Published on Monday, March 5, 2018
Like many farmers, Willie Robertson of Duck Commander understands what it is like to work in a family business. He also believes that spending time with his family is very important, and in this interview he shares stories about his family and what it's like to work with them day in and day out. Check out this latest Time Out interview to learn more about Willie, the Robertson clan and his views on agriculture and it's impact on his daily life.
Talk about the value of running a business and working with your family.
"We grew up in the family business with Duck Commander so we were the original employees when were children so I grew up in it and am really used to it. My wife’s family as well had a family business, so we ended up hiring some of them. The good things are that you are always on the same page; you have your ups and downs, usually together. You just have to know when to turn it off sometimes. When you eat around that dinner table, that’s when it turns off and we talk about other stuff. I think sharing the joys together and the highs and successes with your family outweighs the bad of it."
Your dad, Phil, played quarterback at Louisiana Tech ahead of Terry Bradshaw. Did he pass on any of those athletic genes?
"Well, I also played quarterback and then had a devastating knee injury, which put me into basketball with a little less contact. I played high school basketball. I tried to talk my way on a college team, but the coach was having none of it. We were all athletic but didn’t do a lot of organized sports. We grew up on the river, and it was a long way from the team. We played stuff in school. I still love athletics and play tennis and golf and still enjoy getting out. My sons play basketball and Sadie played basketball, so it was fun watching them play."
You play in several celebrity golf tournaments. During these tournaments, do you play more for fun or do you enjoy the competition?
"Well, I would like to be more competitive, but my game is a little lacking. The problem is a lot of those celebrities are retired from what they used to do so they’re able to play golf a lot. For me, I am having to hone it in, so mostly it’s for fun. You get used to the crowds and people watching and all the interaction, which is awesome and it’s great that they come out. I just love being there and playing nice courses. There’s a little kind of a circuit of celebrities so it’s good seeing people and catching up with everyone. I try to keep my expectations low and just do it for fun."
How did Duck Dynasty get started?
"We had a show on the outdoor channel called Duck Commander. It was kind of half reality and half hunting, kind of hard core hunting, duck hunting. A guy saw it who was a producer and sent an email to the general information box at our company and said, “Willie, I’ve watched your show. I’ve seen your family. I think you all have a really big show on your hands that could be on cable.” I called him up and that’s where it started. We made a couple pilots. And then A&E, I’m not sure if they knew what they were viewing because if you see a photo of it, they’d be thinking one thing. I’d think it was going to be like swamp people with guns shooting ducks. They called up and said we have good news and bad news. The bad news was that’s not the show that we ordered when we saw the pilot, but the good news is it’s way better than the show we thought we were getting. They saw the family aspect of the funny stuff, and we went with that and never looked back."
Tell us one good story about Uncle Si.
"Uncle Si, well, he’s cracking me up right now because when the show was over, he came by my house and said he wanted me to buy a music label because he said he was getting us in the country music business. He was going to start this career at close to 70 years old. All he sang was George Jones covers. I said I think you may be a little late in the game for a country music star because I know some of them and know how hard they work. But he was dedicated. I didn’t buy the label, but he ended up just signing with a label and now he is out singing music everywhere. Every time I’ve heard him sing, it’s not the best thing I have heard so I’m not sure how that career is going for him. I give him one thing, he’s crazy enough to do anything. It is fun watching him have fun with it. He is kind of playing off some of that Duck Dynasty success because everyone loves him. I just don’t know how good his career is going to do but who knows."
How many different products do Duck Commander and Buck Commander have for sale, and is there anything new coming?
"With Buck Commander, we do more of just the show and then we have our brand on things and partner up with a lot of different companies, use their products. So we’re all kind of busy, we all have other jobs as well. I’m with Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Adam Laroche, and some former baseball players. We all have other things going on but we really just focused in and show the fun of deer hunting.
With Duck, we obviously have our duck calls, and we’re always coming up with new calls. We hear stuff from people about what they’re needing out in the fields, whether it’s a little raspier or a little louder. We do a pro line series with Jase because he is the man when it comes to that so he’s always coming out with stuff. We also launched Strut Commander so now we have turkey calls. And we have Fin Commander so we have some fishing products. We are just kind of expanding out and trying to find some more critters to make calls for."
What occupation would you being in if not for Duck Commander?
"I have a PE degree, so my back up plan was going to be a coach. My father did the same thing; he has a physical education degree as well. I did love athletics, so I thought I would coach. I coached all my kids when they were young in the different leagues. I would probably be a coach; I think I would enjoy that."
We don’t have gators up north. How often do you have run-ins?
"In some places, especially frog hunting, we have a lot. Not when we’re duck hunting because it’s cold so you don’t have to worry about the gators. I was playing golf with Jase in Florida recently, and he had his ball right by the hazard and a gator came up and grabbed the ball and took it in the water. We were trying to figure out what the ruling is when a gator grabs a golf ball and takes off with it."
Where have you hunted in the Midwest?
"Kansas, Missouri, I have not had much luck in Illinois, and I did shoot a doe in Iowa one time. We need to get back to Iowa hopefully soon enough and get up there and enjoy hunting. It’s tough rolling in there for a day or two so I think I need more time. Last year, I hunted in Nebraska, and we had a blast up there, so that was fun."
I am going to ask you a few rapid-fire questions. Are you ready?
Favorite sport outside of hunting?
"Got to be golf."
How long has your beard been?
"I bet it’s been probably mid chest at one point. I just trimmed it back for the spring."
Favorite animal to hunt?
"White tail deer. I’m the black sheep of the family, I love deer hunting. I believe that is my favorite."
Who does the cooking in your house: you or your wife Korie?
"I do pretty much 95% of all the cooking. My wife cooks when I’m not in town. She just told me since I have been gone for about 6 days that they have worn out the delivery pizza, so I need to get home to cook. But I do all the meals, all the cooking and the planning, the whole thing."
Favorite family member to beat in a contest?
"Hands down Jase. He is 2 1/2 years older than me so we have been competing literally our entire lives with each other. I love beating him at anything. He is a golfer as well, so we do a lot of that. We used to play everything, so he is the one I want to take down all the time."
What are some of your future goals for you and your family?
"We are involved in our local church. I have been doing more of that recently. I have been preaching a lot more and going out speaking at different places. We are in meetings right now about television and seeing what’s next and different kind of shows. If there’s an opportunity there, we might end up somewhere in TV. But it will be different than Duck Dynasty. I’m kind of enjoying now that we’re not filming anymore; it’s been fun to just run the business and live a normal life for a while."
How does American Agricultural effect your daily life?
"Well, since I do all the cooking, I’m constantly involved with agricultural because I’m always up there shopping. I do all the grocery shopping, too. I really appreciate all the men and women who grow stuff for us. And also I grow stuff for animals all the time. We’re always feeding the ducks and the deer, so I’m into it and appreciate it and just love it!"
Thanks, Willie! Hope we can get you up to Iowa to hunt a big buck someday!
Author: Brendan Unkrich
Categories: Sports and Lifestyle
Tags: hunting, Family, Willie Robertson, Duck Commander, Family-Owned Business, Sports and Lifestyle, Duck Calls
Brendan grew up on his family's farm outside of Swedesburg, Iowa. During high school, he played basketball, baseball, and golf. After high school, Brendan attended Iowa State University where he ran the scout team for the ISU women’s basketball team. Brendan graduated in 2001 with a bachelor in
Brendan grew up on his family's farm outside of Swedesburg, Iowa. During high school, he played basketball, baseball, and golf. After high school, Brendan attended Iowa State University where he ran the scout team for the ISU women’s basketball team. Brendan graduated in 2001 with a bachelor in agricultural business and accepted an internship with the Indiana Pacers in the video scouting department. After a year away, Brendan decided to rejoin his father on the family farm and take a part-time college basketball scouting position covering the Midwest, allowing him to pursue both his passions. Today, farming and family take up most of his time, but he still follows sports, especially basketball, constantly. Brendan and his wife have a three-year-old son and one-year-old daughter who are full of energy and laughter, and growing entirely too fast. Brendan also enjoys a round of golf and caddies for his brother in-law in a couple of tournaments each year.