Realtree recently welcomed Duck Commander as new Pro Staff members and licensees of the Realtree and Advantage patterns. Known throughout the country for their high-action Duckmen videos, cutting-edge calls and duck-hunting knowledge, Duck Commander is a welcome addition to Team Realtree. -- By Stephanie Mallory
BUCKSHOT LODGE DUCK HUNT
It was a union meant to be and it finally occurred in the flooded timber of Gillette, Arkansas. Realtree and Duck Commander made their partnership official during their first hunt together at the annual Buckshot duck hunt, during which time a combination of dealers, store buyers, television personalities and licensees came together for the most popular hunt in the industry. The Duck Commander himself, Phil Robertson and his sons Willie and Jase spent two phenomenal days with Bill Jordan and other members of Team Realtree doing what they do best--hunting ducks.
"We spent two days in the blind with Bill and limited out both days," Willie said. "We enjoyed an unbelievable hunt and had a great time hunting with Bill and getting to know the other folks from Realtree. The Buckshot Duck Lodge is a remarkable place. The food and service were excellent and the duck hunting was superb. We've never spent that much time hunting in Arkansas because we thought it was too crowded, but after this hunt, we'll definitely be back."Phil also enjoyed his time in the blind with his sons and Bill.
"Bill and I met for the first time during this hunt," Phil says. "We used the time in the blind to get to know one another. I like him a lot. He's the real thing. I'm excited about our partnership with Realtree. Joining forces with the No. 1 camo company only made sense."
DUCK COMMANDER: THE EARLY DAYS
Known as the Duck Commander for his prowess with waterfowl, Phil lives by the motto inscribed on the Duck Commander T-shirts, "Arise, Kill and Eat." Boasting a long beard and decked out in his work attire of head-to-toe Realtree camo, the rugged image this hard-core duck hunter portrays now is a far cry from the professional look required by his previous career as a school teacher. He's come a long way from his modest roots in Vivian, Louisiana, as one of seven siblings, and says he never in his wildest dreams would have thought that he'd be lucky enough to get to hunt for a living.
As a high-school athlete, Phil was All-State in football, baseball and track, which afforded him the opportunity to attend Louisiana Tech University on a football scholarship. There he played first string quarterback ahead of NFL legend Terry Bradshaw. After receiving his bachelor's degree in physical education and a master's in education, he spent several years teaching, but his heart was in the outdoors.
EXPERIMENTAL DUCK CALLS
Unsatisfied with the duck calls on the market, Phil began to experiment with making a call that would produce the exact sound of a duck. He wanted to make a duck call for duck killers, not "world-champion-style duck callers." He claimed that, "No duck would even place in a duck calling contest." In 1972, the first Duck Commander call was born. Phil received a patent for this call and the Duck Commander Company was incorporated in 1973.
Phil, his wife Kay and his four boys, Alan, Jase, Willie and Jeptha began a quest to turn his passion for hunting and fishing into a livelihood.
He and his family worked from home assembling, packaging and shipping calls. While the Duck Commander Company was getting off the ground, the family's side business of commercial fishing kept food on the table. Phil's family assisted in the packaging and shipments of the calls along with helping to run the nets and taking the fish to the market.
In the mid-70s, Phil turned his life over to the Lord and made some dramatic changes in the way he was living. Now, he is invited to speak to hundreds of different churches and organizations every year, telling them what the Lord has done for him and can do for them.
"Making a living as the Duck Commander has surpassed my wildest dreams," Phil said. "Not only do I feel lucky to get to hunt for a living, but I am also extremely blessed to get to work with my family. The entire Robertson clan is here together. If I leave any legacy at all, I hope that it's that I tried to keep these young bucks out of trouble by keeping them in boats and duck blinds.
"I'm very grateful to our fan base, that says they like what we do because of the realism and wit portrayed in our videos," Phil says. "People who watch our DVDs see real duck hunting in action. It's a redneck reality show."
Working as the Duck Commander for more than 30 years, Phil said he eventually plans to let his boys run the business while he works in the field hunting and preparing the holes.
A FAMILY AFFAIR
When not in the blind, Phil’s son Jase focuses on making Duck Commander calls the best on the market. Along with Phil, he designs new calls, assembles, and actually hand blows most of what goes on the shelf.
"We come out with a new product just about every year," Jase said. "This year, we came out with Willie's Camo Max, which is a mallard hen call in Realtree camo. It's a cousin to the Duck Picker call. This call requires less air to operate, so it's a little more user friendly." Just like his dad, Jase also says he is living a dream.
"I didn't think I could actually make a living doing what I love to do. I was going to duck hunt whether I got paid to do it or not, but it all fell into place thanks to the Almighty, my dad and hard work."
Phil's son, Willie, credits the Duckmen DVDs, the innovative duck calls and the Duckmen's rugged image for Duck Commander's popularity.
"Our in-your-face style videos put a new spin on duck hunting," Willie said. "We were producing reality TV before we knew what reality TV was. Apparently, people liked what they saw. We used upbeat music and captured the excitement of the hunt. Duck hunters just couldn't get enough. My father is a pioneer in the industry. He was the first to make and patent a double-reed call. Most calls at the time were single reeds. He was also the first to come out with a gadwall call, a wood duck call, a mallard drake call and a pintail call. Duck hunters around the world appreciate his contributions to the sport."
Willie admitted too that the success of this company is also very image driven.
"My father and the rest of the Duckmen have the bearded wild man image," Willie said. . “When asked why we grow our beards, I usually quote Phil, “We not growing them. They’re doing that on their own.’-- They do help on a cold northwest wind, though,” Willie adds. I think that our back-woodsy look appeals to guys. There are a lot of men out there who would love to hunt for a living. That's why they watch our shows and buy our products."
Not only are the Duckmen popular in the states, but their popularity is rapidly growing around the globe.
"Our biggest global markets are in the Middle East, Europe and New Zealand," Willie said. "Dad went to New Zealand a couple of years ago to film a video called, 'Duckmen Middle Earth.' Phil is big in New Zealand. In fact, they put up a billboard stating, 'The Great One Is Coming.'"
HARD WORK ALL YEAR LONG
Willie said a lot of work goes into growing the company and maintaining its popularity, and despite what some may think, Duck Commander is not just a seasonal business.
"We work every day of the year," Willie said. "There's a lot more to this business than just filming hunts. We've also got to sell the videos, make and sell duck calls and other products.When not hunting, Dad spends most of his time traveling the country doing seminars, and I focus more on the business side, traveling to shows, answering emails, maintaining the website and generally working to get DC products in the hands of our fellow duck hunters."
After Willie graduated from college, he didn't know what he wanted to do with his life. "I loved to hunt, but I was also interested in all different types of things. I was always the comedian and My brother Jase was always the hard-core hunter in the family. He's out there hunting every day no matter what. Eventually, dad talked me into coming back and being a part of the business. I'm glad I did. At times, working with family is very frustrating and at times it's very rewarding, but that's the fun of it. We may get into an argument over the business, but we also trust each other. At the end of the day, we know that we're still family."
PARTNERSHIP WITH REALTREE
Phil and the Duckmen said they are thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Realtree. "Realtree is a great company," Willie said. "When Realtree's licensing department approached us about partnering with them, we didn't know what to think. But as we discovered what type of company Realtree was, the offer became very attractive. We realized we could compliment each other. We don't market and advertise ourselves very much, and Realtree can help us with that. I'm especially impressed with their Advantage MAX-4 HD pattern. It's so hard to make a camo pattern for a nationwide audience, but MAX-4 is second to none for the terrain that most people duck hunt. The Realtree Hardwoods HD pattern is also great for hunting in flooded timber. This partnership makes a lot of sense, and I look forward to moving ahead with Realtree by our side."
For more information on Duck Commander, Phil and his family, please visit the company online at www.duckcommander.com.
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