Jase Robertson is one of two brothers who, along with their father, uncle and a friend, make up The Duckmen, a group of duck hunting guides from Louisiana. They are the focus of the TV show "Benelli presents Duck Commander," which is carried at 5 p.m. Fridays by the Outdoor Channel. Robertson will be appearing all three days of the Dixie Deer Classic, which runs Friday through Sunday at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. Staff writer Javier Serna recently interviewed Robertson over the phone:
Q: What's the biggest mistake that hunters make when using duck calls?
The biggest mistake is that they do too much. They either blow too loud or their cadence is off. You know, mallard hens, she ... quacks and she does about a five-note breeding call. But I hear people who will go 40 notes as high and as loud as they can, and I'm always asked why we do not do that. And I always say because I have never heard a duck do that. And other people will put a state as far as their style. They'll say this is Arkansas style, North Carolina style. But I'm of the opinion that a duck does not change styles every time it crosses a state line. I think they sound the same way from Canada all the way to the coast. As far as championship calling ... I realize that a duck could not win a world championship, and that's why I don't do that. When it comes to duck calling, our judges have wings.
Q: How long did it take for you to develop the skill of calling to where you felt you were pretty good at it?
I'm a little different from most people. ... Most people it takes about a year. It's air control. It's an instrument. You're learning how to control it. You have to work out the aerodynamics. In my case, when I was a little boy, my dad was building duck calls in 1972. I was three years old. I just listened and I watched and I saw him teaching other people. So I never learned wrong. That's why it takes people so long. They have bad habits. ... When I blew for my dad the first time, he said, 'Well you've got your ear right.' It took me about two weeks, but then it took another three or four months to learn how to call, to get my cadence right, to understand. ... We only call at ducks when their rear ends are towards us. If I'm looking at you and you call my name, then I know where the sound came from. But if you had your back to me and I holler and you turn around, you would assume somebody hollered. You want your decoys to represent the sound that you're making.
Q: Have you hunted in North Carolina?
I have never hunted there. I know there's a lot of duck hunters there, though. Every time I go there, I'm surprised because compared to the other flyways, there's not as many ducks. I've always said the key to killing a lot of mallards if you live on the East Coast is to move west. The No. 1 rule in duck hunting is to go where the ducks are.
Q: We share a common problem. You are left-eye dominant, and you had always shot right-handed. How hard was it for you to make that switch to left-handed shooting, and did you think about just being stubborn and sticking with a right-handed shot like me?
I'm 41 years old, and of all the things I've ever done, that was the hardest thing for me to transition to. I severely broke my left arm when I was eight years old, so my left arm has always been pretty weak anyway. When I got to be about 18, I would shoot and I would bust my nose. My dad kept asking why I would put my head across the gun. I didn't really understand why. It was because I was left-eye dominant. ... I was trying to focus and that was my subliminal body taking over. I was a terrible shot. I remember my dad was like, what's wrong with you. Finally, we did the old trick where you have both eyes open and you look at something. You close one eye. ... It was about a two-year process.
Q: Is there any other advice you can give on that?
I always recommend to everybody that you should just bite the bullet. Even though it's frustrating for a while, I've made a complete turnaround. I don't think you'll ever be as good shooting with the wrong hand. Your eye is more important.
Q: What is your favorite part of the hunt?
I guess when I was a teenager, I liked to shoot them. But the longer I got into them, it's all about the setup with me. I'm just into the details of where we go, which spot, how we're going to set up. The process keeps going on to when you call, how you have your decoys set up. I'm trying to get the ducks right there in our face. The days that that works, whether I shoot a duck or not, that's what really turns me on. If they're wild ducks, they've come all the way from Canada or the northern U.S. and you've convinced them that your little spread was real. That's why I get up and go every day.
Q: You and the rest of the Duckmen all wear pretty thick beards. Is there competition amongst you guys over facial hair?
People ask, 'How come you guys are growing your beards?' And I say, let me go ahead and correct you on that. It's doing that on its own. I'm just not shaving it off. And when you look at the way the Almighty made us, it really comes in handy during the winter, especially when it's cold, especially when you're trying to be camouflaged. It's warm, especially when you're in a boat. You get the wind chill factor going down the river in an outboard. I see guys that don't have beards, and I see their faces so tight and red. They're looking at me, and I say, 'If you hadn't shaved the hair off your face, you wouldn't be in such misery. We use black paint around our nose, but it looks like brush. You take a clean-shaven guy and put him in the woods, and he stands out.
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