Ramsey Russell and Rocky Leflore get together for their weekly podcast. This week, Ramsey talks about how to cook a steak in a cast iron skillet. Then, Ramsey talks about the most famous person he ever duck hunted with. I think it will blow you away. If you remember and loved Paul Harvey, today’s podcast is specifically for you.
How to Cook a Filet in a Skillet
That year we cooked the filet and that became everybody’s favorite meal.
Rocky Leflore: Welcome to the End of the Line Podcast, I’m Rocky Leflore here in the Duck South Studios on this cold Thursday morning. On the other end of the line with me, Double R, Mr. Ramsey Russell.
Ramsey Russell: Morning Rocky, how are you sir?
Rocky Leflore: How cold is it in Jackson, Ramsey?
Ramsey Russell: I poked my head out of the door this morning. They say it’s in the high 20s, low 30s. I hadn’t poked my head out the door yet but it looks cold out there this morning.
Rocky Leflore: Well, it is fast approaching. I know you’ve got a lot of preparations. You have got to get done, especially with Duncan being home I imagine he want to jump in the truck and go and do as much as much as possible before he has to report back.
Ramsey Russell: He has been too. It’s been a whirlwind visit. It’s hard to believe it. The week passed so quickly because he’s been making contact with a lot of friends, we have been eating good dinners together, he has been helping to catch up and everything. We’re going to hunt together something this weekend and then he is back off on Monday 4:00 P.M, he’s headed back to North Carolina for Part One of his training. We will miss him.
Rocky Leflore: What was one meal that he requested?
Ramsey Russell: Steak. Just a big old thick beef steak. We cooked filet. We don’t eat filet a lot, it’s kind of an expensive cut of meat but we like to cook it in a – I’ll sear it on two sides on the cast iron skillet for 3 minutes, put it in the oven hot, just pick up the whole skillet and throw it in the oven for about 4 minutes and it’ll come out rare. He just asked for steak. We threw the filet in, and I’ll tell you what, that meal right there is rare we eat. But when we cook it, it doesn’t matter where the kids are, they come home to eat. They sure do.
Rocky Leflore: I was going to say this, it’s one of the forgotten ways to cook a steak and I love it. My brother, oh my Lord, throwing it in a cast iron skillet and then cook him a little bit, and throw it in the oven. But he uses a little bit of garlic, a little bit of butter in his pan. What’s the greenery he puts in there with it?
Ramsey Russell: Rosemary.
Rocky Leflore: Yeah. Oh my Lord.
Ramsey Russell: I don’t put the butter in it until it comes out of oven because if I try to put too much butter to start – I cook it real high it will just smoke everything up as it is.
Rocky Leflore: That’s what he does.
Ramsey Russell: I cooked that recipe for some friends one time over in Atlanta and man, I’ve been invited to a heck of a turkey hunt – Forrest and I had. I thought I was going cook these steaks, just throw him a good thank you, and God you’d have thought their house was on fire. I didn’t know why the air vent didn’t work. I started using her kitchen and Lord have mercy the whole house looked – they had all the windows open – it looked like the house is on fire, smoke coming out of their kitchen. I had so much smoke going cooking the steaks, but they were perfectly cooked, they were good. That’s how a lot of your restaurants will cook those filets and I just think it’s the best way to cook it. I just hate to put a Rubik’s Cube sized filet on a piece of coal.
Rocky Leflore: For people that are listening to this, tell them how much time and ingredients you used to cook a steak in a cast iron really quick.
Ramsey Russell: I get a thick steak. I get about a 2″ thick cut of tenderloin. I rub it down in olive oil and shake it down with coarse salt, pepper and garlic and if I’ve got rosemary, I’ll put rosemary on it. Then let it sit for an hour on the counter to just kind of get really nice and room temperature, and then when the potatoes are done or whatever Mama’s cooking is ready to go, because this thing goes together really quick, turn the oven on up to about 450 degrees. Every oven is a little bit different you have got to play with some, I’ll get that cast iron skillet really hot. Now I throw my steaks in for 3 minutes. 3 minutes alarm, boom, and flip them over for 3 minutes. Then I pick that whole skillet up and throw it in the oven for 3 to 4 minutes. I pull it out, pull it off the skillet as quick as I can, put it on a tray and let it rest for 5 minutes. My wife and daughter, like a lot of women, they don’t like rare and I like rare on a lot of cuts of meat. I like rare, not medium rare kind, and you can just about cut those steaks with a fork. It was a good cut of beef if you can just about cut it with a fork. You can certainly cut it with a dull table knife. It’s just the best way to eat a nice cut of meat like that to me. I don’t like cooking my ribeyes that way, I like to grill them, but I sure do like to cook filet in a skillet. When I’m done and when it’s resting, I melt the half a stick of butter and get it going good but if you throw it in too soon boy it’s going to smoke, start to burn. That’s just a mess. We cook it on special occasions. We’re not your traditional turkey and ham Thanksgiving and Christmas people. The whole family can do without smoked turkey and we eat some. I like it when it’s injected and done right. That’s just not our favorite meal. When I was still working for the Federal Government, we used to have them holiday potlucks and everybody would show up with something, and it was just the same old something, something. One day I said, get the steaks. Man, I tell you that one of the best cuts of beef I know was a little Chevron over on Highway 61 in Vicksburg. It’s right there at the gate, going to the Delta from Vicksburg. They’ve got some really nice cuts of meat and I went over there and got us some ribeyes and we cooked them and I nearly caught the wind of it. I think maybe she even came to a late lunch with us that day and that’s what we started doing at the house on holidays. We don’t need just tons of steak around the house but when we do, we’d like to get a nice cut and that’s what we started doing for Christmas. That year we cooked the filet and that became everybody’s favorite meal. Yeah, he’s going to go spend the night over here, go do that. I said, “We’re eating filet tonight.” Boom, his boots were under my dinner table. They’re not going to miss a cut of meat like that. That’s what we do around here.
Prepping for Hunting at Willow Break
Rocky Leflore: So, what all of you have got to get done? Because I know you’ve got a lot with the big camp like Willow Break.
Ramsey Russell: We’re about wrapped up on all that good stuff Rocky. I just got to get over there and that’s going to take wandering around the house, and the garage, and getting odds and end together. I started this week because I thought about things I needed to bring and needed to get together, making a list. So, I didn’t forget anything – or I didn’t forget as much – and I keep a lot of stuff over there at camp this time of year, I just do. If I showed up with nothing, I could survive. But we’re in good shape and well, a camp like Willow Break, everybody talks about America being a democracy. America is not a democracy. America is a constitutional republic and we hire politicians that we think will represent our interests to go up there and duke it out in Washington D.C. Let me tell you about a democracy. A democracy is 3 guys in a pickup truck, one guy wants to go to McDonald’s and two want to go to Kentucky Fried Chicken. Guess where you’re going to eat? That’s a democracy, and duck camps and deer camps are a democracy. I feel like I’ve got biggest civic lesson you can possibly get by being at this camp for 17, 18 years. What I’ve learned is, like a lot of life things we talk about, a lot of topics we talk about here and elsewhere, it’s not important that all the members in camp think 100% alike. I’ve been in like – we’re at a shooting range – man, it’s not important that we’re all aimed at the same bullseye, as long as we’re more or less all shooting down range, we’re in good shape.
Rocky Leflore: I’ve got an off the wall question for you.
Ramsey Russell: Go ahead.
Rocky Leflore: Totally off the wall. You’ve hunted all over the world, you’ve hunted with tons of different film crews. Who is the most famous person you ever hunted with?
Ramsey Russell: Say that again Rocky.
Rocky Leflore: I said you’ve hunted all over the world, you’ve hunted with a ton of different film crews and different people. Who’s the most famous person you ever hunted with?
Ramsey Russell: You’re breaking up a little bit, man or my headphones are dying. Still there Rocky?
Rocky Leflore: Yeah, I’m here.
A Gift of Hand-Made Decoys
They’re absolutely beautiful and I know they’re going to decoy some green winged teal.
Ramsey Russell: Okay. I think I heard the question but I can tell you. I have got to tell you something getting to change the subject. But I have got to tell you something – this podcast stuff, I guess people besides my mother are really listening. I hear a lot from a lot of people, some of these episodes we’ve done recently, I’ve heard a lot from people. It just blows my mind. Yesterday afternoon a package arrived to my house from Alabama and I opened it up and inside these 2 beautiful green winged teal hand-carved cork, green winged teal decoys. And I love homemade decoys. I just love them. It just blows my mind how bird-like this bird looks, but how you see a bird, how I see a bird, what jumps out at you and what jumps out at me, in a mallard, in a green winged, the highlights are different. We remember them different and then we express them differently based on our memory, and our creativity, and our artistic ability. But these are absolutely beautiful decoys and a young man named Joshua Clarke from Hartsell, Alabama, one of your listeners of End of the Line Podcast, he wrote one of the nicest letters I’ve ever gotten. He just wanted to send these decoys. He heard a podcast we did a couple of times ago about my history doing court decoys, and he’s heard a lot of what I’ve talked about, raising my boys, doing this thing with me since they were 3 and 5 years old. Thing I love about Facebook is one of those things in your past pop up. The one this morning was 9 years ago, it was Forrest and Duncan at camp, holding a couple of young bucks, little couple spikes. We shot management bucks over there when they were 10 and 12 years old, they were raised into it since they were potty trained. It’s so humbling to ever see something like this, and I’m very appreciative, and they did not go on the mantle. I carried my gun and rig decoys like that deserve to be hunted. They’re absolutely beautiful and I know they’re going to decoy some green winged teal. I think that’s a pretty nice way to bring in because you asked me who’s the most famous person I’ve ever hunted with. I’ve been blessed to hunt a lot of folks and people Rocky, it’s really one of my favorite things I like about what I do. I like people, especially fun people and interesting people. I don’t like rude people or mean people, but I like most people and most people are very, very good people. Most people you meet in life are real, real regular people, no matter where in the world, they are just regular people, but I’ll tell you this story. It goes back to carving those decoys. Just a couple of episodes, talking about Spoonzilla and I told you how I carved it one time and the year I got married to Anita, I did a little bit of hunting in the Delta. I did a lot of hunting in East Mississippi. Not a ton of ducks, but we’d go out and shoot some ducks, close to school, on weekends we drive over to the Delta. Rocky, I mean this was a long time ago. You know, like my major professor I worked for in Mississippi State University – we had a lot of graduate students. I worked for him as a researcher system and part of my job was overseeing the graduate research program. A lot of our grad students were funded from Corps of Engineers and we were doing projects on Mahana. We were doing wildlife surveys and set up shops on Mahana and Twin Oaks and other Delta places like that. And so, we were kind of on the cusp of it. To my knowledge, we were the first person – I don’t even know if they’ll let you do it anymore – to back a boat down off on that main ditch across Mahana and there was a big old bean field at the time. Everybody kind of lying around the water. The water’s edge would tame blinds and 2, 3 dozen decoys because you had to walk it in, that’s all you could carry walking through that gunboat that far. I asked the manager, could I bag a boat off in there? He said, yeah, as long as you don’t tear up my structure. The 4 of us grads, we begged, borrowed and stole every decoy we could get our hands on, two include some black pop bottles to make numbers. We backed it off and we went about a mile down that ditch out into the middle of that body of water, around it by just dozens of groups hunting in little Canada blinds with 2 or 3 dozen decoys. We had about an inch of free board running down that ditch. We were loaded down. There’s a big raft of birds out in the middle of it and we threw decoys. I mean we threw decoys Rocky. We threw 200 or 300 decoys out. We could hear people heckling us throwing all the decoys out. We hid the boat, climbed up in the natural cover and somebody sailed a duck out towards that raft of birds. Their dog went out there to get it and busted out that flock of birds and they got up and left. When they started coming back in to raft up, where they’ve been sitting quietly out of gunshot range and disturbance from everybody sitting on the water’s edge, who do you think they came over? That was something else. But the thing about it is and doing that in front of God and everybody, we kind of taught the monkeys how to dance. So those days’ row we had it to ourselves that time, maybe the next time. But after that everybody did it. That’s fine. But that afternoon it was duck hunting like it’s supposed to be. It’s like, even though there was a lot of folks out there, we had it to ourselves, so to speak. Right about that time, I did a lot of hunting out Columbus Lake and things like that because it’s convenient. I really had to work until I got off for Christmas break and on weekends had a real job and at times, I’d go 7, 8, 9, 10 weeks without taking a weekend off because when we collected a lot of data around the southeast, a lot of growth data and I needed my students and they had to go to school during the weeks. On the weekends I traveled down in the Mobile Tyneside Delta, over to a lot of Anderson Tully land on a lot of their research projects and that’s what we did. We collected growth data from the middle of August all the way up to the first or second frost. That’s when we had to get all that growth data for regeneration. Then during the duck season I had a couple of girls, undergraduates that we’re really good at inputting data, until they got all the data inputted, I was free to go duck hunt, deer hunt, do what I needed to do besides sitting. All this kind of catch up on all that time I’ve worked because that’s what we did. Well anyway I got married that year. I got married right before I took that job, got my undergrad degree and got married. I was going there to grad school and my wife, who grew up south of Washington D.C., her dad was a federal career, they’re in Washington D.C. for his whole life, for his whole career practically and she mentioned going up to see her parents on Christmas. I’m like, I’ll be fine, you know. Well, I didn’t know she meant like over a week. I really didn’t know we were talking about this – she was talking about more than just a day or two, understanding it was duck season. You know, back in the good old days Christmas was a good cold snap. We don’t have to wait till the very end of January to get a ton of ducks. That’s when we got real cold weather and that’s when ducks showed up and that’s what I do. I mean for a newlywed, that was kind of our first little knock down, drag out so to speak. I’ve been married nearly 25 years, so guess who won that argument. So off we go, 18 hour drive we drive. I’m pouting on the way and I get up there and my dad-in-law who was not a hunter and my mother-in-law who is not a hunter, they’d asked around found some stuff and they found a duck hunt. They talk to somebody – somebody said, “Well you know over there, there’s some decent duck hunting.” It’s cheap, I think it’s $150, $200 a little day hunt. Go home with these folks. I believe the name of that place was in Chestertown, Maryland. I bet I got up at 2:30 A.M. They’re on the south end of Washington D. C. and drove through the beltway and drove across the Chesapeake Bay and drove into Maryland on the East Shore, and hung left, and went north up towards Chestertown. I was go supposed to go meet my guide and I don’t remember the exact time but it was well before daylight and it was just where you meet him like at a quick stop. I remember getting pulled over by a Maryland State Trooper that morning because man, I was shagging. There wasn’t a soul on the road. I was slicked back and I got pulled over. This guy would be from Mississippi. I’ll never forget this officer coming up, I mean he had a straight back like them boys on Parris Island. I mean had his campaign cover, top just right and he comes knocking on the glass – headed Maglite. “License and registration please,” so I gave him a driver license, he says, I need to see your registration. I said, “Can you describe it?” He says, “Sir you don’t have a registration?” I go, “I’m from Mississippi.” I’m pretty sure they don’t ask that kind of stuff. I can look around but I don’t know what I’m looking for. I think the man cracked a smile. Mississippi? Said I said, “Yes.” He goes, “What are you doing up here?” I said, “I’m trying to go duck hunting, I’m running a little bit late.” He gave me my license back and let me go. And I told my guide that morning, sitting at the quick stop when I met him and he said, “You’re the only person I’ve known in 30 years to not get a speeding ticket on that highway doing that kind of mileage.” I said, “Well I am from Mississippi.” We kidded later – the guy probably didn’t understand my accent – he probably didn’t know what the heck I was saying. But the craziest thing about meeting this guide – Mike McBride was his name. He was tall, he wasn’t quite big and tall as Justin Martin. Let me tell you guys something. You see him on TV, he looks like a big old boy. When you meet Justin Martin in person, it’s like that guy on the Green Mile that everybody just looked straight up in the air at. He’s a big guy. This guy wasn’t that big, but he was tall, I’d say 6ft 4 inches. Remember, I’m a duck hunter from Mississippi. I meet this guy, he’s got a long mullet down past his shoulder blades, permed up, blonde beard and in the early morning –
Rocky Leflore: You have got to respect a man that’s got a duck hunter scared of mullets.
Ramsey Russell: He’s got long hair and it’s all wavy. To me it looked like a perm, maybe it’s a natural curl, but I’ll never forget – I couldn’t help but notice that he had a diamond studded earring. Just first impressions – super guy, heck of a duck caller – but first impression was, boy you aren’t in Mississippi no more. This is my duck guy this morning and I don’t think we have duck guys like him in Mississippi and Arkansas. “Well Mike what do you do when you’re not duck guiding?” “I’m a musician,” he says. “I play gigs man” so he starts playing air guitar, like bass guitar and I just mentally follow up like if I played at a local Armada on Friday night.
Rocky Leflore: I’m sorry.
Decoys & Duck Hunting in Maryland
Ramsey Russell: That’s just my impression. We get in the truck, he says we’re a little bit earlier for where we’re going hunting today. Let’s go to camp and we’ll get sorted. We’ve got about 15, 20 minutes. So we go to the little staging area, there on the farm we’re going to hunt. There was a little mobile home, very clean, very well kept, very well located. Rocky, thing about it is when you’re in Washington D.C., in that area, if you’ve never been, you are in an ocean of humanity and once you get over to the eastern shore. Even though there are quite a few folks as compared to Mississippi with state population 3.5 million people, – it’s probably less than that – When you get over that part of the world, eastern shore of Maryland is surprisingly a lot of agriculture.
Rocky Leflore: Rule. Yep, fact.
Ramsey Russell: It really is. Nice houses, nice landscape, but it’s agriculture. You have got to be careful of deer running out from the road, at least you did then. We get this little old trailer and I’m just getting my boots on, looking around and he got this stack, neatly stacked at the end of his guide house – stack of wooden and cork decoys. Beautiful. I’ve never seen anything like it right, never put my hand on a working decoy like it. I’m from Mississippi, we use just cheap old plastic and pop bottles if we needed them and I’m marvelling at them and he starts telling me about – remember that’s where the Ward brothers are from. That’s where all of those old Havre de Grace carvers are, they’re all right there on the eastern shore. It’s a huge culture in that part of the world around Chesapeake Bay, where all the market gunners came from. He described it way back in the good old days when he was a little boy and his dad had bought them from just a local no-name carver for $5 apiece. Like a lot of those guys, when they came out of new-fangled gee whizz plastic decoys, a lot of boys just went and burned the more heavy waterlogged things they had. The only ones you see now are being auctioned for a fortune that nobody ever got around to get rid of, they got stuck in a barn or in an attic or out behind something else of a garage, or somebody just kept them for sentimental reasons. I remember him telling me he wished he had them all but he had a reasonable pile of them. So we go out to hunt on this narrow little Swan Creek and it was bone chilling cold. It would be. You know, that kind of front that hits, kind of like this one that hit, remember how windy and blustery it was yesterday, the day after, that kind of real deep Arctic blast comes through and is bone chilling cold. It’s blustery and you don’t want to hit your hands with a blunt object, they’re so cold that kind of day. It’s windy and we go out to this little creek and the whole creek, as far as you can see, is lying with phragmites. It’s kind of like a cat tail, but it’s longer and taller, more slender and more brittle. We set out a plastic decoys, not those nice family heirlooms, which we hunted over the next day under the threat of being killed and buried on the farm if we shot a low bird over and we did not. We’re sitting out there and we’re shooting birds and it’s just a magic day. I can tell you it was a better morning than it would have been wherever I would have been hunting back home. I just knew for a fact it was me and Mike, and another guest or one of his buddies, I can assure you it was a whole lot better mallard action than anywhere else I would have been hunting that morning. I was confident of that and we’re shooting mallards. Do not shoot hands, he says, there are too many mallards, we’ll get our mallards, we’ll wait it out, just pick our shots. But the craziest thing about those mallards were – you know how you’ve got to read those birds and some birds want it loud, some birds want it quiet, some birds want to do this, want to do that. It was weird because it was big flocks of mallards Rocky, it was fairly big flocks of mallard, and it’s like if you got quiet, part of the flight would have dragged the other flock away. So, you got loud. Well now the other part would come in but the other part would fade. It was maddening. They would hang just out of range and you’d just call, and call, and call. I was like, “My god what I do?” It wasn’t just cheap shots, you had to call them. He kept telling me, big birds don’t like that Southern drawl. They don’t like Wouthern drawl, they want to hear my call. When I found out, because I shot 3 bands that morning, when his dog came in with the first band, I’m like, holy cow. Well, he said Remington Farms’ on it. I’m like, “What the heck is Remington Farms?” He goes, “That’s a Dupont duck, man.” What’s a Dupont duck? Well, Dupont’s a big old agrichemicals corporation somewhere up there and they outgrow bazillions of mallards. Maybe they still do it, maybe they did it. But at one time, apparently to propagate the wild bird population, Dow Chemical, who is not a duck hunting company, would raise a bunch of mallards on their property. After the birds grew up, they would just kind of venture off and what it was is, they had mixed in with the wild mallards and the Dupont ducks liked a loud and fast and aggressive but the wild ducks with whom they were mixed did not. They were mixed and they were pulling each other. You see what I’m saying? It was little frustrating, but nonetheless it was a very, very awesome hunt. He had a one-eyed yellow lab named Jake that had put his eye out on a piece of phragmites when he was a puppy. Kind of walk around like Popeye, ran around like Popeye. Awesome dog. Man, he would get up in those frags and it’s really dense like cat tails. We dropped one across the creek man, he would hit that water, swim across that creek, swim all up in that mess and come back out with that mallard. Never missed a beat. We had a lot of fun that morning. Well, some of the young guys listening may not remember this, some of the old guys may not remember it but Bill Clinton was in office back in those days. Put all the politics, anything you think about Democrat, Republican and all this crap going on, let’s put all that aside. Back then, conservatives didn’t like him. But their country was being run by a very conservative House and Senate. So he had no choice but to be a moderate. And really and truly it was good to be a young American, getting out of college and building a family, and building my home in that period of time, regardless of who’s president. Like I said many, many times, put all the politics and put all the Hillary and put all that – forget that part of the story. At the end of the day duck hunters are duck hunters. Around that same period of time that year before I showed up to hunt here, Bill Clinton, former Governor of Arkansas, who you have got to figure is probably a duck hunter. It hadn’t crossed my mind that he was a duck hunter until it was all over CNN and major news outlets. Bill Clinton went to duck hunt. He went duck hunt somewhere up there on the eastern shore and oh my gosh, it’s all on TV, it was like live for hours. The most endearing image I have of that spectacle was him, literally sitting in the back of a truck, sitting up on the side like anybody would and him holding a single hen mallard. And that was it. The President went hunting and shot a single brown duck and somewhere during the lull and the volley, we got to talking about that. I said Mike, you know Bill Clinton hunted up here somewhere – President of the United States. Mike talked like rock and roll, he talked like a musician man. He goes, “Man, Bill Clinton stood right where you’re standing, right here.” I said, “You’re kidding?” He said, “No man, he stood right here and I was his guide.” I said, “What? That’s incredible. You guided President, Bill Clinton, the most powerful man in the universe?” He goes, “You’re dang right.” I’m sitting here looking at this pile of green heads and I go, “You let him shoot a hen?” He says, “He’s President Ramsey.” I’m sitting here looking at all these ducks we got, all these birds have been flying, especially since there was no Southern accent calling. I can’t believe you took the most powerful man in the universe duck hunting and he’s going to come out with a single hen mallard. He said, “Son let me tell you something.” He said, “Back inside my trailer after on the road,” he said, “Everybody, every news agency in the world right there, piled around, trucks and vans and RVs and they had those big satellites and people milling around and writing on note pads and they were just everywhere. They were milling around everywhere, up and down for miles, up and down these woods were men talking in their sleeves and trench coat. F-14 Tomcats flying everywhere.” Man, that man was guarded like nobody else and I hope the black helicopters don’t kick my door in 5 minutes Rocky, and take me out for saying it. According to the story, he said that man shot everybody ducks, he just wanted to come out with that brown duck and show the world. So, they don’t get mad at him for being a duck hunter. That moment in time I realized, you know what? I want to hunt with the President of United States next time he goes hunting and I was young and impressionable and all I can think is, well I wish I hunt with Bill Clinton. So anyway, I didn’t hunt with Bill Clinton but years later – I know this story’s dragging on. You have got to thank Paul Harvey for the rest of the story. We’re talking about the most famous celebrity I’ve ever hunted with. Years later, I’m hunting up there with Kris Wujcik in Michitoba. Kris, he talked me into coming up to do a snow goose hunt. I was hunting with L’Anguille at the time. We were doing a lot of spring snow goose shooting, creeping and jump shooting birds, and let me tell you what, Steve Pitt, Pat Pitt, they wrote the book back in those days on how to save the tundra and I was right there with them. I mean they wrote the book on how to save the tundra and we were having a good time. By the time you got done running up ditches and doing everything involved with it, I didn’t care if I ever saw another snow goose for a while.
Rocky Leflore: Kill every white devil alive.
The Best Snow Goose Hunt I’ve Ever Been On
The cool thing is, that dog didn’t know anything about fame he was just a duck dog.
Ramsey Russell: I mean we took it to fleet level. We posted some pictures on the internet one time, that just broke open World War 4 on the internet, just some pictures that just disturbed people, especially the guides that were trying to decode the clouds would show up with pictures now. We were shooting too many birds. But anyway, well Kris Wujcik called me up and invited me to come up there on spring snow goose hunting and I’m like, man I don’t care if I ever see another goose right now. That’s a long way to go. I don’t think people would be interested blah, blah, blah. And he said, Mr. Russell I guarantee it’d be the best spring snow goose hunt you’ve ever been on. I said, I think that’s pretty serious because down here in South, guarantee goes a long way. He said, I understand. He said, if you’ll come up here and if in 2 or 3 days you hunt with me, to check me out if they’re not the best decoying snow goose action you’ve ever had I’ll reimburse you for your plane ticket when we part ways. I said I’m coming. I flew up there. You don’t fly with like three boxes of 3″ of steel ammo on a plane, that’s 11 lbs. I went through my stores, my little cache, and I pulled out 3 boxes of steel, 4s, for snow goose hunting. We’ll see how good that hunt is. We’ll see how good that guarantee is. That’s all I needed if it would be the best snow goose hunt I’ve ever been on. The main migration had passed through weeks ago, had a few old birds holding out, nobody was hunting them. Nobody would disturb them. They may not be with 250, of them, but they’ve been sitting there for 2 or 3 weeks. We just went in the morning and just lit them up. It was spectacular. It was awesome. And kind of word got out because the way we were publicizing ourselves pre-Facebook on the internet in chat rooms. I got contacted – GetDucks was young and we had to take advantage of opportunities back then – and I got contacted by somebody that was related to an outdoor television show sponsored by Beretta, I believe. So we scheduled to go up there and film this show with them the following year or 2, whatever it was. I get up there with some clients and hunt’s tough. It’s a hard North wind blowing. It’s first week of May, a hard North wind blowing and the whole migration has stopped, just waiting on the wind to lay down. They’re all down around Devil’s Lake, which not too terribly far, just a few hours flight of Snow Goose Flaps, to get on up that part of the world. But they just sat, the migration ceased in the face of that North wind. The clients and I shot a few birds. It wasn’t bad hunt, but it just wasn’t a hunt I had experienced and that company had sent a whole bunch of full body decoys that they had to hunt over. I don’t know how Sean Mann found us. I don’t know how he drove up on us that day but where we had been hunting there seemed to be some goose activity. Before we loaded it back up in the trailer, just Kris and I, we decided let’s pull out these darn full-bodied decoys and assemble them. There we are, twisting heads on and punching feet to the bodies and getting everything sorted and get everything bagged, when up comes a rental SUV and out steps Sean Mann. Sean Mann Goose Calls and I don’t know if have you ever met him but Sean’s just such a nice guy. He’s such a good guy – no pressure on us and he says, “You all got any geese around here? I’m coming, driving down and I see nothing.” Kris and I have been kind of worried because we have got a TV show coming. They trained up geese to make a TV show. Thank God you’re going to be there for 4 Days. He said, “Don’t worry we’ll kill some,” and it was slow the first 2 days, I can tell you that right now. We ended up going back out that same field, myself, and Sean Mann, and Kris and a couple other people related to the show or Baretta or something. It was just that kind of hunting where you’re laying out in the field as long as you stand it. It’s raining and the winds out of the North, it’s not raining like frog choker but it rained enough you have got to kind of squint because it’d fall in your eyes. All day long, we may have shot half a dozen birds. It’s terrible, sure didn’t make much of a TV show, the first couple of days like that. That day laying out in the blind, just to get a lot of time to talk with the people you are hunting with. And I learned how Sean Mann got into making these call of his. He’s a musician and as I remember – and I may be wrong because it’s a long time ago – but I remember he played the clarinet in high school and a lot of the same air qualities and tongue in the notes. Doing things and his interests having grown up in the Eastern shore, out there around the Chesapeake Bay and geese is a big, big thing out there. The Canada geese and that just kind of parlayed itself into a goose calling business of various world championships and everything else. And somewhere along in that conversation, I heard him say he had a drum collection. Goose caller, musical instruments, drums. I’m like, oh you got drums, he said, yeah, I play drums, man, I play gigs man. All them years later just the way he said with that eastern shore brogue, Sean just said, I play gigs man. He’s talking drums, just kind of played a little air drum. Boom, it’s just like deja vu. So, I just said, you know there’s a reach, kind of seeing this guy before since, there’s a reach. Do you know a guy named Mike McBride? Yeah, he’s our bass guitarist, he comes over every weekend man, we play music he’s our bass guitarist. I go wow, that’s incredible. You know I hunted with him – I start telling the story and everything else and getting up to the most famous celebrity I’ve hunted with and we got kind of quiet, he says, when you hunted up there with him, what dog did he have? I said he had a one-eyed yellow lab and he kind of chuckled and goes, yep, old Jake. Yeah, that was him, Jake. He said, well that’s a great dog, I go he sure was. Well let me tell you kind of rest of the story. I know Mike didn’t tell you this because he just didn’t brag, didn’t want to say nothing, it’s just life as a musician. He said, but Mike’s also a songwriter, did you know that? He said, no he just played. I didn’t know he played bass guitar sometimes. And, he said, yeah, and he wrote songs like a lot of musicians and he sold the song. He said, there’s 2 ways to sell a song – sell a song for a little bit and keep the royalties or you sell a song for more and you take the money up front. He said, when you sell it like that, a lot of starving artist types might have to do that sometimes. Whoever you sell it to kind of owns everything. So, their name and credit may just disappear. He says, but you know, he wrote a song about that dog you hunted over. I said, really? He says, yeah. He said it went all the way up to the top of the billboards. I said, what is it? He says he wrote a song called Feed Jake.
Rocky Leflore: Feed Jake.
Ramsey Russell: Feed Jake – he’s been a good dog, my best friend right to the end.
Rocky Leflore: Oh wow.
Ramsey Russell: I heard someone in Mississippi bought it and sold it all over the radio. So, when people ask me sometimes, they do just like you did – hey, you hunt with a lot of people – who’s the most famous person you’ve ever hunted with? But actually, it wasn’t a person, it was one of the most kick-butt Labs, one-eyed, I’ve ever hunted with, on one of the coolest hunts I’ve ever been on, in a part of the world that was unexpected, seeped in history. Dog that ducked for President Bill Clinton and everybody on his security detail and it lives forever in the annals of Country music history. I always think of that when I think about fame. The cool thing is, that dog didn’t know anything about fame he was just a duck dog. He just did his job. He fetched duck because that’s what he wanted to do. Well in that cold, I actually hunted with Jake of the song Feed Jake.
Rocky Leflore: Well, that is a really good story. It was Paul Harvey-esque. That was a great way of explaining it.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, old Paul Harvey. Nobody, tells a story like he did. Nobody can tell the rest of the story like he did. But tell me you wouldn’t go hunt with President Bill Clinton tomorrow if he asked you to. Oh Lord, it’s like I always said, man in a duck blind, politics, and religion, and money don’t matter. Everybody’s just a duck hunter for the time, even the President and you have got to figure he did. Former Governor of Arkansas shot ducks, it had never crossed my mind, but you had to figure he did.
Rocky Leflore: That’s a great, great story Ramsey. I never imagined from the beginning of you telling, that it was going to turn out to be the dog.
Ramsey Russell: No, what a great dog too, one-eyed yellow lab named Jake.
Rocky Leflore: Well, good luck to you this weekend. I hope you all have a great time of it, cherish every moment with Duncan being there, I know you will.
Ramsey Russell: Absolutely.
Rocky Leflore: Savor every moment.
Ramsey Russell: Absolutely, we’re going to hunt with Commander’s Corner this weekend over in Arkansas for the Arkansas Open. I want to stay a year over there with him and he always does a real good job. He’s always got ducks. It’s a great atmosphere just to socialize and hang out with your family so we’re really looking forward to it. Likewise, good luck to everybody else listening. Just going to go hunting and if you’re going to be hunting Mississippi state or Arkansas, you still have got to wait to get your stuff sorted for duck season coming up.
Rocky Leflore: Ramsey, I enjoyed it today. Be careful going up there. We will talk to you soon. We want to thank all of you that listened to this edition of the End of the Line Podcast, powered by DuckSouth.com.