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Less experienced bay hunters may not make it off the water today, our thoughts are with them. A Westerly component in this cold front and wind velocities approaching 50 MPH will make for surreal conditions on the bay. At 10:00am, the wind gauge here in Seadrift recorded a gust of 47.2 MPH with 35.6 MPH constant from 277 degrees. Quickly dropping water levels will compound treacherous bay waters. Seldom in bay hunting is the point from A to B a straight line. It is never a straight line when airboats are involved, ever. Today, I ran two miles or more out of my intended path in order to "surf" to our destination.

Skills of a Waterman

Being able to run any water with extreme winds from any direction comes with a lot of days on the water. Taking advantage of side seas and surfing, breakwaters, running inside breakwater, going the long way around and the likes takes some wake up calls and at times, a "lack of options". Trouble comes when the travel from point A to point B is forced to be a straight line due to lack of experience.

Big Time Mistakes

I won't ever forget the lessons learned on a trip in the early 90's to Greens Bayou on Matagorda Island. I was pretty green on the bays and was running an afternoon shoot consisting of two boats and another Capt. for a prairie outfit we were working for. We came out Mad Island cut and surfed a 15 knot North wind to Greens. Seas were 3' or so on the way down. As we got close, I could feel the wind building big time as the cold front hit full stride and the bay waters were really building. As we approached Greens Bayou, I knew our attempt to hunt the location, the conditions, and the decision were horribly flawed and very bad judgment. What got us here, scouting told us it was full of ducks and our desire for hunting success compounded with our lack of experience. We probably got there around 2pm or so. As we pulled up to the shoreline I told the other Capt. to tell his shooters that they had 45 minutes to pull the trigger and we were leaving.

I was sick with fear but smart enough to know that it was going to take forever to get back across, if we could get back across. I was running a 22' Bay Hawk with a 175 Mariner that was owned by the outfit. The other boat was a Hewes Redfisher. Our safest run would be to run inside what breakwater we could find on the South shoreline all the way to the diversion canal. GPS wasn't too hot at the time and the problem for me was by the time we got there, navigating all the logs, fallen trees, and shallows would be too much for us.

Keeping A Clear Head

I chose to put my hunters with the other Capt. while I stayed in the boat contemplating our exit. Everyone killed a few birds but the hunt was a wreck with point blank ducks falling 50 and 60 yards away. Distant retrieves and the likes were dragging the hunt out too long, I was getting antsy. The wind was getting horrible. I finally gave the signal and the hunters returned to the boats.

Coming Up With A Plan

The other Capt. and I were very good friends. He and I both knew we were in trouble. We talked over a few things including kicking down somebody's door on an Island house and riding the thing out. With 5-7' waves coming straight at Greens Bayou from Matagorda, I came up with another idea for getting to Mad Island cut on the North shoreline. My plan was to run East North East following the South shoreline toward the Diversion canal. We'd run far enough East so that when the arrow on my GPS was pointing behind me over my left shoulder we would then make the left hand turn and run side sea across the swells. That was going to be miles and miles past a normal left turn toward the cut and the timing had to be such that we wouldn't over shoot it. As we made the left turn we were doing fine. It wasn't until about mid-bay that it started getting dicey. Our two boats were running parallel to the other going up 7 foot swells and down the other side. As we approached the big oil rig about mid-bay I knew we were at about half way; the GPS counting down the distance; my hands glued to the wheel; my ears tuned to every cylinder in that old Mariner; my knees flexing with the assault; my eyes penned on the approaching North shoreline; and my mind praying to God for protection over our souls, until finally, we were a short distance from the cut. I threw the hammer down and that old Bay Hawk launched us to the heavens a number of times as we finally got into a bit of a lee and we shot through that cut 90 to nothing with everyone yelling Yeehaww, Welcome to Texas! We made it.

I wasn't much of a Bay Hawk or Mariner fan at the time but I can tell you I still have a sweet spot in my heart for both and always give a little grin when I see one of the old rigs here in town.

Good Ideas

In your travels, let somebody know where you are heading. Some call it a float plan. Don't count on cell phones as many stretches of the Texas coast to this day are very unreliable. We are finding that "texting" will often work when cell signals are such that you can't make a phone call. Give an estimated time of your return and when you set your feet on dry land, call the person with your float plan and let them know you made it back safely.

If you think the weather is too much for you, chances are it's too much for the wildlife as well. Pick another day, there isn't a bird flying or fish swimming that's worth losing your life over.

Hunting was fair this morning and with the Westerly component in the wind, there shouldn't be a drop of water left in the bays for days.

Have a safe and Merry Christmas!

Capt. Kris Kelley
Castaway Lodge, Inc.
109 W. Austin
Seadrift, TX 77983
1-888-618-4868 Office
361-785-4487 Fax
361-648-3474 Cell
 

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it was horrible this morning with 45 mph gusts in Rockport, shot one bird and called it a day. We were in a 12 scooter since we chose to stay out of the wind and go back in the marsh but when we got back to the harbor the waves were so high that we nearly swamped the boat at idle just due to the waves. Weatherman got the wind wayyyy wrong and things could have gotten a lot worse. Good thing we called the hunt when we did because the wind only increased on the ride home.
 

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Great post! I have always had a great respect for the wind on the water, but when I was younger I would push the envelope of safety. When I got a little more wiser and older, some would call me a chicken and overly catious many times. I to have been caught in a horrible blow before and I never want to experience that fear again. Like you said Capt, it aint worth it. They will still be there when the weather settles out a little. Safety first, great post and great reminder!
I remember wading out in Lake Nocona with Ed harper when we were just teenagers to a duck blind about 200 yards out in the mud flat. We would break the ice with the but of our shotguns to take each step sometimes almost all the way out there it was so cold. Back then, waders were not near as warm as they are now and the water was 3 or 4 foot deep around the blind. I remember being so cold my teeth would chatter and we would barely make it back in frozen. Back then, it was worth it for a limit of mallards and gadwalls. I would not even consider it now-a-days.
 

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man captain that sounds like 2 exact trips we made to the same place. that bay can get killer. last weekend of last season we got caught. me and my brother tried to make a break for it and run as close to the south soreline as we could trying to get to mad island cut. eventually hitting a sandbar and thats where we stayed all night in a tent . w/ winds about parallel w/ todays. thank god the tide came in and the boat floated. we pushed it to deeper water about 5 feet away and laid up for the night. now if the wind even pushes 15 on that spot i call it off. can u say airboat.
 

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It was around 1973 in Northern Kansas and my freind my nephew and I were hunting geese on a wheat field bordering a large lake. Around mid morning the wind came up hard from the NW and we saw a small boat approaching from the East with three duckhunters, 2 Labs and not much freeboard. It was late season, probably late December or early January. I told my companions when the boat rounded the point that we were on in the wheat field they'd hit the big waves and sink. And so they did. They were about 100 yds from us across a deep creek channel. I tried to wade/swim to them using a driftwood log as a flotation device, but it was waterlogged and not very buoyant. Tried it with a spare tire from my nephews Bronco with but with the same result, the weight of the wheel negated the bouyancy. Two of the guys finally floated across the channel to us, by then I'd had my nephew bring his truck to the shore and we threw them in and he headed to the hospital. He was a paramedic and although they had severe hyporthermia they recovered. We had finally contacted the GW and he and i retrieved the body of the other man. The two who made it had their life jackets on when the boat swamped, the third guy didn't, saw it floating away and tried to swim for it. Please put your life jackets on when boating especially in cold waters.

Spent a cold and thirsty night on Matagorda Island a few years later when a big blue norther kicked up Espirtu Santo. Nothing to eat but ducks. Luckily, we had lots of ducks.

Last bad scare was when the fog rolled in on us on an afternoon hunt. 10 ms up the ICW in the dark, in the fog so thick we could barely see the bow from the console. Put a guy on the bow listening for barges. Sucked.
 

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Lasting Impact Levelwind

Either of the first two would tend to leave a long lasting affect on you no doubt, the first experience especially. You may remember at TWO when that kid shot his brother by accident and killed him on a goose hunt. While I wasn't on the hunt, the accident turned me into Adolph Hitler in the field and I rode the clients like Zorro for years over gun safety.

The worst sound you will ever hear in a goose spread is the sound of a gun going off near the ground unexpectedly. It makes a different sound and I've heard it several times, fortunately with no one hurt except for some red asses. No one was ever hurt because I established a safe zone of fire that the guns are always pointed in first thing in the morning.

Stay safe,

Double K
 

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Awesome thread and a good read posted by everybody. Captain, ....very well written. Levelwind...you done good.
Thanks guys for reminding us how dangerous our sport can be if taken lightly.
 

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Either of the first two would tend to leave a long lasting affect on you no doubt, the first experience especially. You may remember at TWO when that kid shot his brother by accident and killed him on a goose hunt. While I wasn't on the hunt, the accident turned me into Adolph Hitler in the field and I rode the clients like Zorro for years over gun safety.

The worst sound you will ever hear in a goose spread is the sound of a gun going off near the ground unexpectedly. It makes a different sound and I've heard it several times, fortunately with no one hurt except for some red asses. No one was ever hurt because I established a safe zone of fire that the guns are always pointed in first thing in the morning.

Stay safe,

Double K
Yes, I remember that horrible tragedy. To my knowledge I got complained on twice in fifteen years of running hunts. The first guy was mad at me, but at least he was honest. I'd warned him twice about calling his own shots and shooting low. Third time I stood up in front of the group and said
"this guy's hunt is over. The rest of you can go with him or we can finish the hunt. You don't have to help me pick up the spread but unless you have bolt cutters you aren't getting out of here and it may take me 4 or five hours by myself, cause I might hunt a while. No refunds" They elected to stay and hunt and I let the offender plead to me and finally let him shoot. I put him right next to me so I could watch him. He recounted the story accurately and my Outfitter told him
"if you ever come back you're hunting with Level again. I'd have walked you out of the spread the first time".

Not long after that, I ran some freinds of one our landowners. We were about to pick up when five snows decoys right in - the old movement deal. We volleyed and got a couple. Ten minutes later, as I was picking up decoys, one of the guys Citoris, lying on the ground with no one around, went off. Nobody was hurt. The SAFETY WAS ON. The customer had not reloaded after that last volley and he thought he'd pulled the trigger twice, but only remembered one barrel firing. In the excitement he didn't really connect the dots - a twice a year hunter. All we can figure out was that the internals had not been cleaned and the sear had moved out of position but the lock was gummy and the hammer didn't fall immediately. He had the gun taken apart and cleaned and the gunsmith said it was pretty nasty.

New rule. Guns unloaded and actions opened when we call the hunt.

The biggest issue I had with customers was actions open on the trailer. I'm zero tolerance on that and I've had several tell me that they don't want to get dirt in their guns, etc.etc. There a couple of autos out there that won't lock open, I check those myself. But there are some guys that are totall hardheads about it. One bowed up on me one morning so I left him.

I have terrible hearing, but somehow I can hear a safety snap before I call the shot about 75% of the time.

Guiding's dangerous. I hope everyone accepts that and understands that a good guide's first concerned is that nobody is hurt. I've recieved some dirty looks over the years when I waited til some birds circled one more time - and they didn't. Or I passed on a silent speck that turned out to be a juvie blue. Etc.

Enough rambling. Whacked a crane on Christmas Eve morning, got to hunt with my son, then had to bail to work for a while.

Merry Christmas, All
 

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I really enjoyed this thread and all of its posts because I can relate well to all of the stories. I'm only 34 but as Captain Kris said, experience is you biggest friend when approaching trouble on the water. I have experienced more than once big seas offshore in a bay boat and a sportsfisher, thick fog in the ICW and running up behind barges, HUGE seas in Galveston and East Matty Bays while returning from a duck hunt or a wade. Last year I knew that the wind would be bad but not as bad as it got. It was from the NNE at a steady 55mph and gust to 65mph. I was in E. Matty Bay and alone. I shot 3 geese, 1 mottled, and 1 mallard. I was in a 17' Kenner and for the first time in my life I put a life jacket on while heading back. I almost turned back to spend the night on the south shoreline. The waves were so bad and getting off the south shoreline was a huge task. I trimmed that evinrude as high as it would go safely and hoped for the best. When I got back to the house on Caney Creek I just sat there and thought WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING. No ducks or fish are worth your life.
 

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When I got back to the house on Caney Creek I just sat there and thought WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING. No ducks or fish are worth your life.
Pilots call it "Gethomeitis" and it kills a lot of 'em. If it looks dicey when I leave, nowadays, I have a space blanket, yard guard , some emergency food and water and a piece of tarp to stretch across the gunwales - I don't risk it. A night sleeping on the boat can be uncomfortable but not deadly if your dry and not too cold.
 
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