Note: This article first appeared in Mid-America Waterfowl magazine
Chances are if you are a duck hunter, you have heard the stories of people involved in accidents. Guys who sank their boat; the guy who fell through the ice and drowned chasing a crippled duck. Most of us hear these stories and genuinely feel bad for them and their families, because as fellow duck hunters, they are our brothers and sisters.
Yet, the messages of these stories tend to go through one ear and out the other. Recently a buddy and I were involved in the kind of incident most of us think will not and cannot happen to us — but it did!
On Sunday, November 11, three friends and I began our day at a draw-in waterfowl area. But as each of us drew a pill from the box, it became apparent we would not be hunting there that day. Instead then, we hustled an hour and a half to a lake that has been real good to us duck hunting-wise the past few years. We had a spot in mind, reached it by boat, and began setting decoys for a shoot.
It was raining, freezing rain, flurrying. Then it stopped — and began to rain mallards. There were ducks everywhere, and of every kind. Between the four of us, we had 10 greenheads, 3 hen mallards, and a mixture of other ducks.
In all the great shooting, fun and excitement, it never crossed our minds that for a couple of us, this hot-barrel duck hunt might be our last.
It was getting close to 1 o’clock. I had promised my folks I would be home by 2 for a Thanksgiving dinner. So, Trent decided that while two of our friends started picking up the decoy spread, he and I would motor across the lake to my pickup. He would then run back and shuttle the others and the gear across the water to their vehicle.
As Trent and I were idling along (yes, I said idling), we were still amazed at the amount of birds flying. Even though we had limited out and were getting off the lake, there were still tons of birds in the air. It was a day of duck hunting every duck hunter dreams of.
At the same exact instant, we both shifted our gaze from the sky … to the stump in front of us!
“Stick!” we yelled simultaneously.
The stump, angled just right, made the boat go straight up and sideways at the same time. It all happened in a matter of seconds. The four life jackets that had been within arm’s reach now seemed miles away as water poured into the boat. Trent yelled, “Grab the life jacket!”
I ended up grabbing one; however, thinking back as the boat was rolling, I just kind of stood there. So MANY things go through your head in seconds and I froze, thinking “this is really happening.” Trent hopped out the back of the boat by the motor as I jumped away from the boat. Once again, everything took place in a matter of seconds.
I went underwater and popped back up — but not without a struggle.
The water was cold, and even though I’m a good swimmer I was finding it difficult with my waders and amount of clothing I had on. Luckily I was with someone who was calmer and was able to direct me in what to do. He shouted, “Kick your waders off and relax!”
Thinking back to those stories we’ve all read before, I remembered that’s the first thing they always tell you to do in such an incident: kick your waders off. I always thought if that was me, I would drown because it takes a person to stand behind me and pull my waders on. So how was I supposed to get them off in an accident?
However, when I undid the straps, my waders seemed to just fall off. I swam toward the boat. We were probably 75 yards from shore at this point. Trent tried to pull me on top of the boat with him. But it was not going to hold the weight of both of us on top, so I stayed in the water and held onto his hand and a handle on the boat.
Trent yelled back to our buddies who were picking up decoys, “Hey, call 911, we flipped the boat!” We were 200 yards from where we were hunting, so I can understand why one just looked over and yelled “What happened?” But it didn’t take long to for him to see what was going on. Then both of them bolted out of the water and grabbed their cell phones. Well, one of them grabbed his cell phone — the only one out of the four of us who even had his phone.
While I was sitting there floating, freezing, panicking, I heard Trent make the comment, “Man, my boat is trashed, huh?”
That was the last thing I wanted to hear! I told him, “Your boat!? What about my gun, what about my Canon camera?”
Just as that last word rolled off of my tongue, my camera came floating to the surface in its Pelican case — right in front of me.
I looked at Trent and told him, “I am going to float on this and kick my way to shore.” He said he would only let me go if I knew for sure I was going to make it.
“I think so,” I said.
The air-tight camera case was all I had for a floatation device. All other life jackets were lost as the boat rolled … including the one I once grasped in my hand. When your boat flips, it is like a hand grenade goes off inside, especially if the wind is blowing. Spare gas cans, marsh seats, guns, even the ducks you shot that day … go every which way and you wonder if you will ever even see any of these things again.
That is, of course, after you worry if anyone will ever see you again.
I swam for shore. I was within 30 yards when I felt like my efforts to reach shore were not working out. I wasn’t going anywhere anymore. So I decided it must be my coveralls and rain jacket dragging me down, just as my waders had. So I kicked them off as well, keeping my coveralls in one hand and my camera case in the other. I figured if I was going to survive, I might as well keep something, considering I had lost all my other things. Also, I didn’t want to have to replace everything in my wallet.
I made it another 15 yards and once again my momentum quit. But this time, as I kicked my feet in another panic, I felt one foot touch bottom.
Then I hit the ground running. I ran to my truck shedding clothing, socks, shorts — every layer I had on, figuring wet clothes weren’t going to do me any good.
I got to my truck, turned the heat on, took my phone out of the glove box and dialed 911. They barely got out “911 what’s your emergency?” before I was shouting where I was and what happened. The lady asked if I was okay and said that someone had already dialed 911, that I should stay in my truck and wait for them, and that is what I did.
About five minutes after I reached my truck, help arrived. But before it did, I received a casual call from my Dad, just wondering how the hunting had gone that day. What he got was me crying saying I was so sorry and that we had flipped the boat and where we were at and that I was so sorry. I told him it was just me and that Trent was still out there — and he immediately assumed the worst. He informed my Mom, and they both headed out to where we were. By the time they got there, the Conservation Department had already arrived with a boat to pick up Trent. He, too, was escorted to an ambulance and treated for hypothermia and pneumonia.
I was worried my Mom would be mad that I had single-handedly ruined our early Thanksgiving dinner plans. Yet to my surprise, she was not. I was embraced by both of my parents in a way that you could feel their relief.
All and all, everything turned out okay that day. We had to give the sheriff’s department and Conservation agents our statements of what happened, and we both were allowed to go home without taking an ambulance ride to a hospital. Even my camera was bone-dry inside the Pelican case!
However, my gun, shell bag, and waders, including Trent’s boat were now property of the lake.
We were lucky to be alive in my opinion. God was really watching over us that cold, windy Sunday.
But it doesn’t end there! The following Wednesday, God was with us again as Trent was able to recover his boat. When they dragged the boat in, it acted like a scoop across the bottom and they were also able to recover my gun, waders, shell bag, even the ducks I had shot that day! Sounds like a great story, right? Everyone turned out unscathed, and everything was recovered without damage except a swamp seat or two.
You know, my sister asked my Dad a week after the event if Trent and I could have really died. My Dad paused and said that we very well could have but we were fortunate enough to know we had to kick our waders off and get out of the chilled water. We owe that knowledge to stories such as this one.
In addition, to highlight our mistakes, we had four life jackets in the boat, all within arm’s reach. But in seconds, they were out of reach.
Things could have been a whole lot worse. I hope as a duck hunter that none of my fellow hunters ever have to go through something such as this. As you know though, things happen in an instant that we can’t explain. To break this thing down, be prepared, wear a life jacket, have a cell phone, make sure someone knows where you are hunting, and try not to panic if things do take a turn for the worse.
To everyone, have a great hunt, but most importantly — make it a safe hunt.
I had the chance to read the book Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander. All I can say is it was one of the best books I’ve read in the longest time. I’m not much of a reader, but I wasn’t able to put it down until I was finished. Phil Robertson and his family have come so far in life. Starting with nothing, the Duck Commander battles with personal demons all while trying to make a living for he and his family. It’s such an inspiration for anyone who’s having adversity in their lives because it’s a clear-cut example of if you want something bad enough, it’ll happen.
The book puts a realistic spin on life, and how you just have to take what life throws you and make the best of it. It doesn’t hurt to build a revolutionary kind of duck call, either! I would say Phil Robertson’s book helped me put things into perspective about life in general. It’s sometimes hard to deal with things, but in the end, if you want something bad enough, you’ll get it. Nothing comes free or easy, and the book is a definite example of wanting something bad enough and making the best of it. The Robertsons went from poor to having a multimillion dollar company in Duck & Buck Commander. So many people are able to relate to this story because they’re working on finding their niche, too.
As for the rest of the Robertson gang, there’s no doubt they had some tough times, too. But family will always prevail. Sure, everyone has their spats and disputes, but at the end of the day, your family will always be there for you. If there’s one thing I took away from reading Happy, Happy, Happy, it was to always cherish your family because they’ll always be there for you—no matter what.
Written by CollegiateCamo Pro-Staffer Brady Burks
Hey guys, my name is Brady Burks and I would like to start out first by saying thanks for the warm welcome I received as the newest member to the CollegiateCamo pro-staff team. If you haven’t had a chance to read my bio I am a 19 year old duck hunter from Wathena, Kansas. I hunt anything that moves, don’t get me wrong, but I have had a special connection to hunting ducks ever since a family friend introduced me to it in 2004. I liked duck hunting and anything to do with duck hunting so much, by 2006 I was already competing in duck calling competitions. I am no champion, however I enjoy it and last year hard work paid off when I won the Cabelas 2012 Novice Meat Competition. I look forward to this year’s competition season to see what it may bring.
More recent than my hobby of blowing duck calls, I have taken up the art of outdoor videography. This past seasons a group of friends and I logged over 9 hours of hunting footage, and I can honestly say I pressed record more than I did the trigger. I have never been a very good shot and my excuse for filming all the time is it’s harder to miss! And I get the same sensation of watching ducks fall through the view finder as I do looking down a barrel. I look forward to sharing these videos with the CollegiateCamo fans on my YouTube channel this summer! Which speaking of summer that is really what this blog is about, so here we go!
Seasonal Affective Disorder A.K.A SAD is a medical term often used to describe a depression one feels when the seasons change. More commonly found in people during the winter months, I feel it affects more people during the summer, and by people, I mean hunters. For in the summer months of June, July, and August, there is no rut, no migration, and no gobbling long beards to keep a hunter at bay. And unless you are an angler at heart, this can be a long three months for some. So my fellow sportsmen here are some ways I cope with the summer and avoid being S.A.D.!
First, there is always equipment that can be repaired and replaced, especially for the waterfowl hunter. You would think for the hundreds of dollars we spend on decoys each year we would take better care of them, yet by the end of each season there are always heads broken, strings and weights missing. And of course layout blinds full of corn, soybeans, and maybe even your shotgun full of it too. (Hopefully not, but it happens.) So one thing I like to do during the summer is go through all my equipment and make sure it is clean and put away neatly.
Also, even though I focus mainly on ducks another way to pass those summer months is to manage your properties for the upcoming season. For me, I have been putting in mineral blocks and trail cameras for my deer. Even if I end up hunting ducks more at least I know I will have the deer getting the minerals they need during the summer months. In addition, I spend time trimming branches and making decisions on where to put stands up that may give me a better encounter than the previous year.
One of the other things I do during the summer is of course fish. Being a waterfowl hunter, fishing allows me to be on the water and watch the local birds that hang around. Whether it be the flock of teal and divers on the river, or the massive resident honkers on the farm ponds near my house just looking at them and counting their hatch gets me jazzed about the season.
These are just some things that I do during the summer to avoid being S.A.D. If you are an avid hunter feeling down during the summer months, try doing what I do. There are plenty of outdoor hobbies and things that can be done to help you ease the pain until the next season comes. Don’t be another statistic and wind up with seasonal affective disorder.
Once again, thanks a lot guys on welcoming me aboard to the CollegiateCamo crew! If you want to know more about me, or see what I am up to find me on Facebook, or check out my YouTube channel “Brady Burks.” You can follow me on twitter @bburks66. Looking forward to a great year, we just have to make it through these summer months first!
Come visit us in Topeka, KS for the Monster Buck Classic at Booth 139.
The highlight of our booth will be Miss January from our “Women of the Outdoors” calendar. She will be autographing copies of the calendar (we expect her to have her Duck Calls with her too & boy does she know how to use them!)
CollegiateCamo will have discounts on our items, especially our signature outdoor college themed decals. Kansas State, University of Kansas and Fort Hays State will have the premier spot at this show, however we’ll be selling all school logos at a discounted price.
This show offers many opportunities for entertainment and education for the entire family. There will be many exhibitors, seminars, contests and celebrities for your enjoyment!
Admission Pricing Show Hours
14 and over: $10.00 Friday: 1 PM – 9 PM
Youth (8 – 13): $6.00 Saturday: 9 AM – 8 PM
Children 7 and under: Free Sunday: 9 AM – 5 PM
*Paid admission is good for the entire weekend so attendees can come and go as they please!
There is a $1.00 per person for parking cost to be collected at the ticket window.
For additional info about the Monster Buck Classic visit http://www.monsterbuckclassic.com/.
Additionally, we will be in Omaha, NE (Century Link Center) for the Nebraska Big Buck Classic at Booth 700. This show offers many opportunities for entertainment and education for the outdoor enthusiast. This show will include exhibitors, seminars, contests and much more for your enjoyment! A great idea for families too!
Nebraska fans will enjoy discounts on all items “Big Red”!
General Admission Show Hours
Single day tickets: Friday: 4pm to 9pm
Adults: $10 Saturday: 9am to 8pm
Kids 7-12: $5 Sunday: 10am to 4pm
Kids Under 7: FREE
Friday Night is Youth Night !!! Free General Admission for All Children Under 12!!!
For additional info about the Big Buck Classic visit http://www.nebraskabigbuckclassic.com/index.html.
It has been an eventful week in Stuttgart, Arkansas for the World Duck Calling Championship of 2010. New duck calling champions have been named and crowned in Stuttgart, and we at CollegiateCamo would like to send a huge and heartfelt congratulations to the winners in each of the duck calling categories. What a full year of preparation for many excellent duck callers!
Our team members who competed in the World Duck Calling Championship have returned home safely to their jobs or schools with numerous stories, dark circled eyes from lack of sleep, and a few extra pounds from the delicious duck gumbo.
Many of the competitors were actually competing against their own records as previous world champion duck callers. What an incredible challenge and test of discipline and determination! It must be daunting to compete with the best of the best – especially if you are one!
If you have never attended the World Duck Calling Championship in Stuttgart, Arkansas, definitely start planning now to make the trip and attend next year’s event. This is the only place to try duck gumbo for the first time, or a butt sticker! Rub elbows with the best of the best in duck calling competitors. Experience the camaraderie of a crowd full of committed waterfowlers. Schedule your 2011 trip now!
CollegiateCamo Pro-Staffers have some bragging rights! The CollegiateCamo team is so proud to boast that two of our Pro-Staff team members are in the top three Drake Waterfowl Systems “Power Rankings” for competition duck callers, as of 9/22/2010.
At #2 is Jody Niccum from Olathe, KS, with a ranking of 136.72.
You know him for his expertise in duck calling, but did you know this about Jody Niccum:
His favorite pizza is pepperoni; what he likes most in women is that “they be blonde”; his favorite drink is Gin & Tonic; he has a ritual before every competition, “I pray to my Grandparents”; his favorite breed of dog is “black lab”; he shoots a Winchester Super X2; his favorite vacation spot is Las Vegas; his hero is Mike Keller; his favorite movie is “the Guardian; his favorite branch of the military “Marines”; his favorite camo is “nat gear”; his favorite pastime is “bass fishing with dad”; his favorite duck is wigeon; his dream job “to own a hunting company” and finally –he prefers brief over boxers.
At #3 is John David Stanley III from Bixby, OK, with a ranking of 135.20.
JD’s known for his competitive nature, and we asked the same questions of JD Stanley:
JD loves meat lovers pizza, what he likes most in women is “their personality”; his favorite drink is “Jack & Coke; he has no ritual or superstition prior to competition; his preferred breed of dog is “black lab”; he shoots a Benelli Super Black Eagle II; Alaska is his favorite vacation spot; his hero “my dad”; his favorite movie is “A River Runs Through It”; Marines are his preferred military branch; favorite camo goes to nat gear; his favorite past time is fishing with his dad; his favorite duck is a canvasback; his dream job is to own an outfitting business; –he’s a boxer type of guy!
Thanks to both Jody and JD for sharing “intimate” parts of their personalities with us. We wish them the best this year in all competitions.
Check out a video of the duck callers in action:
We had a quackin’ good time at the American Legion Hall in Manhattan, Kan. last Friday for the Kansas State University Ducks Unlimited chapter. The DU chapter is making a comeback with this huge success. This is the first Kansas State University Ducks Unlimited Annual Banquet since 2007, with an impressive attendance of 195 fellow duck and goose hunters.
CollegiateCamo had a huge presence at this monumental Ducks Unlimited event. Co-founder Marty Morris is proud to be the 2010 chairman. Showcasing his waterfowl knowledge and blowing his duck call on stage was CollegiateCamo Pro-Staffer Jody Niccum, otherwise known as the 2007 World Champion Duck Caller. CollegiateCamo Pro-Staffers Dave West and Bret Burgmeier were also in attendance.
CollegiateCamo wishes to send a special thanks to Pat Mellard and his family, Michelle Palmer, Cheyenne George, Laura Rice, John Ritchey and all other Ducks Unlimited committee members at the Kansas State University chapter.
One hot item auctioned at the DU event was an autographed camouflage guitar, signed by many big red dirt country bands like Stoney Larue, Eli Young Band, Kevin Fowler, Aaron Watson, Rich O’Toole and the Blaine Younger Band.
The K-State Wildcats chapter of Ducks Unlimited is making a huge comeback, and plans to rival any and every other DU campus chapter in the Midwest.
Are you a K-State fan? Or perhaps your college of choice is one of the other Midwestern schools with a booming Ducks Unlimited branch. Either way, you should show your collegiate pride and purchase a CollegiateCamo camouflage college decal today!
With the big NCAA tournament going on, it’s easy to forget our Pro-Staffers that we are so proud of! So we at CollegiateCamo want to take a moment to recognize Jody Niccum, the Stuttgart 2007 World Champion of duck calling! The boys returned again to Stuttgart, Arkansas this weekend to continue their foray into professional duck calling. We’ll jump into the time machine briefly and return to the CollegiateCamo Christmas party so our loyal readers can visually hear and see our boys in action!
We are very excited to announce that Jody Niccum placed 1st in the Ducks Unlimited Regional Calling Contest!
Here is our own Jody Niccum with Queen Mallard Leah Conrad! We are very proud of our boys who are decked out in our own great Collegiate Camo gear!