Gettin’ Ragged Outdoors

Chehalis Company Carves Niche with DVDs on Duck Hunting Tips

By Tom Paulu
The Daily News

Four Lewis County hunting buddies have banded together to form a duck hunting DVD business offering expert advise on how to bag birds. Pictured are Jeff Berg, Chehalis but originally from Winlock, left, and business partner Mack Neitzel of Silver Creek. (Photographs courtesy of Ragged Outdoors)

Location, location, location is the key to finding a good home for duck hunting. That was one of the tips offered by Justin Livingston during a recent waterfowl hunting seminar.

Livingston is an avid duck hunter and one of the partners in Ragged Outdoors, a Chehalis-based company that produces waterfowl hunting DVDs.

“If you can find where ducks want to be, that’s 90 percent of it right there,” Livingston said. “The way you do that is scouting.”

These days, scouting can start near a Wi-Fi connection rather than a wetland. Livingston is a big fan of Google Earth, a computer program with satellite photographs that can be zoomed for close-up views.

“That completely changed the whole way we’ve done things,” he said. For instance, the program can show bays where waterfowl congregate to get out of the wind.

It’s still necessary to scout in the field, too.

Justin Livingston, Chehalis, wears a ghillie suit similar to what a military sniper would use, while on an area duck hunt. Livingston is one of four local hunters that have formed the business Ragged Outdoors. (Photograph courtesy of Ragged Outdoors)

“Take your deer binoculars and get out there and start looking,” Livingston advised. Explore back roads. Knock on doors to ask for permission to hunt on private land.

If you have a weekend free to hunt at a new location, Livingston suggested spending the first day scouting on the ground in order to have better success actually shooting at birds the next day.

“Too often, too many guys are willing to settle for sub-par spots,” Livingston said. “We’re in the business of killing birds, not sitting in blinds.”

Livingston, 27, and three hunting buddies started their Ragged Outdoors business three years ago.

Now, when they go hunting, they shoot with both shotguns and professional-quality video cameras.

All four partners have day jobs: Livingston is an electrician. Learning to make movies has “all been self-taught,” he said. “It’s been all learned in the school of hard knocks.”

Ragged Outdoors has released two waterfowl DVDs and the partners are working on a third. They hope to expand to deer hunting DVDs, said Nathan Shepherd, 28, Chehalis.

For now, the four men enjoy the camaraderie of shooting ducks and geese.

Mack Neitzel, left, and Nathan Shepherd of Chehalis are two of four owners of Ragged Outdoors, a company that produces duck hunting videos out of Chehalis. (Photograph courtesy of Ragged Outdoors)

“We like the fact that you’re hanging out” in the blind or boat, Shepherd said. “There’s a lot of time to shoot the breeze and joke around and stuff,” unlike big game hunting, where silence is golden.

Another plus? The chances of bringing home dinner are much higher with duck hunting than deer or elk, Shepherd pointed out.

Some other tips from Livingston and Shepherd:

• In Southwest Washington, the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge is a good place to start waterfowl hunting. Hunters can reserve blinds. www.fws.gov/ridgefieldrefuges/ridgefield/recreation/huntinghomepage.html.

The Ragged Outdoors men also hunt on the Columbia River. “As long as you’re safe and you’re smart, there’s good hunting to be had,” Shepherd said. “It’s a matter of doing a bit of legwork.”

• Early in the season, it’s easier to fool young ducks that have never been hunted. After the first month of the season, however, it’s hard to attract ducks without the use of moving decoys. (Washington and Oregon don’t allow electrically powered “robo-ducks,” but moving decoys with pull cords are permitted.)

• Make sure your decoys are clean or ducks won’t be fooled. “Dried mud does not exist on live birds,” Livingston said.

• “Don’t shoot the roost,” Livingston said, a way of saying don’t hunt close to dusk, even if it’s still legal hunting hours. Ducks scared away just before they intend to roost for the night won’t return to that spot.

• Don’t be tempted to save money on waders. “One of our first two video clips is of me pouring my waders out,” Livingston said. “I finally got myself some nice ones.”

• Friends don’t let friends duck hunt without face paint. The more camo, the better.

Where, When to Hunt

In Southwest Washington, waterfowl hunters have through Jan. 30 to hunt for ducks and — in most parts of the region — geese. An exception is the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, where the quota of dusky Canada geese was reached in November. Hunters can still hunt ducks in the refuge, and all other hunt zones within Goose Management Area 2A remain open for ducks and geese. That is also the case in management areas 3 (including Lewis and Skamania counties) and 5 (Klickitat and Yakima counties).

For more information, see the Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game pamphlet on WDFW’s website at wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/.