Duck Dynasty brothers dig for treasure outside Natchitoches for new show

David Levy, Alex Zachary, Jase Robertson and Jep Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame explored the property with metal detectors in search of treasure. Courtesy photo

Nathan Wilson
Jase and Jep Robertson explored the site of Camp Salubrity and Bayou Pierre north of Natchitoches several months ago in search of historic treasure. Their journey was documented for their new show, Duck Family Treasure, in which they search and excavate historic sites in search of artifacts from a bygone era.
Zack Zachary owns the Cabins of Horseshoe Hills Ranch and the surrounding land that hosted the expedition. He describes what the Robertson brothers hoped to find. “The general things that are associated with an encampment: any ammunition, or tools, or artifacts of their clothing,” he says. “They were also looking for any old homesteads that may have included some of those old artifacts.”
David Levy has lived in Natchitoches his whole life and has an interest in the area’s history. “There are several stories about Bayou Pierre and the Grand Ecore hills,” he says. He shared his knowledge of the area’s history with the Robertson’s during their expedition and speculates that they were interested in something more than historical artifacts. Though he admits many of the tales he’s heard are probably myths, he recounts stories of gold hidden along the Red River’s southern bank. “They used to dig all in those hills because a lot of people had heard those stories.”

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Levy describes some of the tales that may have caught the attention of the Robertson family. “There is a legend that the Spanish had come up after landing in Mexico,” he says. “Supposedly somewhere in those hills they had buried some gold. They were heavily laden and didn’t want to carry it.”
Levy recounts another legend, “During the Civil War, the confederates were supposed to send a wagon load of gold up to somewhere in Arkansas.” he says. “The Union Army was closing in, and that wagon of gold ended up somewhere around the Kisatchie hills.”
Levy describes prior excavations he’s seen of the area. “Back in the 1960s we had some people that were from San Antonio I believe, and they thought they knew where that treasure was buried, so they came over here with backhoes and dug,” he says. “We went back there and saw where they were digging and stuff, but nothing came of it.”
Another instance involved an eccentric fortune seeker who arrived following a different legend in the early 90s. “This guy calls me from Shreveport and says ‘hey man, you don’t know me or anything, but I’m independently wealthy and I hunt for treasure for a living, and we’ve got these stories about these gangs that used to run through Natchitoches’,” says Levy. “They supposedly would take their coins or money and put them in big clay jars… and they buried some of them along Bayou Pierre in the Kisatchie Hills.”
Levy describes how the man planned to find the jars. “This guy claims that he had satellite equipment and he had pinpointed it,” he says. “He asked permission to go out on our land and dig.” He also describes the team’s eccentricities. ”They had AR-15s and stuff leaned up against trees. They were serious. They said ‘people watch us. We don’t know who knows about us, and if we hit something you’ve just got to be cautious.’”
Levy hesitated to let the team excavate on his property, but agreed when they offered to lend him their heavy equipment during their off hours and return the land to its original condition when they left. “When they would go home, my buddies would come over (and) push our shooting range and stuff back there,” he says. “We had it for a month so it was worth it to me, (but) they did not find anything,” he says. “That’s the last time I heard of any treasure.”
Air Data Solutions, based in Natchitoches, uses LIDAR imaging to map the terrain while
flying overhead.

Zachary and Levy disagree on which stories attracted the Robertsons to Natchitoches, but both acknowledge Don Cummins brought them to town. He owns a Natchitoches based aerial mapping company called Air Data Solutions. “There was a film crew, a producer, who was interested in doing a story on lost treasures,” he says. “They specifically were looking at sites across Louisiana in conjunction with some of the guys from Duck Dynasty.” He explains the appeal of Bayou Pierre. “They want real locations they can go scout and dig on and do a show about and find something that’s interesting.” he says. “I suggested this location because I had heard there’s a lot of people that had hunted supposed treasure in that area. I don’t know if it exists or not, but I like the idea of it as much as anybody.
Cummins is aware of at least one noteworthy visitor to the bayou. “It was supposed to be the location where Ulysses S. Grant had a camp, and so there’s a lot of civil war relics and stuff left over from their camp along the river,” says Cummins. While Grant was stationed in the area as part of the 4th infantry regiment, his writings indicate he stationed in Natchitoches in 1844, prior to the Mexican-American War.
Cummins describes how the technology his company uses provides a more detailed view of historic sites. “We use aerial LIDAR(light detection and ranging) to basically peel away the vegetation and show what the true landform is,” he says. “There’s been a lot of really fascinating archaeological finds by using this aerial LIDAR technology.” he says. “Where they can find the remnants of lost civilizations because they’re completely covered in vegetation and you can’t see them until you strip it all away. LIDAR is the only way you can do that without physically doing it.”
The lasers used by LIDAR don’t actually burn away plants or harm animals. Instead, LIDAR systems bounce laser light off surfaces similar to underwater sonar, but with better resolution. Mounted to an aircraft, the LIDAR system uses computers to assemble snapshots taken from multiple angles to create a complete image of the surface. Since the lasers operate in infrared, people don’t see or even notice the LIDAR mapping as it’s in progress.
A LIDAR generated image of Bayou Pierre reveals features of the hills that are ordinarily shrouded by vegetation.

Cummins has since turned his attention to other projects, including a new archaeological site. “We’re working on a potential archaeology site in the Midwest that could be a major find,” he says. “It’s still in the works, but once it’s out it could be one of the largest finds in North America, so I can’t say anything about it.”
LIDAR may also be able to help others who want to know more about the secrets hidden around Natchitoches and Cummins suggests his company is one of them. “We map Natchitoches almost monthly. We use this as our test bed,” he says. “We’re proud to be here, but we also realize that a lot of people don’t even know we exist or what we do.” He says his company would be happy to help serious archaeologists. “We are not archaeologists or ground surveyors. We basically collect the data,” he says “If somebody wants to see a location, they can definitely contact us.”
Zach and Andrea Zachary and Jase Robertson at the Cabins of Horseshoe Hills Ranch

Zachary says the Robertsons didn’t find anything historically significant during their exploration of Bayou Pierre. “I walked around with them for about three hours,” he says. “We were up in the hills tracking around with a metal detector and dug up a few old things like cans, but we didn’t find anything.” He says it’s not clear if Natchitoches will appear in Duck Family Treasures any time soon. “Because they didn’t find anything they were not planning on making this a part of the show.”
Zachary values the opportunity to get to know Jep and Jase, with whom he shares a similar worldview. “We talked a lot about our mutual beliefs and faith in Christ, about what they were doing and the type of stuff they were looking for,” he says. He also recounts a story the brothers told him of accidentally digging around the wrong plot of land. “They made a wrong turn looking for a piece of property they were told to go visit,” he says. “The reception there wasn’t quite as nice as the reception (they) had here in Natchitoches.”