“It’s just a lot of hard work and good ol’ Delta boy common sense,” says Tate Wood, when asked about the success of his duck hunting supply company, Drake Waterfowl Systems. Tate started the company back in 2002, along with co-founder and best friend of more than thirty years, Bobby Windham Jr.
Bobby or Bejae (pronounced “BG”) and Tate were both born and raised in Greenwood, MS. They played football together in middle school and have been friends ever since. “We truly ‘grew-up’ together – experiencing everything boys growing up in the Mississippi Delta do,” says Wood. And, of course, that included duck hunting. “My dad began taking me along with him when I was 3 years old. I remember curling up in the bottom of the boat until the ducks got close and then I’d watch the action, all wide-eyed and bushy-tailed,” Wood tells us of his first hunt.
After college Tate and Bejae’s lives took them in different directions but they always remained in touch and hunted together whenever they could. As fate would have it, in 2001, they found themselves both unemployed. That’s when they started throwing around the idea of starting a business together. Wood tells us, “Having been close friends for thirty years, we knew we could depend on one another and what to expect.” As they discussed options, they kept going back to what they knew and loved best – hunting. Drake Waterfowl was born.
In the beginning, Tate and Bejae hit the road with a decoy bag filled with product samples. At the end of their first selling season, they hired a graphic designer to join the group. “We did everything from answering the phone, to writing orders, to building our own show booth, to taking out the trash. When you start a business, everyone needs to have an ‘all hands on deck’ attitude. We are blessed with this same attitude to this very day,” Wood tells us. He goes on to say, “There’s not a single person in our building that we don’t consider to be ‘good people’ to the core. When you spend that much time together, it helps if you like one another.”
“Bejae and I are blessed to have completely opposite skill sets that compliment one another’s strengths and weaknesses,” Tate shares. But they do have a common knack for tinkering and improving. Tate spent his formative years watching his father improve upon his duck blind – always perfecting it with small changes each year. “That has always been one of my passions, fixing things that are broke, or better yet, just making things smarter and better.”
And better they are. Drake Waterfowl has gained national recognition for their innovative designs. But don’t expect Tate and Bejae to let success change them. Still best of friends, Tate tells us, “most days of the week, we go somewhere and have lunch together, still talking about everything from family, to business ideas and our thoughts on the future, just like we were thirty years ago. We count our blessings.”
Of course we had to ask their thoughts on our other duck hunting friends on A&E’s Duck Dynasty. Tate tells us, “Believe it or not, I have eaten at that very table or, I should say, in that kitchen where you see them all eat. We had the license to their clothing and gear several years ago and they had us down to talk over ideas and Willie cooked us some crawfish etouffee. It was delicious. Beyond the glamour of television, they are nice, down to earth people that keep it in the family, so to speak. I wish them much success and I hope they bring millions of new duck hunters into the hunting world!!!!”
Tate is also keeping it in the family – learning the ropes from his father and now continuing the tradition with eleven year old son Wil (short for Wilson), who has already “bagged a Hen Canvasback,” considered a rare trophy in duck hunting.
Duck hunting is a “very important annual tradition that goes back to my earliest memories. One of the things I really love about duck hunting is that it happens, every single year. Naturally, the people you spend those 60 days with are usually your closest friends and family. There’s not much better…”
When asked to describe his dream duck blind, Tate quickly responds, “That’s easy, my dream duck blind would be one where my dad, my son and I could all hunt together.”
For mor information on Drake Waterfowl Systems, visit drakewaterfowl.com.