Waterfowler Experts Are Back for a Roundtable Discussion
Returning for its sophomore effort, “My Question Is …” allows a set of Arkansas duck hunting personalities the chance to quiz each other on subjects dear to their hearts and important to the industry. In the format, author and Greenhead editor Brent Birch asks the initial question, with each participant then posing a fresh question to the next in line. While meant to be fun and informative, the Q&A also provides insights and sheds light on various aspects of the world of waterfowling. Birch, a Greenhead co-founder and author of The Grand Prairie: A History of Duck Hunting’s Hallowed Ground, tapped into his numerous industry connections to pull together a compelling group of respondents to discuss their favorite pastime. Responses are edited for punctuation, style and brevity.
Ducks Unlimited | Director of Public Policy, Southern Region
BIRCH: What is the biggest challenge facing waterfowl in places like Washington, D.C. or the halls of the state Capitol in Little Rock?
PENNY: That’s a good but complicated question, so it’s a perfect one for the duck blind. There are some great opportunities to restore and enhance waterfowl habitat in Arkansas and in the breeding grounds through good, science-based policy that is developed and passed in places like Little Rock and D.C. I’m grateful I get to work on these issues as a full-time advocate for ducks through my work at Ducks Unlimited (DU). We have won some major victories through the last several decades and, more recently, we’ve worked with Congress to pass the Farm Bill, Great American Outdoors Act and America’s Conservation Enhancement Act.
The biggest challenge right now is reminding duck hunters that pressures on waterfowl and habitat never stop, and in fact, can be devastating if we don’t speak up with a clear, strong and united voice. We can do some great things for ducks when we work closely with all of those who make decisions affecting ducks and habitat. Those of us who spend a lot of time outdoors know that private landowners, farmers and our state or federal wildlife agencies make management decisions every day. But many times, we forget that these decisions are driven first by policies passed by our elected officials. Therefore, it’s our responsibility to remind the people we elect to public office to represent our passion for ducks and our hunting heritage. But it’s not just about protecting the hunting tradition, it’s about caring for the farms, woods, bayous and rivers we use every day during the season and making sure these special places we love are there for the next generation.
Duck hunters have always led the way in conservation, even if it means facing some short-term sacrifices. The most recent example is the monumental effort to restore forested wetlands on Arkansas’ public lands. DU is working closely with Arkansas Game and Fish [Commission] staff and commissioners to secure the necessary resources for future generations of ducks and duck hunters to benefit from these world-class public lands. In fact, DU and our partners are working closely with the congressional delegation and state legislators on an “all of the above” strategy to bring new federal and state dollars to Arkansas for waterfowl habitat. Thanks to the support of the Arkansas congressional delegation led by Senator John Boozman, we’re getting closer to passage of the bipartisan Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA) and the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). RAWA will bring millions in new funding just for Arkansas to restore and enhance habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife. WRDA could also bring significant new dollars for improvements to water management infrastructure (levees and water control structures) on key public lands. These new sources are only available, though, if we also secure the required state and private matching dollars, so DU and our partners are working with state legislators and others to make sure we balance the non-federal side of the funding equation too.
We must continue to remain vigilant and stand together to address the many challenges to our vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever.
Passionate Pursuit Outdoors
PENNY: My question to Heather is threefold, to learn more about her personally as well as her views on social media as it relates to waterfowling. Firstly, did you grow up a hunter, and how/when did you get into waterfowl hunting? How has the creation and evolution of social media influenced your passion for the outdoors? And finally, in your eyes, has social media affected waterfowl hunting positively or negatively?
HAMM: I grew up hunting with my dad and brother, so fellowship of the sport was essentially family tradition. Many of my fondest childhood memories are hunting with the best two mentors I could have ever asked for.
The evolution of social media has not necessarily grown my passion for hunting, but it has shown me how women are flooding the hunting industry and I am all for it. Social media has given women the opportunity to reach out to other women for guidance and companionship with hunting. My closest hunting group is made of four women who all have a passion for hunting and hope to show other females that they should pursue their passions outdoors.
Social media is influencing everything, not just duck hunting. Throughout my lifetime, I have watched firsthand how social media has led to the growth and exposure of the hunting industry. I think it’s a great advocate for the sport, however, there is also a flip side to the coin. It seems there is a trend of hunters fueled by “doing it for the ’gram,” rather than by passion. This is why I have prioritized being hands-on as a mother in the outdoors, to instill in my children the value of hunting and the life lessons it so beautifully articulates. Being able to get outdoors and do what you love is truly a gift that should be cherished. Pile pictures are fun memories, but they are not what it’s all about.
LOGAN J. WEBSTER
Founder, Camoretro | Third Generation Farmer
HAMM: Where does your love for the “old-school” camo originate, and why did you build your business focused on that style? Also, I noticed how unique your website is with its own marketplace for others to sell their vintage gear. What made you add this to camoretro.com?
WEBSTER: At trade shows, I’ve often been asked how I learned about “all this” at my age as attendees browse through the Camoretro Collection's vintage pieces. I was lucky enough to be immersed in the “old-school” at a young age by those who mentored me and inspired my passion for the outdoors. Outside of catalogs from big retailers, coming across a more contemporary brand or style was a bit of a novelty in the largely rural southwest corner of Arkansas where I grew up.
As I started hunting in circles outside of family or childhood friends, and with the popularity of social media, I noticed an emerging generation of new hunters (of all ages) unfamiliar with old-school and what it represents. My mentors are who I have to thank for the obsession you and I share. I wanted a tangible way to tie the tales of Warren Webster, Great Uncle Joe and Chairman Sitzes together in a way that anyone could relate with. Apparel was soon identified as the common thread (pun intended) that all outdoor enthusiasts share. Whether you’ve already preordered next year's newest semi-auto or you’re a purist that reloads your own paper shot shells — you’re probably (hopefully) wearing clothes in the field.
I began exploring the history and narratives behind jackets, hats and other apparel that influenced me at a young age. Leveraging these stories, Camoretro’s initial blog series focused on legacy styles, heritage brands and camouflage patterns in order to elevate an appreciation and awareness of old-school in the outdoor industry. Some favorite brands of the Camoretro community are Bob Allen, Duxbak, McAlister and the original Mossy Oak styles or patterns. These brands often embody the timeless designs, proven quality and functionality of goods that help preserve stories for the next generation. Though nostalgia and tradition can be replicated, the memories associated with grandpa’s jacket can’t be. I look forward to further growing Camoretro as a platform for community storytelling while providing resources on industry brands of past and present.
The blog series was well-received, but the demand from the audience to purchase the featured items was overwhelming. That’s when Camoretro evolved into a platform that enables people to buy, sell and trade through its marketplace. The nature of Camoretro’s niche marketplace provides convenience and caters to the needs of sellers and customers with a newfound or long standing passion for the outdoors. By using Camoretro you’re helping elevate awareness and appreciation for the brands, styles, and camo patterns we’ve discussed and increasing accessibility to vintage and modern goods — all while generating a cash flow that reinvests in and supports this industry.
Owner, Elite Duck Calls | 3-Time World’s Duck Calling Champion
WEBSTER: What would you consider the ‘Golden Age’ of duck callers? Who of that group have you admired or embodied through your style of creating and competing? In the same spirit, how have you seen calling contests contributing to the creation, growth and innovation of call companies?
ALLEN: I think competitive calling and call making/innovation have gone hand in hand. Obviously, the competitors want to use the best call, and the call makers need talented callers to push it to its full capability. This also helps the call makers identify any flaws or limitations in their design and fix them. It creates an attitude of never being satisfied with the call and relentlessly searching for improvement. I don’t want to diminish the contributions of any past call maker or competitor, because each era represents a stepping stone to where we are now. If I had to label a “Golden Age,” I would say that the years from the mid-1980s through the ’90s were a time of unbelievable improvement in call development and competitive style. This also led to much better calls being used in the field for the hunter. Call makers like Butch Richenback and Rick Dunn, who I consider true mentors of mine, led the way in creating high level calls that are the baseline for calls used today. They were true innovators. They were also great teachers who shaped many champion callers.
As far as competitive callers, there is a long list of guys that I respect and admire. I tend to look at callers as talented musicians, each with their own unique style and strengths. Trey Crawford and Bernie Boyle come to mind as two guys that were gracious enough to teach me. I tried to mimic the “top end” power and perfection of Bernie Boyle and blend it with the unbelievable “low end” duck and feed chuckle of Trey Crawford. I don’t think I ever matched them, but it helped me develop my own sound. Combine that with the long list of awesome competitors that I had to call against, and I was forced to spend countless hours practicing in order to keep up with them! The things that I learned from the competitive circuit have definitely laid the foundation for my company, Elite Duck Calls. It has also blessed me with lifelong friendships and made me a much better hunter.