Life’s short GetDucks: That Spot
Josh Criswell of Southern Flight Taxidermy, joins Ramsey Russell and Rocky Leflore to talk about special hunting places. That spot or location that comes to mind when somebody asks about your most memorable hunts. It is a topic that ties us all hunters together. It is something we get emotional talking about as hunters.
Josh Criswell: Skilled Taxidermist & Hunter
Yeah, the year that I met Ramsey, we killed 1205 snow geese in 2.5 days of hunting.
Rocky Leflore: Welcome to The End of The Line podcast. I’m Rocky Leflore in the Ducks Studios and with me today on this Life’s Short, GetDucks episode, Mr. Ramsey Russell, Josh Criswell. Guys, how are you all today?
Josh Criswell: Doing good Rocky. How are you?
Ramsey Russell: We’re doing good Rocky.
Rocky Leflore: Man, it is good to have both of you. I mean both of you all are representing the GetDucks brand because Josh – you’ve kind of become Ramsey’s go-to guy when it comes to taxidermy.
Josh Criswell: Yeah, yeah, it’s been just over a year now.
Ramsey Russell: And Josh is the go-to man for anybody’s taxidermy work. He’s USDA approved. He can accept birds from all over the country. He’s got a pretty darn quick turnaround. You get to see your birds within a year and it’s been absolutely, positively one of the best relationships I’ve ever made.
Rocky Leflore: So, you all are not going to have any trouble talking to one another in this podcast then?
Ramsey Russell: No, no, no. Josh and I actually met out – I think, where did we meet Josh? In a ditch snow goose hunting years ago?
Josh Criswell: Yeah, I met Ramsey basically because of M.S. Ducks, Ducks South, I met Ramsey. I was on a snow goose hunt that we put together, on M.S. ducks or Duck South back in the day and I was in a ditch, and we met these other guys in the ditch. Turns out it was Ramsey Russell. So, history from there.
Ramsey Russell: And we’ve known each other ever since. We’ve had some good times since then.
Rocky Leflore: Was that the hunt that –
Ramsey Russell: David Myers.
Josh Criswell: That’s the hunt that is coordinated every year. Sure, is, at Adam Lorelei’s lodge up in Woldenberg. He coordinated it every year and I think it was the second year that I went up there, the second year of the Duck South Goose Hunt that I met Ramsey.
Rocky Leflore: Man, I could just remember those pictures popping up on the old M.S. Ducks days and that was back in the days when it took a while to even upload a picture, but some of those pictures that you guys would send back to the old M.S. Ducks forums – I mean golly, 400, you all would spell out 400 in geese.
Ramsey Russell: It would be more than that sometimes.
Josh Criswell: Yeah, the year that I met Ramsey, we killed 1205 snow geese in 2.5 days of hunting.
Rocky Leflore: Holy crap.
Josh Criswell: Yeah, it was us. Nobody had done it back then though. Nobody, was really after snow geese head. It was actually pretty easy to do and there was nobody in that area doing it really at the time besides the M.S. Ducks guys and the L’Anguille Lounge guys. Ramsey was part of the L’Anguille Lounge, and that’s how we met, and of course, I knew L’Anguille Lounge through the M.S. Ducks. That’s how I knew it. I’d always see that board posted up with pictures like you’re talking about. I’m like, man, I got to get up there and find out what’s going on. That’s kind of how it all took place.
A Special Hunting Spot for Ramsey
It’s a really special place for me where I learned to duck hunt, and those guys, they went out of their way to teach a kid that knew absolutely nothing how to kill ducks, how to kill a few ducks, how to call ducks.
Rocky Leflore: You know, looking back on those old days – I was thinking about this the other day and Ramsey kind of sparked this interest in my mind because, I guess it was what, last Friday we were talking to Ramsey, and we were just talking about places. You’ve gone back to a place that you’d hunted it or no, no, no, no, no, no, you went back to a place where Forrest killed his first duck the other day.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah.
Rocky Leflore: And I said, man, this would be a great podcast topic because all of us as hunters, we’re connected to a certain spot. If somebody were to walk up and say, hey Josh, what hunt or what spot pops in your head is the most memorable hunt? You are connected to that spot. I don’t what that spot is, but what is yours Josh?
Josh Criswell: Man, that’s a good question. I’ve got a bunch of good spots, or a bunch of spots that I really like. If I had to pick one, basically where I learned how to hunt ducks, I had to hunt ducks in the woods just here in Mississippi. I grew up, I wasn’t a duck hunter. Always wanted to go duck hunting and when I got my driver’s license. That’s when I started duck hunting. It was when I could drive by myself. Found this little spot, it’s in the woods. Green timber. I duck hunted probably two years before I found this spot. I’ve never killed a limit of mallards. I didn’t know you could kill birds in the trees until a guy told me about it. So, it’s me and another buddy of mine, and neither one of us knew anything, and we went to this spot. We hunted it for a couple of days and really wasn’t doing any good. We had no idea what we was doing. One day we was hunting in the woods there. These guys come walking past us, me and my buddy. Here come two guys walking towards us. Turns out, we’ve got the spot they wanted. I was trying to be respectful. These were older gentlemen and I said, you all can hunt with us, or we’ll move on. I apologized and they said, no, no, we’re going to keep pushing forward a little bit. Well, they went on around the logging road, they set up. The way the logging road winds around, they set up a whole lot closer to us than what they thought. Man, it was a great morning. It’s perfect timber morning. Blue bird day and I’ll never forget as long as I live. Those guys started working birds when daylight broke and when the birds would swing, they would swing right over us. I mean, it had been just super easy to shoot their swinging ducks and kill a limit way before they did because every time the birds banked on the final pass, they came right over us. Man, we didn’t shoot. We were respectful, we didn’t shoot their swings and they limited out probably. It may have took them 15 or 20 minutes. Well, as they were walking out, they had to walk right back through us and they stopped. I guess they felt sorry for me, they probably heard my calling because we hadn’t fired a shot. I’m 16 years old, I didn’t know anything. The guy’s name was Gilbert from Fairhope, Alabama, and Dwayne from Proctor, Arkansas. They had met each other through hunting in Arkansas, and they got to know each other, and they found this little place down here and they kind of liked it. But anyway, they set up, and they told us, they said, look man, we’re done. These birds, they’re walking in here, would you like us to set up and call these birds in for you? I said absolutely. So those two guys, they set up in those woods there and they called in ducks, and I watched ducks come down through the trees like I’d never seen before in person. We shot our limit of ducks, and man from that point forward, I hunted with those guys for like the next three consecutive years. I mean we made a friendship. They took me to Arkansas for the first time. But we made our home in those woods for the next several years hunting together and life happens. So, they went their separate ways and Gilbert couldn’t get up here anymore due to health issues and Dwayne the same way. So, I kind of took off and just started hunting by myself after that. Still hunt that place every year. I’ll make it a point to go down and I hunt that specific hole every year, no matter what. It’s a really special place for me where I learned to duck hunt, and those guys, they went out of their way to teach a kid that knew absolutely nothing how to kill ducks, how to kill a few ducks, how to call ducks. That’s a really special place for me.
Rocky’s Most Significant Hunting Spot
That’s where love was born, that’s where business was born.
Rocky Leflore: You know, I don’t know if I could pick one spot that’s more special to me either. A spot that I killed my first deer, the first duck hunt I went on, or the place where we always dove hunted as kids. All three of those are very, very special to me. I guess I would have to say that the first spot I ever went duck hunting. I actually wrote and framed a big piece for my uncle this past winter about my first duck hunt because he actually bought the land now and owns the land where I went on my first duck hunt. You’ll know the story if you’ve listened to the End of The Line podcast. My cousin had been begging me to go – I’m going to make this as quick as possible. My cousin had been begging me to go duck hunting with him. Finally agreed, well there was a lady that lived on a trailer house right in front of some cypress timber. Man, we were sitting there looking at ducks through binoculars. She walked out in her white bathrobe, slippers, white hair up in rollers, with a Virginia Slim hanging out of her mouth – I’ve always said, if there was a Olympic competition for somebody to hold the ash on the cigarette, she was a gold medalist. It was absolutely unbelievable. But anyway, she walked outside, and we were blasting those ducks, and she said, “You all kill one of my pet ducks and I will kill you.” Well anyway we got out there the next morning, got set up, it was cold. Oh my God it was cold. Anyway, he slapped me across the face with the limb going in and I’ll never forget that moment. I was just in pain. It starts breaking day, shooting time, first duck comes in, and I shoot it. Lands down the bank from me. I go down to it, pick it up and I said, “Oh shit.” I killed one of this woman’s pet ducks. So, you know how right on the edge of the water how the dirt will look frosty, it has that frosty little speckled look?
Ramsey Russell: Yes.
Rocky Leflore: So, I dug through that mud and I buried that duck and I walked back down to my cousin. My cousin said, “Hey man, what you get?” I said, “Oh man, don’t tell anybody, but I killed one of that woman’s pet ducks.” He says, “How do you know that?” I said, “Well when I picked him up, he had this big silver band around its leg. So, I dug a hole and buried it.” The first duck that I ever shot was a banded mallard head. I actually got to go back to that spot because we stayed at my uncle’s cabin. He has a cabin right next to it now. Man, I just sat there. It’s off in the bottom from the top of a gravel road, and I just sat on top of that gravel road this past winter, and I just looked at that spot and I tried to relive that whole story. I sat there for probably 30 minutes just looking at that spot. That’s where love was born, that’s where business was born. In that spot around six cypress trees on Horseshoe Lake in Holmes County, Mississippi right there. That spot to me has the most significance. It changed my life forever. That spot. I didn’t mean to take up that much time. Go ahead Ramsey.
Ramsey Russell: That’s a good story, Rocky. I enjoyed that. Did you ever go back and get that band?
Rocky Leflore: My cousin did. He actually still has that band.
Ramsey Russell: And he won’t give it to you?
Rocky Leflore: No, he will. I just never ever asked him for it. Bands have never meant huge significance to me and I don’t say this in an arrogant way, but over guiding for 20 years, man, I saw so many and I killed so many. I think I’ve killed 37 in my life, but I’ve seen, I don’t know how many in my lifetime. I know one hole man, in belts of the Mississippi. You talk about places? In two years, we killed almost 13 bands in one hole and that right there proved the theory of these family bands of ducks coming to the same spots every year.
Josh Criswell: No doubt, no doubt. I know several places like that.
Ramsey Russell: I’ve given away plenty over the years. I can still remember my granddaddy when I was growing up looking the same while he was cleaning ducks asking what those metal things on the legs were and him saying, government tags and just never called them in and never appreciated them, never cut them off the leg. Just threw them out with the guts. It didn’t mean nothing to him. I’m always proud to get them, but I’ve given away plenty over the years to clients who really value those things a lot more than I do. But when we think about the connection to the lands and places, special places, boy, I’ll tell you, I was thinking the whole time you all were talking. There’s a lot of special places, but it wasn’t just a place that was a time L’Anguille Lounge. I was in that camp for a long time and it was that time as much as it was the place. It was the little white house and the people that were in it, the pit blind we had, and the dog I had, and the friendships I made, and then eventually got tired of making that long drive. I settled back into Willow Break down in South Delta, Mississippi which is nothing like it was back in the day, but we shoot our fair share of ducks. Can’t complain there, plus, we got deer and all that good stuff. I remember back in ‘84 what my mother said, you need to go see your granddaddy, he’s not doing well, and she basically said you need to skip school tomorrow and drive on up there. So, me and my brother got in the truck, we went up there to see him in Greenville. He had moved his bed out to his den, I guess, so he could watch TV. He wasn’t doing well at all. He was in pain and didn’t want to talk, and man, I was trying so hard to make conversation to get him to tell stories he told all my life. He just couldn’t. But I remember somewhere along in the conversation him saying Dixie farm bottles. Dixie farm best duck hunting I ever had. Dixie farm bottles. Man, it didn’t mean nothing to me at the time, and much later in life, nearly 20 years ago now, I got into a camp down at South Delta Willow Break. About 5 years later we got into boundary disputes and I was at the lawyer’s office looking at small blue line property maps across all that property that’s now Willow Break. It was the initial BBB. Bernie Bill Berman, big notorious river and land trader in the Delta back in the day that was also one of my grandfather’s clients. They parted ways sooner or later but I was good friends with Mr Berman’s son. He’s one of my best friends growing up there in Greenville and I realized when I saw that map that my grandfather had shot his last duck on what used to be a soybean and milo farm. Just real, real poor heavy clay soil, real wet, which is why a million farmers tried to farm and were always broke because they couldn’t farm at that land at all. They put back into WRP Hardwood trees. Now we’re sitting on a 20 year plantation. But I guess that property really holds a lot to me. It’s where I want to be when I’m not traveling. It’s where a lot of my long-time friends are. My buddy Ian and I’ve been friends now for nearly 30 years. Forrest killed his first duck there. My kids killed their first duck there. Forrest was 2.5 years old when he joined that camp. Now he’s 20. Knows every square foot, knows every tree by name and Duncan was one. He knows the property as well as anybody in the world. He actually got real emotional when he found out we were going to cut some old doddy timber back on the river because, that’s where he squirrel hunts. That was kind of his connection. I would say that place is kind of near and dear to my heart. Even in the bad years when the South Delta don’t get ducks, I still feel a pull to it or a real connection to that because of the history. I remember seeing one year, walked into a deer stand and saw a bear print. First bear paw print I had ever seen in Mississippi. That’s the only one I recall. Reminded me back of my old granddaddy days, I’m talking about, they see a bear print and invite everybody to come down and look at it.
Rocky Leflore: Oh, it was just like that.
Ramsey Russell: Stuff like that. And I saw a bear print. I’m thinking, man, they reinforced so much of this old delta. These bears are making a comeback. It’s going to be a whole different world one day in 20 or 30 years from now and I’ll tell you, as crazy as it is. I’ve said this a million times, but there’s a spot down in Argentina that I found about 8 years ago. It was smack in the middle of nowhere. I mean it is a 10 hour drive out of Buenos Aires but you show up and there’s a 130 square mile basin. This wetland – and I say it every time I’ve been there, including this year which was a drought – but I said, I want my ashes scattered in this marsh when I die. Of all the places I’ve been around the world, six continents, and everywhere I’ve looked, it was the wildest, most remote and pristine duck hunting I had ever found, and I just remember sitting there that first morning thinking, I shot a bunch of ducks. I mean more duck than I had ever dreamed of shooting, really. It was still just ducks flying everywhere and I remember thinking, all these footprints I’ve left on earth walking through these wetlands trying to find a special place and I finally found it right here and I say that a million times, so many times almost sounds corny to hear me say it now. But I really do kind of want some or all of my ashes scattered in that marsh. Those two properties right there. Just one of all the places I’ve been in the world. They just mean a whole lot to me, but not just me but to my kids and hopefully my grandkids one day. We’ll have a lot to do with – especially Willow Break – but probably also Argentina. Both the boys have been there and they love it.
What Makes for a Truly Memorable Duck Hunting Spot
But at the end of the day, it’s always about the place, and the people, and the time, and the food, and the dogs, and the memories. So much more than just ducks.
Rocky Leflore: Let me say this. Looking back over my 20 years of guiding in Mississippi. As a guide, you’re going to go through lots of spots. Some that are special to yourself, some not. But man, you get real emotional as a man. It’s something that hits you when you lose one of those spots that you have a connection with, golly. But you know that you can never go back to it again.
Ramsey Russell: Way back when we started this podcast, Josh Webb was telling a story about his granddaddy, and about a tree. It reminded me back when I was with the federal government the year Katrina hit 13 years ago, I had just hit on my last year in government. Bush put a whole lot of money out on the streets down for timber recovery. Millions of acres got lost and damaged in the state of Mississippi and I was somewhere down in central Mississippi. Folks of Piney Woods – but the man I went to visit had a hardwood bottom out behind his house. Of course, when all that timber got knocked down, the timber buyers come in from around the South trying to buy salvaged timber while it’s still good, paying pennies on the dollar. Then I went down there and met this landowner and he was a rat. Boy, I’ll tell you what, his timber was just a record throwing a lot of hard wood. He was telling me what the timber buyers had offered to give him, which for me honestly sounded pretty damn good to me for salvaged timber, plus, we were going to give him some. The offset, it’s called the laws of reforestation, and all that good stuff, and I just explained that to him. He said, well let me tell you something. He got real heated, real emotional, real quick. He pointed at the bottom towards the beech tree that was toppled over. Big old beech tree. If you know anything about beech trees, oaks kind of come in mid succession of forest time, and beech’s come in real late. This is was a big one. There was a real old timber stand by 20-30 acres down there below his house, and he pointed down at that beech tree and he said, you see that beech tree? I sat in my daddy’s lap and shot my first squirrel. I said, yes sir. He said, and my son sat in my lap and shot his first squirrel, and this year my grandson sat in my lap, shot his first squirrel. As he started talking about his grandson shooting his first squirrel in his lap, I could hear his voice cracking and I looked up and he had tears just streaming down his cheeks. He said, ain’t no amount of money in the world going to ever buy that back. None. It was that moment that I realized that a forester working for the government, throwing money out and doing all this kind of good stuff. If you look at the commodity value of timber, and land, and wildlife, it’s up. But you know, too many times, you overlook real emotional connections that we have to a spot and to a place. It expands generations, not just ourselves. But it’s a real, real profound connection, and once it’s gone there ain’t no getting it back. I’ll never forget that conversation and the look on that man’s face. It is him explaining the loss of that one beech tree sitting down below his house and I wondered about that a long time, and I think about it a lot. You all say every guest you’ve ever had on here, all these threads on Duck South, and anybody you talked to, and everywhere you go, ain’t nobody going out to hunt and watch the sunrise. We’re going out to shoot ducks. But at the end of the day, it’s always about the place, and the people, and the time, and the food, and the dogs, and the memories. So much more than just ducks.
Rocky Leflore: Josh, you’ve been kind of quiet.
Josh Criswell: Yeah, I’m kind of soaking it all in. Those are two Great stories. I mean, what more can you say? There’s yours and Ramsey’s. Both were excellent.
Rocky Leflore: Well, I think that Ramsey brought up a good point before we started recording. Always whatever you see, somebody may be losing some of the places they’re going to hunt. It is about me that is the best way to put it.
Josh Criswell: That is exactly right.
The Politics & Economics of Hunting
We are hunters. We’re all in this life raft together and it’s going to take all of us rowing to the other side to get there.
Ramsey Russell: Rocky. I’ll go there again and I’ll say it. I’ve been keeping up with the proposals from Arkansas Game and Fish Commission with all the millions of words, types and the people weighing in on it and everything, on us. I read every bit of it. It’s a very profound moment in time and history to me. You know what’s going on because we’ve said it a million times. You and I have talked about it. Josh and I have talked about it. Myself and lots and lots of people have talked about this very subject. They ain’t making no more land. The agricultural profile is changing in the Mississippi alluvial valley, to where a lot of these farmers now, instead of putting water on their fields in the wintertime, are leaving them dry so they can get them crops in early and make a whole lot more money. Mr. Pat Pit was talking about that not too long ago. You can’t blame a farm for making money. You can make a lot more money growing crops, feeding the world than he is listening to a duck hunter. So, we’re losing land and agriculture. There’s less and less land available. Leases are getting sky high. Less and less people can afford it and let’s face it, the best timber hunting period on God’s Earth just about anywhere is on public land in Arkansas. That’s been a very very heated emotional topic. But you know the one word that jumps out of me every time one thread starts. There’s one single word that sticks out on everybody’s post and that’s the word: me or mine or I. It ain’t us. It’s me. Me, me, me, me, me, me, me. This is my place and I get that emotional connection to a tree with a duck hole to a property. I get that, I really do and I think everybody gets it. But it bears in mind to me it’s a real struggle that all of us hunters are facing. At some point in time, it’s all about political relevancy. Political relevancy is all about money. I hear the argument saying, well RC Cola and Moon Pie don’t account for money in the state of Arkansas. Okay, fine, I’ll give you that. But it does. When you look at the total sum of hunting in the United States of America, it’s $35 billion. That sounds like a lot of money if you realize the New York city public school district budget per year is almost that much. Okay? It’s really not much money to a politician and I’ve been to Netherlands where the anti-hunters have taken over, and I’ve been to Australia where the anti-hunters have taken over, and they’ve taken over politically because their side represents a lot more of those relative economies than does hunting, which is negligent now. And the politicians have completely and utterly lost interest in hunting, and if you don’t think it can happen here in America, I point only to the controversy going on in Arkansas right now, all them battles. You know Rocky, I bet I blocked – and I hate to say this on myself – but I’ll be reading threads or come across something on Facebook and I’ll just block people because I just don’t want that negativity in my life. On them Arkansas threads, I bet I blocked two dozen folks. But before I blocked them, I’d look at them. I’d go look at their profiles. Here they are, threatening to kick somebody’s ass. They’re going to whoop somebody at a boat ramp over land they don’t own. And I go look at them and I’m like who would do that? My mama didn’t raise me that way. I’d go look at them and there they are smiling with their pretty little wife, and their two little boys, and they’re sitting in front of Easter baskets or something, Victorville church. That’s like, man, he looks like a nice guy. Blah. I don’t want that negativity in my life. Yeah, but it is emotional and I get that. But what we’re looking at here if we need more land to hunt, not less hunters, is we don’t need to lose our political relevancy. We need more hunters and more hunters. We need 10 times more hunters. We need as many hunters as we had in the 70’s. But we need places for people to hunt, and we need to get along with our fellow hunters on these properties we do get to hunt as a guest. Look at look at what Fish and Wildlife service does with a lot of their sanctuary lands. They are only obligated by law to allow the public to use 40% of the properties they own, and they do it. They don’t turn you loose on the other 60% because why fool with it? It’s too much time and trouble, and if us hunters are sitting in here fighting and carrying on, why don’t you shut the whole thing down? You know that that’s the scary part to me. It is when I see somebody so centered on himself, me. What about your kids and grandkids? Because over here in the state of Mississippi, they have went on the public land crawling.
Rocky Leflore: That is exactly right because, usually when you’re thinking of me, you’re thinking of present. When you’re thinking of me, you’re thinking of the present and the past because there’s no way that you’re picturing the future when you’re only thinking of me. You’re not thinking of your grandkids or your kids having the ability to hunt that.
Josh Criswell: That’s exactly right. Like Ramsey said though, it is an emotional topic and everybody gets emotionally first. I’m guilty of it. I said some things in emotion that I know darn well I shouldn’t have. My mama would be ashamed of me for saying it. But you’re emotional at first and you are thinking about me but then, when you sit down and look at the big picture, you realize, hey, it’s a fact of life now that my two little boys will never know Arkansas duck hunting the way I knew it. That’s gone. Your granddaddy used to tell you stories about this when you’re sitting on the porch with him and you didn’t believe him when he was hunting in danger. They ain’t making any more land. Golly, how right was he? I mean my kids, Spencer’s kids, they’re never going to know the calling that we do when we see a big rain north of there and we know how much water it takes to get the river out. Hey, the river’s going to be out at this point for next week. Take off work, call in sick or whatever you got to do. You know when the river gets to this point, you’ve got to be there, and now with these new proposals, you’re not going to be allowed to do that. My kids aren’t going to be allowed to do that. You’re at the mercy of the government telling you when you can hunt. Golly, yeah, I just know what it felt like, how much fun I had hunting in the woods of Arkansas and to think about I’ll never know it. There’s the mean factor, and my kids will never know it, and Spencer is a little boy and Spencer grew up on that river with his dad. He’s a little boy. He is likely not going to get that opportunity now to do the same. So, it’s affecting more than just – it’s scary.
Ramsey Russell: It’s very very very scary time, the way I look at it, we’re all in this life raft together. This is not Mississippi versus Arkansas, or the South versus the North. None of that matters. We are hunters. We’re all in this life raft together and it’s going to take all of us rowing to the other side to get there. You know what I’m saying? What you need is, you don’t need a handful of folks in Arkansas Game and Fish or in the Mississippi Game and Fish, or anybody else. You need the whole world right now and let them know how important this is to everybody. You know what I’m saying? The waterfowl belonged to the federal government. Because the ducks belong to everybody. Now I’m standing in a piece of property sitting in the state, it’s a state property, so I’m not going there. I’m not going anywhere on them hot topics that have been discussed. What I’m saying is, the ability for future generations to hunt is imperilled and here we are at everybody’s throats. Now what I will say is Josh, you’re talking about, hunting as my kids know it. Whereas I know it is over for my kids too in Arkansas, but it’s also over in Mississippi. Forrest got his driver’s license and he started going and applying to hunt some of these public properties. There are some good public properties by draw in the state of Mississippi. He got drawn one time or twice, you know the first time he drew. He ain’t been drawn in four years since. Now let’s do the math on that if you’re a regular guy that hunts public land. You have no inclination or no money to buy property or to lease property. You are just like the rest of us out here hunting a lot of public land. I grew up hunting public land. Man, I became a better hunter learning to compete and hunt on public land. Man, that’s a source of pride for me that I got the opportunity to hunt some great public land in the state of Mississippi. You know what I’m saying? But my kids can’t do it. If they’re at the mercy of drawing most of these properties, what if they don’t get drawn once or twice. How much political relevance and interest are their kids, and my kids, everybody going to have if you don’t get to go duck hunting for two or three times a year? Why not take up bowling and golf? If you can’t go do something that you love to do but twice a year, why not? That’s what’s in danger right now, that’s what bothers me about what’s going on.
Josh Criswell: You were talking about a bunch of folks writing letters and this and that, and everybody sticking together and doing what we needed to do to make sure that we’ve got it forever, to make sure our kids have it forever, to make sure their kids have it forever. This is probably – Rocky, you may have to delete this because it’s probably going to be controversial. But what if we were as passionate about that as Colin Kaepernick was about the flag?
Ramsey Russell: Well, that brings up a good point.
Josh Criswell: That’s passion. I mean, love it or hate it, agree or disagree with it. He’s got passion for it and is he right? I don’t know. I’m not here to judge him.
Ramsey Russell: Well, I’ll say this about Kaepernick. I don’t approve of what he does but I’ll say this about him.
Josh Criswell: No, no.
Ramsey Russell: He put his beliefs before himself because he lost. I mean, the ground he had won as one of the best quarterbacks on God’s earth, but he lost everything he had in that respect.
Josh Criswell: No, he wasn’t, and you know the thing about him sacrificing everything. He didn’t sacrifice everything. The men that died to give him the right to do that, sacrificed everything.
Ramsey Russell: I agree with that.
Josh Criswell: But he sacrificed A $17 million- or $19 million-dollar contract to stand up for his beliefs.
Ramsey Russell: He sure did.
Josh Criswell: That’s sacrifice and that’s not the same sacrifice -like I said, I don’t want anybody to get confused and saying I’m on Kaepernick’s side by any means. I’m not, but he gave up something for something he believed in.
The Future of Duck Hunting is in Jeopardy – What Can We Do?
What’s the best thing for hunting? It’s not to separate us.
Ramsey Russell: That’s a good way of putting it. He sure did. I really don’t have a dog in the Arkansas fight over there, I don’t. I go once in 10 blue moons with some old friends. I did start over there, when I got back into duck hunting good. I went with a Fraternity brother and we went to some public land and the limit was two mallards. We used to go in there and hunt, and it was just the time and the place, it was wonderful. I loved it, but at the same time – remember those old guys I hunted with, Josh? I told Rocky this story last week. Man, them ducks started piling through the woods and got about eyeball level. We was all sitting in John’s booth and I cut loose. Boy, did I get scolded, God, and they explained to me real quick. They said that’s why they hunted. They said Ramsey, anybody can shoot a duck, they’re right here in the hole, anybody can shoot them but that ain’t the game for us. We want to land them. We want to own them completely and then we’ll call the shot. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. There’s always a kid or a young lady or somebody that they would let them have first shot on the water or something, and when the ducks got up, we’d see a green head, boom, boom. By the time we were done in just a couple of shots, but to them, the whole art of it was landing those ducks and it was a beautiful, beautiful sight back in those days. There were plenty of people back in those woods too. If we got to a hole at 5:00 AM and had good luck with it, the next morning, we were there at 3:00 AM, and if we did it good again next morning, I remember sleeping half a night in the boat. Mr. Boyd would get us up and get us out there so early to be sure we had the spot. So, I get all that. But I don’t do that and so I don’t have skin in that fighting game. What I’m saying is, really and truly it’s a much, much bigger issue in where we hunt.
Rocky Leflore: I want to say one thing. United we stand, divided we fall. That is such a truth of life. But you know the thing about it is, as much as we say that one side has this connection or this emotional connection, I’m not going to be able to hunt there again, and we get emotional about it. You see from the other side stirring the pot. What’s good? Listen, if you move yourself out of the way and think about this as a whole like Ramsey and Josh are talking about, this is not about me or you. It’s about us standing together because I don’t know if you realize what’s going on, they’re chipping away. Each little chip. This one divides us. There’s going to be another one that comes up in the next year or two that’s going to chip and divide us again. The problem is, you got to move yourself and your wallets out of the way for the betterment of the whole. What’s the best thing for hunting? It’s not to separate us. Maybe there’s something that can be done that wouldn’t divide us and keep others away from over there. But you know when you’re stirring up controversy, that’s dividing. It’s dividing. Like Ramsey has always said, I’ve taken up with this ever since the first time he has told me: we’re already politically irrelevant. When you divide us up, dude, we turn into nothing.
Josh Criswell: That’s exactly right. And like I said earlier –
Ramsey Russell: We’ve got to reach ourselves from within.
Josh Criswell: It’s not just about Arkansas. There’s all kind of places that public lands are in jeopardy and there’s all kinds of groups that do things to make sure we have public land. I mean Texas, I think has some of the least public land of any state there is, I believe. I mean there’s hardly any public land in Texas and they just had a huge fundraiser. They’re putting money and they’re getting their voices heard on the public ground issues that are going on in Texas, but they’re making a movement, a united movement about it. They’re not divided amongst each other. But they’re all working to get to the same point.
Ramsey Russell: We’re going to have to work together better. The truth of the matter is, I hate to say it because, I ain’t got it but truth matter is, we will all have to dig in our pockets a little bit deeper, I think. Collectively. We’re going to have to be real careful. We need more land, we need more opportunity. They ain’t making no more land. We’re losing land. Not the other way around.
Josh Criswell: We’re losing land and we’re losing hunters.
Ramsey Russell: Man, have you ever thought about this: how much it costs? Like, let’s talk about political relevance. I’m hunting in a certain property or something, you can say it’s a public land or whatever. How much money have you really got into the game as a duck hunter? Let me say it this way. I’m trying to put us on the same page here. Not the other way around, but what I’m saying is this, how many shells does an average guy shoot on a weekend who goes duck hunting? Four or five boxes would just last pretty fair for guys that go duck hunting, shooting a box and a half, two boxes a day. So, $100, that’s pretty fair. $100 a weekend, $50 a weekend. It costs $25 to buy a Federal Duck Stamp. That’s the budget. $25 per person is the budget for land acquisition for the federal government. $25 per duck hunter is what we’re throwing in this thing here. Now we go buy an estate license, and we go buy a little bit of this and that. But I mean really in truth, we shoot more shells on a great day than we can buy a Federal Duck Stamp to go buy property with. $100 wouldn’t kill nobody. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a funds somewhere that existed for buying more land in Arkansas? Like you look at all the millions upon millions of acres in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana in the Delta parts of those states that have been reinforced, and that are now 20 and 30-year-old plantations that are going to be vibrant hardwood communities or forest land in another in another 10, 15, 20 years. Wouldn’t it be nice to have those in wait for our kids? Wouldn’t it be really nice that they have somewhere to go. That’s what I’m thinking. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could put just a little more skin in the game and start thinking more towards our kids? I always wondered, when I started going to Netherlands where the hunters are a very, very small minority. That’s a whole another episode I’m talking about antihunters and some of the legislation that I’ve had to deal with from over there, that along with Australia. But you know, I raised my kids as hunters, so did Josh. I saw these pictures on Facebook of taking these little boys out dove hunting like I take mine. But we all grew up, everybody listening, grew up that way and we raised our kids to follow their mom and daddy’s footsteps, but what would happen if after 15, 20, 30 years all of a sudden there wasn’t hunting for them anymore? What would they do? You raised your kid as a hunter. What’s he going to do when he can’t hunt? That’s just scary to me, man. It’s not guaranteed.
Rocky Leflore: It’s definitely not.
Josh Criswell: It’s scares me.
Ramsey Russell: It scares me like, I saw some program on Facebook not too long ago. Delta Waterfowl, a real nice initiative of this chapter. I think that Arkansas, Louisiana won. They got all these kids together and they took them out hunting. Their mission was to introduce these children to hunting. They took them out to a nice place to hunt, and they got to shoot ducks, and experience it all. And my question was this, where are those kids going to hunt now? You made them a hunter. Now where are they going to hunt? I said, no, no, no, no, not on this event you all going on, but where they going to hunt for the rest of their lives? If they don’t got money to buy hunts from guys that deal, they don’t got money to buy land, or don’t got money to go lease, where are they going to hunt? We need more of it and it’s going to take a collective nationwide effort of hunters to do it, most immediately Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana. That’s my standing ground. It would be nice if we could all get together and open up some access and ensure the future of hunting for ourselves but also for our kids and grandkids. That’s the battleground right there. Not on who gets to hunt, and when they get to hunt in the state of Arkansas, but where our kids and our grandkids are going to hunt in 5 years and 20 years down the road.
Rocky Leflore: Yep, I agree.
Josh Criswell: You’re exactly right.
Rocky Leflore: And look, I’ll tell you this. Coming out this week with the Ducks South First Half Ambassador applicants, they’re putting out videos and like the Miss America pageant, this is the last challenge for them. I challenged them to – how do we have a positive effect on duck hunting by getting more people involved? Outside of kids – you can’t use kids as your 30 second speech. You can’t say hey we’re just going to get more kids involved. I want to see how these people think. I think this is a great last question, how do we get more people involved? How do we get them in? But anyway, you guys take a look at those this week on the Duck South Facebook group. Josh, thank you for being here. Ramsey, I enjoyed it. It was a great episode. I think a lot of people will listen to it. We want to thank all of you that listened to this edition of The End of The Line podcast, powered by Duck South.com.