It’s been a roundabout journey for Sim Whatley, founder of the outdoor apparel brand Duck Camp. Born in Baton Rouge, he started going to duck camp when he was four or five years old, with his grandfather, Ray Whatley, who was the youngest member ever appointed to the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission. The family camp in Little Pecan was centered on an old quarters barge converted to a floating camp. His earliest memories were of guides dipping ducks into paraffin wax to clean them. After graduating from LSU, Whatley spent ten years in Dubai shepherding a start-up tech company. “Not much hunting there,” he says. So when he returned to Louisiana in 2013, it didn’t take him long to find a duck club to join.
“When I got back, I realized how much I missed the whole idea of a hunting camp,” he says. And it wasn’t just what happened during a three-hour hunt. “The feeling of turning off the paved road onto a gravel road—I remembered that from childhood. You could feel the excitement about the journey to the destination. That’s what we’re trying to capture at Duck Camp. Everything that goes on before and everything that happens afterward, from the cleaning of the birds to celebrating the hunt.”
Which is where this take on the Bloody Mary is rooted. Once back in Louisiana, Whatley joined the Lacassane Club, near Lake Arthur, where he shared common ground with the chef Patrick Martinez. Martinez studied at Chef John Folse Culinary Institute in Thibodaux, Louisiana, trained in France, and was sous chef at two New Orleans mainstays, Herbsaint and Luke. But like Whatley, he missed his hunting time, and a stint manning the stoves at a top-shelf hunting camp was a balm from his frantic pace. “We had some very good years at Lacassane,” Whatley says. “It wouldn’t be uncommon to be back at the camp at 9 a.m. with a limit of specks. And nothing went better with a celebratory brunch than a Bloody Mary with all the fixins.”
Then, and now. Tires crunching gravel still send a shiver down Whatley’s spine. And he still likes to celebrate a pile of feathers with this Cajun-style Bloody.
Follow T. Edward Nickens on Instagram @enickens