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