He explained that Phil just started growing his beard out every year before hunting season and the rest of his boys—all except one are Duckmen—followed suit. The look got the company attention and made them stand out so it just stuck. And while the look is sure to draw attention wherever the men appear, it has also helped them grow the business from a simple call company to one that is now a leading seller of duck hunting DVDs, clothing, gear and even marinades and sauces.
“It’s the best marketing gimmick anybody’s ever thought of and it didn’t cost…” Willie says with a big smile while holding his hand up to form a zero. He laughs as he mentions how they have lately started to notice how some of their smaller competitors at outdoor shows are growing their beards out, too.
And for those of you quick to stereotype long-haired bearded folks as backwoods wild men or renegade biker types, you’d be dead wrong. Phil, the elder Robertson, is a former teacher who attended Louisiana Tech on a football scholarship and played first string quarterback ahead of NFL Hall-of-Famer Terry Bradshaw. All of his boys are college educated—the only one not a Duckman is a preacher. And as for Willie, along with hunting, he loves to play golf and is a baseball fanatic. Hell, these guys are us, just with more hair, long beards and a lot cooler jobs.
Oh, and about the hair, while you might think this is part of their year-round look, you’d be wrong on that too. Just as bucks loose their antlers after each season, so do the Duckmen with their beards. As soon as the big industry trade shows such as SHOT Show end in early February, all of the crew gets shorn. Willie had to wait a little longer this year because he was scheduled to film a turkey hunt with Benelli’s American Safari and needed to keep the branded look. Korie, as stylish and normal-looking as any suburban wife and mother (sitting next to Willie one can’t help but summon the comparison to Beauty and the Beast), says she doesn’t mind, she’s used to it, though her and Willie both laugh as they explain how one of the Duckmen’s wives is waiting with scissors each year when her husband returns from SHOT.
“She absolutely HATES the hair,” Korie says.
As for Willie’s latest venture, Buck Commander, he’s bringing the Duck Commander concept along with his love for baseball to whitetail hunting. He’s teamed up with such big-named hunting ball players as Chipper Jones, Adam LaRoche, Todd Helton, Ryan Langerhans, Brad Hawpe and others to create exciting whitetail hunting DVDs. In fact, two of those Buckmen, Helton and Hawpe will take the field tonight in Game 1 of the World Series. Of course, they’ll face another deer hunting fanatic on the mound in Boston’s Josh Beckett. It should be a good match-up of sportsmen on a different type of playing field and one that Willie Robertson hopes will one day translate into success for Buck Commander the way Moses-like beards have on the duck-side of the business.
With long beards a preoccupation among many turkey hunters, it would seem the bearded-personality concept is a natural fit for our sport. But somehow, Turkey Commander just doesn’t have the same ring.