Editor’s note: This interview took place in 2010, before Duck Dynasty debuted, and it’s been so popular that we decided to update it with some never-before-printed quotes and tips from Phil.
Do you remember the first duck you ever killed?
There were five boys and two girls in the family. The oldest brother was the one who used the shotgun. An old Browning 16-gauge. I was about 10 years old when I told my mom I was going to skip school and go get us some ducks. My brothers were all gone. It was near Red River. I ran all the way there. Three teal and a pintail came low on the left. And here’s the amazing thing: I can still see ’em, coming in on my left, and I emptied that gun — went two out of three. They were the first ducks I ever shot at. I took my clothes off and dog-paddled out there in that little lake. It was a pintail hen and three greenwing teal — but I didn’t know what they were. I ran home. My daddy was sitting there at the fire — I said “Paw, I have struck.”
Here’s the kicker. I can take you to the exact spot where that happened. When those ducks came left to right — I knew right then, I’ve got to have this. I was hooked from that day on.
So no one actually taught you to duck hunt?
Well, I’d go with my daddy and my uncles. And they were good duck callers. I was a little boy — 6-7 years old. They were old school. They took such pride in duck calling, that if they didn’t light (land) them, they didn’t think you were a sportsman. They said “you ain’t no duck hunter unless you can finish them.”
A lot of what you did after that — 10 years on — it sounds like you taught yourself?
That’s right. I’m independent enough that I wouldn’t try to copy somebody. What someone said, the way they looked, a duck call — nothing. I’m going to run my own show.
Can a duck see a black Lab in a blind?
I don’t think that ducks are afraid of dogs. I’ve seen them flare, but I’ve sat and watched ducks feeding, and two coyotes come down to the water, and the ducks see the coyotes, and they don’t fly off. A duck can fly, and he knows he can fly.
Also, many times, a dog will be swimming in the water and the ripples they make bring the ducks in. They help you as much as they hurt you, many times. I know a dog’s head, going out across the water — that helps. I’ve got a canopy out over my dogs from the top –— the ducks can’t see them that way. By the time they see the dog, we’re shooting them anyway.
What was the most unique duck you’ve ever shot?
A canary yellow canvasback — bright yellow — like it was dyed. It was banded. We sent in the duck band, figuring this thing must be worth a lot. Send us our money. I received a call from the feds on that. They told me they had dyed 100 of them canary yellow, they also dyed 100 flamingo pink, and they also dyed 100 of them fluorescent green…
Is this a true story?
True story. He said the reason they did that was they figured a Louisiana duck hunter would kill anything they couldn’t identify, and it would offer a good return. The other reason is that it would enable them to fly over in an airplane and look down and see the ducks for tracking. We had a big laugh about it. My buddy mounted it.
What do you do with your bands?
I give them away now. I used to keep them and put them around my neck like these other guys, but now I give them away.
What was your best hunt ever?
I don’t want to talk numbers. I would just simply say to that question, that would be back before I repented. Those (hunts) would have been back in my previous life.