In this edition of The End Of The Line Podcast, Ramsey Russell joins me from a Wyoming duck hunting lodge. We talk about his duck hunting Nebraska and Wyoming on the road trip. Are they asking where the ducks and geese are out there? Find out what Ramsey is hearing from the professionals out west. Finally, we cover the last chapter of Ramsey’s and ongoing Russia hunting saga. This is the ending we have all awaited!
Waterfowl Hunting on the Platte River
Rocky Leflore: Welcome to The End of The Line podcast, I’m Rocky Leflore sitting here on a Wednesday night as Mr. Ramsey Russell joins me from a hotel. In what state?
Ramsey Russell: Wyoming.
Rocky Leflore: Wyoming, a big cold desert. Shooting up there.
Ramsey Russell: I guess, you’re right. It really is maybe a big cold desert except for the North Platte River, which is an absolute oasis and Rocky, I’m convinced that I come out here to western Nebraska, Wyoming when I was Forrest’s age, I’d have never gone back home. Man this is some of the most beautiful, unspoiled country I’ve ever set foot in. I was telling somebody just the other day, Ryan Livingston over in Nebraska, we hunt with him at Prairie Rock Outfitters. Man he’s got 300,000 acres of beautiful, prairie habitat for ducks and geese and ginormous white tail and mules. I mean unbelievable 300,000 acres, I don’t even know how big Rankin County is, but I bet it isn’t that big. It’s big. And the neighbors are 40 miles apart in places, you’ve got to go 50, 60 miles to Walmart, or to eat dinner unless you eat there at the house. We ate good at this lodge because he also grows beef so we ate real good steak, and the hunting was utterly amazing. See the North Platte River – get this – I’m 1100 miles from my home right now and I’m still in the Mississippi River watershed, right here in the Mississippi River watershed. The North Platte River starts in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, that snow melts off and runs, wraps its way kind of cold, a little bit to the west, a little bit to the north to Wyoming. It goes all the way through down to about mid Nebraska where it converges with the South Platte River into the Platte River. The Platte River then runs over towards eastern Nebraska and the Missouri River, which is a major tributary of the Mississippi River. It’s just hard to believe that sitting there watching water flow down the Platte River out here in this high country desert, it just looks like gangs of wolves. It’s just hard to believe that water running down that stream is going to go right under the bridge of Vicksburg, Mississippi one day. It’s crazy.
Rocky Leflore: It is amazing.
Ramsey Russell: It’s amazing but we have had, by our standards, especially as compared to what’s going on in the Deep South right now with the migration and possibility of ducks, we’ve had a spectacular hunt. One day was a little wonky, that day Forrest shot his first golden eye. Next two days, we limited on green head, didn’t even fool with hen mallards, just take the time kill all green heads. Yesterday we set up in Wyoming, we set up on Canada geese. There were big geese and little geese and medium geese. A lot of these different races of Canadas are coming out of Alberta to Montana, and we limited on them about 10 o‘clock in the morning. That morning we went and set up not too far from there on a duck goose combo, and just like yesterday, and just like some of the days before, the weatherman out here out here ain’t no better than the weatherman anywhere else on the world. We all want wind for duck hunting so you can steer them a duck without wind in the sails, like a rudder to the ship, they just list anywhere, you got to be able to steer them. But it’s like yesterday’s shooting with Canada geese, it was like just 2, 3, 4 mile an hour wind. And by 10 o’clock in the morning we had 2 or 3 geese, plenty of geese in the air. And at 10 o’clock, wind just came out of nowhere. This old prairie wind, boom, hooked up, got about 10, 15 mph. At 10:25 we had all our Canada goose, we were done. This morning we needed that wind, we’re hunting over some water and the lower lake out of the wind, it forecast of gale force winds, it didn’t happen until about 10 or 11 o’clock and then we got a bunch of birds in but the minute that little front path, boom. It’s again duck everywhere, but they just, it wouldn’t work like we want them to. You talk about historic, I mean, I learned today right there. I mean like we’re hunting about 6 or 7 mile from a place called Fort Laramie. Fort Laramie was the first settlement in Wyoming, a military installation. Right there on the very property, I mean literally where we were sitting in one of the most comfortable blinds I’ve ever been in my life – today, out of the wind in just full concealment in a sliding office chair just as nice and comfortable as possible – right where I was sitting today was a historic Sioux Indian camp of 400-4,000 Indian. It’s just 5, 6 miles from Fort Laramie. And at that time, I’m guessing, sometime in early to mid-1800s and everything was just cool as a cucumber, nothing going on. Apparently somebody coming down the Oregon Trail had a cow stray off over to Indian camp and they were scared to go get it, or didn’t know where it was. Well, the Indians just said, they don’t want this cow, we do, so they ate him. When the sellers got over there, the pioneers got over there to Fort Laramie, they reported a stolen cow. The young rash, military Officer went over there with 26 soldiers and some people say they were drinking, some people say they don’t. Now, look Rocky, it’s a little town, we’re staying in Torrington, Wyoming. We get up every morning and he said, well, if you don’t want breakfast, you meet me there at 05:45 and if you want breakfast well, get there by 05:15. Me and Forrest have been leaving here at 5 o’clock because it’s like a lot of locals come in just to BS. Then the other hunters come in and it’s just a lot of colorful characters. You learn a lot of history and learn a lot about this town – I guess if I lived here, I’d go there every morning at 5:00. So you learned a lot, you hear a lot. Anyway, they got to know about this cow being stolen and whoever was in charge, was like, well, the officer’s saying give me the people that stole the cows, we’re going to take them for Laramie for trial. He’s like, well nobody stole the cow. The whole village ate him. He showed up. Nobody wanted him, we ate it. What can we do? Do you want some horses? What do you want? I mean, we’ll Indian trade. Well, that wasn’t good enough for the guy Grabner was his name. The Indians just got exasperated with the failed negotiations and turned to walk away, he ordered they be shot. Boom they shot them. Got about 5 or 10 braves right there below a camp of 4000 Indians. And when you’re being shot at, what do you do you? You’re being attacked, you conquer, so the Indian went out there and killed them all. That one instance started the whole Indian American war, started the whole thing because that following word got back to Washington. Hey, these Indians out here have killed 27 of your troopers. They sent another general out here with some fresh troops and early that spring when the snow was deep or whatever on the creek bank and Indians were still hibernating. Just one of them kind of deals where military went in and killed them all. Men, women, children, dogs, horses, everything killed. Well, there’s a whole lot more in what was in that little camp, that’s where the whole thing started. It’s just amazing to be sitting shooting birds, and hunting, and seeing all these beautiful country just right there. Like, you know over there in Nebraska, Ryan Livingston has got his logo it’s like, a rock. And his little hashtag is Hunt the Rock. The rock is chimney rock and when you were on the Oregon Trail as a pioneer heading west, you got to chimney rock, you were halfway. It’s just everywhere you look, there’s history and it’s just amazing. I mean, it’s just like being in the middle of a cowboy movie except Rocky, there aren’t pintails, shovelers, green wings, blue wings, there is nothing. You come out to this part of the world because there’s mallards and Canada geese, a few goldeneyes, but mallards. Mallards galore. Central Flyway limits of mallard is 5. And I saw your post the other day –
Rocky Leflore: Here we go. I want to hear.
Ramsey Russell: And I’m going to tell you, we’re sitting here thinking, well, it’s not exactly what we were expecting, it’s a little slower, we’re being patient. Man, I’ve been in the blind with John Lomonaco, with Jake Latandresse, with my son Forrest, some other people, and we’ve had just a really good time visiting and stories and just really good time and comfortable blind stuff like that. But we had to work to get our bird, it hadn’t been just a slam dunk because they’re waiting on their birds.
Central Flyway Migration Patterns
So, it’s almost like you’ve got this fractionalized migration, some of the birds kind of left when the first little winter hit.
Rocky Leflore: I want to preface this what you’re about to tell. A lot of people that’s listening to this podcast, they listen to it because they saw Ramsey Russell’s name in it, they know it’s going to be good stuff, they know it’s going to be lot of wisdom and a lot of knowledge, but just listen to what Ramsey’s about to say. All these people freaking out about this migration, just hear him out, just listen to what he’s saying.
Ramsey Russell: Well, let me say this Rocky, it is 8:00 Wyoming time and I’m sitting in a place where it gets -50 degrees here in wintertime, and it is 42 degrees when I walked out of the restaurant from supper. 42 degrees at night, it’ll cool on down to about 30 degrees. And the wind blows because this is prairie but temperatures were running 30 degrees to 50 degrees. They hadn’t had any weather to speak of, there’s been no snow stick, nothing. So we’re shooting Canadas but they’re getting a little wary, little stale, all the dumb birds are gone. They’ve been hunting in Canada for a month and a half now, you got to work these birds. The dumb mallards are gone. You got to have that big wind and being in a place real protective – it’s got to be super easy. It’s got to be Ray Charles-easy for a duck to want to come in and commit. If he can think about it, if he can do anything but just make it easy to come and decoy, he isn’t coming in. They’re waiting on snow cover in Montana and Alberta. All the Canada geese we’re hunting up here, the big ones this is their wintering ground the North Platte River between here and about Platte Nebraska, North Platte, Nebraska, boom, this stretch right here on North Platte River, this is where they winter. These are the birds coming out of parts of Alberta and the big ones, this is where they winter. The little ones are going to fly on down towards further down the Central Flyway. They still got to go through Colorado, they’ve got to go down in Kansas, parts of Oklahoma and Texas. They aren’t really showed up yet. I tell you from what I’ve seen, there is no snow, there’s nothing, it’s warm, it’s Mississippi warm out here, no humidity but warm. The birds aren’t going nowhere. The boys around here are waiting on birds that are still coming out of Alberta, and they know the birds are there because they haven’t seen certain things yet. You all might remember I got really optimistic back in September, we chased around Canada for a month, got snowed on four times, and by the time I got to North Dakota, late September air traffic control reported to Matthew Phil of Dirty Bird Outfitters they saw birds leaving Canada. Well, that’s true. Lot of birds, probably some of the birds we’ve been hammering on chipping away at down the Deep South. But after about a week or two after I left, it warmed up and they caught a major influx from the south of their birds coming back. Those birds hadn’t gone nowhere to speak of. On a Mississippi Flyway, Wisconsin, they’ve had some pretty serious eyes parts of Minnesota, but it’s really a pretty mild winter. The only people I know of that have really been having a decent season at all have been out in that Central Flyway in parts of Texas, not all parts, parts of Kansas and Oklahoma, Missouri. But all the reports, I’m hearing that the outfitters that are putting any birds up whatsoever are working 2 or 3 times as hard to get the client on them. Those geese they’re killing had a real poor hatch. They’re very difficult. The ducks are getting real stale because everybody on the whole continent except for the Pacific Flyway – of course I’m hearing out of California Washington, Oregon – they’re having a hellacious year. My outfitter down in Obregon, Mexico says hey, if we haven’t got birds in Mississippi, why the heck are you going to go into Mexico? Well, a lot of the birds go to Mexico or those photo period migraters. Frank reported having seen his pintails, and teal, even the cinnamon teal showed up weeks earlier than normal. Of course, now they’re coming out of the Pacific Flyway primarily. So, it’s almost like you’ve got this fractionalized migration, some of the birds kind of left when the first little winter hit. All the Canadians are like, oh when this happens, we’re going to have a bad winter and here comes Indian summer. The birds came back and it really hadn’t been a brutal winter. I’m telling these guys up here Rocky, next week, next Tuesday or Wednesday, they’re supposed to get their first snow. Like when you walk outside there’s snow falling, snow on the ground, you see white out in the wheat fields. Supposed to happen next Tuesday, Wednesday, and all the farmers and stuff are telling us, you all need to stay. Because you all have seen isn’t like you’re fixing to see. It’s just one of them years, man.
Rocky Leflore: Hey, let me ask you a crazy question. I want it out there to you really quick before we jump back in the story. Does it bother you that people are still killing a ton of blue wings?
How is Warm Weather Affecting Migration?
Those teal aren’t having to go down into Mexico and Central America to find nice weather that they normally have to in a typical December, January.
Ramsey Russell: No. There’s a lot of blue wings down in Mexico right now but it doesn’t bother me they’re killing it just – it supports the whole conversation we’re having, that it is a very warm year. Those teal aren’t having to go down into Mexico and Central America to find nice weather that they normally have to in a typical December, January. See it’s just – there’s something going on, some weather pattern going on, even in Alaska, you remember I was in Alaska 10 days ago, and we called it cold happening. The wind was blowing hard but it’s still in the mid to high 30s and the Alaskans were laughing saying this isn’t winter, this is very warm. It’s above average in Alaska, above average in Canada, its above average in Nebraska. Christmas Day or something, it’s going to be in the 60s down in Mississippi, I looked at the 10 day forecast trying to figure out what I’m going to do between Christmas and New year. It’s going to be in the 50s and 60s, so it doesn’t surprise me at all and I hope there’s a bunch of blue wings around to shot. I’ll be happy to shoot them. But anyway, Rocky, it’s one of those seasons, man and it’s frustrating to me, it’s frustrating to everybody, but damn man, what are you going to do? Play golf? No, I’m not going to play golf.
Rocky Leflore: I just think that it’s got blown way out of proportion because social media is so dominant now. We had bad seasons – the first year I was a guide, it sucked. It was awful back in 19 –
Ramsey Russell: But you know what we’re dealing with –
Rocky Leflore: I mean there’s been years in 20 years that I guided 3 or 4 years that were awful, that were similar to this, but we just didn’t have social media to bitch or to complain about it.
Ramsey Russell: Pat and Bill cited the number. They cited the number the other day on that podcast they did, I don’t know that number, I’m going to say it’s been about 20 years that we’ve been under a 6 duck, 4 mallard limit. Most of these social media guys, these young guys, they don’t remember that as recently as the mid to late 90s we were shooting 2 mallards, 3 ducks, they don’t remember that. So, it can be a duck number fluctuation, it can be temperature fluctuations. I thought it was pretty interesting today, I don’t know who posted it up or where I just happened to see it, but we did have some quiet time in the blind today, waiting on the wind blowing the bird to do their thing. Somebody posted up an ESPN article about the duck migration. Ducks ain’t coming south, blah- blah. Boy, everybody blew off on it that was the whole holy answer. I read that report and I’ve seen that name with Fish and Wildlife, I’m going, I don’t think he worked for Fish and – my gosh, and I know he doesn’t work in that office anymore. The guy was 20 years ago or whatever, a long time ago, and I looked up at the top, it was a 2005 article. How many of these guys, playing disguise, following and all this mess going on, I mean how many of them were hunting in 2005, that was a tough season. Birds weren’t coming south and I don’t know, Rocky, is it global warming? I don’t know, but weather fluctuates. Last year was a good season for us. Last year we had a great season. We have one of our top season last year and I distinctly remember on a few occasions having to go out and bust ice. It has been a while since I’ve done that in Mississippi, been a long while, fingers crossed, that sometimes between now and end of season I’ll have to do it again. That could pull a lustre season out of the camp real quick. Now, that’s a crapper, let a good freeze hit ducks come down boom that could help them. Man, look as I can tell these ducks got a long way to come, not just little to come, a long way to come. I think they’ve got a long way to come to get down to where we are and just have a fabulous season. And like I say, man, make the best of it. What am I going to do between Christmas and New Year? I might sleep in the morning, go deer hunting in the afternoon, but I’m going to be at a camp, I’m not going – like I say – I’m not going to play golf.
Rocky Leflore: Like something pretty significant to happen to push them this far south this late. But we’re on the upswing of days getting longer too. Some ducks are photomigraters and some aren’t, but days are getting longer – that clock’s ticking in their minds.
Ramsey Russell: Bill made a good point the other day and I guess maybe I knew it, but never heard it articulated or said it, but I think he hit the nail on the head. I think there is a point, I don’t know what that point is or what that cue is, but I think there’s an invisible line on the calendar that once you get past that date, relative to daylight length, even if bunch of winter weather comes down late, those ducks aren’t just going to come south and stay. I believe they’re going to retreat as quickly as they can. You know, I’m saying? I think you got those years, going to push them down, right? They’re going to come on into the south and stay, and you’ll get the last comers coming later. But I do think that in a year like this year we’re having, that if we get a big front, a big clipper come through, I believe it’s going to be great. It’s going to be fun until most of them just retreat like the tide right on back up with the 50° thermal climb. I believe at this point they’re going to stay as far north as they can. And maybe the silver lining is maybe there’s some precipitation in the country, the birds, because they didn’t have to fly south and do all that stuff this year. They ought to be in good reproductive health, if we got some good wetlands, we can always hope we’re going to have a better year, have much more ducks. You got to look at the silver lining.
Rocky Leflore: It’s a great point that nobody has made that I’ve heard so far. They ought to be in great, great reproductive health.
Ramsey Russell: They ought to be a good reproductive health. That makes the whole thing energy conservation. It’s a fact. It’s been a long time since I took those courses in school under Rick Kaminsky but the reason there’s more male ducks than female, there’s more drakes than hens, is because it takes twice the energy, takes a hen twice the energy to manufacture a hen eggs than it does a drake egg. And the more energy she has, the more eggs, not only the more eggs she can lay, but the healthier those eggs are going to be, therefore the healthier the chicks are going to be, therefore the healthier the little duckling the better their odds are survival. You know, it is what it is, man. We did a little segment in the blind that we all got to talking about the history. Rocky, through this stretch where I’m sitting right now to about 200 miles, 150, 200 miles up here in Nebraska east on the North Platte River, overwinter half a million Canada geese, that’s astounding. And I don’t mean more resident birds like we got back home son, I’m talking about migraters. That’s just astounding to me, a half million geese in this little old bitty creek they call a river. But we got to talking about, we’re a long way from home but what’s a couple of tanks of gas? I mean if you can, go find some ducks. There are other places to hunt than where there ain’t no ducks. Forrest and I just made a road trip out of and that’s what we do. We came out here, making a big US hunt list loop. That was with Ryan Livingston at Prairie Rock Outfitters. Met with Wild Nebraska Outfitters up here and they both were great outfitters. Lot of mallards, a lot of Canada geese and it’s a long way from home to be, but shot a few mallards, shot one with a shot back home. I can tell you and I had a great time. It’s just making silk out of a sow’s ear for us. I don’t know what we do back home, I guess I’d be at the office working and that wouldn’t be no fun. But anyway, fingers crossed Rocky, maybe Santa Claus will bring us something. I look at 10 day forecast and I don’t see anything promising, they’re going to get a little weather coming but I’m just going to get up and go with the flow and if I got to go deer hunt, I guess I will.
Rocky Leflore: All right. Look, we got about 15-20 minutes can we get it in, you think?
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, we’ll finish it up. We talk about this Russia story.
The Riveting Climax of the Hunting in Russia Story
I’m going to tell you what, I got in there with my swim shorts on like all self-respecting Southern boys and people at the gym go to a sauna, and we all sat there and sweated.
Rocky Leflore: This is my favorite part.
Ramsey Russell: Russia was epic. Russia was good and we got side-tracked talking about my Maltan friends. That’s who I met over there, we became friends, they came to States, we hunted. Well, we became friends in Russia and we’re way up Rocky, 20 km from the White Sea, in a little old town up there, all the houses are built out of just raw lumber, note to self. Somebody said, describe Russia that part of Russia, north of St. Petersburg in one word. Trees. Massive, millions of acres, million-acre land holdings of primal black forest. If they could ever get all of that wood, that lumber in that part of Russia to the market cost-efficiently, they would blood the whole world markets of timber. It’s that good of quality, it’s that much trees. We were deep in the forest hunting those Capercaillie at night, click-step walking two miles down bear trails, and we became really good friends with these Maltans. You may remember from the first story, what I’ve learned is you just kind of become immersed and you go with the flow. It’s like if you’re expecting to find a Hilton everywhere, you go where you can stay in the Hilton. But if you stay in the Hilton in Russia, and a Hilton in Mississippi, and a Hilton in Texas, and the Hilton in Australia, it’s just the Hilton experience and what’s so fun about doing a lot of this world travel is it to kind of be immersed in their culture, be Russian. You don’t know what time it is because it’s the only dark 4 hours anyway, somebody says, what time is it 10 o’clock AM or PM? I don’t know. I’ve been here 2 or 3 days, I don’t have no idea what time it is. They serve 3 meals. They don’t serve bacon, eggs and pancakes, you don’t know if its breakfast or lunch or dinner. It’s just 3 meals a day. Any typical Russian, every time we sit at the dinner table, the vodka shots flow. Maybe we’re having for breakfast, maybe we’re having a midnight snack, who knows? It’s Russia, drink vodka. One thing that I got to know, it’s the part of the world Rocky, it’s like their lawns. These little villages are decorated with winter vegetables, firewood, and empty vodka bottles. We were staying in the nicest house in town, which is a kind of prefab log cabin. Cook came by and cooked us Russian food every day, which wasn’t too bad. But I’ve been noticing that behind every cabin was – a lot of times – a little workshop, a little work building something behind it. One day it just occurred to me that all these little storage buildings behind there had a smokestack and had smoke coming out sometimes. So, oh God, I guess it gets so cold maybe they just have a little wood burning stove in their shop. I said something to my host and she goes, no, that’s not a shop that’s a sauna. A sauna? The last time I saw a sauna was at the gym, some godforsaken place that you sweat and you want to sweat. Come down and walk down my driveway to the mailbox in the summertime. I mean sweat. Oh Russian sauna is a very big thing, very big thing, very traditional. You know, guess what we live 20 miles, 20 km from the Arctic Circle and it’s cold all the time. Sweat is kind of a big thing. They find it very therapeutic in that part of the world to do that kind of stuff, and not only do they just like going in there to sweat, they make a day of it. Typical sauna house is walking into the first outside door, there’s just a little changing room, put on your swimsuits or hang your clothes up. Go on deck or whatever you want to do in the next room you go into, it gets a little warmer because there’s like a furnace – the backside of a furnace – in there and a wood burning furnace and it’s got hot. You may even hit the tap and buddy boiling hot, make coffee, and hot tea water comes out of that son of a gun. You mix it with river water or creek water or snow water, get the temperature right, you bathe. Like bar of soap and shampoo, you bathe. And what them Russians to do is to make a day of it man. They go fire up the sauna and everybody in the family gets giddy. They go make a day of it man, they’ve been sitting around, I don’t know how many days, not sweating and bathing, but they go sweat. Can make a day of 150 to 200º, they’re getting there start sweating and then they’ll come out there and bathe, it’ll go back in your sweats more than a comeback in turn, bathe again. I mean it will go on. According to our host he’s like, oh, Russians spend all day, 4- or 5-times Americans? No, you’re a beginner. You Maltans no, he said, 3 maybe 4 times no more. He shows us the program, it’s always very relaxing, it’s going to be very good, you’ll be Russian now, he says. So, when we walk back there to where it is just right behind the house, he gives us all a big old cork beer, put it in snow outside, it could be nice and cold when we come out of here. The whole idea of a sauna is kind of lost in a Southern boy. I’m going to tell you what, I got in there with my swim shorts on like all self-respecting Southern boys and people at the gym go to a sauna, and we all sat there and sweated. We couldn’t stand it and when we got into this heat room kind of about the size of a little league dugout, it’s just a narrow little building, had a double step bench, we sit up there and you couldn’t reach out your hand and touch the opposing wall, it’s maybe twice that far. That business side of that furnace was going and man, they come in there and had rocks all around and they throw some wood in there and I noticed there was a bucket of water. It had two bundles of switches and one bundle was like evergreen and one bundle was like aspen, and they take them sticks out slightly, throw that water on the stones which steam up. Man, it’s like, oh my God, temperature just spiked on the thermometer. I’m sitting there trying to tell myself man this is Russia, I’m going to be Russian, it’s what Russians do and what else is there to do? I got my capercaillie, I got my ducks, it’s snowing outside, what else I’m going to do? I come in here and sweat. Of course I could do this in Mississippi just cutting my grass. So anyway, we go out there and we bathe, get the bar soap and bathe off real good, get the water just right. What a lot of them Russian bath houses will have, they’ll have the hot water tap coming out of furnace and the cold water and you mix it up, just get the temperature right. Then they’ll have a bucket, like a wooden pail, it’s about 5ft-6ft off the ground where you can stand under it, and you pull a rope and that’s ice cold water. That’s when you’re done. You pull that 5-gallon bucket of ice-cold water on top of you. If you’ve done all this mess, I’m getting this program. Well, so me, and Patrick and Steve, we’re going there and we sweat it out. We talk about hunting and you know again, stories, they’re different in Malta. All these little migrations come through there and Patrick was telling me how his grandfather used to arrange these miss nets and catch these little finches. These little finches that would come through from Greece, and about his whole backyard with a big mess net covered garden with all these finches in it. We’re just sitting in there telling stories and sweating. And so we’re going one time we come out kind of soap off, we go back in a second time, we kind of come off, third time, rather bathe and they say screw this Ramsey, we’re good, we’re done. Well, you done? No man, I’m going to get one more time. He said, no more than 4 times, I’m going to push it to the limit.
How Does Ramsey Get Made Into a Good Russian?
Now I learned my lesson, if you go into a Russian sauna, folks, sit by the door.
Rocky Leflore: At this moment you have no clue.
Ramsey Russell: No, I had no clue. I mean, no, it was just us, three Maltans man, and I’m going to go in there one more time. I don’t need to go in there, I don’t want to go in there. By God, he said, 4 I’m going to do 4. Look, when a Russian tells you you’re American and you ain’t cut out for this kind of stuff that’s like a dare, it’s like a challenge, right.
Rocky Leflore: Goddamn, you’ll prove them wrong.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. I’m from Mississippi, this ain’t nothing. So, I go in there and I’m sitting by myself and I say, okay, 5 minutes and I mean it’s like time was going slow. Now, I’m sitting in there just sweating dripping and looking at my wife. You think it’s been an hour, I looked 15 seconds have past and right about the time, 4 minutes into this thing, and I’m fixing to say, 50, 45, I’m counting down that minute. I’m going to step out, hit that cold bucket, go out there and get my cold beer, and go catch up with them around the table in the house. The door opens and here comes my two Russian guides. Now Lexi, it’s about my size a little taller. He comes walking in butt naked. I’ve been in the gym before me, we’ve all been a man’s locker room, it ain’t no big deal, okay naked. I’m going to look straight ahead. Well then comes my guide and this man, I’m telling you all, his belt is as long as he is tall. He’s short but expect his belt is as long as he is tall. He’s a big old man and he’s wearing cobalt blue, so bright, you got to squint if you looked at him directly. Thong underwear, cobalt blue. And I’m not looking but when you’re in a closet, at about 180° you can see stuff out of your peripheral vision, so I’m looking straight ahead.
Rocky Leflore: Listen, I want you to know this. I want you to understand this, I’m not laughing at the homosexuality of this story. I’m laughing because one of the most respected duck hunters in the world –
Ramsey Russell: Everybody wants to be Ramsey. Everybody said, I want to do Ramsey stuff and I say, yeah, you want to Ramsey stuff this time. To do real Ramsey stuff, you find yourself in predicaments. The predicament I’ve so far described, it’s just kind of like going to the gym into the locker room. A man comes out, you know, them guys in the locker room, there’s towels everywhere and most folks walk around with a towel, and some of the guys walk around with their junk swinging left and right. Like, I mean who are they, I mean you know what I’m saying, you see them guys. I’m in Russia, this guy is Russian and it’s his Russian bathhouse, and I’ll just ease on him. I was sitting on the floor and they got to step up on the steps so that I can walk behind to get to the door. Now I’m just going to say, because I was about 30 seconds from walking out when they walked in, that my time has passed. So, now I’m not just wanting to get out of there, I’m getting just a little – I’m just getting a little anxious because I’m about to burn up. I’m like, I got to get out of here. They don’t speak English and I don’t speak Russian. Literally the only word my guide speaks is thumb up, good, thumb down bad, that’s it. There ain’t no other word that we can communicate nothing. Good, bad, that’s it. One time he did his thumb up and like, but he’s pointing up, he broke the code and I’m like, hey, good, you get it, good. But anyway, I digress. Lexi is still standing there in the walkway, he ain’t climbed up yet where I walked past him and the big guy, whatever his name was, he goes, he walked toward me. I’m just sitting up, so he just right there by, he walks up and reaching that bucket and man, he takes both them sticks and start sliding, throwing the water on the stones man, it is so foggy in there, I can’t see nothing. Now temperature spikes and I’m probably about to black out. They are making good noise and stuff like that because they are enjoying the heat just enveloping them. By the time they start talking in Russian and the big one just walked back, he grabbed up one switches. Lexi turned around, grab the bench, and the big guy in the speedo starts sliding them with these limbs. I ain’t looking, I’m looking at the freaking wall straight ahead of it but you can’t not see it out of your peripheral vision. And even if you couldn’t see it, he ain’t just getting flailed with these limbs because as I learned those limbs of switches weren’t for sloshing water, it was like, for making your pores open up in things stimulating your skin to open up, so you really sweat. Well man, the big guys absolutely, I know I got good whippings and when I was a child with switches, this man is getting beaten to death and he’s making sex noises. What I’m thinking is I can’t get out of here without rubbing all up in them and I ain’t doing that. I had these visions. The only time I like to hear sex noises is obviously during sex and also from duck guides. Because let me tell you something folks, if you’re on a duck hunt and your duck guides are making sex noises, stuff is dying. It’s a good hunt. Oh, it’s good hunt. That’s it. Not in a Russian sauna when a big guy wearing a blue speedo is beating a naked guy with a stick. That ain’t good. There ain’t no other way out of there but that door, and to get through that door, I got to go to sweaty Russians having this thing going on. I’m just thinking and I could just envision at some point time in the future people coming in there and you’re seeing claw marks on the side of wall where I tried to dig my way through the opposite wall. So I’m going to say, I was teetering around blacking out from being in the heat for now 10 minutes. When they’re content, I walk out to the bathroom part, oh I’m out. I skipped the shower, skipped bar soap, skipped the cold bucket I’ve been looking forward to for four hours going in there. I went straight outside my own self in my little boxer shorts on went right into the lake. I think I made a little metal sound when I hit that cold water, I was so hot. Got in and got dressed, got my beer. I walk in the house and there’s Steven and Patrick, man, they were on their 3rd or 4th beer now, they look at me and they go, Ramsey, are you okay? I go no, I’m not. I sat down and start drinking my beer and they’re like Ramsey what happened? I go Steve there’s just something that grown man can’t take back seeing. And so I started telling them this story and we’re all just howling and laughing because it’s funny at the first beer. So as I’m telling this story, in walks these two Russians and they see us all laughing having a good time, they ain’t got a clue that we’re laughing about this situation. Lexi walks up to me, put his hands on me, pats on my back, and says, “We made Ramsey good Russian now.” The joke was lost on them, but I mean just the irony, him saying that when we having told that story. We all just bust out laughing. But that was the end to an otherwise really, really good Russian trip.
Rocky Leflore: You put that story in anybody else’s head, story is not that good, it’s average. You put it in Ramsey Russell head it’s awesome.
Ramsey Russell: Well, let me tell you the rest of the story. We went back to Russia last year, Lexi got a new cabin, a beautiful cabin, nice cabin. About half far we’re not going quite up to the White Sea unless we go later. The first thing I noticed is a big, big house. He got a big sauna out in the backyard and I walked in there and gave it a tour before I even thought about cranking it up nice and big. And let’s just say it this way, that sauna room was bigger, and my seat was right by the front door. I didn’t go no further into that room than right by the front because there was nothing that was going to block my exit this time. It really is kind of needed in Russia because it’s absolutely, it’s pretty cold up there to come out of a sauna and smoke coming off your skin hitting the snow and stuff like that. Now I learned my lesson, if you go into a Russian sauna, folks, sit by the door. Don’t sit anywhere, sit by the exit. Just be forewarned.
Rocky Leflore: Let me just say this, I want to say this. Ramsey and I were talking, I guess it was 3-4 weeks ago, and well I guess it was right before we started recording. And you were talking about hunting in Russia. I said, man, Ramsey you think you’re one lucky guy. You’re one blessed man to be able to do all that you do. He said, yeah, you see all that, the shell of it, but you don’t see – hold on let me phrase this the right way. Everybody wants to be Ramsey is till it’s time to do Ramsey you-know-what. And I was like, why are you saying that? Goes into the sauna story.
What to Do When the Hunting Season Isn’t the Best
No, because I’m telling you, kids don’t spell love DUCK they spell it TIME.
Ramsey Russell: Rocky can talk about stuff like – I got more stories I’ll share with you one day but man, I’m just like everybody else back home. I hope we get some ducks, but guys, if we don’t get no ducks, you go have fun. Another good upside of a warm season people ain’t thinking about, it’s a great time to take little kids out to a duck blind. It was really good and if it’s really cold, kids can’t take it. I’m telling you, they can’t take it. Take the kids out there to a duck blind, bring them a BB gun, and let them shoot your decoys.
Rocky Leflore: Yeah, don’t forget to get into Duck South contest.
Ramsey Russell: Man, that’s a great contest too, Rocky. I mean to tell you that, I cannot wait to see those videos. I wish my kids were babies still, I can’t wait to see these videos, you know what I’m saying? That is a great idea you all are doing but you know what, it’s the perfect year for it. Are they going to shoot a bunch? No, because I’m telling you kids don’t spell love DUCK they spell it TIME. It’s just a great time to bring those babies, those children, those little kids. It might not otherwise, takes up teal season, this is a good time to get them out there. And when they get bored, you know when you get tired of shooting, you’re blinking your decoy with the BB guns, and eating honey buns and chocolate milk, we’ll go do something else. But you got to do something together. You got to show them the ropes, they’re going to have fun just being with you, and throwing them decoys, and seeing the dog get wet. Do stuff like that, you know what I’m saying? And it’s a good time to get them folks out in the duck blind. I mean we got to make some kind of a silk out of it. This hunting season is not – remember me telling you, Canada was good, but it was off, it was off this year. All those outfitters busted their tails to make them hunts happen, it was nothing easy this year. I’ve been to Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Nebraska, Wyoming and it isn’t a magic season. Everybody is working harder, but it’s a season and it’s the only season we’ll get this year, so make the best of it. And all that negativity, all the complaining, all that, oh, the sky is falling, well, make the best of it. Dude, you can’t change it. It ain’t changing. So, that’s my opinion.
Rocky Leflore: Well, I’ll add this. In those good years, when you are hammering down on them, remember these days. Soak in those great days.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. And it was like I said before, real life happens between the volleys. The last 5 days we’ve shot ducks, we’ve had a wonderful trip, but there’s been some long stretches of time. We spend a couple of days all day out in the blind because it was natural. Forrest bought him a loaf of bread and ham, brought ham sandwiches for everybody, and everybody has a thermos of coffee, and water, and snacks, and we just sat out there and had such a great visit. I’ve known John for a long time, but never really had hunted with him and he’s a very accomplished big game hunter. And he’s got a lot of his own stories from around the world – he’s 88 years old and a lot of wisdom. I’m gonna tell you what, he moved quick, he’s good with a shotgun, loves that duck hunting. It’s been a real pleasure hunting. Then everybody gets quiet, we’re working ducks, we shoot a few ducks, man everybody’s spirits are lively, and then we’re somber and quiet just enjoying our time together. That’s all you can do man. You’re right, a season like this’ll make you remember, there are really good ones. And it’s nothing any of us can do. I mean, unless somebody got a weather machine they aren’t telling us about, there’s nothing we can do. Make the best of it. Rocky, if I don’t see you, I hope you and everybody else has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Rocky Leflore: Please be careful driving back home, it’s a long way and we will talk again in the next week. Maybe a day later than normal but we’ll talk again next week. Merry Christmas to you. Ramsey, thank you again for being here. We want to thank all of you that listened to this edition of The End of The Line podcast powered by ducksouth.com.