You might say the executives of the A&E cable network were pleased with the premiere of the 2013 season of Duck Dynasty. Actually, it would be more accurate to say they were happy, happy, happy – to borrow a phrase from the patriarch of the Robertson clan! As USA Today noted, “Wednesday’s episode, which focused on a surprise wedding-vow renewal ceremony for Phil and Kay Robertson, attracted 11.8 million viewers and 6.3 million advertiser-coveted young adults (18-to-49).” This was no fluke. This episode was up 37% in viewers and 26% in young adults vs. last season’s premiere, which also set records.
So, what gives here? Why would almost 12-million viewers tune in to a reality show based on the often ridiculous exploits of a group of self-avowed, redneck duck hunters?
We asked Texas Back Institute surgeon and avid outdoor sportsman Dr. Ralph Rashbaum that question and his response is consistent with media observers around the world, “It’s simple, really. This show is about family values. All of the hunting, fishing, duck calls and related hijinks are just supporting storylines to this.”
Whether it was intentional or not, Duck Dynasty and the Southern charm of the extended Robertson family has had a positive influence on a large number of people – both city slickers and country bumpkins – who have developed an interest in hunting and fishing. While the fishing rod, shotgun and camouflage apparel manufacturers are (dare we say it) happy, happy, happy, this will inevitably lead to more people in the fields when the fall hunting season kicks off in September.
Unfortunately, some of these hunters will show up in Dr. Rashbaum’s examining room shortly thereafter. Before getting some advice from him about avoiding back injuries while swinging that shotgun, let’s take a moment to introduce Duck Dynasty to precious few who have not made the acquaintance of the Robertson family of West Monroe, Louisiana.
Meet the Folks who Work for Duck Commander
The storylines of the 1950’s situation comedy “I Love Lucy” worked around a one-bedroom apartment in New York City where Lucy and Ricky Ricardo managed to get into hysterical predicaments with the help of their neighbors, Fred and Ethyl Mertz. Similarly, almost every episode of Duck Dynasty incorporates the “Duck Commander” duck call factory. Unlike Lucy and Ricky’s home, this factory actually exists and this very successful company, started by Phil Robertson, has produced highly regarded duck calls for many years.
When Phil retired to hunt ducks, fish for crappie and teach his grandbabies “how to avoid becoming yuppies,” his son Willie took over as CEO of Duck Commander. The other Robertson son, Jase, is an employee of the company and, as the most of the funny premises of the show result from Jase refusing to recognize the authority of his older brother, Willie. He is usually joined in this harassment of his brother by their Uncle Si, Phil’s brother, a Vietnam vet, perpetual ice-tea drinker and full time philosopher, and the rest of the employees at Duck Commander.
Each week, these real-life characters deal with simple issues that are cleverly embellished to become a comedic crisis. In the end, everything gets worked out and the last scene of every episode has the entire family around the dinner table with Phil saying grace.
Duck Dynasty: A Boon for Outdoor Sports
The fun these folks on Duck Dynasty are having is resonating with men and women who have decided to take up the sports of hunting and fishing. Several outdoor sports trade publications have noted that the show has done more for increasing the popularity of these ancient pursuits than anything in the past century.
It’s estimated by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) that more than 20.6 million people in the U.S. hunt each year and this number will likely increase with the popularity of this show and others like it. Two years ago, the NSSF noted that more than 8,000 U.S. hunters annually were injured while enjoying their time in the woods and as more novice hunters get out in the field, this number will likely increase.
As someone who is both an avid outdoor sportsman and highly-regarded spine surgeon, Dr. Ralph Rashbaum is in a unique position to offer some guidance to both novice and seasoned hunters and anglers. “Stamina and flexibility are the two most important factors in avoiding back strains or injuries, but common sense and proper safety precautions are even more important,” he said.
Dr. Rashbaum continued, “I love to bow hunt and many times this is done from a tree stand to avoid the superior sense of smell enjoyed by deer. Climbing up to the stand can cause back strains if the muscles are not properly conditioned. Falling from a tree stand can seriously injure or facture the vertebrae in the spine. This type of accident is very common and it can be avoided with proper precautions.”
Dove season begins in most states in September and many hunters will be donning the camo and swinging their 12 and 20-guage shotguns for hours. What does Dr. Rashbaum suggest for these hunters to avoid back strains and injuries?
“I’ve been on a 4-day dove hunt in South America, where my son-in-law and I shot more than 2,300 rounds of 12 and 20-gauge shells! Needless to say, we were tired at the end of the day (however, not as tired as the retrievers who brought back the birds!), but because we had conditioned our shoulders, neck and arms and had spent time stretching these muscles before the hunt, we were able to have an amazing experience and very little back pain.”
Fishing is also popular with the Duck Dynasty clan and millions of other outdoor sports enthusiasts. What does Dr. Rashbaum recommend to avoid back strain from a day of casting? “It really depends on the type of fishing you are thinking about. I love to deep-sea fish and also enjoy fly fishing in fresh water. These are two very different experiences and require different conditioning.”
“If you think you might fighting a marlin for two hours on the open sea, you should definitely get to the gym a few weeks before the trip and work on building strength in your back, shoulder and arm muscles. This can be done with weight training as well as such exercises as rowing and pull-downs. On the other hand, the most dangerous part of fly fishing is not from casting but rather from walking on slippery rocks to get near the fish. Having appropriate equipment – waders with boots that don’t slide and using a walking stick – will help with this.”
Life Lessons of Duck Dynasty
It’s interesting that the situations and values portrayed on Duck Dynasty seem to be as relevant to an urban audience as it is to that which is rural. While he lives and practices in the highly-urbanized area, Dr. Rashbaum is a big fan of the show. “The people on Duck Dynasty are the salt of the earth and represent the best of family values. Plus, they’re very funny!”
It appears that life lessons of Phil, his family and friends on Duck Dynasty go beyond frog catching and duck calling. As Uncle Si would say: “That’s a fact, Jack.”