Fa­mil­iar but dif­fer­ent

Ryan Bassham has hunted all over the world, a happy by-prod­uct of his roles as head of mar­ket­ing at Sitka Gear and co-owner and hunt con­sul­tant with Tro­phy Ex­pe­di­tions. In all his trav­els he had never been to Aus­tralia and didn’t un­der­stand the tra­di­tion

Field and Game - - TRAVELLING HUNTERS -

Not many duck hunts start with a Neil Arm­strong moment, but when Ryan Bassham set foot on Lake Ge­orge in South Aus­tralia, he was the first hunter to do so in a pair of Sitka waders. Sure, it’s not quite as mo­men­tous as leav­ing your foot­prints on the moon, but how many peo­ple can claim to have been the first to do some­thing on a con­ti­nent? More on the waders later on in this is­sue. Ryan’s Aus­tralian ad­ven­ture be­gan with a con­ver­sa­tion with leg­endary duck hunter Ram­say Rus­sell from “Aus­tralia has al­ways been a place of in­trigue for me and some­where I’ve wanted to visit. My main rea­son ini­tially

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was to hunt wa­ter buf­falo in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory, but sev­eral years ago Ram­say and I were in a camp some­where and got talk­ing about what the wa­ter­fowl hunt­ing was like,” Ryan said. “I have a col­lec­tion of wa­ter­fowl books about species around the world and I re­mem­ber study­ing it hop­ing maybe, one day, I would get here.” Ram­say be­ing Ram­say, he stum­bled on a con­nec­tion when he found him­self in a hide in Arkansas with Field & Game mem­bers Glen Falla and Trent Leen. Two years later Ram­say Rus­sell made his first trip to hunt in Aus­tralia and soon af­ter Glenn Falla launched Falla’s Wa­ter­fowl Out­fit­ters, join­ing the sta­ble of global hunt­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties with

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Roll on a year and Ram­say is back stand­ing on the shores of Lake Ge­orge in SA with Ryan along­side him and the con­ver­sa­tion about wa­ter­fowl­ing to­gether in Aus­tralia is now a re­al­ity. “I’m so pleas­antly sur­prised,” Ryan said. “It isn’t much dif­fer­ent to home (Boze­man, Mon­tana) and there’s a rich cul­ture of wa­ter­fowl hunt­ing here which is pretty amaz­ing. No­body back home knows about this, in fact they were scratch­ing their heads and ask­ing ‘Why Aus­tralia?’ “

Of course, Aus­tralian duck hun­ters al­ready know the an­swer, but most of the world is obliv­i­ous to the pos­si­bil­i­ties.

Glenn Falla said that is par­tic­u­larly true in the United States where many hun­ters wouldn’t travel to the next state, let alone to the other side of the world.

Over the last cou­ple of years, the con­ver­sa­tion has started to change, with so­cial me­dia, pod­casts and ar­ti­cles about Aus­tralian wa­ter­fowl­ing build­ing in­ter­est.

Ram­say Rus­sell said Aus­tralia has fea­tured in Cal­i­for­nia Wa­ter­fowl, Sa­fari Club In­ter­na­tional, Dallas Sa­fari Club and Sport­ing Clas­sics and The End of the Line pod­cast recorded while on this trip was one of the most down­loaded of all time.

Glenn said Aus­tralia was now a part of the dis­cus­sion for trav­el­ling hun­ters.

“It is in­valu­able, we are re­ally in an

>> em­bry­onic state in terms of hunter tourism, the ex­po­sure is fan­tas­tic,” he said. “There seems to be huge in­ter­est in the US and also from China.”

Glenn said he’s in it for the long haul and ex­pects it could take five years to es­tab­lish a steady book of in­ter­na­tional clients.

Lo­cal clients are also emerg­ing, whether it is ac­cess to mit­i­ga­tion on the rice in NSW or new, or novice hun­ters look­ing for in­struc­tion as much as guid­ing. “It may be peo­ple who don’t have the ex­pe­ri­ence or knowl­edge and want to ac­cel­er­ate their learn­ing or even city dwellers who want to ex­pe­ri­ence pest an­i­mal hunt­ing,” he said.

“I’m happy to try and fill that void as much as I can.”

Ryan, who said Tro­phy Ex­pe­di­tions is based on there al­ways be­ing an ad­ven­ture out there, hunted Lake Ge­orge and Lake Al­bert in SA and under the tall tim­ber in Vic­to­ria.

“It isn’t just about hunt­ing, it is the ef­fort to get there, meet­ing new peo­ple and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing dif­fer­ent cul­tures,” he said. “I’ve joked about it a few times but se­ri­ously, watching the movie Crocodile

Dundee when I was a kid and young and im­pres­sion­able, cre­ated this mys­tery about this place which drove me to want to come here.”

From a busi­ness per­spec­tive, he said there was an “al­lure” about Aus­tralia. “It has ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions. What has been re­ally nice is that it is so much like home in ev­ery way; there’s a bunch of Aus­tralians here who like to chase ducks, just like we do, which is a heck of a lot of fun.” “The hunt­ing is fan­tas­tic. I com­pare it to hunt­ing I’ve done around the Great Salt Lake in Utah and down on the Gulf Coast of Texas.”

Ram­say said he’s done a lot of think­ing be­tween trips to Aus­tralia, reach­ing the con­clu­sion that the older he gets and the more in­for­ma­tion he has, the more con­fused he is.

Aus­tralia has opened his eyes to the fact that hunt­ing glob­ally is be­ing con­stantly un­der­mined and hun­ters need to stick to­gether. “This is a pro­found des­ti­na­tion and it has re­ally made me think about the rel­e­vance of hunt­ing,” he said. “We’re all cling­ing to the same life raft.” In the US, hunt­ing gen­er­ates $35 bil­lion in eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity but in the con­text of a tril­lion dol­lar econ­omy, that isn’t a big num­ber. Ram­say said wise use, con­ser­va­tion, and con­sump­tion are all good ar­gu­ments for hunt­ing, but he now won­ders if we should just boldly stake our claim in a sim­pler way. “We hunt, that’s what we en­joy do­ing, there’s great di­ver­sity in the things peo­ple like to do, this is just what we do,” he said. “In a free so­ci­ety we should have that right.”

Ryan Bassham at Lake Ge­orge in SA

Ram­say Rus­sell

Ryan Bassham watches for birds on the wing and right; helps set the de­coy spread

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