Ducks Unlimited Podcast

Host Chris Jennings is joined by Jake Wallace, marketing brand and content coordinator for Winchester Ammunition, and the two discuss the iconic “Big Red W” and all-things Winchester Ammunition. Wallace shares his interesting background as a competitive shooter before joining Winchester. Wallace goes into detail about several new loads for waterfowlers launched in the last couple of years.

Creators & Guests

Chris Jennings
Ducks Unlimited Podcast Outdoor 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.

SPEAKER00: Hey everybody, welcome back to the Ducks Limit Podcast. I'm your host, Chris Jennings. Joining me today is Jake Wallace from Winchester Ammunition. Jake, how are you, man? Doing good, Chris. How about you? Doing awesome. Now, Jake is the, Jake, what is your official title? It's branding or marketing and content, correct?
SPEAKER01: Oh man, get ready. There's a mouthful. My official title is Marketing Brand and Content Coordinator for Winchester Ammunition. Short little version of that is I handle most of our TV contracts, creative, most of our advertising, and then wear a lot of other hats here on the marketing team at Winchester.

SPEAKER_00: That's awesome. And, you know, I got to know you when we were recently visiting up there, I don't know, four or five months ago. I guess it would have been in the spring. We did a little hunt together and I watched you shoot some pheasants and it came up in just random passing conversation as we're walking through a pheasant field. that you were a competitive shooter. And then that's kind of how your transition to Winchester came about, to Winchester Ammunition. Kind of share with us that story of kind of how you went from being a competitive shooter to working for Winchester.

SPEAKER_01: Sure. Yeah, I have a storied background in competitive shooting. I actually had a little bit of a traumatic injury when I was a kid. I was in a wheelchair for almost two years and started shooting competitively from a wheelchair. Oh, wow. Yeah. Yeah. It was a It was interesting time builds a little gir in you, you know what I mean? Yeah. But you know, the shooting sports was one of the only things I could do being a little bit, um, physically restricted in certain ways there. So started shooting, shooting shotgun down at our, our local club outside of, uh, LA, California, and, um, kind of started my path on the competitive shooting journey.

SPEAKER_00: And, and that led you pretty much like all over the world, correct?

SPEAKER_01: Yeah, so starting in my whole beginnings there, just doing a Wednesday night league, like thousands of gun clubs all around the country. I got slowly more competitive, joined the ATA. My dad started an SCTP group, which is that's the Scholastic Clay Target Program. One of the first ones in California at the time and then progressed from American trap, which is what everybody's familiar with. The kind of box out there in front of you with five stations and became interested in international trap, Olympic trap. And some people will know it as bunker trap, which is a little bit more more in depth of a game, a little bit faster and eventually made the junior national team and eventually the national team. And I've traveled all over the world representing the United States of America.

SPEAKER_00: Man, that's awesome. Now, if I'm mistaken here, you can correct me, but in bunker trap, those targets are like 60, 70 mile an hour, right? Yeah.

SPEAKER_01: So unlike American trap that throws to a mile per hour, we throw to a distance, which is 76 plus or minus a meter. And what that means is that depending on your elevation it can be faster or slower but a good average is probably between 55 and 60 miles per hour and they can go 45 degrees either direction. So you got to be prepared to go 90 degrees all the time. It's one of the greatest games out there.

SPEAKER_00: And now, how does that competitive shooting translate when you're in a duck blind? Do you feel like everything is moving so much slower because of that, or is it something that you kind of have to maybe change your tactics when you're doing it?

SPEAKER_01: Yeah, I would definitely say you change your tactics. Yeah, I would say we, uh, you know, shooting international trap is, is, uh, is planned chaos. And you spend a lot of time, you know, going through a pre-shot routine and getting things, um, very manageable in a game. That's not always the most predictable, uh, you know, duck hunting. I think we all know, we all love it because of its unpredictability, whether that's, you know, birds not showing up or birds showing up too fast or too slow and not coming in the right way. Um, so yeah, you got to change your tactics up a little bit in the duck blind for sure.

SPEAKER_00: So now I'm just going to assume Winchester ammunition was your sponsor when you were doing this, but that's probably incorrect, right? Or is that, is that, is that how you kind of got into with, with Winchester?

SPEAKER_01: Uh, Winchester was a sponsor for a majority or a sponsor of the majority of my shooting career. Um, you know, I've had the opportunity to shoot Winchester double A's all over the world, world championships, you know, I shot Winchester double A's when I broke a world record down in Mexico. So yeah, Winchester's been a big part of my shooting career to say the least.

SPEAKER_00: Yeah. And so what made you make the transition from competitive shooter into, you know, the behind the scenes of Winchester ammunition?

SPEAKER_01: Yeah, that's a that's a great question. You know, we, my wife and I, we lived in Colorado, I was out there as a resident athlete, Olympic Training Center for five years. And, you know, unfortunately, my mother in law was diagnosed with ALS in late 2019, and kind of entered hospice care. And we needed to look for opportunities to move closer to allow my wife to be able to take care of her mom during that time. And It just so happened that Winchester had some some openings and opportunities and, you know, I applied and got the gig and I've been here ever since. Still, you know, repping the big red W on on the range and behind the scenes here. So it's it's been a good transition.

SPEAKER_00: Now, when, when I was visiting you guys, we did not shoot any clays, but I would imagine that they probably use you in the office, like, as like, Hey, go represent us real quick at this, at this, uh, sporting clays event. Do you get to jump on some of those opportunities and go out there and mop up on some old dudes out there on the range?

SPEAKER_01: I mean, I don't know if that's how it goes. They mopped up on me. I, that's a lose lose situation for me on those things. Chris, the minute you miss one, they're like, wait, I thought you were supposed to be the guy that was supposed to carry the team here. That's true. But no, we, we do get the opportunity here in the office to go out and shoot some sporting a lot of the time at Nilo and other charity events where, you know, I get asked every once in a while. So it's, so it's a good little work perk.

SPEAKER_00: Well, that's cool. Now, before we get into, you know, the partnership and we're going to talk about some Winchester products, some new Winchester products here, I kind of wanted to go back because I mentioned that when we visited, we visited Nilo, which is the second time that I had been there. I came out there one time with a Purina deal. But, you know, kind of just explain what Nilo Farms is. And you can, this can be, you know, 50,000 feet. It doesn't have to be very, you know, every detail of what Nilo Farms is, but just kind of explain to our audience what that is and where it is.

SPEAKER_01: Yeah, no, that's great. You've gotten to experience Nilo. And Nilo Farms is our hunting and shooting preserve. It's in Brighton, Illinois, 30 minutes from St. Louis, so right across the river. And for us, it's a place where we go out and we test a lot of our products. It's got world-class sporting clays course, world-class hospitality from the hunting and shooting side of things. But, you know, John Olin bought Nilo Farms back in the 40s or 50s and really wanted to set it up as an example for stewardship and conservation. When he bought that place, it was a bunch of over farmed ground with little bitty trees and you can speak to how it's grown up and really a wildlife oasis next to one of the biggest cities in the United States. So it's a place that we're fortunate to have, a place we like to get out to as much as we can. And I would encourage anybody to get out there and give Nilo a shot. They're great people and it's a great place to go shoot.

SPEAKER_00: And it's open to the public, correct?

SPEAKER_01: Yeah. Yeah. Um, you can, you can go online Nilo and, um, you know, it's open to the public. You can book hunts out there. They have open to the public shooting days. Do you want to go out and check out the sporting clays course? So, um, we've really tried to open it up to share what a great, what a great facility Nilo is to the public. And I think, uh, Dwayne Pitts, who's the manager out there and his crew do a great job of that.

SPEAKER_00: Yeah, it's, it was fantastic. And you know, like I said, I've been out there the first time I went out there, we just kind of visited. Um, we did eat lunch. And so I think, I think that time, yeah, I think both times I went, we had the, like, is it a pheasant pot pie that, like a, some kind of pheasant casserole? What, what is that?

SPEAKER_01: It's our, uh, it's our world famous peasant pot pie. Uh, that's right. It's legendary around here, man. You, uh, if you hear there's an event in Nile and there's pot pie involved, you, you clear your calendar and get out there.

SPEAKER_00: Yeah, that it's awesome. That is fantastic. I recommend everybody check that out. Um, you know, and if you get the opportunity to go out there and, and, you know, shoot and maybe book a hunt, I know the, you know, they have the kind of the put and take pheasant. I think they, they do quail as well.

SPEAKER_01: Uh, they do pheasant Chukar primarily. Uh, and then we've got, we've got some, some ability to do some duck hunts out there too. So it's, it's a great, great opportunity, especially, you know, uh, on the public land, slugging in and carry all your stuff kind of guy. And about halfway through the season, I'm ready to get out to Nilo and shoot some birds. So.

SPEAKER_00: Yeah. Yeah. It makes it a little bit easier. Well, let's kind of transition on to, you know, Winchester as a brand now, you know, it is an iconic brand. You know, obviously, like you said, the big red W I've grown up, you know, shooting Winchester's my whole life. I think most duck hunters are super familiar with, you know, the original Drylocks when they came out, the Winchester Supremes, you know, there's a long list. But before we get into actual product discussion, you know, I wanted to touch base briefly on the fact that, you know, let our audience know that Winchester Ammunition is the official ammunition of Ducks Unlimited. But I wanted to give you an opportunity to kind of talk about that and like what that means for Winchester to hold that banner as the official, you know, ammunition of DU.

SPEAKER_01: Yeah, thanks for the opportunity there. For us, being the official ammo of DU, there's a lot of pride in it for us, particularly because we like to take ourselves as leaders in conservation for what we can do on our side of things, being a manufacturer of ammunition. And part of that is going out and finding groups to align with that also have a similar mission. And I don't think that you can think of two groups that are more aligned when it comes to, you know, waterfowl conservation and habitat conservation and preservation. then Winchester and then Ducks Unlimited. Way back to John Olin, who basically brought Winchester into the modern era. The first and foremost thing on his mind was like, how do we make a place and a refuge for wildlife? And waterfowl was part of that. So it's really the bedrock principle of ours. And it's super easy when you have a group like DU who's out there doing on the ground work and getting the volunteers involved to have a partnership like we do.

SPEAKER_00: Yeah, no, I mean, we greatly appreciate it. It's awesome. I mean, I think it's just cool. You've got these two very iconic brands that align for something like this. Um, all in support of wetlands conservation. And that's, that's just an awesome story all around. And, you know, for our listeners out there, I mean, every time, wherever you go to get ammo in the retail store, you pick up a box of Winchester, a duck load, and it's got the DU logo on it. I mean, you can recognize that. And that's something that really moves our members as well. So, I mean, if they're shopping at wherever they get their ammo. And they see that DU logo right next to that Winchester logo. I mean, that's a, that's a pretty solid representation of, of really North American conservation. So it's awesome.

SPEAKER_01: Yeah, I would agree, man. It's a point of pride for us. And, you know, we're just really happy with our partnership and being so storied and, and, you know, continuing on.

SPEAKER_00: Now we get to get to the fun part, the exciting new products, the, uh, really the business end of the whole discussion here, where, you know, we're talking about new loads, new, you know, you got, we just mentioned before we came on, we mentioned something about the new 28 gauge, but let's start with, you know, Blindside 2. You know, you guys launched that, was it last year? The year before last, I think it was last year.

SPEAKER_01: Yeah, we launched Blindside 2 last year, and we had original Blindside, which was an awesome product. Probably got one of the greatest taglines in the waterfowl space, and it's stacked fast and deadly. But the one thing we do here at Winchester is we continuously improve and innovate. And, you know, our engineers here said, like, I think we can do that better. And that's what led to Blindside 2, which is our improved hex shot, which, you know, it flies like round and hits like hex. So our guys really got in there and improved, you know, the aerodynamic characteristics of that shot to make everybody out there using it in the field more successful when they finally, you know, get the opportunity to pull the trigger on the duck.

SPEAKER_00: Yeah, because if you look at that, and I've looked at those diagrams quite a bit, but you know, the original hex shot was almost not square, but when you look at it, it's almost like a cube. And what you guys have done is kind of rounded that thing off a little bit, and I'm sure it does help ballistically.

SPEAKER_01: Yeah, all of our tests there just show, you know, like when you couple the aerodynamic capabilities that we've taken in there and into account with, you know, the filing down of those edges to make them more rare. There's just inherent aerodynamic, you know, things that happen that make it more, make it a higher performer, make it a better performer. And that's ultimately what we're all about is is letting our customers and our consumers know that we're always driving to get them the best products. And that's second to none in blindsight too.

SPEAKER_00: Awesome. Yeah. You know, I've got some in my office right now, so I'm ready. Our season doesn't kick off for, well, I guess we've got spec season coming up here in a week or so, but I'm ready to put some to the test. I did not get any last year, but I had some, but I didn't get to shoot any. So this year, it's definitely going to be a blind side to season. But another product that I want to mention that I did shoot last year and probably will shoot again this year, because I really liked it. You guys came out with the Winchester Bismuth. and that stuff is deadly.

SPEAKER_01: Yeah, that's my go-to right now, bismuth. It is literally all of the technology that you can fit in the shotgun shell. It is like our premium load, but we put a lot in there. We really take a lot of pride in where we source and how we precisionally make that bismuth and get it in there with our buffering system that's in our 12-gauge And it really is the go-to shell for anything that you can think of. That's from, I'm going out to shoot with my buddies to your special South Dakota waterfowl hunt, when you get an opportunity to go out there. And that has our patented Drylock Watt system in there and a lacquered primer that helps with all the conditions that waterfowlers deal with. And that's the dampness of being out in anything, whether it's a pit blind or you're in timber, waterfowl Need a little bit of moisture to get by and we've accounted for it with all the technical technological features we've incorporated into business. And then you know this year 2023 we actually launched a 28 gauge business we we had a lot of consumers come to us. at various trade shows that we go to, like the DUX Expo down there in Texas we've been to, and said, hey, man, we're starting to get into the sub-gauge stuff a lot more, and we'd really love to see some 28-gauge bismuth. And we took it back to our product team here, and they huddled their collective minds together and were like, we think we can do that. Um, so very recently we, we made and it's shipping now, as a matter of fact, um, the 28 gauge three inch business. So, uh, it's a really great product line. It's really great stuff. And if you haven't tried it, I would suggest anybody give it a shot.

SPEAKER_00: Yeah, I do. I would as well. Now, last year I had a couple boxes of the ones and man, that stuff is just a wrecking ball. Uh, we, we shoot quite a few geese in Arkansas, specks and snows, and it would just, man, it just performed. And everybody that, that I was hunting with shot a few of them and they're, everyone was pretty impressed. Let's just say that. Um, but then towards the end of the season, I got my hands on the fours and for ducks, man, that stuff is awesome as well. Now, when you said you prefer the Bismuth, are you shooting the fours or the ones?

SPEAKER_01: Man, I kind of tend to go with the fours, but that's just kind of my jam anyway. I like to run a shot like that typically. I think they're both great and it kind of just depends on your situation and what size bird you think you're going to get into.

SPEAKER_00: Yeah, absolutely. Like I said, those ones, that's a thumper for sure. And not that you couldn't shoot the geese with the fours, but man, the ones were definitely deadly from what I've seen. I'm sure you guys have seen it as well.

SPEAKER_01: Well, the one cool thing about bismuth, right, is that it's closer to that, using my air quotes here, that lead-like density. So it's really good at transferring energy. And we have some pro staffers that will hunt early season Canada's and they'll do some dry ground hunting up there. And they don't know if they're going to shoot mallards or if they're going to shoot geese. And they'll run fours just because they like the ability to keep one box of ammo with them in the blind. So it does give that versatility to waterfowl hunters, which are probably the most demanding group of hunters out there when it comes down to it.

SPEAKER_00: You say demanding or complaining? No, I'm just kidding.

SPEAKER_01: No, they run and waterfowlers get out there. You know, we have guys here in the office that, you know, pretty much start canceling meetings when the season opens up and they grind and they expect the same out of their their equipment. And, you know, we try to give that to them.

SPEAKER_00: Yeah, that's awesome. Now, where you guys are headquartered, that's a pretty waterfowling-rich area around there. Now, where Nilo is a little bit further out, it kind of gets into more just farm ground, but where, you know, you guys are 35, 40 minutes away from the confluence, you know, do you get out there very often?

SPEAKER_01: I'm steps from the mighty Mississippi River here. So, you know, it's definitely big in this area. And, you know, I try to get out there. I'm still a public land guy. So I go do the sweat lines and draw pills and all that fun stuff. But, yeah, I try to get out as much as I can. And a lot of guys in the office do the same.

SPEAKER_00: That's awesome. Now, here's just a curious, just me being curious, you know, there, you guys have a lot of products, you know, that fall under that Winchester ammunition brand. And it's not just, you know, we're kind of focusing on, you know, these duck and goose loads. But you guys have so many, you know, rifle, handgun, everything like that. Is that part of you kind of your day in, day in? Are you, you kind of get the flexibility Rather where I'm talking about ducks every day. You probably have a lot more flexibility as far as, you know, you're talking to deer hunters out here. You're talking to, you know, guys who are shooting handguns, competitive shooters, upland guys, you know, do you get to experience all that? Like what's, what's kind of, how does that roll with your position that you're in?

SPEAKER_01: Yeah. I mean, you know, we, we pride ourselves on whatever our end uses, whether that's, you know, competitive shooting, recreational shooting, ducks, geese, big game, deer, turkeys, backyard 40 shooting, you know, we get exposure to all of that. And we have, you know, the ability with being Winchester to, uh, to talk to all the people in all those fields that, that do that well. So, you know, I can, I talk to you talking to you right now and 10 minutes from now, I'm going to probably be talking about about some deer bullets and all that kind of stuff. So we do have a lot of versatility here in the office and with our products. And, you know, ultimately, I think for us, it's just being the best and driving the most value for our customers and whatever their end uses. And, you know, we take it seriously, just as serious for a guy that's shooting a 22 in his backyard, you know, to a guy that, you know, drew a nonresident South Dakota waterfowl opportunity or a big giant bull elk. We take all that seriously and we listen to our customers and try to give them the best that they can use in all those situations.

SPEAKER_00: Now, are you guys manufacturing, like, all of the shotgun loads there at your facility in Illinois, or are there different facilities throughout the country?

SPEAKER_01: We have three facilities that we manufacture ammunition at. We have where I'm coming to you from right now, which is our world headquarters in East Harlem, Illinois. That makes all of our shot shell products, including our shot. So we make that here. Oxford, Mississippi is where we make our centerfire, rimfire, pistol, and rifle. And then we, we operate a plant in Independence, Missouri, the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant, which is where we do, which is where we do all of our military production to support the U.S. military.

SPEAKER_00: Okay, cool. I was getting ready to ask about the manufactured shot shells there in East Alton, but I was like, man, I feel like he said something about that, but I just wanted to make sure, point that out that, you know, that's where the, these waterfowl loads are coming from. It's pretty cool, you know, right in the heartland of America. That's awesome.

SPEAKER_01: Yeah, we've been here since the inception and there's no plans to move it. And it's a pretty storied piece of this portion of the country's heritage. And it's pretty cool. There's a lot of folks that if you walk around out here that don't work for Winchester that used to or their brother or mom or dad does. So it's a part of this part of the world. And it's cool to be a part of a heritage like that.

SPEAKER_00: Yeah. And I think Nathan and I were driving through there, driving out to And it's just cool just to kind of drive by and, and, you know, obviously it's not open to the public or anything, but it is, like you said, it just kind of settles right into that community right there. It kind of builds within. It, it's a pretty impressive. And one of the things that I liked was the walking into the front entrance there of your guys' office building. And you have that like 15 foot statue. And that is John Wayne, is it not? It is John Wayne. It is John Wayne.

SPEAKER_01: Yeah, it's John Wayne. It's a pretty cool one. It's a unique piece when you come in the house here.

SPEAKER_00: One question for you, just to clarify some things for someone in our audience. Winchester ammunition and Winchester guns. Can you clarify that relationship? Basically, it'd be Winchester repeating arms and Winchester ammunition because I think some of our audience may not know that relationship.

SPEAKER_01: Yeah, no, they are two separate companies, Winchester P&Rs and Winchester Firearms. But that being said, we talk to them daily on things, whether it's new products or hunts or marketing. So just because we are two separate business entities doesn't mean we don't work very closely together to make sure that the horse and rider has a legacy that lives on and up to the standards of everybody out there.

SPEAKER_00: Yeah, no, that's awesome to clarify just because I know people may not know that or some people that do and there may have been some misconceptions there. Jake, before I get you out of here, I do have one more question. I'm going to go back because you mentioned that you broke a world record and it just kind of stuck in my head and I was like, I got to ask you, you didn't say what the record was. So what record, what shotgunning record did you break? I'm just curious.

SPEAKER_01: Yeah, so our game, International Trap, it's a fixed course of fire. So we shoot 125 targets. So it's five rounds. And a perfect score in that is 125, obviously. So a world record, which I shot in 2014, was 125 out of 125. So it's a perfect score. I shot it in the Championships of the Americas down in Mexico. And it was awesome, for sure, to say the least. But a lot of hard work went into it. I was the first American to hold that record in like 20 or 25 years. So, yeah, it was a pretty awesome experience, a cool title, and a cool thing to earn.

SPEAKER_00: Yeah, that is pretty cool. I'm just kind of laughing myself because when you said it, I thought, oh, I need to ask him. And then we're like 25 minutes later, and I'm just going back to ask him, like, what is that record? So that's really cool, man. That's awesome. Congratulations on that. Um, you know, have your, your name etched in stone there and that's pretty cool.

SPEAKER_01: Yeah, it's pretty cool. You know, it's, uh, something where you shoot hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammo to get to 125 that counts. So it's something I'm pretty proud of. And, and so my, you know, work to every day to try to get back to, to be able to do that again.

SPEAKER_00: So just before we do get out, so we've got duck season is in your area, probably getting ready to start here fairly soon. What are your 28? Ooh, yes.

SPEAKER_01: I knew it was coming up. We can feel it.

SPEAKER_00: Yeah, I know. And especially with the change in the weather, I know you guys can feel it up there. It's been chilly here in Memphis. What is, what is your plan for this duck season? What are you going into this duck season? Kind of looking at like, Hey, you know, this is what I want to do.

SPEAKER_01: I used to be there every day and hunt as much of the season as I could. For me now, it's about getting out there and spending time with family and friends. So I pick two or three really solid days and really good times and get out there and you know, and, and shoot, you know, you know, get the, get a good shoot in every once in a while, as opposed to get a whole bunch of mediocre ones. That being said, I didn't get, uh, I didn't get drawn for opening day and I will be there at four 30 standing in line waiting to draw a pill with everybody else.

SPEAKER_00: So, um, man, I'm just looking to get out on the trigger like everybody else, man. Yeah. Fortunately, your area does have a lot of really good kind of public access. Um, whether or not you're standing in line or getting one of the online draws, something like that, that area in Illinois and in Missouri, both are pretty good about that. So good luck in that line. It's good. It's coming. The season is coming now.

SPEAKER_01: Yeah, we're, we're ready, man. I'm, I'm, I'm switching from clay targets to, to feathers and ferrets that time of year. It's, it's ready to happen.

SPEAKER_00: Awesome. Well, thanks a lot, Jake. This has been fantastic. We will, we'll probably have to get you back on here later in the season and we'll catch up and see how that, how that drawing for the opening weekend went for you.

SPEAKER_01: I'll hopefully give you a good status update, man. I appreciate being on and it's always great to talk to you.

SPEAKER_00: I'd like to thank my guest, Jake Wallace, the marketing brand and content coordinator for Winchester Ammunition, for coming on the show today and talking about everything Winchester and some of his personal experiences as a competitive shooter. I'd like to thank our producer, Chris Isaac, for putting the show together and getting it out to you. And I'd like to thank you, the listener, for joining us on the DU Podcast and supporting wetlands conservation.