John Geiger of Game & Fish/Sportsman Magazine and Crossbow Revolution recently caught up with Willie Robertson of the wildly popular Duck Dynasty TV show at Robertson’s West Monroe, La., office where the show is filmed. Geiger sat down with the TV star and Buck Commander/Duck Commander CEO to talk about the show, family, deer hunting, crossbows and what’s next for the 40-year-old multi-millionaire duck call maker.
John Geiger: Your most recent season finale on Duck Dynasty crushed American Idol in the ratings and saw 9.6 million viewers. What do you attribute the amazing popularity of your show to?
Willie Robertson: Family values. We’re funny. Funny helps. We’re positive. I think people sense the authenticity of us as people. They wish they were like that, or maybe they are like that. I’m talking God-fearing, gun-toting people like us. Our show is clean. You can watch it as a family. Kids and grandparents can watch together. If it’s appealing and everyone can sit down and watch, then it is a unique kind of show nowadays.
JG: There are more than 12 million hunters in the U.S., but I think we can safely assume that many of your viewers are not hunters. How do you think non-hunters perceive us hunters through your show?
WR: Those non-hunters see it as entertaining, and hopefully we show people who hunt and outdoorsmen as positive people anyone can relate to. The program shows that we are successful at our business, and people respect that fact no matter where they live. And they see that we pray together, have a meal together as a family and bring it all back together. Whether you are urban or country or whatever, people are seeing that it’s possible to live like that.
JG: How much of the show is scripted and how much is unrehearsed?
WR: The show needs a beginning, middle and end, and we have 22 minutes to do that. So, therefore, things have to be moved in a way that you achieve that. As far as scripts, we are who we are. None of us went to acting school.
Before we film, we all get together and talk about ideas and situations for the show. We tape it and some stuff works, some doesn’t. I tell you, it would be impossible to script this out of Hollywood with what we do here. They have no idea about how we live here and what we do—it’s just who we are. The stuff we do is authentic.
I am CEO of this company, and you’ll see more of my CEO side portrayed in the show. I am the boss of the company. And they hone in on the parts that are the most entertaining. They highlight the goof-off points. They show Jase not doing work, but he does do work. They just show when he doesn’t.
JG: Why do you hunt with a crossbow?
WR: I’ve always enjoyed hunting with different kinds of weapons: rifle, bow, crossbow. I follow the season. If it’s bow season, I’ll use bow. If I can use a crossbow, I will. I also love having a little extra distance—compared to a bow—and more confidence in my shot. I’m not trying to prove anything to anybody. Crossbows are just fun. You can practice it in your back yard.
I can get my kids involved and take them on hunts. Hey, at some stage we’re all going to shoot crossbows [because we’ll get older and won’t be able to draw vertical bows]. So we might as well get better at them. I also like breaking down that old stigma that they are only for certain types of people.
Personally, I am out to feed my family. This is a new weapon for us in Louisiana. They are safe and fun. I am so glad Louisiana opened up the [archery] season to crossbows [in 2008]. I shoot the Buck Commander Xtreme by Barnett Crossbows. It’s light, and I love the handle on the forend. It’s much easier to use treestand hunting. I was probably the first person to shoot a deer with it, back in December. I took a 180-inch Louisiana buck with that crossbow. It was awesome.
JG: Who is your favorite person to hunt with?
WR: Oh, that’s tough. But I’d say family. I know that’s not one person, but it’s true. I love hunting with my wife, Korie. She had never been hunting but she took a deer in Louisiana last season. She was so happy about it, and I was so proud. I loved being there with her for that. It wasn’t a huge buck. It had no brow tines, or as she called them “brown” tines. That was hilarious. I was whispering to her, “Go ahead and take him.” I started to tell her where to aim, and she said, “I know where to aim. I watch your show.” That was great.
You know I also love to go hunting with Buck Commander crew [Ryan Langerhans of the Toronto Blue Jays, Adam LaRoche of the Washington Nationals, country music stars Luke Bryant and Jason Aldean]. All of us have other things that we do, me with Duck Commander and Duck Dynasty. All these guys are uber busy. But we get together, and it’s just like any deer camp with jokes and campfire and good times.
JG: You’ve attained stardom. You run a very successful company. So what’s next?
WR: I don’t know. Buy an island? Um, we’ll be doing a Christmas album. We’ll film another season if we finish negotiations. I’m not the looking-three-years-down-the-road kind of guy. If I tried to plan the last three years, I would have way undershot this. But there are so many opportunities. Most of them crap. But I’ll just figure out what I want to do. I’ll run the business and hunt as much as I can, which isn’t enough anymore. Last season I got in 23 days of deer hunting in November and December, which was cool. I guess there are seasons in life and we are just in one of the busier ones.
Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil once started ahead of Terry Bradshaw at quarterback for Louisiana Tech, but decided to go into the duck business instead of play pro ball. He's also an expert at turning off his wife's chatter when necessary.