I had the opportunity last week to visit with Mark Coin at Down-N-Dirty Outdoors (DND). Mark is a dedicated young man who has a great deal of quality time in the outdoors. His company was started in 2007 and from that humble start they have grown into a competitive provider of outdoor game calls including turkey, duck, goose and deer calls. I hope you enjoy the interview.
Mark, describe what you mean when you say you have a passion about hunting.
I know a lot of folks that started hunting at a later age. They love to hunt. They spend tons of time, money and effort to fulfill their hunting desire. It’s a hobby. Something they think about weeks before a season starts, nothing wrong with that. I grew up in the woods. My father didn’t hunt. Long before I was old enough to pack a gun chasing small game I was in the woods chasing anything I could catch with my bare hands; turtles, lizards, and yes the occasional snake. No one really introduced me to the outdoors. It was “born” in me I guess. I don’t think about hunting a few weeks before season. It’s every day. It’s a part of my life that’s made me who I am. Besides God, my wife and my children hunting is next on the list.
What makes Down-N-Dirty Outdoors unique?
No gimmicks, no pretty faces, no bull. Period. A lot of the larger, older call companies today fell into the mind-set of “if we build enough, we’ll be OK”. Their belief in marketing power started outweighing the belief of a good product. A lot of call companies were molded around either a famous name or winning contests. Down-N-Dirty Outdoors was developed from a style of hunting. A way of life I learned growing up hunting on my own, most years on state and public ground. Calls that were built tough, sounded as perfect as possible, and did one thing, helped the hunter fill his tags or bag limits. Period. DND has a saying “Do your calls hunt as hard as you?” I think that sums DND up pretty good.
I am familiar with a few of your calls and know them to be very well made. Is there something you want to add to that?
Every call DND builds is designed, tested, tuned, and assembled either by myself or someone here in the shop. We take great pride in that. Our hands are on everything that leaves the shop. A lot of calls sold today are prefabricated by someone else. That’s just not gonna happen here. We know each individual call built could mean the difference between someone having the day of their lives in the woods and misery. Quality is the backbone of what we do. Without it we’re just another name in a sea of calls and outdoor products.
Tell me about how important you believe it is to surround yourself with good people at Down-N-Dirty Outdoors.
I grew up playing football. I served four years in the United States Marine Corps. I worked four years at a correctional facility, also serving on the emergency response team which is basically the SWAT team within the prison. I’ve been part of a strong team it seems most of my life. The team concept works! It’s simple. A group of motivated hard-working people is extremely stronger than one individual.
Is there a best hunt you can remember that did not result in a harvest?
Several years ago a small group of friends and I we’re duck hunting a tract of state property. The day had been extremely slow. I watched several groups of ducks drop down several hundred yards from where we were hunting. I decided to take a walk and see if I could find the spot. Needless to say we were hunting a slough in the middle of a large hardwood bottom and it didn’t take long before I realized I was turned around. After several hours I stopped and listened. I could hear the faint rumble of ducks feeding. I eased around a small patch of cane and was surprised to see hundreds of Mallard ducks. Apparently beavers had flooded several hundred acres of timber. Now in western Kentucky where I’m from, green timber duck hunting is more of a dream or a planned trip to Arkansas than reality. We hunted that place and packed a bunch of ducks out of there for several years before the water finally killed the timber and shut the place down. Finding that hole was definitely a blessing.
I love duck calling. I love owl hooting. And now I love gobbling. I developed the Haint Gobble call a few years ago and introduced it to the world last year. It’s one thing to build something that’s been around for years but to develop something that’s never been done and put it in the field and see how well it works will probably be the highlight of my game call building career. No doubt.
Tell the readers a little about your background, Marine Corps and family.
My father didn’t hunt. He had to work too much. My uncle introduced me to the world of waterfowling when I was 8 years old, thank God. I’ve called in and won several calling contests. I would hate to have to pick between waterfowling and turkey hunting. It would kill me to lose either. I served four years in the USMC in an anti-tank platoon. Yes my job was to hunt bad guys in tanks. I love God, my family, my country and yes, hunting.
Mark, any chance you might want to talk about some new products in R&D?
To be honest and I do mean completely honest, one thing I’ve learned in a short amount of time about the outdoor industry is…that’s all I’ll say about that.
Tell us a little about your new season of In the Blood TV.
Actually after hiring Eddie Salter this past January we’ve decided to cancel In the Blood TV and set our sights on a national-level TV show. It was definitely a good learning experience though.
With a name like Mark Coin, is there any image in particular you would put on your coin?
A mallard on one side and a strutting turkey on the other.
Mark, do you think a caller can be successful even if they are not a good caller? I have heard the quote that the best conservationist is a bad caller.
Yes I do. I know way too many great hunters that are not too good on a call. A bad caller to me is someone who doesn’t understand the language they’re trying to speak. A person that may be ok on a call but doesn’t know what he’s saying is, as you say, a good conservationist. For example, the guy hail calling to ducks when he should’ve been doing the soft stuff. You hear it all the time. I get more questions at shows on what sounds mean versus how to make a specific call.
I had always referred to the term Down-N-Dirty to mean the hens were down on the nests and the gobbler was looking about. Does it mean more to you?
The name Down-N-Dirty came from my experience growing up hunting on state or public ground. Not only did you have to learn everything you could about the animal you were trying to kill but you also had to learn how to deal with the crowd. Passing up the easy birds to get away from the crowd may mean getting to a spot at 3:30 a.m. and then walking 2-3 miles to get to the spot. That’s getting down-n-dirty.
Your Kentucky State Championship in 2004 had to be a great experience for you. Do you miss the competitive calling circuit?
Yes, I plan on getting back in to it when I can find the time. No one from KY has ever won the World’s Duck Calling Championship. That was always a motivator for me.
Between you and Jason the word “Hoot” likely resonates. In 1998, you competed against each other in owl calling. What did he teach you and what did you teach him about owl hooting or life in general?
Jason had more “turkey” stage time than I had. Duck and turkey competitions are a little different. He helped on the stage side of it a lot.
Mark, where do you think the call market is heading?
I’ve always believed the modern era of the call market is young. What I mean by modern is since the birth of the three to four large companies. I believe there’s a lot of new and great ideas still floating around out there just waiting to be discovered. I think with the introduction of calls like the Haint you’ll see a rebirth in innovation.
As a company owner I would guess there are times when you would rather be hunting. Any advice you might want to share with someone wanting to start an outdoor oriented business?
If ya think owning an outdoor oriented business means all you do is hunt you’re in the wrong industry. As much as I love to hunt I probably say I hunted more when I wasn’t involved with DND. It’s crazy to think that but I believe it’s just the nature of the beast. Getting to hunt with family and friends is what I miss the most. You can’t just go out and kill a turkey any more. You have to wait for the “perfect” turkey now. Last year I passed up nine turkeys in Tennessee in one week just because they weren’t right for the camera. That’s tough.
To become a competitive caller how much did you practice? Do you still practice?
Every day, hours a day. Being that a big part of my job is tuning calls for hours a day has definitely helped me cut back on the practice time though.
Is there something this fall with any season ahead you cannot wait to try?
We have some new products that I hope to get in the field and put to the test. I can’t wait.
Any parting comments?
Share the wealth! If we don’t continue to get young people involved in hunting how do we expect to have a future? Share your time, your knowledge, and yes, the occasional honey hole to possibly change a kids life and insure the future of something that means so much to so many of us!
Images courtesy Down-N-Dirty Outdoors/David Vaught