drone here, so I left it at home and these people went out of their way to go rent a drone out of the biggest city Baku. Unfortunately, but fortunately there’s a guy here that just walked in there. It’s 10:30 at night- this guy just walked through the door -he’s the guy that’s renting the drone to us for the day tomorrow. So, I have to bug out because I want to make sure that this thing is tapped into my software properly so I can fly it because we only have it for a day. I’m going to have to sign off to you if you guys don’t mind.
Rocky Leflore: Not at all.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, there’s steadily folks piling in too, I got to go too.
Rocky Leflore: Hey, Ramsey before you go, I got to ask you about one thing. Give me two minutes. Jake, thank you man.
Jake Latendresse: Thanks buddy.
Adventures in Azerbaijan Dining
The big white billy goat wasn’t in there and he was hanging up in front of that meat market.
Rocky Leflore: Hey, Ramsey I got to ask you about one post that you made before you go. I thought it was priceless, something that you would never see in America. I guess you and Jake were going to get some lunch today? They have the sheep in the pen outside the restaurant?
Ramsey Russell: Oh yeah. There’s a restaurant that’s right, I guess it’s the same family, but right next to the restaurant is a meat market. They don’t serve pork over here in those kinds of meat markets. Now, you go to different bazaars and gourmet restaurants in Baku and find pork, find pork sausage, things of that nature. I bought something to bring up here, some really good stuff too. It’s like the Spanish pork sausage with walnuts in it, that was good. But the other day we went to eat lunch, those guys here in town, they cater our meals, they bring them over and it’s gosh, the food is so good, if you like that kind of food. I love it. It’s kind of like eating Kiefer’s all the time but with a bigger menu. We pulled up there the other day to eat lunch because we kind of got out of the field late, and they got this little bitty catch pen. 10 by 10 maybe and at the time there were two goats and two sheep, I remember a big old white billy goat. One of the guys said, “Where’s lunch Samar?” We all kind of laughed. We showed up the next day and guess what? The big white billy goat wasn’t in there and he was hanging up in front of that meat market. Yeah, just straight from the pen to the table. Remember like the biblical story, all the sheep herders? I don’t know how big this little town we’re staying in is, I’d say it’s 15 or 20,000 people. Rocky, out in the country, there are sheep herders coming down the road at night, there’s sheep just coming down the road with their sheep herder, right down the sidewalk or sheep and it’s just sheeps and goats everywhere. I love lamb, so I don’t have any complaints at all. Probably tomorrow we’ll eat that lamb – the lamb we saw hanging will probably be on our dinner table tomorrow, not somebody else’s.
Rocky Leflore: Yeah, I mean as somebody that’s a part of the raising animals on the farm that’s going to slaughter for commercial purposes. It opened my eyes, seeing that video. That was pretty good. Ramsey, great episode. Having Jake on here was a breath of fresh air. I appreciate you getting him on here while he’s over there. I appreciate you going in a little bit more depth about what’s going on over there. Hey, before I let you go, it’s been kind of slow. Is somebody planting corn north of you all? Is Iran planting corn?
Ramsey Russell: No, I don’t believe these birds are eating on agriculture. That marsh is so full – I’ve seen two plants and it’s got to be the same genus or very close to it. One of those wigeon grass looks almost exactly like our wigeon grass and then another is like a coon tail moss, which of course is one of the principal food sources of gadwalls back home and so that’s what these birds are eating. It’s been slow because of the weather, man. It’s been slow because of the year. It was slow a lot of places this year. In Mississippi and around the United States, and just plenty of places was less than previous season. When you come this far, and I’ve got clients that are happy, I’m glad to be here and already talking about coming back, it’s good. It’s a good experience. Rocky if we as duck hunters can’t just enjoy duck hunting and take the good with the bad, then what’s the whole point? Let’s all go take up golf or something.
Rocky Leflore: I agree. Ramsey, thank you again bud. I really appreciate it. I want to thank all of you that listened to this edition of The End of The Line podcast, powered by ducksouth.com.