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Wildfowl Review: Waterfowlers Go Mainstream in A&E’s “Duck Dynasty”

by Skip Knowles   |  April 9th, 2012 21

If you haven’t seen “Duck Dynasty” yet, smear your face with black paint, strap on a fake beard and tune in: The A&E channel reality-ish TV show about a family business that grew into a waterfowling empire is all it’s quacked up to be.

Hard to believe the scariest, hairiest bunch of hard hunting rednecks in our industry are now among the first to star on a mainstream TV network. We hope they’re here to stay.

Sitting at a duck camp in the mid-90s with the Berry brothers in Washington state, I was enthralled by the sight on TV: hirsute men straight out of “Deliverance,” sitting in a duck blind, blowing birds away from a floating blind in the timber.

They were raw men, and so was the video.

“At thar’s a hooded meganeezer,” I remember the senior Robertson man saying when a merganser lit in the dekes.

The guy was really getting his ducks in a row while appearing to be a really hairy, intimidating, Average Joe. Duck Men vids were a smash hit back then with the young guns, the most graphic unapologetic duck-killing footage ever seen, and the Cajuns splattering mallards with their old humpback A-5s were instant icons to the hardcore.

Part of the instant admiration was the ground-breaking, in-your-face and honest style of hunt video, and part of it was senior bad ass Phil Robertson’s personal commitment: He walked away from an amazing career to kill ducks.

The old man talked about his teammate Terry Bradshaw—he of the four Super Bowl rings—and how he started at quarterback over Terry at Louisiana Tech.

.“Terry chose the bucks, I chose the ducks,” Phil said.

Not anymore. He is proof positive that by sticking with what you love (he made his first calls in 1972) you’re liable to be more successful than a guy chasing dollars. Decades later, he has wealth and fame and a lot longer career than most athletes both behind and ahead of him. Building calls that kill ducks after noting, “That no duck would even place in a modern duck calling contest,” he has been successful beyond words.

Those iconic Browning humpbacks are gone, replaced by sponsored Benellis, and the Duck Men have long had their own line of calls, ammo and gun endorsements.

The new show is a lot less hardcore than his old vids, and crafted perfectly for the mainstream, focused very little on killing ducks and instead bringing viewers into the soap opera drama of the family-run business.

“They’re the Kardashians of hunting,” quips Tom Weaver, WILDFOWL publisher.

That’s not a criticism, but a dead-on description. The show is a riot. The intro shows them with helicopters and huge mansions and other silliness that veers from reality, but is a hell of a lot of fun, rolling out a line of duck pimp-dom footage.

Highlights:

  • Take your dad to school day is a riot when senior Phil shows kids how to gut small game right in class, and uncle Si Robertson scares the hell out of youngsters with too many details of his army career.
  • Disapproving CEO Willie (one of Phil’s boys) lays into the guys for sneaking out and poaching bullfrogs at his country club, inappropriate behavior for big-time businessmen. The frog hunting and cleaning is inspirational.
  • Upstart and fun-loving brother Jase bombs as stand-in CEO for the day
  • Senior bad ass Phil, the original Duck Commander; learns his family’s spoiled young’uns a lesson about the value of hard work by having them hand-cut a football field out in the boonies, after chucking their cell phones in the swamp.
  • While arguing about business problems, the brothers engage in a brand of golf involving 12 gauges that would make the sport a hell of a lot more popular should it catch on.

Truly a freak of an athlete at one time in a state that’s full of them (he was Louisiana all-state in track, football and baseball), paterfamilias Phil has a quiet dignity about him, speaks softly but clearly with a light southern accent and a ramrod straight spine. He’s instantly likeable on TV, in other words, and the show is getting solid mainstream reviews from the New York Times and other prestigious venues, because of it’s honest dead pan humor and because the show has a real plot and doesn’t just rely solely on somebody having an unusual line of work to drive interest.

Here’s hoping the ride lasts, and opens the door for other mainstream hunting and outdoor programming that rides on the boom in interest of sustainable home-cooked hunter gathering.

  • Outwrite

    Amen!

  • john

    I got his autograph at a duck expo on a portrait I painted of him senior year 3 years ago

  • Mark K.

    Sorry, but it is a dumb show with little to no entertainment value. I thought I was going to enjoy it, but it seems that reality tv is staged these days. If you want to see guys with beards that look like 80s rock group ZZ top, then take a trip to Alabama. Waste of time for me to tune into this garbage.

    • giddy up

      true it's not 30 Rock or the greatest writing, but it is mildly amusing and I enjoy listening to Phil's unpolitically correct straight talk ("don't gitcha no yuppy girl")…and it is terrific to see backwoods hunters who kill and eat animals with zeal portrayed on mainstream tv as a a positive, regular, fun family that is normal in most ways, trying to make a living.

  • SilverBeretta man

    Fun to listen to at waterfowling expos he attends. He was even gracious enough to autograph my "Fred Zink " hat!!! May be a "redneck" and comes from below the Mason Dixen line, but they're no dummies when it comes to maken money, and people are payin up. You tell me who the dummies are.

  • CCJORDAN

    ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS SHOW! Great to see old fashion values passed down generation to generation. I have a 2 and 4 year old and they will be raised the good old timey way too. They can play create adventures in the woods. Make bow and arrows like their mother did when she was little out of sticks. They will still grow up highly intelligent and have an imagination too. Love you guy's!!!

  • Crap Show

    Shit like this is exactly why I cancelled cable. Absolute crap.

    • Eric Crosby

      R u sure u just couldn't afford it

    • Dugger

      Hey, your a damn idiot

    • Love It In The South

      GOOD FOR YOU YUPPIE !!! Bet you dont like crawfish and froglegs also!! Oh well just NO LOSS!!!!!

  • Eric Crosby

    I like this show dgaf Wat any one say bad ass dhow

  • Brian

    It s funny t listen to people knock down to earth southern people who made a lot of money doing what they love and staying true to their roots. It is a great show, if you dont like it, then why are yuo here reading this article and then posting on the comment page?

  • pirate94

    By far the best show on TV. These guys get it, down to earth good ol boys. We need more people to live this way.

  • pje

    I like the show because I met Phil and Mrs. Kay at a Church in Arkansas.They were very kind to everyone and really encouraged people to look toGod before anything else. They are very kind and genuine people. The showis fun and if you notice they get to reference their faith in each show. Thebest part is they don't need to apologize for it!I love the Robertson Family! Oh yeah and duck is delicious!

  • DAH

    Very few shows on TV these days that do not include a BLEEP or even worse -most of them do not even BLEEP! I have four sons and a husband that love hunting. We all enjoy the show together AS A FAMILY! We encourage our children to find their passion in life and learn how to make a living at it. We also encourgae God, education, good manners,appreciation of our land, and respect for who you are. The Roberston family seems to be a good model for that!

  • Johnnie Fiftyfive

    Yup. Don't watch it if ya don't like it. Simple.

    All the episodes are on my DVR. I do wish for more hunting footage, like the old Duck Commander series on The Outdoor Channel.

    Johnnie

  • NODAK

    Cartoonist have been depicting hunters as idiots for generations, why should main stream TV be any different. Pull your head out gents!

  • alana11

    I have mixed feelings. The show itself is hilarious. Willie is a great straight man, Jase is witty, uncle Si is probably going down in tv history before it's all over, and could probably carry his own show. It is he who truly needs a radio show. Sometimes the script is a bit predictable. I really want to like these people. However, I can't stomach Phil Robertson. Gratuitous cruelty to animals and the enjoyment of that is not 'sportsmanship'. Talk of 'splattering ducks' is sociopathic. Subsistence hunting is present in the evolution of our species going back hundreds of thousands of years. This is not hunting, this is killing for pleasure, which undoubtedly has a cluster of comorbid psychiatric diagnosis all bundled together in a very suppressed ball behind it, all related to anger. It's so overstated it makes me wonder if the patriarch has some deep dark terrible secret all that killing compensates for. Perhaps he's secretly gay, who knows. What else could make someone so bitter and destructive? There is no honor in what I read about them doing (since they show very little of this on the show, I haven't seen it beyond Phil beheading and skinning living frogs, which is nightmarishly twisted for prime time television).

    Someone commenting on another article called these guys a 'disgrace to Cajuns' so it's nice to intellectually challenge the stereotypic mainstream mind by having a show about people from Louisiana who (gasp) are not Cajun. It would be like having a show about New Yorkers who are not obnoxious. I really like the cast, but I cannot grasp the lack of honor and "sportsmanship" behind what they do. My father deer-hunted, as did most people in central Virginia where we grew up. The deer, we then ate. I was never exposed to this kind of sociopathic, gratutiously violent destruction of animals for pleasure. He and his father fished, and we cooked and ate the fish. Everything taken from nature was eaten, and there was respect for the life of the animal, not a twisted pleasure in the pain and death and the "splattering" of that animal. Phil Robertson is an anathema to what I knew of hunting growing up. I have found a new respect for my father watching this show, if nothing else.

    • Steve

      Why is it not sportsmanship? They eat what they kill or give it away to someone who needs it. Where are you from? New York City? You wouldn't make it in the south. If you red your bible you would know that God gave dominion over the animals. I guess you are a member of PETA too. You could not live without a grocery store. We could. You would be knocking on our doors begging for our food.

  • anna mae rose

    steve you're a sad one.
    You can read your Bible
    but get a mind of your own

  • vder

    This show is totally crap. Garbage

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