Ep. 530 – From Challenger to Champion: Mike Anderson

John Gordon: Hello, everybody, and welcome again to the Ducks Unlimited podcast. I'm your host, John Gordon. It's November, everybody. Duck seasons, goose seasons, rolling all over the countryside. We're going to open up down here in Arkansas soon. Tennessee, Mississippi, the last of the seasons to open. Everybody else is pretty well going at this point. And my subject and my guest today We're going to talk about something that is on everybody's mind at this point in time, and that's, and that's duck calling. And specifically, you know, what calls to use, when to use them, how you get great at it, how you become better at it. We're just going to really dive into all these different subjects. And my guest today is 2009 World Duck Calling Champion, Mike Anderson. Mike, welcome to the DU Podcast.
Mike Anderson: Mike Anderson. Hey, what's up Gordo? How are you, man?

John Gordon: Man, I'm awesome, dude. Well, folks, you'll be able to see this on DU Nation where we hunted with Mike in his stomping grounds, really on the Missouri River. And it was a great time. That's right. Thanks for having us, Mike.

Mike Anderson: Hey, man. Thanks for coming. Yeah, it was. It was one of those special times where the birds kind of show up. We zagged and we should have zagged here and there, but man, we still got to see a pretty good show. That's for sure.

John Gordon: Yeah, it really was. We hit the migration right. That big front had hit North Dakota, and those birds were spilling out in big numbers, and it really was a pretty cool deal to see all that. The migration is an incredible thing anyway, and to be in the middle of it is really special.

Mike Anderson: Yeah, it's awesome, man. Anytime you see a snow in the forecast in North Dakota, in Montana, in Canada, it's like rally the troops, man, fill up the gas tanks and hop on the trucks and head to the river. It was worth the trip, man. It was one of those days where they show up overnight and you're driving through the main river channel and you're running snow geese and ducks out of the main river channel.

John Gordon: That's right. We got that all on film too. There was a tremendous amount of birds right there in the middle of the river, which are not normally there unless they've just gotten there. And so that was really some pretty cool footage. Mike, let's go back in time a little bit. Yes, sir. You're from Minnesota. Yeah. And how'd you really get started in waterfowl hunting?

Mike Anderson: Waterfowl hunting, it was definitely a family thing for me. And we hunted everything. And I always use the analogy that my dad was a deer hunter that duck hunted. And we started around eight years old. But what really got me hooked is I had an uncle that moved to Texas. in the early 80s, like 81, 82, somewhere around there. And what he used to do is buy me and my cousin DU Greenwing memberships. And then he would come back out from Texas and tell me all stories about the ducks that he would shoot down there. And he would just feel the fire of me being a, you know, seven, eight, nine, 10 year old up here in Minnesota shooting up. uh, a ring neck and a, and a wood duck kind of deal. And, and just really, you know, drilled the passion for me to not only, you know, learn how to blow a duck call, but, but to hunt more and want to hunt more and want to hunt ducks in a, in a real big way.

John Gordon: I got you. I got transplanted in Texas in that same time frame, early eighties. And those, that was the glory days of the 10 point duck in Texas. Cause we weren't hunting Mallards. I had moved from Mississippi where, you know, it was, You yeah, that's all you ever saw Mallard's maybe an occasional wood duck, right? And now all of a sudden I'm in this wonderland where the pentails are ten points Yeah, and and people are bringing out straps of 70 80 Drake's out of the marshes and it seems like you know Blasphemy now man, but those That was the glory days of the pintail populations. But even then, all the ducks just about were tens. Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal, they were all tens.

Mike Anderson: It was crazy. He would come back up and he would visit at least once or twice a year. And he'd bring up Polaroids of pictures that he'd be sitting there. And then me being a little guy that hunted up in northern Minnesota, like I couldn't even wrap my head around. What he got to do and what he got to see. And it just, man, it just fueled the fire for where I'm at today. And, and the love and desire that I have for it is, is direct, you know, uh, uh, a direct result of, of him kind of stuck in those flames.

John Gordon: Gotcha. Gotcha. So, so you're a kid coming up and of course, every kid that I know or knew wanted to be proficient at duck calling. I mean, that's the big deal, right? You think, man, if I can just learn how to call, they're just going to fall from the sky. It doesn't work like that, but you think that, you know, and it doesn't make a difference, especially with Mallards. Let's face it. I mean, they're the ones that you're really trying to work with. We were talking about Gadwalls earlier. I'm not sure they can be called with anything. They like to ignore everything.

Mike Anderson: We call them a lot of things.

John Gordon: Yeah, you call them a lot of things. That's right. But the old Gad, my friend, anyway.

Mike Anderson: Yeah. So that, you know, that, that fueled the fire. And then, and then sometime in the nineties, uh, me and my dad, we, we got a lease in Western Minnesota and I was around the time of our, our, the spinners first got into it and we went out there and that's the first time that I can remember really killing mallards in a good way. And it was like a kind of like an aha moment, like this is what I want to do and who I want to be. And then I think around 99 or 2000, I went to game fair and watched a calling contest there and said, you know, hey, I can do that. And that's kind of where it started.

John Gordon: obviously started you on a path that you really, you know, took to all the way. I mean, if you're becoming a champion in anything, it takes tremendous amount of dedication. I mean, how long did it really take you before you knew you could go into a contest and win?

Mike Anderson: Man, that's a loaded question. And it's, it's, I could tell you this, you know, in 99, I went and watched the contest and I went to a store we had up here called Gander Mountain, and they used to have a little glass call case. And inside that glass call case, there was expensive calls. And there was one on there that was $130 and it happened to be an RNT original. And I bought it saying, you know, well, that must be good. It's 130 bucks. And, uh, I bought that and I started practicing on that. And then I ordered a VHS of the, uh, and I'm going to butcher it. I think it's 2000 is 2000, 2001 world's championship. Uh, me and a buddy of mine ordered that VHS and we wore that sucker out back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And we used to record ourselves and, you know, we got to a point where we thought we were pretty good. and started entering our first contest and figured out we were not that good. And then just, you know, kind of got back to the drawing board and worked hard, worked hard. And, you know, honestly from 2000 to, gosh, I'd say like 2007, 2008, if I were to have an hour meter for how much time I put in to practicing my call, getting better at my call, being proficient with my call, I would honestly be almost embarrassed. to admit to what that hour meter would be. But I bet if you talk to anyone who has had any sort of success in the calling contest world, whether you're a world champion or just a proficient contest caller, there's a point in time where all of us put in an amount of work that is hard to describe.

John Gordon: Yeah, I think it was Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10,000 hour deal, right? Yeah, that's what it takes to become proficient or really good at anything.

Mike Anderson: It's a deal that you get out of it, what you put into it. Some people call it a talent, and I think it's a little bit of a talent. I was a band geek growing up, but I think it's more of a learned skill than it is a talent. If you wanna be good at operating a duck call, you can. You just gotta put in the sacrifice and the time and really get after it.

John Gordon: Exactly. You brought up a really good point. You had to buy a VHS tape. And I don't think people, you know, that are there from the younger generation understand that how little on calling was available. Then you had some records or cassettes you could listen to. You had a maybe tape, you know, of a calling contest where now they just go on YouTube and you just, man, you just type in anything and pop it up and you can just sit there and follow along and learn it all.

Mike Anderson: Man, it's crazy to think the evolution that happened in contest calling and in general, like in life in general, but contest calling. When I first started, I had to get in my truck, fill it up with gas, drive to Peoria, knowing I was going to get my butt kicked. I only ate my 50 bucks, but it was the only place I could go listen to a Jim Ronquist or Bernie Boyle or any of those guys. And then I go to Kansas City and go to all these regionals and everybody did. We would have what I call the glory years of contest calling would be the 2000s. YouTube was a thing, but it wasn't a thing yet. And you'd go to Kansas City and there'd be four regionals in KC and there'd be 40, 50 guys in every regional. And you'd go to Peoria, Illinois, you'd go to all these places and it was Burlington, Iowa, Arkansas, all that. And there was always 40, 50 guys. It was always highly competitive. It was a lot of fun back then. I felt like, I've kind of gotten back into it here recently and still some of the same guys are into it. And the young guys are good guys, but it's a different feel. Back then it was, these were our friends. This is who we all hung out with for those 10, 15 years. And it was awesome. And it doesn't, it doesn't feel that way. And I think that as a direct result of YouTube, you know, instead of having to go put, fill up the truck and drive to these contests and go watch these things, you know, if I'm 20 years old, I go on YouTube and I record myself and I can self evaluate. I can say, well, I'm not ready to compete yet. I'm not going to spend the money on gas. And, and I think that's where our current status is at.

John Gordon: Yeah, and it's a little sad because that's where you develop real camaraderie with the guys. It was always the same guys on the circuit, you know, at every contest. And you really got relationships with those folks. And once again, like you said, it's just really missing now.

Mike Anderson: Yeah, there's a disconnect. Some of my closest friends in this world live 1,000 miles away. And I can attribute that to a duck call. And I wouldn't trade those times in for anything. And I feel really bad for the young kids, in a way, bad, I should say, for the young kids that are into it like we were, that don't get to experience like we did. And, and, you know, it's probably the same old guy thing. My parents said, you know, about things to, you know, when they look at the young people, they look at, you know, they didn't agree with it or didn't like it as much. So I might be just the crotchety old guy, but, uh, I, I just feel like it's different.

John Gordon: It is, it is. And here, here's a pretty specific question for you say this is 2009, you know, and you're waking up in the morning, it's the, you know, your Stuttgart and. What's it like? What would you do to prepare yourself physically and mentally to go out there and compete at the highest level?

Mike Anderson: So physically, it would be practice. And at that time, I was kind of at the point to where my practice was more maintenance. Um, I knew what I was going, wanted to do. I knew how to do it. I just had to prepare myself to have the wind and strength built up and then the mental side. So what I would do back then is for the six to eight weeks leading up to the contest, I would pick up my call. I would blow three routines. If I blew all three clean, I put it down and left it alone. And then mentally how I prepared, you know, I'm a baseball coach, a little bit like baseball. It's kind of a, uh, I always say with baseball, if you believe you can, you will. And when it came to blowing the duck call, it's kind of the same thing. Now it's a beauty contest, not a, not a, not a race or a measured thing. So it's like, I can, I can't line up next to you, John, and we can't race to the end of this road and beat each other. You know, duck calling is a little bit different, but mentally I prepared myself in that way where I felt confident what I was going to do. I was going to get up on stage and do what I had practiced and was prepared to do.

John Gordon: Well, that's huge. Yeah, that's mental preparation, I think, for anything. The belief in yourself that you can do it is everything. Without that, it's just never going to happen. And I think, you think that's what really separates the guys who've been, you know, the top-level champions from everybody else?

Mike Anderson: I think that's a part of it. I think it's a big part of it. I also think, you know, it's the time they put in combined with the confidence that they gain combined with the tool that they get in their hand. You know, back, back when I was really getting after it, I had a, I had a stretch where I had a hard time blowing a routine clean. Uh, in particular, I remember like 2006, 2007, I went to like 13 different contests, had a lead and 12 of them and squawked out and every one of them. and never even qualified. And then what I did is in the January of 09, I took a hunting trip to Arkansas just to work with Butch Richenback. And he took time and built me a call that fit me. And I think it goes two ways with that. It truly fit me, but it also fit me and made me confident, if that makes sense. It got me confident with the tool that I had in my hand to where I could just go out and it was like a broken record. I just never or I rarely would make a mistake and just had everything that I needed in it kind of deal.

John Gordon: That's excellent. It's interesting, too, how I guess judges play a huge part in this sometimes, because everybody, you know, they have to know who's blowing the call sometimes, I would think. They've heard it so many times, right? Yeah. You know, and they have a preference for what they're listening for. Because, you know, you see some really young champions, a guy like Trey Crawford. I mean, he was a 19-year-old kid. And you got, like, Buck Gardner. I think it took him, like, you know, 12 tries, you know, before he ever won. So I think it's just perseverance has got to be a big part of being a champion as well.

Mike Anderson: Oh yeah, for sure. And the willing to, to, you know, I hate using this analogy because it's not necessarily a grind, but being willing to grind through it and understand that you're, you're going to show up and you're going to get cut. You're not going to make third round and the next, next one, you could do the same thing and, and, and win the dang thing. And I finally got to a point where I tried to structure my routine to where it was good enough where they couldn't deny me at least a decent score. Um, I might not win, but I tried to get it to a point, um, where they couldn't deny me a decent score. And I think ultimately, if you really want to really nerd out, when it comes to the scoring system and calling contests, the goal shouldn't be to be everybody's favorite, but the guys that really win with that panel of five judges can, can, you know, sing a song with your call that becomes everybody's second favorite. And everyone gives you a above average score.

John Gordon: That's it. I mean, and you're, and you're spending the money on, on entry fees and gasoline and everything else. And I'm sure a lot of guys who really could have been somebody in it got dissuaded by it and you just got to push through it. Like I said, it's a grind.

Mike Anderson: Yeah, totally. You have to push through it. And I haven't always pushed through it. You know, I took some time away for, for various reasons. you know, in the, in the 2010s, mostly did coach baseball, but yeah, you have to, you just gotta keep trucking, man. You gotta fill that gas, the gas tank, your truck back up and drive to the next one.

John Gordon: You mentioned Butch Richenback. You think he's the guy who created more world champions than anybody else with his, with his advice, with his tutelage?

Mike Anderson: In my time, there's no question. Like I owe my big trophy to him. Now, you know, I, I will say this with Butch. He wasn't He didn't teach me from scratch and teach me how to operate a duck call or this or that, but he just had a way about himself that would get you in line and a way about himself that he could get a call tuned in a way that you just felt like it was what you needed. And if you look back at all the names, the John Stevens, the Trey Crawfords, the Jim Ronquist, the Brent Easleys, the Jody Nickhams, so many different guys that, Brad Allen's, that Butch had a hand in. It's one of them deals, it's weird while you're in the process of it, like I love the man to death and he was really, really, really good to me and helped me a lot. And you didn't realize it necessarily while he was doing it, if that makes any sense. But when I look back at it, I would not be a world champion.

John Gordon: If not for both Richard Beck, I think a lot of guys just have folks for those. You don't know, but you're reaching back was the, the founder of rich and tone calls a real Arkansas legend, a disciple of, of chick major. And I'm looking at this box in here that I'm sure be pretty much envy of any call collector. We've got an, you know, an original box, a display box full of unopened Dixie Mallard calls, retail display box. I don't know what that thing's worth, but it's pretty cool to have it here in the podcast studio.

Mike Anderson: Man, I tell you what, there's some Facebook sites that would tell you exactly what that thing is worth.

John Gordon: I'm not even sure where they came from. I'm sure somebody probably donated them to us years ago, you know, and, um, you know, Chick, another guy and Chick was so great with kids, you know, the Chick and Sophie major, uh, scholarships and all that. I mean, you know, people just really, the calling world has been, has been good to a lot of people over the years. It's a, it's been, it's a really unique deal.

Mike Anderson: It is, you know, and I'm from up north, you know, I'm not from Arkansas, but obviously, but if you look at the history of duck call making and duck calling, man, Arkansas in particular, Stuttgart in that area, it is the epicenter. There are so many big names and call makers and callers that have come within 70 miles of that town. It's just incredible, you know, that's who and what duck calling is.

John Gordon: And it makes perfect sense of why. That was the real epicenter of mallard hunting for so long. It was right there in the Stuttgart area. You had people like Slick McCollum and Marion McCollum of Max Prairie Wings and all these people who really created a real culture of duck calling, duck hunting in that area. So I think that really spawned some of the great callers in the past, for sure.

Mike Anderson: Yeah 100% 100% and you know I think when if we fast forward you know another 20 years I think we'll look at Jim and John in in the same through the same lens as we do those names that you just said you know I can I can attribute a lot of my you know calling practice and improvement to those those CDs they made I don't know what year it was, but they had a set of three CDs, Foundations for Success, and I forget what the other two were called, but I know when you sit and you listen to Guys Blow Duck Calls right now, and you listen to Guys Blow Single Cuts and this and that, it sounds exactly like Jim and John did in that CD set that they made 25 years ago that I think a lot of us learned how to operate a duck call on.

John Gordon: It's true. I remember the first time I heard John blow a call, and I think it was on a Whistling Wing video from back in the 90s, and thinking to myself, saying, my God, if I could ever learn how to call like that, it would be amazing because his control is just, it's astounding.

Mike Anderson: I still listen to his feed call and think the same thing. It's kind of one of them little kid things. When I grow up, I want to blow a feed call like John Stevens.

John Gordon: Yeah, it was great. I've had John on the podcast in the past. We did a DU Nation film at Kalapalooza this past summer. That was a really cool event. You got to really see duck calling at its finest and duck call craftsmanship at its finest. And he's got a very cool shop. For anybody who hasn't been to the Rich and Tone shop there in Stuttgart, you know, take a little pilgrimage and check it out. It's very cool.

Mike Anderson: It's very cool. They've made it they've made it into an event. You know the shop isn't isn't what it was. Now I have a I have a partial bias. I love the new shop. I love the changes that they've made. I mean they've made it like I said into an event. But the the shop from 15 years ago on World's Weekend are some of my greatest memories. I really enjoyed after the World's Contest when we go down to the shop and hang out there. That was so awesome. I wish at the time, if I could rewind back, I would have made a point to tell John and Angie how much that meant to all of us. Because I don't think at the time being all of us At that time, I can say we were the entitled 20 year olds, but being the, uh, 20 year old age group, I don't think we necessarily did a good enough job letting them know how big of a deal and how much that meant to us. That was a really cool place to be at.

John Gordon: Yeah. Yeah. And I know John enjoyed every minute of it as well. Being, you know, three time world champion, champion of champions. I mean, he, he did it all and just what a super guy too. I mean, just a really kind soul. Yeah, for sure. All right, everybody, we're gonna take a little break on the DU podcast and we'll be right back with more from Mike Anderson. Welcome back, everybody, to the Ducks Unlimited podcast. My guest today, 2009 World Duck Calling Champion, Mike Anderson. We've been talking about contest calling and what it takes really to be a champion. Let's talk about the calls for a second, Mike. Yes, sir. Let's talk about contest calls first. What do you think, in your opinion, makes a great contest call? Is it volume? Is it clarity? What do you think?

Mike Anderson: Man, that's a question we could sit down and crack some bush lights and really talk at length about that. But if I look at it through my lens, what I like, I think something that has enough volume but then still has enough bottom end to sound like a duck, that you would be comfortable hunting with it. I would say the trend has steered a little bit away from that, but if you can get a call that has enough volume, but still allows you to sound like a duck on the bottom end, and gives you enough range to do what you wanna do, that's what I look for.

John Gordon: And that's the same thing, I think, in a hunting call, too, right? At least for me, it is.

Mike Anderson: Yeah, 100%. You know, the same rules apply. Honestly, they do apply. Because, you know, a hail call, you know, doesn't sound like a duck. But I will say this, I still say this, and, you know, my buddy Sean Stahl used to always say this, and I plagiarizing here and there, but like when we're operating the call, we're not always trying to sound like a duck, you know, we're trying to trigger a reaction. You know, we're either, you know, trying to, trying to get them to hear us from when they're way out or, or, or, uh, sometimes, you know, if, if they're starting to bank wide and pitch in, you know, downwind or, or somewhere left or right that we don't want them to, we might bark at them real hard. just to trigger that reaction. I think the same thing, you know, you want in a contest call, you want something that can bark and something that can get loud, you know, get good tone on top, but then, uh, you can finish in two. And, uh, I just think that sound, uh, resonates on stage.

John Gordon: Exactly. And it's two for hunting. We talked about this at length as well, that I like loud calls. You like loud calls. You can't make a softer call loud, but you can get softer with a loud call. And I think people really need to focus on trying to really be able to control their airflow to do that.

Mike Anderson: hundred percent you know like Jimbo kind of blew up the Mondo a little bit you know kind of really you know expanded the duck call making horizons beyond the little niche of the old just in Arkansas by creating the Mondo and I hunt on marshes and I hunt on big water and I blow a Mondo as much as I do a small J frame call Because exactly like you said, you can blow a loud call quiet, you can't blow a quiet call loud, and those cut-down style calls just have that bark that can trigger that reaction and can get out there too.

John Gordon: That's right. I interviewed Jimbo for an article I wrote for Greenhead Magazine on cut-down calls years ago, and the Mondo had just really come out at that point. He talked about But he thought, what he really thought separated the cut-down style call from a J-frame was the frequency level. That you could really get that bass note that would carry to a duck's ears a lot farther. And it makes a lot of sense. You can really feel and hear bass, like in a stereo system, a lot more than treble. You can be 20, 30 feet outside the vehicle and still feel that bass pumping.

Mike Anderson: Yeah, correct, correct. Agreed on it. I could not agree with that more. And a lot of the times too, when you duck hunt and depending on your weather, but let's say you've got a 15 mile an hour wind and let's say your ducks are 500 yards away or whatever the measurement is. Well, if you add a 15 mile an hour wind to a duck, uh, flapping its wings, the odds of him hearing you with a regular timber style call are kind of slim. So sometimes like Jimbo describes, I just believe in it. In fact, last year I was down there hunting with him at his camp, and there's a couple different places you can hunt there. We had a hole on the tree line on the edge of a rice field, and he was hunting a tree line hole in a slough, and he was, I don't know if I put a… put a measurement on it, but let's say a quarter mile away, and he was blowing his Mondo. And at that distance, it actually sounded like a Mallard hen to me from that distance, the way that that sound carried and traveled. And I would not say, if I stand next to a guy that hits a lick on a Mondo or a cut down style, I don't necessarily resonate that to an actual Mallard hemp. You know, I think it, when I'm standing right next to it, it doesn't have that same sound, but when I was that far away, it sounded exactly like a Mallard hemp.

John Gordon: And that's why it works. I've seen so many Mallard drakes, especially single ones cruising by. Not, not respond at all to a J frame. You hit them with that bark on that Mondo and man, all of a sudden, boom, they wheel around because they heard it. They felt it in, in, they just didn't feel the J frame. And I guess explain J frame call versus cut down for people that really don't know. I mean, the J frame is like the standard Arkansas style call. And then what they did with the old calls, you know, they cut them down and made them louder. Um, so explain that for a little bit to the, to the audience there, Mike.

Mike Anderson: In layman's terms, a traditional J-frame style call, when you hold the insert up, and I'm holding one in my hand right now, when you hold the insert up, it is shaped like a J. And I'm not gonna be able to tell the length of it, but essentially the read is shorter and the tone board is traditional. Now a cut down call, when you hold the insert in your hand, it's still shaped like a J. But what the old guys, the original guys that kind of did this first on the old in Southern Arkansas, is they would take that insert and they would cut it off at the end. And then when you look at a cut down style call, the read is a lot longer, which I am not as proficient when it comes to call making as guys that do it. But this is how I think of it in my head. Think of your read as an RPM, okay? A J frame calls, the RPM on the read goes up and down. at a faster, smoother rate, whereas the cut-down call is longer and has a slower RPM rate, creating that base, if that makes sense.

John Gordon: And that just translates into a lower frequency on the cut-down, which carries farther in the air. And that's the main difference, folks. You just got to realize that that's why the cut-down has become such a staple now in the calling world. And a lot of thanks to Jimbo for really creating it commercially.

Mike Anderson: Yeah. Yeah, dude. Totally. I mean, he, uh, you know, obviously he, he'll never take credit for this cause it's just the way that he is. But, you know, if you really look at it, you know, and I, and I can't speak for our key or for John, but I'm, I'm, I'm pretty sure that I've been told that once after the first year of the Mondo every year since then the number one selling, you know, call maker was a cut down Mondo. That says it in itself. And I know there's other versions like JJ Lairs, which I don't use, but I've blown them. They have a different method of getting to there. And I'll butcher the science, but they've got an insert and has a different type of read, but they kind of play with that same type of frequency and they get there in their own way too.

John Gordon: Yeah, for those that are not really familiar with J.J. Laird, he's a Western guy, so a lot of the Western folks really, that's what they use is J.J.'s. Yeah, yeah. Calling is kind of cool too, and calls, because people are, they're regional with them. You know, they like to use a lot of the stuff that is available in their region, in their area, so that's a cool part of it as well.

Mike Anderson: Yeah, it's so cool, man. And the older that I get, the more I appreciate some of that and that side of it where years ago I might not have as much and I'm a little bit more fascinated with it. And you probably got through the same thing. I think of all the different calls that I've had over the years that I've either sold or given away or lost or something like that, that I would love to have back.

John Gordon: Right now, me too. I thought about that the other day. I know when I moved to Texas as a kid, the big call and still a big call in that part of the world. Uh, well, and all over the place really is the old, you know, cowboy Fernandez calls, you know, that, that he made and actually won the world championship in 1959. I believe with that, with that call, you know, the SureShot calls and, and I have no idea where my original SureShot is that I got when I was a kid. And man, I would really love to have it.

Mike Anderson: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. No doubt. I had an old, old Solderman 66 that, uh, my dad gave me and I don't know what year, probably sometime in the late eighties, early nineties. And then I'd love to have it. And then in the, in the, in the early two thousands, when I was getting into contest calling late, all the daisy cutters and stuff like that. I can remember I had two original daisy cutters that had the clear barrel and the black insert with skull and crossbones that, I don't know, John only made like 50 of them or whatever it was. And I gave them to kids one time when I was doing a youth event. And now I've heard that those things are selling for like $4,000 on Facebook.

John Gordon: That's a whole nother world too. And I learned a lot about it at Calpalooza, the call collector. Yeah. I mean, guys, man, guys were showing me pictures of their call rooms that were just like, my Lord, so elaborate. And they had these cases built into the walls and just, they had thousands of calls and I just couldn't wrap my head around it. I like calls, but man, not that much.

Mike Anderson: Right. Right, right, right, yeah, you're not wrong, you're not wrong, yeah. So I've got on my lander, I've got a daisy cutter that I've had on there since, I don't know, like 2004, 2005, maybe 2003. And I had a guy one time, he's like, whoa, you hunt with that? I'm like, why wouldn't I? He's like, that's a, this scroll or that scroll, I'm not even sure what scroll it is. It's like a full scroll something or other. And he's like, man, you could sell that for like 700 bucks. And I'm like, what, really?

John Gordon: I mean, you talk, there's nerds and everything, right? You got the call nerds. They know the specific little differences on the barrels and the inserts that make calls more collectible. And I just, yeah, like you said, I've been blowing the same daisy cutter I've had too for years. And I wouldn't know what style that is or, you know, if I had, if you put a gun to my head.

Mike Anderson: Right, right. In a way, it's better not to know. It's kind of the way I look at it.

John Gordon: It's better not to know you've got a valuable call, you know?

Mike Anderson: Right, right. Now, let me tell you, if it creeps up above a thousand bucks, someone please let me know. It's for sale. Everything, that's right, man. You know, everyone asks me, someone will ask me like, you know, hey, do you like your fishing boat? Are you selling it? And I'm like, hey man, everything at my house except for my kids and my wife is for sale. If you're willing to pay me in retrospect for it, I will gladly sell it.

John Gordon: That's right. That's right. Calls have come a tremendously long way, but there's, you know, the old metal reed style calls are really popular, like places like Real Foot Lake to, you know, the really development of plastics to acrylic calls. And the acrylics have really been the elite calls of the last, you know, 30, 40 years. Um, just because, I mean, they're a lot more stable than wood, but I love a wood call too, man. I mean, there's just something that the, you know, just something beautiful, just like, uh, you know, I still shoot a lot of wood stock, you know, blue steel, Walnut guns, you know, just a little more romantic, I think, to have a wood.

Mike Anderson: Yeah, totally. My, my, uh, I've got an old Ithaca model 37 that. with every once in a while. And it's a Woodstock and it's just pretty. There's something about it that I like better.

John Gordon: That synthetic stock camo gun, man, it just does have, it's got no romance, you know, it just doesn't have any character to it.

Mike Anderson: It's a tool, you know, it's a push pull, it's a decoy retriever, and it'll shoot ducks.

John Gordon: I've got an old metal recall that, you know, my uncle's foundation guy, my uncle was, you know, a real estate developer, home builder, and a guy named Dick Reed in Dick, Mississippi. And I forgot he was another guy that taught him about how to make those calls, and I've still got it. And it's just one of my most prized possessions. I don't hunt with it. It's in my office in a display case because it just, it means a lot to me. But it's a, you know, it's a real loud call and it will turn ducks a long way. I've seen it, I think, once again, I think it's because it's got a low frequency and it really has that sound they're looking for.

Mike Anderson: Yeah. Yeah. You know, it's just like, uh, you know, the same rules apply, you know, we, we, we haven't, you know, especially in my time, um, we haven't exactly re reinvented the wheel, but I, but I would say what we have done is refined the wheel and maybe put some better bearings and a bigger engine in it. Um, the, the, what works, what docs react to has not changed. In fact, right now there's a, there's a pretty big comeback of the ensigns.

John Gordon: Yeah. Well, new ownership and they really have, uh, developed, uh, you know, that style call in a modern platform where it, you know, like I said, I was talking about before with cowboy Fernandez developed that call back in the 1950s and they've really taken it to a modern day level now. And I'm sure they're doing well with it.

Mike Anderson: Yeah, you know, uh, uh, buddy of mine came and hunted with me, you know, I think a weekend or two weekends before you and he brought one with him and we messed around with it and, and man, it still has that same base and that same good sound and it sounds good.

John Gordon: Yeah. I haven't, I haven't used one of the new ones. I really, you know, like I need an excuse to spend money on duck hunting stuff. I may set to buy one and see what it's like, you know, it's, uh, I'm a sucker for something new.

Mike Anderson: Oh, absolutely, man. You know what? It's, it's half of the fun shoot for me.

John Gordon: A lot of times it's all the fun. Cause I think about duck hunting and stuff 365 days a year. Right. And so it never, it never stops. And I'm always like, man, I need to get this and the other, and that's pretty cool. And that's something to go. And, you know, there's been a lot of big time call makers over the years. Guys like Eli Haydel, you're talking about musicians. Right? I mean, his family was big-time musicians, and they really developed their love for calls and calling from a background in musicianship. And I think, you know, Eli was a big sax player. And so I think that's a big part of their legacy and what he really brought to the calling table. Those old DR-85s still work pretty good.

Mike Anderson: Oh, man. Yeah. Yeah. And they still have that sound and they, they still have that same model and, and, and it, then ducks still react the same way to it. It's, uh, they sound like a duck, man.

John Gordon: Yeah, that's it. That's it. Sounds like a duck. All right. We'll switch gears again a little bit on you because we did something that I don't do a lot of is we hunt out of boats and your boat set up was one of the cooler setups I've ever hunted out of. And that's because you love to hunt rivers. Right. And where did that really start? When did you really become a guy that, man, you look at a river and you just see ducks fall out of the sky?

Mike Anderson: Man, you know, that started, honestly, I'm going to date back. I'm going to say it was taken volume two or three when Barney Califf hunted with Buck Gardner. on the Missouri River. When I watched that, my eyes were, you know, living up here. See, we don't live, you know, where I directly live. You know, we'll shoot mallards and we'll have good mallard days, but if we go and shoot two or three limits of mallards, we may have seen a hundred ducks, a hundred mallards that day. So we don't see stuff like that. I'm like, man, that's cool. So I built a little 12 foot V hall and put a blind on it and kind of started that. And then a good friend of mine that you know, you knew too, bless his heart, Wayne Salem. Yeah, man, you know, there's a duck hunter. Then there's Wayne. Every duck hunter is looking up to Wayne. It's amazing when you go to places and you bring up his name, how many people north to south know who that man was. We started with mud motor rigs and pop-up lines, and we have slowly wanted… We used to think before that, hey, we needed a mud motor. We needed a mud motor to get here and here and here. And we started hunting more and saying, well, we're cold, we don't go as fast, and we're not cutting through that much mud. So I finally kind of bit the bullet and kind of went all in and bought a 2072. It's a tracker model, 2008. I just started to kind of hack away on it this last… summer and put a 115 four stroke on it, learned how to weld aluminum. Like I was joking with you when we were in the boat, you can sit in the boat and look at the blind and see where I started the build to where I finished it because my welding skills got a lot better.

John Gordon: Mike's welding skills. Yeah, you can see it folks on the blind there.

Mike Anderson: So, uh, our, our theory with it, why, why we guys have been hunting, hunting with them for 20, 30, probably forever, you know, but that we have seen for 20, 30 years, but our theory was one, we want to stay warm too. We want to stay safe. And three, I think, I think the boats hide better than those pop-up blinds. You get a completely hard side.

John Gordon: 100% agreement on that. Good. Once you got back in those frag might, he's cut some frag monies, put it in there. And, uh, your yours is covered in tumbleweeds. Am I correct? That's the outside cover.

Mike Anderson: Yeah, yes, sir. I have a base layer of aluminum sheeting, and then I put a base layer of blind grass camo on it. And then outside of that, I took tumbleweeds and really coated it with tumbleweeds just to give it that 3D effect. And my wife always likes to use the analogy, it looks like a chia pet.

John Gordon: That's a good one. Yeah, it kind of does.

Mike Anderson: It does, exactly. And then what we do when we hunt, wherever we're hunting, like we hunted in frags, fragmites that day, we just take the hedge trimmer out, cut fragmites, stick it in there, stick it in the tumbleweed and get covered up, you know, get, get some shadows going over the hunting holes and, and, uh, fire up the Blackstone and cook some food and shoot some ducks.

John Gordon: Yeah, that's a really nice rig, folks. And once again, you can see it all on DU Nation on YouTube. It sounded like an advertisement right there. It kind of did.

Mike Anderson: I'm trying to get more viewers. You know what I'm saying? You're doing a great job, man. I can't wait to see the, the, uh, drone footage. Oh yeah. The drone looks from a duck's perspective.

John Gordon: I always love it too. You know, cause I don't know, you know, Zach seeing it on his phone, but I don't know what it looks like until it comes, you know, he shows it to me later. And I'm always amazed by the things you can see and the things you can see in the distance that you don't, that you're looking from a bird's eye view. That's been such a huge development in video over the last, because before that all you had to have a plane or helicopter. to get that perspective. And now you get it every video, run the drone up. And he was running that drone right there with us running down the river too. And that's gotta be really cool.

Mike Anderson: Yeah, it's gotta be super cool. Yeah, man. It was a pleasure getting you guys out there. And I just love hunting out of that boat. It's funny. Every time I look for ducks now, I look for a boat ramp. I'm like, can I get the boat down there or not?

John Gordon: Can I get the boat in?

Mike Anderson: Yeah, I'm not going to say that it's making me soft, but it's just making me, you know, it's made me want to hunt out of it, put all that work into it. And, you know, we had, we had decent hunting when you were there, but, you know, after you left, we really got into them. And, and a buddy of mine said that I had kind of a proud daddy moment those last three days. And we shot limits of greenheads for three days in a row. It was, it was awesome.

John Gordon: Yeah, nothing like it. Nothing like it. You know, it's just waterfowl hunting, right? It's all being in the right place at the right time. It's everything, isn't it?

Mike Anderson: Yeah, right place, right time. And, you know, the stuff in between, it's still great. You know, we may have not crushed limits of greenheads or shot limits of greenheads before you were there. It was still a great time. We still seen some pretty cool stuff. And, you know, anytime you get to hunt in a boat that's got a 22 inch Blackstone and eat breakfast, that's not a bad thing.

John Gordon: Uh, you know, man, I tell you, those pancakes were awesome that you had, you know, both days, the pancakes, the pigs in a blanket.

Mike Anderson: They're not a bad thing.

John Gordon: You have a favorite river hunt. You can go back on and say, man, that was really special for whatever reason.

Mike Anderson: I got two. One was from 2014. Uh, me and my son, who's now 23 going to be 24. We were, we were hunting our way down to Arkansas for the world's championship. And we were hunting with Wayne and a few others. And we had a pod of ducks that were kind of isolated in a given spot of the river. And we weren't hunting the X. We were leaving them be and hunting the edges. And we were milking out a couple weeks worth of really good hunting. And then it was either Thanksgiving morning or the morning before, we said as a group, we're like, all right, we're all going to be gone. We're not coming back for a couple of weeks. And the water's falling out. They're getting to winter levels up there. we said, Hey, let's go hunt them. So we went, we went out and we hunted, uh, we hunted the X and we call it 30, 30, we killed 30 green heads in 30 minutes. It was, you know, my little guy was, you know, he's 13, I think at that time and he was shooting a little SX three 20 gauge. And normally being the little guy, you just kind of let them go. I remember having to turn to tell him, I'm like, Ben, you've shot enough duck. It's time for you to put your gun down with the older guys. Uh huh. And, uh, Then another one that sticks in my head was the year after the flood, and I'm gonna butcher the years, it's like 11 or 12 somewhere.

John Gordon: That was 2011, yeah.

Mike Anderson: That sounds right. So it had been 11 or 12, like you said, and we were hunting near the hole that we hunted, and it was one of those trips that we didn't kill anything, and we didn't know if we were gonna go, my tilt trim wasn't working. And we said, let's go. And we went out and, uh, we froze our butts out, but we killed four limits and we finished bunches of, you know, a hundred plus. And that one really sticks in my head too. And I got a couple of ducks mounted from that one.

John Gordon: I'm just running the scenario of ducks coming down. I got to see these mallards working those cornfields in South Dakota. It's just, it's hanging with me, you know, they were just bombing out the sky and big numbers. And it just, man, when you're underneath that as a waterfowl hunter, those memories are, you know, last a lifetime.

Mike Anderson: They do man. I'll, I'll, you know, it's, it's like, so you, you go on and it doesn't matter if you're in Arkansas, uh, if you're in Missouri, you're in Minnesota, you're in South Dakota, North Dakota, you don't always get them. And, and in fact, you probably get them less times than, than you do get them. But those days where they're special, that's what keeps you going. If you have 10 bad ones in a row, those days, they stick in your head and they keep you, keep you wanting it and keep you getting after it.

John Gordon: That's it. Cause you're one day closer to that day. Every time you go out the door and I tell people, man, you just got to get out there. You got to go and do it.

Mike Anderson: You just, you don't want that, that cliche saying that you came up with. You know, however many years ago, right? It's not, it's a cliche. Just go, man. You gotta just go. You, you, you can't kill him sitting at home on the couch and you don't get to see a show sitting at home on the couch. You know, it's, uh, it's nature's paradise, man.

John Gordon: And it's being November, man. I'm fired up right now. I just want to throw on some waiters and run out the door.

Mike Anderson: That's right. That's right, man. You know, like this weekend, you know, this week is a prime example of just go. If you look at the forecast, it's not, it's not anything to get excited about.

John Gordon: Yeah, it doesn't look really ideal. Nothing like what we had just a couple of weeks ago.

Mike Anderson: No, heck no. But you know what? We're going to go. We're going to go fire up the Blackstone. We'll probably shoot some gadwalls and maybe a mallard or two, and maybe we'll get them. Maybe we won't, but we're going to go no matter what.

John Gordon: That's right, brother. It's all good. Man, I can't thank you enough, Mike, for joining me on the podcast. It's been a real pleasure.

Mike Anderson: Yeah, man. Well, thanks for having me on. I can sit and talk duck calling and duck hunting anytime.

John Gordon: No kidding. I can sit here and do this entire day. That's, that's no problem at all.

Mike Anderson: Like we said, you know, we're, we're hunting the boat. It's like, you kind of got a dream job, man.

John Gordon: This is awesome. I'm not going to complain, Mike. I want to tell you. No, no, yeah. Yeah. No, no, nobody would complain in my position if you're, if you're a waterfowl junkie, that's for sure. But anyway, well, thanks again, Mike. And, uh, man, looking forward to seeing you again in the future. That's right. I'd like to thank our audience and thank everybody out there for supporting Ducks Unlimited and wetlands and waterfowl conservation.

Creators and Guests

John Gordon
Ducks Unlimited Podcast & DU Nation Host
Ep. 530 – From Challenger to Champion: Mike Anderson