Ducks Unlimited Podcast

In this episode of the Ducks Unlimited podcast, host Katie Burke interviews Cooper Rossner from Guyette and Deeter. Cooper shares his journey from teaching high school to becoming a decoy carver and working with Guyette and Deeter. Cooper shares the impact that decoy carving  mentors like Jamie Hand and George Strunk have had on his career. He also gives us the ins and outs of Guyette and Deeter’s Weekly Online Auctions.

Creators & Guests

Katie Burke
Ducks Unlimited Podcast Collectibles Host

What is Ducks Unlimited Podcast?

Ducks Unlimited Podcast is a constant discussion of all things waterfowl; from in-depth hunting tips and tactics, to waterfowl biology, research, science, and habitat updates. The DU Podcast is the go-to resource for waterfowl hunters and conservationists. Ducks Unlimited is the world's leader in wetlands conservation.

00:00 Katie Burke Hi, everybody. Welcome back to the Ducks Unlimited podcast. It's your host, Katie Burke. And today on the podcast, I have Cooper Rossner here with me from Guyette and Dieter. He's also a carver. Welcome to the show.

00:13 Cooper Rossner Hi, Katie. Welcome to the Eastern Shore.

00:15 Katie Burke Yeah, I'm excited to be here. Yeah, we're here in St. Michael's at Guyette and Dieter second gun auction, correct? Second. And I've never been out here. I mean, I've never, I've been, I lived in Philadelphia, but I've never been to this part.

00:28 Cooper Rossner I say welcome to the Eastern Shore like I'm from here. I'm not. Where are you from? Well, my wife and I moved here almost three years ago from Cape May, New Jersey. Okay. Grew up there. She was in the Coast Guard. We met there. She's from Virginia Beach and here we are. Here you are.

00:43 Katie Burke So you're kind of in between.

00:44 Cooper Rossner Yeah, in between two families, it's nice.

00:46 Katie Burke Yeah, it's not too bad. So did you move here, when did you start with Guyette and Dieter? Same time.

00:51 Cooper Rossner Just a little under three years ago. So I was teaching high school. COVID made that not so fun. John wanted someone to come sell decoys because Zack Cody was graduating out of that weekly manager position into a partnership position. And we joke around that I was the only one dumb enough to do it. I came here, actually, George Strunk, a mentor and a real good friend of mine, probably one of my best friends. He recommended me to John and John and I connected.

01:21 Katie Burke I have been to George's house. Have you? Yes, and when we're done with this, I have to show you a picture of my little girl who just, she's turning seven on Wednesday. Oh, wow. I have a picture of her in his shop with holding like two giant, they're not yardsticks, they're much longer than rulers, like she's in his shop. Yeah, I spend a lot of time in that shop all the time. Yeah, I got to go early when I started with Ducks Limited and I need to go back.

01:46 Cooper Rossner He was in a Carver's exhibit out there with Cameron and Marty.

01:50 Katie Burke He did. He did an early show with me. One of my first borrowed exhibits that I planned, it was him and Cameron and Marty. Yeah. And I love George. Three good guys that have an exhibit. Yeah. So let's talk about that a little bit more, a little before that. So you grew up in Cape May. Did you grow up waterfowl hunting? How did you get into carving and waterfowl?

02:09 Cooper Rossner I went to a really cool high school, Cape May County Technical High School. My technical or vocational class was natural sciences. That was really a class on how to fish and hunt. Oh, really? I grew up fishing with my dad. My dad hunted, had four boys. I'm the youngest of four boys, just got sort of busy with work and everything. Hunting got pushed to the back burner. Jamie Hand, another legendary decoy carver, came to that class and did a demonstration and I'm watching him chop out a goose decoy and I said, I want to do that. So I carved a few decoys and then I said, I guess I got to go use them. So then I got my hunting license, I guess I was 16, so I was not raised in this. As soon as I started, my dad's fired up and starts with me again.

02:51 Katie Burke So you did have someone to kind of show you

02:54 Cooper Rossner He helped out. Yeah, I mean, for sure. And my whole friends group sort of switched from strictly surfers and skateboarders to surfers, skateboarders, and now all duck hunters in my school. So I had a really mixed friend group. It was fun.

03:08 Katie Burke So are you hunting public land mostly?

03:10 Cooper Rossner public marshes. New Jersey, I shouldn't let out our secret, but New Jersey has a ton of public land. It's really a sportsman's paradise. You can hunt. I joke around Cape May County, you can throw a dart at a map of Cape May County, wherever it lands, you can probably hunt. So I started doing that, but then I actually, I might be jumping the gun here, but I didn't fall out of love with duck hunting by any means. I still love it, but I found a different obsession, which was up on game bird hunting. So end up with a dog, double barrel shotgun, shooting woodcock on public land in Cape May County as well.

03:45 Katie Burke Yeah, it's okay. You can have more than one obsession.

03:47 Cooper Rossner Yeah, I'm still… I'm just obsessed with upland birds. I feel that way about turkeys. Yeah, you're a good turkey hunter.

03:54 Katie Burke It's in my blood. I can't help it. But I love to duck hunt, and the duck hunting part's such a social thing, and it's what I do with my dad, and my brother, and now my nieces and nephews. Oh, that's fun. Yeah. So it's definitely a different… I don't know how to explain. It's hard to explain, but people know. It's just kind of a different drive.

04:12 Cooper Rossner Yeah. The waterfowl's very social. Upland birds

04:17 Katie Burke It's kind of a mix. Yeah.

04:19 Cooper Rossner I'm happy to bring people on with me, but if it's just me and the dog, that's the happiest I am.

04:25 Katie Burke Yeah. It's really fun to watch. My brother has a pointer poodle now. Okay. And he takes him duck hunting, but he's not… People are going to get really mad at me when I say he's not that good of a duck dog. But he's really fun to watch in the field. Yeah. And they're fun to watch. It's a weird… Poodle pointer. Poodle pointer. Yeah. Yeah. Right. Yeah.

04:46 Cooper Rossner They're wiry and… Yes.

04:48 Katie Burke Chocolate.

04:49 Cooper Rossner They're great. I have a friend in Jersey that has a couple of them and they're great dogs.

04:53 Katie Burke But they're fun to watch. I would see… We just don't have the upland game anymore. Historically, we used to have quail and now in Mississippi, we don't have anything. Like everywhere. Yeah. We don't really have the opportunity, but they are fun to… I can see with a dog getting addicted to it because they really…

05:12 Cooper Rossner dogs out there, the bell stops. I mean, now, you know, I have a GPS thing tells me he's on point 110 yards away, and then just the suspense of getting to the dog and he's there waiting for you, like, what the heck took you so long? It's, yeah, it's a lot of fun.

05:28 Katie Burke Are they quiet when they're waiting? Or do they start to get mad at you like sometimes duck dogs do?

05:34 Cooper Rossner No, you know, my dog gets mad when you miss.

05:37 Katie Burke Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I've been with a lot of dogs that do that, yeah.

05:41 Cooper Rossner I'll tease my dad here, but my dad misses, like we all do, but my dad always, he gets barked at a lot.

05:47 Katie Burke Yeah, I was wondering, yeah, because like, my brother's, he's no longer, he doesn't have this dog anymore, but he would get, he would whine and stuff.

05:57 Cooper Rossner Yeah, he just waits. I've moved here and trying to find spots, asking landowners, and everybody's default is, oh, son, we don't have them around here. Oh, the Woodcock are gone. I'm not going to tell a landowner that they don't know about their land, but I'm like, hey, let me try. Because I'll go try, and without a dog, you're never going to see him. You're not going to find him. Yeah, you need a dog for him.

06:18 Katie Burke Yeah, and there's enough though to hunt, because we have quail. We still have quail in Mississippi, but there's just- Just one covey instead of 20.

06:25 Cooper Rossner Yeah, exactly. Yeah. My real roots are in birds, so I'm a big bird lover and a softy for them. I wouldn't kill them if I didn't think there weren't enough. They're everywhere. I shouldn't say they're everywhere. East of the Mississippi, you're going to find them. I shouldn't say this, but Cape May, they're in your driveway. When you get up to go to work in the morning, there's Woodcock.

06:49 Katie Burke There's a lot of them. There's a lot of them, yeah. That's a different thing. But okay. So I want to go back to when you met Jamie. And I don't think we've talked about him on here, but he tends to do a lot. He did a lot of educational stuff. Is he still with us? I'll make sure I say that. But does he still do the educational stuff like he did?

07:12 Cooper Rossner Jamie is one of, first of all, he's one of my heroes. He's one of the most important people in decoys to ever exist, I think. He has taught, I'm sure he's taught close to a hundred people how to carve. Now, maybe not all of them are still carving. But all of them know and love decoys now. All of them know and love waterfowl. Because of Jamie, I actually, because of Jamie, served as co-chairman for Cape May County DU chapter at one point. Because of him, I carved decoys for shorebird colonies, just the connections and everything. Because I was working for US Fish and Wildlife Service at the time when I met him as well. So it's like, hey, this project needs 25 skimmers and 35 turns to try to attract shorebirds to this beach. And he'd say, well, let's make them. So we'd start making them. It's nice when someone takes an interest in you. And he just took me under his wing and taught me how to push a rail skiff and shoot shore rail birds. introduced me to some of the people that are now still my best friend, like Jerry Talton and George and Russ Allen. And yeah, I mean, he was a huge catalyst for my life.

08:21 Katie Burke You and Jerry have some, y'all have some similarities there. When you were talking with your surfing and carving.

08:29 Cooper Rossner We got a lot to talk about when we get on the phone, me and Jerry. I love that guy. He's a good guy.

08:33 Katie Burke Yeah. But the Jamie stuff is really interesting because I haven't actually, I mean, besides George, you know, I feel like every time you read something about contemporary carvers, His name is brought up. He's there, and that's really interesting, and he's so generous with his time.

08:48 Cooper Rossner Oh, and he and his wife, Gwen, I was witness to their wedding. It was small, right by his wood duck pond. We got married. He learned to carve from Hurley Conklin, who's sort of one of the transitional carvers from New Jersey between the old school and the new school. And then he was good buddies with, I'm looking at a Harry Shorts, Snow Goose right now. He was good friends with Harry Shorts. And so then I became good friends with Harry. He was just there in the heart of it in New Jersey and still is. Yeah.

09:20 Katie Burke Yeah, so that's, I have a question about that. So, and I saw your decoys out there and they definitely have a New Jersey thing to them. And this is just something so very far, far into me. I've said it ad nauseam, but like where I grew up, there's just no decoy carvers. There's not any, there's just none and never has been. But New Jersey has such a distinct style and such a heritage. At what point were you aware of that history?

09:46 Cooper Rossner with Jamie. I mean, that was my… All right, we're coming full circle. My really cool high school I went to with my really cool class, my cool teacher and all that. Leading up to Jamie Hand's demonstration, this teacher, Hans Toft, he had us study old Gaia and Data catalogs. And then he'd quiz us on species, not so much maker because the old catalogs are hard to sort of follow. That was my first exposure to decoys. I mean, we had some decorative hobbyist ones that my great-uncle had made or something in our house. My dad had some waterfowl prints, but I was never aware of this. Then Jamie came around and boom, I know about hand chopping decoys, hollow decoys, Barnegat Bay decoys, the Bayman's paint style. Just learned everything from him. I feel awful I haven't mentioned Dave Billig, who was another really influential guy to me. He's not so involved in it as Jamie, but he he was the chairman for Cape May County Ducks Illuminated. And it was that week he came with Jamie to do that demonstration. And then that Friday night was the banquet. And I went there, I went. you're that guy that was just chopping decoys out." And he introduced me to Jamie and the three of us carved and hunted together and everything. And Dave still talked to Dave a lot. He's not carving so much anymore. He's got two little girls and he bought an awesome property in Cape May County that he does a lot of land management on. But that was my first exposure to decoys, really.

11:15 Katie Burke Yeah. And that style was just natural for you to…

11:20 Cooper Rossner I can't break away from it.

11:21 Katie Burke Yeah.

11:22 Cooper Rossner I mean, I can see… I mean, it's so in your heritage that I can see… Yeah, I can't… I can say like, oh, this decoy… Now that I'm living here, I'm really getting interested in these mid-eastern shore decoys, like in the Crisfield decoys, not just the wards, but in a lot of Oliver Lawson and trying to bring some of that influence into my work. But I get carving and then I get painting and it just ends up a Jersey decoy again, and I'm not ashamed of it.

11:48 Katie Burke They have such a sleek…

11:50 Cooper Rossner Sleek and clean, and I kind of blended, and by no means am I this big famous carver, so I don't want to come off sounding like that, but I kind of blended what Jamie taught me carving wise with what George taught me painting wise. And so it's like a simply, nicely clean carved Jersey decoy with a little bit more oil paint on it.

12:09 Katie Burke Yeah, it's got that softness that George has too. Yeah, he has like a very soft…

12:13 Cooper Rossner Definitely his technique. Can't take credit for it.

12:16 Katie Burke Yeah. He is special, George. But yeah, that's, yeah, you can tell in your stuff. And I was, and it's such an interesting, you know, I actually was introduced to old decoys, again, where I'm from, they're just not, they're not there. And I went to grad school in Philadelphia. And, um, I worked at the Seaport Museum there. Oh, okay. We did a lot of stuff with Tuckerton. And that was probably the first time I really like, I was like, Oh, what are these things? Like, I didn't know.

12:40 Cooper Rossner Friend of mine just got a rail skiff from them that they were gonna put into the dumpster.

12:44 Katie Burke Oh, yeah Yeah, you'd be surprised the amount of people that want to give boats Oh, yeah, and they're hard to store and display and yeah Yeah, we don't have, I don't have space, but it is, oh, there's a lot of great boats out there if anyone needs one. But the Seaport Museum actually could take quite a few boats.

13:01 Cooper Rossner Tuckerton Seaport, yeah.

13:03 Katie Burke Seaport in Philadelphia and Tuckerton.

13:05 Cooper Rossner Yeah, they have boats too.

13:07 Katie Burke Yeah, because they have a wooden boat shop, which is rare.

13:09 Cooper Rossner Tuckerton Seaport has the whole sneak box building and

13:12 Katie Burke Yeah, they tend to take all the waterfowl stuff. Yeah, they have some cool stuff. That's how I kind of got interested. And then later, of course, I came to Ducks Unlimited, and then I really dived into all this stuff.

13:23 Cooper Rossner Were there any cool old Philadelphia decoys?

13:26 Katie Burke You know, I didn't… Not there. And I didn't learn about Blair until later. And he's probably one of my favorite old carvers because of that sleek, narrow… Oh, so elegant. It's so elegant, yeah.

13:40 Cooper Rossner I'm amazed Philadelphia Museum of Art doesn't have a Blair or two or an A.B. Vance. Yeah.

13:46 Katie Burke Because it's such a beautiful, like, yeah, style. I don't know. And in Philadelphia. I know. Now, where were they, honey? I guess on the Schuylkill somewhere. Right on the river, yeah. Yeah, we were talking, actually we were just talking about this the other day, which is so funny. The Heinz Park that's right by the airport there. Do you know what I'm talking about? There's this huge natural area right outside of Philadelphia. It's literally right outside the Philadelphia airport. And Ducks Unlimited just got to do a project there.

14:11 Cooper Rossner Yeah, they call it an urban refuge.

14:14 Katie Burke Yeah. Yeah. We're working on that now. And when I was in Philly, I would take my dog, my golden retriever there to walk and swim and there would be ducks and she would chase them. And yeah, and now it's a DU project. But so I guess that's where they hunt. It's not very far. But anyway.

14:29 Cooper Rossner In New Jersey, we went to Philly a lot. It's funny. Some of the best decoys were made there.

14:34 Katie Burke Yeah. And guns. There's some great guns there too, yeah. But I guess just being a hub for people coming over from Europe, it probably just had a lot of makers and things like that that stopped there.

14:46 Cooper Rossner A lot of influence from other places.

14:47 Katie Burke Yeah. But in New Jersey, it has this really interesting waterfowl history that I'm sure most people from New Jersey don't.

14:54 Cooper Rossner I didn't realize. Yeah. So it's funny. South Jersey's very rural, has the oldest, longest operating rodeo in the country, I think. Cowtown Rodeo. Very rural, right? And a lot of hunting and fishing, but you're at the grocery store, you sit down at the bar or something and you tell someone, I'm a decoy maker. I collect decoys and they're like, Huh? What do you mean decoy? Here, they tell you that they collect decoys before you even open your… Yeah. Everybody knows what decoy… It's really interesting and fun for me to live in an area like this where everybody's sort of on the same page. They know about decoys. They know about goose hunting. Goose hunting's huge here. They know about outdoors and hunting and fishing.

15:38 Katie Burke Yeah. That is interesting, because yeah, you're right, like when I was in Philly, and luckily I have this nice Southern accent to go along with me telling them that I hunt, so then they're like, oh, okay, you're from the South. But I was like a foreign thing to them that I would hunt, and then being a girl on top of that was just so strange. It was an anomaly.

15:59 Cooper Rossner My wife's taken up hunting, and people were like, oh, you go too?

16:03 Katie Burke Yeah, I'm glad. That's awesome. She likes it.

16:06 Cooper Rossner Yeah, we're on the tail end of what I'm calling our late summer tour. We had the Portsmouth auction, then a family vacation, and her and I just got back from a dove hunt in South Dakota, and next week we're going on a sicko deer hunt in Cambridge or Dorchester County. But we were at South Dakota hunting with Joe and Donna Tonelli and Zach Cody, and she had a ball. It was actually my first dove hunt too because- Oh, really? New Jersey doesn't have a season. There's songbirds there. It was a blast.

16:36 Katie Burke Yeah. She had fun. I'm glad.

16:38 Cooper Rossner It was her first sort of… She had gone woodcock hunting with me a few times, but that's no place to start.

16:44 Katie Burke No, dove hunting's a great place to start.

16:46 Cooper Rossner Yeah, they're hard to hit, and you're wrapped up in briars and in the middle of trees, and the dog's barking at you, like I said. So the doves, that was her first time with multiple opportunities, and she was hitting them and having fun.

16:59 Katie Burke Yeah, that's a great… Yeah, that's… We always… We hunt with… My kids now hunt… Well, my older one does, and I mean, not very well, but dove hunting is the one thing I let her do now. It's a blast. It was so fun. You can miss a lot, it doesn't matter.

17:11 Cooper Rossner You're still shooting. Yeah, it's so fun. The only problem was it was insufferably hot. Yeah, that's… 107 degrees the one day.

17:18 Katie Burke Yeah. Well, you gotta have a beer while you're doing it.

17:20 Cooper Rossner Yeah. We went swimming every day after.

17:22 Katie Burke Oh, yeah. That's great. No, that's really great. I'm glad to hear that. Yeah. We need more women, honey. I want to go back to, I kind of have some questions about contemporary carving and the community with that because it's really, you've kind of come up in a different group. So I think New Jersey is unique in that the community has stayed such a connected community, right? Yeah. Whereas I feel like North Carolina has done that too. It's like these two little niches that have, and then you have people like Marty in Wisconsin by himself. And then Virginia, it's a little bit, it's still there, but not, it kind of ebbs and flows a little more. So what do you see as someone who kind of landed in it and has been a part of it for quite a few years now, but what do you see that is within the New Jersey that they're doing right and that can be replicated in other places to kind of keep that going?

18:23 Cooper Rossner stubbornness, keep doing it. Even have a show, even if nobody comes, put it on because it's worth it for the community. This is all dependent on community. The business I work for is dependent on if there aren't these friendships and these And it's just a bunch of people on the internet that never knew each other, never will know each other. So Jersey has less now, actually. There were a few shows a year, one in North Jersey, kind of South Jersey. Yeah, there were a lot. But again, to go back to him. one guy can make a big difference. Jamie And really, I mean, his influence spreads far. And I think his influence of being an educator and a steward for this Jersey, so like this thing of ours, right? The mafia, right?

19:12 Katie Burke Yeah. Art form. We'll go art form.

19:14 Cooper Rossner This heritage that we all share has spread into creating more educators. So George, ask him a question, you'll get an answer. Sean Sutton, very helpful guy. You ask Sean a question, you'll get an answer. That is sort of the new culture in New Jersey and North Carolina replicates that. And I think some people might get upset if I say this, but I think Jerry sort of pioneered that.

19:40 Katie Burke Yeah, he does. I agree with that.

19:41 Cooper Rossner Yeah, Jerry sort of. And I think that came from Jamie because Jerry got hooked up and real tight with Jamie and then said, you know, look at this guy. He's got people over every day carving decoys. They're having fun. They're all hunting together. And I think he took that back down south for them.

19:56 Katie Burke Yeah, he mentions that. He talks about wanting to kind of spread the friendship and advice that he was given to him to give it back to other people.

20:05 Cooper Rossner And that's why I'm chopping out ducks here. You need to keep educating people.

20:12 Katie Burke Yeah. Because he did mention, yeah, you mentioned, he did mention like, it's almost changed his, he's kind of, there were plenty of carvers and then he came and became more open and then they in return became more open. Yeah, it's contagious. Yeah, and they thought, oh, maybe we don't have to keep this so tight.

20:27 Cooper Rossner Yeah, it sounds cheesy, but you know, being nice is contagious.

20:30 Katie Burke It is. It is. It is contagious. It's very true. But yeah, New Jersey has always kept that community. And then I think it's interesting that you're trying to spread it here because again, huge heritage, still lots of carvers in this area and a community that can continue to grow.

20:47 Cooper Rossner So on the note of contemporary, we try in our catalogs to be very educational. You need to be just as educational with contemporary decoys too, because just because Tom Mattis is in Idaho, somebody might not have heard of him. Well, Tom Mattis in Idaho is a noteworthy contemporary decoy maker. You've heard of all the guys in Jersey, but maybe you haven't heard of one in Idaho. So you got to keep educating everybody about the contemporary ones as well.

21:11 Katie Burke Yeah, I agree. Eventually they're the old ones. Yeah, exactly. They keep going.

21:16 Cooper Rossner They're a great place to start for anyone. And a welcome addition to an established collection already.

21:22 Katie Burke Yeah. So my next question with that is though, okay, contemporary carvers, I felt like, I can't remember who we talked about this for, but you had your gunning decoys and then they kind of, carvers, they almost like went, I think it was Jerry actually we talked about this with, it was that a lot of contemporary carvers when the gunning decoys, carving gunning decoys became less popular, they went into more decorative stuff and then they kind of transitioned back into gunning decoys. So, and then do you, why do you think the popularity is growing in contemporary to go back to the gunning decoys? Do you have a, thought about that because it is starting to change. I guess the best thing I can compare it to is in calls, though calls are not quite as time consuming, you are able to use a lathe and then go in and do the hand things. You aren't stuck to the rules as you are with decoys. They have really boomed in contemporary call makers. There's a lot of them. And it's starting to with, I feel like more and more, there's starting to be more and more contemporary decoy makers, or at least they're becoming in the light more. Like we're starting to know about them a little bit more.

22:36 Cooper Rossner And it's easier too because of social media and everything. But I mean, to answer your question, I think it's like everything. Nostalgia. I started shooting an over under 20 gauge exclusively six, seven years ago just because I thought it'd be cool. But now, you couldn't get me to switch back to a semi-auto. But nostalgia is what made me want to do that. Guys wearing old school camo patterns instead of new, you know, Max 4 or whatever they call it. People buying restored Chevy K100s or whatever, you know, the old pickup trucks. I think it's nostalgia. You can carve every single feather in or you can just make a nice sleek decoy like Rolly Horner did and it's going to work just as well. But I can't, I'm sure everybody has their own reason. I do because I just, you can't get me to break from like what I learned from Jamie Hand. I always have wanted to paint more because I like painting, but when I go to carve, it's pretty simple and just clean, smooth lines. I'm looking at old decoy books at old decoys for pattern inspiration way more than I'm on Google looking at pictures of real ducks. It's just part of the root of it.

23:47 Katie Burke Right. You know, it is. I agree with that. Yeah. It's interesting that you mentioned like people wearing the old camp, like the nostalgia, like it's become almost fashionable to simplify in that way. And I guess, you know, there's could be a mini of thing, like theorize why that is. And it might just be that the world's so fast paced. It's nice to simplify back.

24:10 Cooper Rossner It comes, it stretches out of our thing here. I mean, look at like people in Brooklyn wearing Filson.

24:16 Katie Burke Oh, yeah. It's become huge. Yeah. Well, there's a guy I'm working with right now. We have an exhibit in the museum with, he has a camo retro is what it's called. He does like camo consignment online. Oh, wow. And he's making great money doing camo consignment.

24:32 Cooper Rossner Like buying and selling old hunting coats.

24:34 Katie Burke Yes. Wow. That's his thing. Good for him. Yeah. I was like, it was perfect because people were looking for it. And I mean, if you go on eBay, you'll find it. And he's doing camo consignment.

24:47 Cooper Rossner The blaze orange hat that I wear every day of the season, I bought, it was probably already 20 years old. I bought from a dealer in the parking lot here at the Easton Waterfowl Festival and wear it. And at first I thought, man, that's a cool hat, but now you can't get me to take it off when Woodcock season's in.

25:05 Katie Burke No, it's become a huge thing. And I think that has a lot to do with the popularity of, not the popularity of people becoming contemporary carvers, but them being noticed more. And obviously people like Jerry have done a good job, and you as well, of using social media to get out there and get people to catch on.

25:23 Cooper Rossner Yeah. And it's very appealing. I mean, Cameron McIntyre does the patina as well as anybody else and on almost everything he makes. And his stuff is just so desirable. People want something that looks rugged, looks old.

25:38 Katie Burke Well, there's no one like him, so that does help.

25:42 Cooper Rossner A lot of guys are getting into carving and they are trying to put an old finish on decoys. And maybe you could say it's the perception that they can't afford a real old decoy, so they'll buy a contemporary one made to look old. I don't know what it is, but it's fun.

26:01 Katie Burke I don't know if I go down that. Yeah, I don't even think that's it. I don't think that's it. It's hard to put words to it. Yes, there is a big price tag to get to the actually old things, right? Though you can still buy some decoys. They're not that bad, which we will get into.

26:22 Cooper Rossner Yeah, I was going to say, I know a place.

26:23 Katie Burke Yeah, we'll get into it. But I think, you know, we've been buying art for our most of our existence. And I think that there is something about knowing the person who did it, knowing why they did it, and having that connection to the original source that will be appealing no matter what. And I think that's why contemporary car offers will always have customers. I mean, you can't know John Blair. You can't know Elmer Crowell, but you can know you and you can know George.

26:58 Cooper Rossner 99% of my personal collection are people I know, people I'm really great friends with. Relationship, knowing them is worth its weight in gold.

27:07 Katie Burke Yeah. And I think that has a big appeal to contemporary carvers. Yeah. Well, let's take a break and we'll come back in. Let's go into what you're doing with Guy and Deer a little bit, because we've kind of hinted around it and what we just kind of have actually talked about it. But for the audience to know, because I've talked about on several… I don't know. I can't even think of how many podcasts I've mentioned it. But it always comes up because one of the questions we always ask, because a lot of our listeners are not decoy collectors, but they might want to be, and I always recommend because it's such a good, safe place to start. And you are that guy. You are

28:09 Cooper Rossner He stole the words right out of my mouth. That's exactly what I say. It's a safe place to collect. It's seen a lot of changes. Like for example, it's not anymore. Oh, good to know. You go to and that's where we have all our auctions now.

28:25 Katie Burke Okay. So how did you… Let's start with how did you… So you told me how you got hired, but were you hired for that position? Yes. Okay. And did it start with you or did it start with Zach?

28:36 Cooper Rossner Oh, no. Zach, Cody, John's partner now, started it. Started it here in Maryland and then moved with his family and brought that part of the company with him up to Maine and operated it out of there for a while. It's like all things started to grow, got to the point where it was too much to be shuffling back and forth to Maine, I think. Yeah. So here we are in our big new warehouse building and it's all here. So I'm teaching high school to maybe third year in teaching, still sort of fresh out of college. George Strunk texts me in the middle of a school day and says, your name came up for a job today. I'm like, dude, I already have a job. What are you talking about? So I call him after school and he says, yeah, Dieter was on the phone with me today and next thing, one thing led to another and call John and he tells me what they're looking for, says you'd have to relocate to the Eastern Shore. That's no problem. Um, you know, you'd be working full time selling decoys. That's no problem. It was sort of a no brainer. We grew it. We were still growing it. It was, it was great. It was roughly 30 items a week. Now we're 60 to 80 items a week. And I think that's sort of our sweet spot. Is it still mostly decoys or is it… Oh, nine out of 10 items are decoys. Yeah, decoys. My emphasis is on, do we, the three of us, John, Zach, and I, do we deem this to be collectible? would we recommend you buying this? We're not going to offer it if we wouldn't." So it's 60 to 80 collectible decoys, paintings, calls. Calls do well on there.

30:16 Katie Burke Yeah, it's a great spot for them, especially with the price point that tends to go.

30:20 Cooper Rossner It's a good place for them to be. We've sold all sorts of things on there, but it's mostly decoys.

30:25 Katie Burke Yeah, there's definitely been shot shell boxes on there.

30:27 Cooper Rossner Shot shell boxes, shorebird whistles, all sorts of things. I sold a guitar on there. It was part of this big estate we got. We handled it and they were like, well, you're taking the guitar too. And we were like, all right. So sold the guitar. It was a good guitar. It was a Taylor 310. Yeah.

30:47 Katie Burke Did it do okay in your audience?

30:49 Cooper Rossner It had some damage, so it brought what it was worth.

30:52 Katie Burke Yeah. I didn't know the decoy community was very into guitars. Yeah.

30:56 Cooper Rossner Well, you know, like Strunk called me about it because he used to make guitars. Oh. And he's a guitar player and Sean Sutton actually is a really good guitar player as well. And I'm a really bad guitar player. So it was, it was fun actually to sell it. Yeah.

31:11 Katie Burke Yeah. That's interesting. So yeah. So you're doing 80 to 90 decoys a week.

31:16 Cooper Rossner 60 to 80.

31:17 Katie Burke 60 to 80. Okay. Yeah. And then.

31:20 Cooper Rossner You're going to put more expectation on me.

31:22 Katie Burke No, I don't want to do that. And what is the like average price range that those are going for? Like what are they looking at?

31:30 Cooper Rossner So that, I mean, the better way to say it would be when we're consigning items.

31:35 Katie Burke Okay.

31:38 Cooper Rossner something worth roughly $450 or more. Now, the next step to that answer is when we're deciding if it's in a live auction or going to the weekly sale. We still internally call it decoys for sale, but it's our weekly auctions. I've sold items on there I sold a Cameron McIntyre Redhead for $17,000. $17,400. It's been up to $20,000. Oh, wow. And it's been low as, admittedly, $50. Yeah. You know, if it's a call that, you know, is, hey, this is for someone, but it's not worth a lot. Yeah. We'll offer it. Yeah.

32:15 Katie Burke Maybe it's missing a read or something like that. Yeah, yeah, yeah. What was I saying? Like the average, your average range, but you said it was, you'd go by like,

32:24 Cooper Rossner So, oh, deciding between the catalog or the weekly auction. I think like, so John and Zach, it's funny, right? We have this sort of playful attitude about it in the warehouse. They're building a catalog sale. There's the collections that we're representing. There are the good decoys that can sign specifically for that auction. But then sometimes we have to duke it out. And I'm like, Hey, let me offer that in my next quarterly sale. I think it'll do better in November. It's a fun thing. But that cutoff's usually around 2000. So if it's worth 2000, and this is sort of the elevator pitch for consignors that are asking us the same question, will this item be in the weekly sale or in catalog sale? I'm just like, well, that's right on the cusp. I'm going to consign it for November. If it gets bumped, it'll be in a quarterly sale. which is when I do the bigger 200, 250 lot ones.

33:17 Katie Burke Okay. So yeah. All right. This is kind of a nerdy question, but I just was wondering what the difference is. Cause like with museum donations, you know, I don't want, I don't want any restrictions because then that really like puts pressure on me to have things out all the time or I can't really do an exhibit I want so I try to take you know I take a gift that's no restrictions so that way we can kind of use that object as we need to I mean obviously if we're gonna take it into our collection then we have to promise that we will take care of said object So for consigning, and you have these two platforms, do you have to negotiate that you can do it, you can sell it on either? Or do you just, how does that work? I've never thought about that. Would they say, oh, I only want this to be in your November auction, or would they, or I definitely don't want it in the weekly, or I think it'd be fine in the weekly. How does that work?

34:13 Cooper Rossner Do you have to- Sometimes. The weekly sales have gotten so strong that it doesn't… Yeah. It's almost… They're one and the same. They're on the same platform now. We have our app, our diet and dieter app. All the sales are right there. It's just a matter of if we're going to put on a cocktail party or not, really.

34:31 Katie Burke So basically you're just promising them the best that you can, like, we're going to do our best to get you the best price.

34:36 Cooper Rossner We're going to represent, I mean, in a nutshell, we're a marketing company, right? We're going to market your item in the way that is mutually beneficial to both of us in the best way possible is how we'll represent your item. So we don't really ever get into disagreements with consignors about it. This company has a really long reputation of trust and has worked closely and honestly with a lot of people. I think and I know people have a lot of faith in us to do what we think is right.

35:05 Katie Burke Yeah, that makes sense. When you mentioned it like that, I was like, I never even thought about that they would have an opinion about where it would go.

35:13 Cooper Rossner If you bring me a repainted Harry Shorts black duck, we're not going to put it on the cover of our November auction. But it's still a collectible decoy, and we're going to represent it for you.

35:24 Katie Burke And that's like the one thing I always tell people like with decoys for sale, or sorry, that's how I think about it. It's a brand, yeah. But like the condition reports, that's what's so important because you can, guy and dealer, you can trust them that they have done the job. Guaranteed condition report. Yes. And whereas like if you went on eBay or anything like that, you're kind of just guessing.

35:44 Cooper Rossner So that's why I say it's a safe place to collect. I mean, my job is to describe ducks. I come in in the morning and I start describing ducks and I start cataloging. I get pulled to all different, you know how it goes.

35:59 Katie Burke I know exactly what it's like to describe ducks.

36:01 Cooper Rossner That's what I do. I'm here to catalog decoys. We guarantee it. If you think I'm wrong, call me and let's talk about it. Yeah. Sure, I could be wrong. I have been wrong. You're human. Yeah. But it's safe. Everything is… I had to do a condition report on the guitar. Oh yeah.

36:19 Katie Burke Everything gets a condition report. Everything, yeah. Did you have to call someone to get… No, I just… I mean, because you're not selling it for something crazy, so I guess it's…

36:28 Cooper Rossner At one point, I was really interested in luthiership and guitars and guitar repair, so I know a little bit about them. Enough to represent what I'm sort of, yeah.

36:39 Katie Burke Yeah, yeah. No, I know. I have appraised things and yeah, there's some things like, I know enough that it's fine, I can do it. And then there's some things like, I'm like, no, I can't do that at all.

36:49 Cooper Rossner Well, I'm spoiled. If I get an item that I'm just thrown off on, I've got John and Zach. Just text a picture to say, hey, help me out with this or text a picture to John or… I do that too. Yeah. And I have other friends in the industry that if I'm not certain about something, I can ask.

37:12 Katie Burke All right, so I have a question about using the weekly sales. So if you're a new collector and you are going through the weekly sales, and maybe you want to start collecting and you're seeing things, but maybe you're overwhelmed. Because I mean, again, it's 60 to 80 decoys a week. That's a lot of decoys. And over and over again, people… And I think that's kind of hard advice sometimes, because people always say… Collectors usually give advice like, pick a specialty off and stick with it. Pick your focus. But that's… It's good advice. It's easier said than done, right? Especially when you're looking at some weekly auctions that are 60 to 80 decoys and you may not know about all of those decoys. That's a lot to learn about. I mean, there's so many carvers and so many different styles. How would you recommend digesting?

38:07 Cooper Rossner Yeah, that's a great question. And it doesn't just happen online, it happens… We have people in this gallery and warehouse every day of the week. It happens in person too. They come here and they see all the ducks back there and, oh my God, I'm overwhelmed. I'm sure you are. Yeah, it's a lot. So do yourself a favor, come back. Keep coming back. The first time you go to, if it's your first time ever on the website, I don't want you to buy anything. Don't. Just look. Come back next week. Just look. Just keep reading them. Keep reading the descriptions, the condition reports. So there's a toggle up top right button. Hit past sales. Look at the past sales. If you know you're interested in Harry Shorts, type in shorts and hit past and scroll through all the past ones. Our old platform,, is actually still active and we kept it active specifically for that, for people to still go use. So we still maintain that domain name. Because you can go to that still, and there's thousands and thousands of records of sales on that. And our new platform is still new, so there's maybe only a couple thousand. But just keep visiting the site. Get the app. Instead of going to Instagram, go there. Not every time. You can't obsess over it, but learn. Take it slow. Take it painfully slow, because we don't And you know, we're a business, right? We don't want you to buy one thing, get burned out and never come back. We want you to become a collector, not just for business because of all the things we have been talking about, community and everything, friendships, but we want you to do this slow and smart and don't get burned out. And at the same time, as many times as you visit our website or our warehouse, go to some shows and meet some other carvers and some other collectors. And like you said, pick a region or everybody's got that one thing they want to tell you. I always say, buy what you like and the best you can afford. So sort of twofold, if you like it and you can afford it, it's for you. And then, I mean, I did it. I bought a bunch of decoys. realized, okay, that isn't really for me. So you sell them and then you have the money to buy some other ones that you know you're going to learn. You need to do it for a while in order to figure it out. Yeah.

40:23 Katie Burke Yeah. That's really good advice because it is overwhelming. And I have a coworker who isn't… He's a younger guy. He's into collecting and he goes on your website all the time. he will ask me, like, you know, who give me five to pick from. And I'm like, well, this is what I would go with. But I'm like, but I'm not you. But yeah, and I'm like, this is what I like.

40:42 Cooper Rossner It's, it's mind boggling that some people will have, I mean, a lot of clients, we, we tell people not to buy something a lot. A lot of clients, and I just had a guy texting me yesterday, he was at a show. Galena on the Eastern Shore here. He texts me like, what's this worth? Should I buy it? And I just text him, I don't really think that's for you. I said, I think it's worth X amount. Are you thinking about buying it? And he said, I don't know. Should I? And I said, no, don't buy that. And now, of course, I feel awful because I took a sale from a from a dealer, but I do think he ended up buying it anyway.

41:14 Katie Burke People are going to do what you want to do. And that's true because in this situation, it was, I can't remember what it was. I think it was like a Mason and some other things. And it was a Louisiana decoy. That was a good Louisiana decoy. And people scoff at Louisiana decoys because they're not usually in great condition because it's Louisiana. But I like Louisiana decoys. My mom's from Louisiana. I have a connection there. I like the folksiness. I like them. Yeah. I think they're real funky and I like that about them. So I was like, this is what I would pick. You don't have to worry about the quality quite as much. And there's a couple of things that just as being around them, I was like, but then you're not from… I don't know. It's up to you, but this is what I would pick. It's a good decoy and I think you got it.

42:01 Cooper Rossner We've got people, yeah, they'll call me up, you know, Thursday, well, it's all week, but Thursday, my phone just goes and goes and goes. People call, hey, before this thing ends tonight, you know what, tell me about the paint on the right speculum or something. People saying, you know, what do you think of that? Should I get it? I'm like, ah, it's not for you, but you should look at this one. Or you'd be amazed at how often we're honest against ourselves.

42:25 Katie Burke Yeah, that's interesting. So in that, I mean, I know like, With John and Zach, because they go and visit a lot of the collectors. So you're still having that very… You know your buyers' collections and things like that in the same way.

42:38 Cooper Rossner Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah. It was immediate. When I took over the weekly platform from Zach, Zach still got a lot of rollover phone calls and everything, but it was like immediate. It was like people sending me long emails. I'd like to introduce myself. I've been buying from Zach for X amount of years. People call me. You're the new guy. Okay, let me tell you about me.

43:01 Katie Burke That's amazing.

43:02 Cooper Rossner It was great. It was really easy to form a lot of relationships in a short amount of time. Yeah.

43:06 Katie Burke I never thought about that with the weekly sales, but that's really great that you get that aspect of this field.

43:12 Cooper Rossner I mean, my direct cell phone number is plastered all over that website and all over the old one. If I don't know you, I don't care, just text me or call me if you have a question. And that goes along with how someone should get started. Call us, please. We want to talk to you. We don't want to see you waste money. We don't want to see you feel burnt. I mean, we always have our consignors' best interests in mind, but we're also very concerned with protecting our buyers.

43:44 Katie Burke Yeah, that's great. Let's just do quick logistics because I don't think I've done this. When do the new decoys come out and when do they end?

43:53 Cooper Rossner When they come out varies. I try to be on a pretty strict by Friday afternoon, they're back up. They end every Thursday starting at seven, but then it's staggered. So the first lot ends at 7 p.m. Eastern time, and then the next one's 7.01, 7.02. depending on the activity, time gets added sometimes. So anybody new out there, if you bid in the last two minutes, it automatically adds two minutes. So you can't, like eBay, you can't come on and snipe it at the last second because we want to protect our buyers. If you get outbid, you deserve time to place another bid. Yeah.

44:34 Katie Burke Okay. That's great. Yeah. No, that's great because that's really annoying sometimes. Before we end, first I want to ask you if there's anything we haven't talked about that you want to mention.

44:44 Cooper Rossner Again, just not to beat a dead horse, but if you're interested in getting started in this, reach out to us. If you're close to Maryland, if you're close to the Eastern Shore, come here. Call us. We're here nine to five, Monday to Friday. If you want to get in this and be successful, communication is your strongest tool in forming these relationships with not just with us, with dealers, with carvers, other collectors. Find a mentor. I wouldn't be where I am if it weren't for the guys that mentored me. Yeah. I owe it all to mentors. And my parents. My parents were… Oh, your parents. Yeah. I came home at 15 and learner's permit said, we got to drive to the sawmill. I got to start carving ducks. My mom said, okay, I got to start hunting. Great supporters of me. But find a mentor, find someone you trust to sort of take you under their wing.

45:35 Katie Burke Yeah. And it's a great community in that they will.

45:38 Cooper Rossner It's easy. It's easy to find.

45:40 Katie Burke Yeah. As we talked about carvers, but even collectors, most of them will invite you in their home and let you see their stuff.

45:48 Cooper Rossner And it's funny. Don't worry about… I always find it funny. Pete Peterson jokes around that Cameron is his mentor. Cameron's 20 years younger, so it doesn't matter who it is. If you like him, if you get along, if you trust him, let them teach you. Yeah.

46:02 Katie Burke No, that's great. How do you find your decoys? Online. Yes. So people can say, how would they see them?

46:09 Cooper Rossner Instagram. Yep.

46:10 Katie Burke What's your Instagram?

46:11 Cooper Rossner Cooper Carves.

46:12 Katie Burke Cooper Carves. And then, of course, the website for the…

46:18 Cooper Rossner You'll see decoys every week. If you go there right now, you won't. You'll see guns because we're getting ready to sell these guns Monday and Tuesday. I think I'm on track to get the next sale back up by Thursday morning. Okay. So it'll be a full week of them. Full week of them again.

46:32 Katie Burke Do you take breaks every time y'all have a major auction?

46:35 Cooper Rossner I try not to because we got to keep selling. We bring in a lot of ducks and we got to keep pushing out a lot of ducks, but I won't compete with ourselves.

46:45 Katie Burke Right. Well, and I just said, and also, I mean, it's not the biggest operation. You have to help obviously with the live auctions.

46:50 Cooper Rossner I have to. Oh, the live auctions screw me up big time, but I have to help with the live auctions. And then I got to get right back to having a weekly one. We skipped a few when we were doing the Russ Goldberger collection over the summer because we just wanted all eyes and ears to be on that. But usually we'll skip, sometimes we'll skip. Yeah.

47:10 Katie Burke It depends on the dates and yeah. Even Leanne, like all the wives are here. So everyone's here to work on live auction. So I just know how that works. So yeah, that makes sense. I'm just trying to get the logistic stuff. Do you let people know if you're going to have a break on the website or do you just kind of like… I don't know.

47:28 Cooper Rossner I just don't know how it works. They all reach out to me.

47:32 Katie Burke They probably call you if there's not one.

47:35 Cooper Rossner If it's not up by Friday night, I am getting calls. Some of them are really sweet about it. Are you alright? I'm good. I'm good. Yeah.

47:44 Katie Burke Look at these people, they want their decoys. They are passionate collectors. All right. Well, thank you so much for doing this. This is really great.

47:52 Cooper Rossner Chris Isak, our producer, and thanks to you, our listeners, supporting wetlands and waterfowl conservation.