In this edition of The End Of The Line Podcast, Bradley Ramsey and I open it up. We talk about the “cult-like” people that follow him around social media. We talk about how those arguments go each time. Then, Ramsey Russell joins the show to talk about Mexico duck hunting and where the outfitters he works with across the US think the ducks may have been.
The Most Hated Man in Duck Hunting
If you can’t defend your premise with facts, and science, and data, and you degrade to just attacking a person, you’ve lost the argument to begin with.
Rocky Leflore: Welcome to The End of the Line podcast, I’m Rocky Leflore sitting in the Duck South Studios on this – is it Thursday Bradley?
Bradley Russell: I think, it’s Thursday in my world.
Rocky Leflore: I bet you kind of get lost on days when you’re that far away from home and it’s just a steady pace of oil and gas business.
Bradley Russell: Yeah. And working days and nights, and nights and days, and back and forth with it, I don’t keep up with time. There is no weekend in the oil field so it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter to me at all.
Rocky Leflore: I guess we could be like Rob Groom, it could be Monday.
Bradley Russell: Well, instead of being Valentine’s Day, it could be Saint Stephen’s Day.
Rocky Leflore: Oh boy, Valentine’s. Thanks for the reminder.
Bradley Russell: Yeah, go get your flowers, don’t make Roane mad.
Rocky Leflore: Is that not a – I can’t remember what movie or TV show it was on – it’s a holiday created by the greeting card or a candy business.
Bradley Russell: Well, to me I think it is. I mean, my wife and I have a semi-agreement on it. It’s not a holiday that we strictly – she ain’t mad if I don’t send flowers. I will always send her a Valentine’s note or just tell her I love her, which I do every day anyhow, but I just don’t buy into the marketing of it. The kids of course, in school have to have all their Valentine stuff but it don’t mean anything. It’s all about selling flowers and cards I think.
Rocky Leflore: Isn’t it amazing that roses go from about $2 a single rose to about $9 overnight in one week?
Bradley Russell: Yeah. And the chocolate sales and everything else, I mean the rose one just blows me away because I have a little bit of a green thumb and the factory farmed roses, they don’t have any smell to them, they just look like they’re plastic, they die in about a day. Nothing says love like something that’s going to wither in about 24 hours. I don’t get it.
Rocky Leflore: Well, look, coming up in just a minute Ramsey Russell is joining us all the way down in Mexico. We talk about Mexico, we talk about Ramsey, kind of summarizes the season for him, and a lot of his outfits across the nation. Pretty interesting podcasts. Hey Bradley, speaking of love, man you have got some – as much as these guys from the FFL obsessed and follow you around – you could commission a great Lifetime movie.
Bradley Russell: Yeah, I do have a little cult following for some reason, in certain circles I think I’m the most hated man of duck hunting.
Rocky Leflore: Man, I can’t think of the kid’s name – I say kid, he’s probably an adult, I don’t know. Once you get past about 40 years old, everybody becomes a kid, you are for sure. But anyway, it’s one guy man. It’s no matter where you post, except in Duck South because I kicked him out a few weeks ago because I was sick of it, but it seems like that guy follows you around and it is fun, it’s actually fun to watch.
Bradley Russell: I think, I know who you’re talking about and you know I’m not trying to be –
Rocky Leflore: I’m not saying the name on this podcast.
Bradley Russell: I think, I try to be – and I have not, I’m not saying I’m shooting 120 time but when these type of people come after me and can’t dispute the facts and the science that I put out there, and want to delve into personal attacks, I try to stay above all that. Because you’re not doing anything when you just delve into personal attacks. If you can’t defend your premise with facts, and science, and data, and you degrade to just attacking a person, you’ve lost the argument to begin with.
Rocky Leflore: All right, well, let me set it up for people, let me get this picture in your head. So, whenever these topics of discussion come up, leaning toward the FFL and their arguments blah-blah, Bradley always goes in. I don’t think you chase these posts around. You just see them in your feed, you shoot them down with facts. Well, the thing that I’ve noticed from the guys from FFL is they argue about two comments when it comes to the facts, and then they always make this move, it’s like their spin move of basketball every single time – you know they’re going to spin to the right. So as soon as you shoot them down with a couple of facts, they make that spin move to the right and they’re like, hey, where were you in 2004 with the Ducks Unlimited pilot flying over Southeastern Louisiana and Lake Charles? It’s always something like that. The editor of a magazine, yeah, what does that have to do with the fact that we’re discussing?
Bradley Russell: They keep trying to paint me as a paid stooge for conservation organizations and it just tickles me. The whole one about the flight with the biologists, I mean this guy came at me like, well where are your flight logs? I’m like, well, first of all I’m not a pilot. Second of all I wasn’t flying a survey, but here’s the photos. Oh you just pull those off the internet like, oh man, come on, whatever. My favorite was the other day when this guy tried to quote me, and pulled up articles from 2002 that had no byline on them. If you don’t know the writing world, something doesn’t have a byline, it could be written by multiple people, it’s just a general statement. But I read this stuff and I’m like, that doesn’t sound like me, that’s not how I write, and I’ve been writing for a long time. I know how I sound. I mean, I don’t really think I wrote that. Oh, are you sure? I said, well yeah, I’ll check with my former publisher. And sure enough, I didn’t start writing for these people until 2004. When I pointed that out to this guy, it was like, oh well you’re just covering, I mean since you didn’t have a byline on it, you wouldn’t sign your name to it, you could have been writing for them whenever you wanted to. Like, let’s just come on, man.
Rocky Leflore: Let me play this out in the background is how I see it. Okay? Whenever you dispute the cult with facts, it’s always – no matter – imagine this circle. You got the head of the cult is the circle and you’ve got all these little fingerlings coming off of it. So, let’s follow Bradley till the little finger lands or lines up the middle circle. It’s following Bradley around. Now, whenever you dispute anything with facts, they run back to the head circle and he says, it’s almost like a Democrat. Whenever you catch a Democrat in, they try to make you look somewhere else, instead of actually disputing or arguing or debating the fact. Let’s take your attention away from that and make up some outlandish stuff. It’s always looked like these people are just running back to the head of the cult, getting something to take your attention away and putting it up there.
Bradley Russell: Oh yeah, I’ve called him out on this. It’s funny to me that every time you want to –
Rocky Leflore: There’s time lapse in between there. You are having a serious debate and you have a fact, it’s boom, 4 minutes ago, 5 minutes ago, 6 minutes ago, you’re not taking 30 minutes or an hour in between commenting, it’s usually somebody feeding you information to put up there when it’s that long.
Bradley Russell: When it’s the same verbatim attack that’s been dispelled time and time again, they didn’t just come up with that on their own when it’s the exact same. Well, what did you do? I understand you do this, or you did this in the past for a living, or you worked for this company. I mean, they have even gone now to the fact that I worked as a researcher for production crops from Monsanto. They have tied me into the corn lobby so that I was researching duck corn for Monsanto. Monsanto could give two rat’s butts about a duck hunter.
Rocky Leflore: That’s the truth.
Bradley Russell: But yeah, I mean, it’s the same attacks if they come back at me, they don’t have any, but it’s like I said, I try to be polite, I try to just state facts, state science. If I don’t have the research, provide them with links, provide them with data and every time I do it turns right around into let’s discredit the source. I’m not a biologist, I’m not anybody in the duck hunting world. I’m just a guy who studied this his entire life and happens to know a lot of people who are biologists, and conservationists, and duck hunters, and I study this stuff because I’m a geek about it. But apparently I am public enemy number one among that group.
Rocky Leflore: Over and under. I’m going to get an over under from you. I’m going to give you an over under on this but I do want to pull us out talking about one main point that as crazy as it sounds, I agree with FFL on, okay? All right, over, under – one of my favorite shows on TV is Shark Tank. I love Shark Tank. Kevin O’Leary sits in the middle and whenever he hates a product, he orders or says – if product is not going to be competitive in market – he always says that the bigger companies are going to squash you like the bug you are. He just wants to use it. All right, so how long before FFL is squashed like the bug they are? One year?
Bradley Russell: I’ll say this, I can hear the exoskeleton cracking right now. It’s happening as we speak. There’s multiple pages now that have come up that are simply dedicated to dispelling their myths. That has nothing to do with Duck South, has nothing do with me, I haven’t started any of them, but people of reason and logic are stepping forward and speaking up. I don’t think that conspiracy will never go away because it has been happening my entire life as a duck hunter. But the volume of their speaker is going to go from 11 to about a 2 within the next year. Nobody’s going to listen to it anymore.
Rocky Leflore: There’s a lot of people with a lot of bad duck seasons out that are following. That thing is growing like crazy and that’s all you need to create a cult following like that is a bunch of weak-minded individuals that will believe anything.
Bradley Russell: But we went through this before Rocky, we went through it. We didn’t have social media at the time to this extent. These kind of claims and screams and moanings happened back in the early 2000’s, and science came up and spoke about it, and addressed the issue. Eventually people said, well, I guess we’re not going to get anywhere – the people that were just bandwagon-jumpers heard the science, heard the facts and walked away, and it took the steam out of the engine. The best thing to take the steam out of the engine is would be for us to have another banner duck season. And we’ve had them since the last time this argument came up, and people shut up and stopped complaining. What people don’t understand is duck hunters today – I’m one of them – we’re spoiled. 60 days season, six birds, we’ve had “the sky’s the limit” for a long time. It’s cyclical, if we’re going to have slow years, we’re going to have – we’ll see seasons get reduced. I’m not advocating for it, but we’ll see it happen. And when the birds come back and people have a good season, nobody listen to the criers and the moaners. So, I don’t think they’ve got a year left at them, honestly.
How do Agricultural Crops on WMAs and Refuges Affect Duck Hunting?
If they’re going to plant crops, I do not think you should be allowed to “bait it” by mowing that stuff down, shattering, and scattering it, whatever.
Rocky Leflore: One thing I had to close this out with that I may get burnt and be hated for saying this. One thing that I do agree with the FFL on is the volume, the amount of agriculture crops being planted on the WMA’s and refuges.
Bradley Russell: Well, I agree with that. That’s interesting you should bring that up – I posted a link the other night on the new website for the Southern Regional Office of the National Wildlife Service, and it goes into great detail explaining how much agriculture is used and why that is used.
Rocky Leflore: And it fell off. It’s fell way off. It’s going to – I saw that, I read something to the point of it’s 40,000, which it was 120,000 or 200,000 acres.
Bradley Russell: It was a 100,000 just in the Southern Regional Area. That’s Mississippi, Tennessee, Missouri, the southern end of the flyway. So it’s dropped. I’m kind of on the fence about this because duck energy is a thing. When you tell the Fish and Wildlife service, your job for this refuge is to provide x number of energy days for ducks, you’re working within a framework of how many acres do I have? What will produce that kind of energy? So, I can see some of that.
Rocky Leflore: Let me ask you before you dive off deeper: by the time ducks get here, they need protein. Moist-soil provides that. There may be a need, okay? Once you start providing duck food in the sense of corn, you kind of goes back to what Josh and I were saying, you’re kind of holding them up a little bit. Let those suckers move.
Bradley Russell: Yeah, but the same thing that – when you look at the total energetic needs of waterfowl, yes, at certain times of the year the principal need is protein but they’re also going to eat carbs. It’s like, ducks don’t go on a keto diet during certain parts of the migration, as weather changes their intake of carbs changes to fluctuate their body temperature with weather and things like that. I’m all for, where it’s feasible, having principally moist-soil vegetation on sanctuaries, I think it’s actually a great idea. But I can tell you from personal experience moist-soil doesn’t work on every piece of ground and you can’t make a farmer who you’re getting a lease conjunction with on a federal refuge that moist-soil has to be done on owned lands. So, I don’t agree with – and I’ve said this before – on the federal sanctuary. If they’re going to plant crops, I do not think you should be allowed to “bait it” by mowing that stuff down, shattering, and scattering it, whatever. I think if you’re providing an attractant to keep birds away from hunters, not just provide sanctuary, you’re working against the best interests of hunters who are the principal drivers of conservation. If you want to harvest it and then flood up the sanctuary, we’re all gone. If you want to leave a certain percentage of it standing and flooded up, it’s fine. But the practices that are happening on some, not all, but some refuges of, well, we’ve got this mandate to meet next X number of energy days, so we’re going to plant crops so that we can meet that rather than working intensively on moist-soil. It’s a cheap way to get to a number rather than work diligently towards the goal, in my opinion.
Rocky Leflore: I would agree. I mean, not 100%, but I agree with you.
Bradley Russell: Well, I’m not a biologist. This new website from the Southern Regional has taught me a lot about what their mandates are, and look, the government mandates can be ridiculous. You say, okay, well your job at Refuge X or Y is to produce – let’s just make a number up – 15,000 ducks’ energy days per year. Okay, so their job depends on them doing that. It’s easier sometimes to do that with crops and it would be with moist-soil, it may not be possible to do with moist-soil because of number of acres they have, but their bosses are still saying, this is your task that you have to do. And it’s an overarching picture of how many energy days they need an entire flyway but it doesn’t manage on a local level, and habitat is localized to a large extent during the migration. But the habitat also stretches from coast to Canada. So, we get away from managing the whole resource and down into managing the local area, your lines get blurred and it becomes a distribution issue.
Rocky Leflore: The thing that I know about the federal government is, it takes them forever to realize that they have a problem and I’m not saying they do have a problem. I’ll give a fine example of this – two fine examples of this – Morgan Break, that’s a refuge, that’s where I grew up. It took them 7 years to finally get somebody’s attention to say, hey, we’ve got a hog problem there. Within a couple of years, there’s going to be no deer left on this place, you ought to do something about it. No deer, no turkey, anything. Alligators are out of control where in places where – I remember my uncle being on the front page of the Clarion Ledger with an alligator in the mid-80s, now every ditch you ride through from about 4 counties South, there’s so many alligators.
Bradley Russell: Oh yeah. Well, that’s part of the problem is the regulation issue. It is a federal issue and when the people who are interested in the hunting and what’s called consumptive sports are also some of the people holding the reins, then you start dealing with, well we need to do an environmental impact study, we need a five year pilot program to do this, and we need to look at it. We need to form a committee. We need to do this, when the facts were right there, staring them in the face. I don’t think it’s an unwillingness, I think it is the overburdensome, slow cause of government wheels moving. If you look at the stuff on the Southern Regional office page they’re talking about, we need to look at what sanctuary really means. We need to look at the impact of disturbance on hunter satisfaction and on the birds, we need to look at the impact of agriculture. But how long it will take them to figure that study out and get the funding for it? Because nobody wants to pay the government to go study why does the duck fly over here? That’s extra funding. So, this is where good intentions can look like they are foot-dragging just because of the cumbersomeness of the Federal system. Unlike you, when I was a child, the first alligator I saw was a spectacle, and now they are everywhere. There’s absolutely no reason that there is an alligator release program from alligator farms in Louisiana, where if you raise alligators for commercial living, you have to release X number back to the wild. Why would you need to do that? There’s more alligators in Louisiana than there’s ever been. But it’s just government, slow to change.
Rocky Leflore: I’ll never forget one of my buddies calling the person that was in charge of Matthew’s Break one time. He said, hey that’s one, let’s say you get water houses out here in Matthew’s Break. Shit, yes, we have a lot of great species of plants in Matthew’s Break, you better do something about it, just compare your whole thing. And of course it took them a couple of years, it’s spreading like wildfire, and they finally cut it back.
Nurturing the Duck Numbers Despite Setbacks
It may not please us season to season, but as a whole, we still have a viable and huntable populations of waterfowl in this country.
Bradley Russell: Yeah, government is slow to change but overall I think we have to tip our hat to the US Fish and Wildlife service and conservation organizations for actually maintaining a resource that we nearly decimated by over hunting, by destruction of habitat, by industrialization, and by urbanization. The fact that we still have a humble population of waterfowl after the near devastation from the Dust Bowl, and over hunting, and the industrial issues, you guys, that’s a pretty good job. It may not please us season to season, but as a whole, we still have a viable and huntable populations of waterfowl in this country. And that didn’t happen just because we duck hunters wanted it. It happened because science and government actually stepped in. I’m not all about government control, but these things had a role in helping us sustain this population.
Rocky Leflore: Listen, I got something interesting, we can take this into, a little bit further. In other times where we’ve been in this low cyclical pattern of waterfowling, there were a lot of things for ducks to come back to. I want to jump into some habitat stuff next time we’re on here together talking about – if we are really going through the bottom or heading toward the bottom of a cycle, what are ducks going to come back to when we start going back up?
Bradley Russell: Right.
Rocky Leflore: What is it about that?
Bradley Russell: We can catch up on that next time. It’s definitely worth talking about because it is the whole picture, versus what’s in front of my blind. What does this year look like versus what it is going to look like 10 years from now?
Rocky Leflore: Yeah, we’ll jump back into it. We’ll be back together the first of next week. So, we’ll get into it. Bradley, we need to get to that interview with Ramsey now, thank you again for being here but we need to get to Ramsey in Mexico now.
The Best Mexico Waterfowl Guided Hunts
…our new ad campaign we’re working on is duck hunting on the front side of the border, duck hunting on the front side of the wall down here, because we have so much fun.
All right guys, like I told you on the front end the podcast, Ramsey Russell’s back with us, old Double R too himself. Ramzilla, stop killing all the freaking ducks in Mexico. These people are now going to string you up.
Ramsey Russell: I can’t do it man. I cannot believe how terrible the season was back home, and was real worried about Mexico, and even in December, they didn’t have bunch of ducks in December. One of our outfitters does a lot of Mexican business in December, he cancels hunts, and then somehow the front that hit in January blew a bunch of ducks down, it’s good. Boy, I’ll tell you what, the last couple of weeks has been fun. That’s the best way to say it. I ain’t lying to you Rocky, I was in Mazatlan the last week with 8 couples, and I was just glad to be there, glad to get away from Mississippi season and just put that season behind me. I mean just bury it in a hole and forget about it. And it was unbelievable. Just imagine this, you go to Mexico 50º, 60º, 70º on the warm afternoon. I’m sitting in Obregon right now, it’s 81º degrees. But you show up to the beautiful resort hotel, you got to be lightning flash to open the door for yourself. They open the door, they do everything, they ask you up to your room. It’s beautiful balcony overlooking the ocean. You hear bands down there by the pool in happy hours, and go out there and just kind of recreate, and have a good time, and meet everybody. Next morning, 5 o’clock go downstairs and get a cup of coffee, and sweet rolls, and they pick us up at 5:30. We drive, 45 minutes we arrive to just a little old pond on some little, like old shrimp ponds, kind of brushy, kind of like old catfish ponds with some willow tree and stuff growing up in them. Water is shallow, clouds of duck, clouds of ducks flying. It’s 7 o’clock in the morning, you could shoot for 30 minutes, that’s okay. We’re in tennis shoes and waders, wearing shorts and dark shirts, and we go out and break off into teams of 2. Hour and half later, maximum, we’re all sitting back at the truck drinking cold beers. They made a little fire, and ducks, and beans, and beef burritos, and some roasted Serrano peppers. We all had a little snack, took green wing, and cinnamon teal, some shovelers of course. Few pintails, few wigeons, few gadwalls, lot of teal. We’re back at the resort hotel at 11:30, 12:00. And it’s real hard Rocky, it’s real, real hard being from Mississippi, traveling around, having clients from all these big cities, and looking at the 6 o’clock news every night, it’s real hard for me to be just a professional when I get this to answer. I get this question all the time, how safe is Mexico? I’ve been reading the State Department report, and I saw some paper two weeks ago in the States. I’m on the phone with the lady from Chicago, scared to death to go to Mazatlán, or I live in Brandon, Mississippi, I don’t go to downtown Jackson after dark. I bought it like the plague at all times around the clock. Well you go to Mazatlán and its safe and it’s clean and Rocky, it’s fun. Our new ad campaign this year – heel of this trip – our new ad campaign we’re working on is duck hunting on the front side of the border, duck hunting on the front side of the wall down here, because we have so much fun. The largest shrimp fleets in Mexico go the Mazatlán, and seafood is cheap, cheaper than eating crawfish in Mississippi right now. It’s cheap, good seafood is cheap. Margaritas are cheating. Tequila is cheap. We have some Texans down there that – I ain’t never going turkey hunt with them – man these boys cover some ground. Both of them are in their 30s, and man, they were walking 6, 7 miles a day. Walking through the town, and meeting locals, and going a little taco joints, and going to the lighthouse, and they saw everything there is to see in Mazatlán in the Golden Zone. They would come in and instead of hanging out by the pool relaxing, they put on their tennis shoes, grabbed up their wives, and they go exploring. Ms. Anita was down there with me and we went to a little taco stand, and our host asked us, dry beef or pork? I said, well I want pork. We got this little Spanish taco restaurant, nothing but all kinds of little tacos, and I had the ribs, and had pork shoulder. I said, okay now do you understand why I don’t care to eat Mexican food back home? Because they ain’t real Mexican food. And so we just had this glorious time. I mean, the last thing you think about is you shot you 20 ducks in the morning, make it split 45 minutes or an hour. The last thing you think about is fishing, and offshore and inshore, and all the many things you can do, or do absolutely nothing, I’ll just go sit by pool and suck a bottle or half of margaritas. You don’t even think about duck hunting until the next morning, alarm goes off for 4:45, you walk down there to get a cup of coffee, catch up with everybody, and go do it again. It’s absolutely one of the funnest vacations, because your wife can go and have a great time without even pulling the trigger, and you’re going to have a great time shooting ducks and then hanging out with her. We got back for – I was down there at the very end of January, 1st of February, and came home for a few days to regroup. That’s all I did was regroup. I’ve got about a 3 weeks stretch down here in Obregon, which is one of our top hunts in the world for good reason. Its ducks, and doves, and sometimes brants, and bass fishing. We just had a big media hunt, Benelli, and Sitka, and myself had some writers come down from Outdoor Life and Delta Waterfowl, Boarding Classics and Safari Club International magazine. And it was so much fun Rocky, because we totally just mixed it up every day. Just mixed up groups, swapped up groups, once a different blind every day. I like to read, and I like to read hunting magazines, but man the stories these guys had that you’ve never seen written, just some of the funny stories behind the scenes, and all that good stuff. It was just a ride and everybody brought a lot of perspective from inside the industry and seeing things. We talk about conservation. We talked about hunting globally and we shot ducks. And they all said that it was one of the funnest hunts they’ve ever been on. They just had fun down here in Mexico, the fun side of the wall, the fun side of the border. But that’s where I’m at, Rocky, and you bring up a good subject you all tell that I was up in Mexico that’s why we don’t kill –
Rocky Leflore: That’s what I was going to say, so if the people that would give us a short stopping them, you’re going to be called you and your guides down there, you all are going to be called long stoppers, right?
Ramsey Russell: Oh yeah. I mean, Jake was down here filming an episode of Life’s Short Get Ducks. I held up a few pintails yesterday. And I said to that camera, I said, you all do understand that because of these 3 birds – because I shot these 3 pintails – there will be no pintails in United States of America next year. That’s what the rumor is, and it just couldn’t be so far from the truth. One thing I hope to accomplish, I told Jake; Jake and I talked a long time about this. I said, Jake, one of the things I really hope to accomplish with this video project we’re working on is to teach people that the duck hunting world is a lot bigger than their backyard. And I love these guys that get on social media. My patience has really withered a lot recently. I don’t have the time, I don’t have the information to explain to some person I don’t know that comes into our social media, and just starts railing against the system, and railing against me, and anybody having fun shooting ducks or pintails, or pick a subject, I just don’t have the patience for it anymore.
Where are All the Ducks this Year?
I just know that I don’t see massive flocks of mallards that I saw 15, 20 years ago.
Rocky Leflore: Hey Ramsey, I want to ask you this, look, take the weather out of the equation, let’s don’t even talk about weather. Look you worked with a lot of people from a large amount of the US and Canada, according to Get Ducks, where were the ducks?
Ramsey Russell: I don’t know, Rocky.
Rocky Leflore: That were used to.
Ramsey Russell: I don’t know. Because I get to talk duck hunters and duck outfitters every single day, all day, it’s what I do. And then I go to shows at the Dallas Safari Club, Safari Club International, and I meet with them and of course they come into the booth. We talk about how their season went, we talk about duck hunting, and nobody had a good season this year. Nobody had kind of season – now remember, it was a very forgettable season at best. Nobody got into the ducks and stuck with the ducks, nobody had ducks all the time. I hear of a few clubs in a few locations that did good but nobody did great. And I really don’t know where the ducks were if they were. I heard some of the craziest things from men that have been hunting for 30 or 40 years to hear somebody that’s been hunting in Sac Valley of California for 40 years say, I think they just need to shut the season down, let these ducks rebuild. To hear a 90 year-old Wildlife Commissioner from Louisiana that is not a part of that Louisiana group black helicopter conspiracies, about a conversation he had with Federal biologists that were predicting where the birds were, blah. He called BS, he said BS. I don’t believe you. I take it your numbers are wrong. Show me where those birds are right now, you can’t. There’s a lot of people Rocky that do this of science of accounting. There’s a lot of people that believe that adaptive harvest management wasn’t the right model. It get too far into principal instead of interest. Me? I don’t know. I really don’t know. I just know that I don’t see massive flocks of mallards that I saw 15, 20 years ago. I don’t see them. Now truthfully, I would rather work mallards when the mallards are in, and I’d rather work bunches of 1s, and 2s, and 5s, than 50 and 100 and 500. But I’m a seeing that spectacle of 50 mallards circling, and 50 more mallards joining them, and a 100 more mallards joining them, and seeing a cloud of a couple 200, 300 ducks above you, working. And haven’t seen that a long time. I hadn’t seen it too long. I don’t know where the ducks are.
Problems in the Canada Prairie Pothole Region
What I’m hearing is that lacking a wet heavy blizzard, a lot of snow getting dumped in March, that it’s going to be dry in the prairie pothole.
Rocky Leflore: I’m going to tell you this one person you spent a lot of time with – I guess it was probably a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been missing from social media and kind of unplugged for a couple of weeks now, but one person you were with a couple of weeks ago was Chris Wuji, right?
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. He comes show with us.
Rocky Leflore: Correct me if I’m wrong, listen, I don’t want to freak people out by saying what I’m about to say. But we’re in a crisis situation when it comes to the pothole region of Canada, maybe not so much in North and South Dakota, but the prairie pothole region of Canada, it is in a crisis mode. And you and I talked about this a couple of weeks ago, I know we haven’t talked about it on the air but boy, a miracle blizzard, we’re in for a tough spring.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, we are. And that’s what I’ve been hearing, not just from one particular outfitter, but from several, is that – last year I was up in Canada for a long time, and any outfitters that are up there, a lot of outfitters will tell you, they were covering a lot of ground because the concentrations of waterfowl, and concentration of ducks were apart, it wasn’t just continuous everywhere. A lot of ducks here and a lot of ducks kind of concentrated in the local area because of water, the prairie seem to been getting drier. What I’m hearing is that lacking a wet heavy blizzard, a lot of snow getting dumped in March, that it’s going to be dry in the prairie pothole. Rocky, there at Willow Break they got so hot in South Delta Mississippi, they shut the season down in most counties over there. It was spring-like flooding conditions and in my part of the world, South Delta, it was just like what you’re used to seeing in April, May, June when all snowpack melts off and starts coming down that great big continental ditch and on the Mississippi River and back, and all the tributaries are up –
Rocky Leflore: It’s just a wall of water.
Ramsey Russell: It was all the rain, all the precipitation that used to come in the form of snow up in the Midwest and Upper Flyway, came in the form of rain, and just came all down the river. And so it’s worrisome to me. I’m not a smart enough man to understand how they count ducks, what the area is, what the factory is. I don’t know. I just don’t know. I trust blindly, I guess, but I trust bean counters with smart guys that are doing that stuff. I trust that they know what the numbers are, that the model works. I do believe that the U.S. has got – at least we’re counting, at least we’re putting a lot of time and money and energy into it – at least we got some smart people working on it. A lot of countries can’t say that. Most countries can’t say that, there is no census of waterfowl like that. But every time we get into statistics, all I really know about statistics is what a statistics professor told me about there being lies, damn lies in statistics, there’s errors in statistics. Who knows? I just don’t know. I worry that snow geese gets out of hand, we’re going to shoot 5 of them, and also we’re going to shoot 20 because they’re out of hand. If the numbers can be wrong on one side, they can be wrong on another. I hope that’s not the case but I worry. I told Forrest this year, 21 years since he’s been hunting his lifetime, 21 years all he known is 6 and 60 in the Mississippi Flyway. That’s a long time. Since my son started hunting, my 21 year-old son started hunting, all he’s ever known, is 60 days season, 6 ducks, and 4 mallards. I wonder about that. I don’t know.
Rocky Leflore: I’m like your friend man, I think it’s time to give them a break. Listen, I may be the most hated man in the world for saying this on the air, I think it’s time to give them a little bit of a break.
Why is the Pintail Population So Low?
Well here comes the farming operators establishing this year’s crop, and they run over some hens, they run over a lot of eggs – what are you going to do?
Ramsey Russell: I don’t know, Rocky. I really wish I knew the answer to that. You get back into pintail, don’t take Ramsey’s word, go Google it. Google is a powerful tool with a lot of information and there were papers, research studies written that have demonstrated the reason that pintail populations are not doing well. It is because they historically nested in short grass prairie. Short grass prairie is very easily converted to agriculture. Agricultural trends or small conservation and environment, it’s no teal farming. Which means no nesting pintails show back up in the prairie pothole region. There’s a whole lot of barley stubble, residual stubble from last year, it looks and functions to them a lot like short grass prairie where they go and make their nests. Well here comes the farming operators establishing this year’s crop, and they run over some hens, they run over a lot of eggs – what are you going to do? And that’s really what’s happening to pintails, to their populations. And that’s why – it’s not who shoots what with pintails. I mean, nobody is down here shooting tens of thousands of pintails, it’s just the fact that more pintails at one a day are dying in Louisiana, and California, and probably Arkansas, than get shot down in Mexico in an entire season. You’re just not talking tens of thousands, let alone hundreds of thousands of hunters that come to Mexico, we’re talking hundreds a few thousand. The numbers just are so much different. And a lot of people jump on social media just a tirade about shooting liberal limits in Mexico. I’m like wait a minute, you do know that limit on pintails is 8 in Alaska, right? I’d be at 1 in California, and 1 in Oklahoma, but it’s 8 in Alaska, and its 8 in Canada, and it’s more than that in Mexico but it’s not endless, it’s finite. And if the biologists are right, if hunting is a little agitate, a little deviate then it’s right but shooting a few 1000 pintails is not why pintails are in trouble. It’s not. I guess for all I know, it’s not, I don’t know. Rocky, it’s been a real – it’s one of those kind of seasons with all that mess you read online, and all the conspiracy theories and my own possible observations, a lot of scientists and biologists say that’s anecdotal observation. What I see in the blind, what you see in the blind, what other people just see in the blind isn’t conclusive. It isn’t valid because it’s not statistical, it’s not mathematical, it’s not empirical data. But as somebody that talks to duck hunters nationwide, all day every day, I would say that maybe anecdotal observations are not the final answer. But I believe the body of evidence, the topic of conversations, not just in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, but nationwide, demand reevaluation at least. Let’s just look under the hood and make sure everything’s working right. Let’s just make sure. What could possibly happen?
Rocky Leflore: And that’s what I meant earlier. I’m not saying take a break. I mean just ease up and see what’s going on.
Ramsey Russell: It’s a pretty arrogant person, pretty arrogant collection of people that just don’t even consider the possibility that they’re wrong. I mean, I can tell you this for a fact, I am often wrong, never in doubt. But I will admit, yeah, I can be wrong at times. Let’s just take a look. I don’t know. Rocky, I just don’t know, that’s just it, I don’t know where the ducks were. Because nobody I talked to nationwide, nobody I talked to absolutely just in the thick of things all season long. I took that Char dog of mine, that new puppy to a trainer up in Carbondale, Illinois. Been a few weeks ago, 3, 4, came to get down to Mexico, and I drove up and dropped her off and then go pick her up. those boys in Carbondale, Illinois, right there, in their own backyard said it was the worst season they ever had until the last 2 or 3 days. They say the mallards came in big, from wherever they were. They say the last 2 days, ducks were like they should have been. So maybe they were north of there, maybe they were somewhere, there was a lot of water everywhere, not just in the Mississippi Delta, but there was a lot of water everywhere to really to disperse ducks. But I don’t know Rocky, it’s very disheartening.
Rocky Leflore: I think that that is the biggest factor that nobody is counting in all this is the availability of water everywhere. And then on top of that, the number of farmers that weren’t able to harvest from Missouri, north, all that food went underwater. Not all of it, but the food that was next to the bodies of water, rivers, or that jumped to Iowa alone. There were thousands and thousands of acres that didn’t get harvested of corn next to the Mississippi River that sat underwater.
Perfect Duck Hunting Place this Year: Mexico
Teal, gadwalls, wigeons, pintails, they all came down here.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. There’s a lot of water everywhere but not a place for ducks to hide. To ask me where the ducks were this year? I don’t know, I really don’t know. I’ve talked to many people that just shrug about their duck season. The people I know that really truly say they had a great season are not the hunters that have been hunting for 20 to 40 years. It’s not us. Nobody I talked to that has hunted 20 to 40 years had a great season. Nobody. I’m so glad the convention came and I could get out of duck blind. Not killing ducks, go do something. I couldn’t believe it. I was so looking forward to that and I did. They just had to present, going to conventions, and talking to everybody that was just down in the doldrums. Now, the flip side of it is a lot of folks going to Argentina and around the world. It’s duck season somewhere, hunting ducks. Argentina’s going to be red hot this year, especially the good operators, like ours. It’s going to be perfect. The water conditions are through the roof, productivity is perfect, and it’s going to be a great season. And thankfully – remember that last that real cold front we got right there towards the end of season in Mississippi? The last big cold front, remember the heck, like it was on the last week of season as I was leaving for Mexico, and it was snowing at my house more. The warmest season I can remember and it was snowing in the morning. I was flying to Mazatlan and all I could think is holy cow, I’m fixing to get iced out on flying to Mexico for shooting ducks, this is unbelievable. And it did, and we got to go out, but there’s just a lot of photo period migraters. Teal, gadwalls, wigeons, pintails, they all came down here. And they didn’t come in the normal slug, they did that, they all ended up down here, and the cold front that did kind of snap in the Pacific and Central Flyways, it swept along down to Mexico. Maybe not their normal numbers, but in the 80%-90% of their normal numbers are here now. Lots of pintails, lots of wigeons. It’s been very enjoyable just to see ducks. To go out in the blind, and see duck, and call ducks, and ducks come in like they’re supposed to, like we all live for. It’s been good. I ain’t lying to you, the first morning of Mazatlan I was hunting with old client of mine and take care of us all and we get everybody position finds, you load the guns and shoot. Man, we lead into them like, I mean just high level left, right throwing over behind you just like we just took a big deep breath. Alright, settle down. We’re not grade school kids, they just settled out really early on, so we really started hunting, and got our limits pretty darn quick. Hey Rocky, I got to tell you this is crazy. There’s a lot of feed, of course, these birds are coming in, they’re feeding a lot out brackish water out here in Western Mexico, and one of the biggest draws to waterfowl in Mexico is fresh water. All these mud flats, you see a lot of these ducks out here feeding in low tide, and in some of the real shallow water they’re feeding just like shore birds. They’re eating a lot of these invertebrates but they’re coming into fresh water. Our guide down in Mazatlan and I were sitting there talking and I said “Tomorrow will be fun.” He said, “You haven’t seen this place I’m taking you all tomorrow. You’re all kind of gonna hunt together.” Like “I don’t like those.” “It’ll be fine and trust me, amigo.” So, we get there and there’s this huge, low water area and when we pull up, it’s just a little sliver of – a little ditch, a little shallow. It’s just a huge area of mud flat coming down where we kind of stopped, with this sliver maybe 5 yards wide, and maybe inches deep coming out and feeding into this pool out there, for about half an acre to 3 quarters of an acre. Beyond it, it’s a big body of water. And we got there that whole sliver, that whole little finger coming out for about 100 yards, the whole little acre or two of water was wall to wall stacked knee deep on top of each other duck. I’m like, wow. There where teh ducks were was 5 blinds, about 5 yard apart. 5 two-men blinds about 5 yards apart, right there where that finger came into that little pool. What he explained was, this won’t be here in about 10 more days but this is fresh water coming in. All the ducks are coming into the big area about two miles from here, there’s a lot of ducks on it, but he said, they’re coming in right here during the day and they’ll be coming in all day long. They’ll be coming in. He said, but about 10 or 15 more days, this thing will dry up and there won’t be any fresh water, they’re coming in to drink. So, we put on rubber boots and we walked the length of a football field. We all got into our little two-man blinds, we can talk, we can have a conversation like a big pit blind, and then it started. And it was unbelievable. Rocky, it took us 45 minute to get our limits. Sometimes we all kind of shot – it’s funny how we all kind of just – a lot them didn’t know each other until we met the day before. You shoot, this blind will shoot, this blind will shoot, if they were kind of left, this blind will shoot, if they ever kind over center, this blind will shoot, and they all got along and just smoked. I mean, OK Corral man gun slinging. It was unbelievable for 45 minutes. We got out and rounded up ducks. Mostly, I’d say it was 75% green wings, maybe I think we shot 15 or 20 cinnamons, and some beautiful blue wing teal. Mostly it was drakes because you can see them so good in that sunshine. Then we walked back where the trucks were, just 150 yards away across the mud flat, and stopped. Opened up an ice chest, and some people got beers, and some just got Diet Coke and water, and we sat there for an hour eating those homemade burritos and little tacos. We watched about 6000 ducks trickle back in and just blow into that hole. And we sat there and just watched it absolutely fill up again, killed a few pintail and a few shovelers. The guide said, are you all ready to go back again? Yeah, we’re about ready, he said, all right, one more show. He took a firecracker off a truck, baam! Big old Mexican firecracker a lot louder than ours, it went off. All bird got up, make a buzz around, about 5000 birds buzz around, rallied and just started trickling right back into the hole. That’s when we left and I felt good after this duck season, it just felt good. Shoot, and have a good time, and laugh, but to shoot those ducks, it just felt so good. It’s been about the highlight of our little stay in Mexico. I’ll never forget just seeing that. And since then we’ve had – of course we have clients from Mazatlan every single day just coming in and going. With all of the honeymoon duck hunts, I’ve got couple out of the Mississippi out there right now, literally on their honeymoon. They’re having a great time, I’m sure, but it was a really boy, it’s a great way to – great little event for after the Mississippi duck season I had this year. No matter what we tried just, there weren’t any duck, Rocky, they just weren’t any ducks to think of.
Rocky Leflore: I know next week we’ll probably jump back off in the Part 2 of “Ramsey the Deer Hunter” story. Can’t wait for that. But you be careful. Hey, where will you be next Thursday?
Ramsey Russell: Next Thursday I will be here in Obregon. I’ve got a team coming in today, some new clients and some repeat clients. They exit out, I’ve got another team coming in for 4 days, and then I will come home on the 22nd. So, next Thursday is not the 22nd, I’ll be down here and we can meet. Now, look Rocky, down here, this is a real duck hunters, duck hunt down here. We get up 2-3 and 4 o’clock every morning, we drive. Because we’re hunting – this guy’s got some land man. I mean it’s like, what we’re doing is, we’re on the mainland side, the east side. I am inside of Mexico’s east side of the Sea of Cortez. There’s a lot of the bays, the estuaries, and that’s where we’re hunting. And if we’re not in the air boat, we’re into the estuary itself. As you go just off that, there’s millions upon millions of acres of agriculture it’s like, my outfitter told me one time, if you ever eat a tortilla, chances are the wheat came from Yankee valley. Remember I’m in a desert, 15 inches of rain, but there’s millions of acres of wheat in the agriculture. They irrigate it. And all that irrigational water goes in the little ditches, goes into big ditches that just eventually drain off into low lying areas that are too low to farm, or are draining of into the estuary. It’s just the fresh water is what brings the birds in. This program here, we typically leave it somewhere between 3:45 and 4:30 depending on where we’re going to hunt that morning as we leave, and we hunt until 11 or 12 o’clock. We’ll come back and eat a box lunch at the truck, sometimes in the blind. Then on the way back to town, we stop and dove hunt or jump-shoot doves. It’s an all-day event and I’m on Mountain Time so I’m an hour behind Mississippi. If we’re going to call next week, I’m just saying best time for me would be after about 6:30 PM Mississippi time, and before margarita PM, Mexico time. Somewhere in that time frame we’ll get together and talk again, I want to be back on the air Rocky.
Rocky Leflore: Yeah, we’ll get something scheduled back up next week. But Ramsey, be careful way down there and stay safe. Kill a lot of ducks. I want to 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.