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Legend Biography

Ralph Kohler


Patriarch of Water-fowling on the Missouri River

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Nebraska 2010, duck season is in full swing. I had arrived in Tekamah, Nebraska with two hunting
buddies of mine, Mr. Crockett Mathis and Mr. Tom Moody. Both of these men had made several duck
hunting trips with me to wondrous, faraway places in which our certain goal was to hunt both ducks and
geese up and down the Mississippi flyway. This trip was to be special. In fact, this trip was a once in a
lifetime for all three of us. On this trip we had been invited to spend three days on a private hunting club
owned and operated by “Legends of the Outdoors” hall of fame member, Mr. Ralph Kohler. Some would
ask why this was such a special hunt. Sit back and I will tell.
I started hunting waterfowl in the early 70’s at the tender age of fifteen, alongside my buddies wading
up and down Blood River near my hometown of Buchanan TN. Most of the time we did not have waders
and thanks to my Granddad, I was able to borrow his shotgun and scrape up a few shells from Crutcher’s
General store. Back in those days, nontoxic shot shells had not been thought of and we shot any type of
shells that we could buy or beg from older family member. I remember that my uncle had a reloading
machine and he would load me a box of shot shells for my birthday each year which happened to be two
days after Christmas. As young water fowlers, we would dream of hunting faraway places and try to
imagine just where the few Mallards and Wood Ducks that we shot had come from. Little did I know
back then, how much that Waterfowl hunting would shape my life and my career, as well as all of the
great places that hunting ducks and geese would take me and all of the wonderful people that this great
sport would allow me to become friends with. Dreams are meant to be lived and live my dream I did.
Places such as North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Kentucky and
Illinois would become familiar haunts during waterfowl season and as time would allow, I would spend
as much time as possible traveling to these other states to ply my trade as a professional outdoorsman
or just to hunt with friends.
One of the men who had already become a water fowling legend in the area of Tennessee near where I
had grown up was Crockett Mathis. Crockett is the fourth generation great grandson of David Crockett
of the Alamo fame and is as much of a frontiersman as his grand dad. Crockett’s exploits, while hunting
in and around West Sandy Bottom, were what dreams were made of as far as us boys were concerned
and we dreamed of growing up some day to be as well-known as Crockett. We boys could only imagine
then what it would be like just get to talk to such a legend much less ever getting the chance to actually
hunt with him. So here both Tom and I sit in the truck with one of our boyhood hero’s traveling to a
wonderful location to spend a few days hunting the birds that we love so well.
That was the first special part of the trip; the next was to be even more fabulous for us all. Enter Mr.
Ralph Kohler, ninety five years old at the time, would be our guide and host on this hunt. Mr. Ralph as
everyone calls him started hunting ducks and geese on the Missouri River near his home in Tekamah
Nebraska as a youngster following around his older uncle’s. Both of his uncles, having seen something
special in this young man, did everything possible to insure his future as a water fowl guide.
A career that would cover over eight decades and over eighty five waterfowl seasons was born. Ralph
started guiding hunters at age sixteen with a mule and wagon and live duck and goose decoys, which

was legal at the time. Having spent time hunting with Ralph prior to this hunt, I had asked him for some
of his thoughts on the changes that he had seen over such a long career as a professional guide. Here is
what he said, on live decoys. There were days said Ralph that the ducks would just fly on by and not pay
any attention to the live hens that were calling to them as they flew overhead and other days the ducks
would work into gun range without hesitation. But on the subject of the geese that would migrate
down through the area, he said that almost every goose that came within earshot of those live decoys
would work into range. Without the laws that stopped things such as baiting and the use of live decoys,
in his opinion, much of the water fowling as we know it today would not be available to hunters. Over
his many years of guiding and hunting many celebrities and outdoorsmen have shared Mr. Ralphs Blind
and his wonderful hospitality. He recalled Mr. Herb Parsons, the nationally known Trick shooter would
hunt with him and on one occasion, Mr. Parsons was supposed to be doing a shooting demonstration
for Winchester, however the hunting was so good that he spent three days hunting with Ralph instead.
Ralph is not only a professional water fowl hunter. Both he and his wife Dorothy were professional ball
room dancers and won many competitions during that part of their career together. Ralph, Dorothy and
their son also was the very first family to be named to the All American Trap team. He and hunting pal
Monte West created the very first full body molded goose decoy back in the day when plastic decoys
were not available. When Mr. Ralph was inducted into the “Legends of the Outdoors” national hall of
fame, he and Mrs. Dorothy had been married for longer than any other person who was in attendance
except for Mr. Ray Scott who was the guest speaker and Mr. Scott had been only two years old when
the Kohler’s were married.
As the morning of the hunt arrived and we found ourselves in the blind with Mr. Ralph, I could not help
but journey back to my days as a youth and think how lucky it was for me to get to hunt with men such
as Ralph Kohler and Crockett Mathis. I can only hope that someday some young hunter will think the
same of me as I do of them.
Side Bar: Mr. Ralph Kohler and his wife Dorothy celebrated their seventy seventh wedding anniversary
this past September and as the duck and goose season for this upcoming year quickly approaches, most
of us understand that the day is coming when we may no longer get to share a blind with Mr. Ralph but
only memories and his legacy. Mr. Ralph turned ninety five years old this past year and still hunts every
day during the Nebraska season. A true American Legend.
Crockett and I along with some other hunting buddies will head back to Nebraska this upcoming
waterfowl season to enjoy one more hunt with Mr. Ralph but that will be another story.

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