The team here at Captain Experiences is composed of men and women all from different places but were brought together by our shared enjoyment of the outdoors. Seeing as though outdoor experiences are what our company is all about, we decided it was time to take a break from staring at screens and get out there. The Texas Coast has a variety of sporting opportunities this time of year and we just couldn’t resist. We packed our things then headed to the coast for a duck hunt and a cast and blast.
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Regardless of sleep or fatigue, it seems that waking up early for a hunt is never an inconvenience. The eight of us who could make the trip all popped out of bed and hurried through our morning routines to grab coffee and a bite to eat downstairs. After gathering the last few odds and ends for our hunt, we hopped into our waders and piled into the trucks.
While the Texas Coast is known to have fickle weather, it tends to have mild winters in the 50s and 60s. We were not fortunate enough to be hunting in those conditions. The forecast for the day was 44 degrees, overcast, and 20 mile per hour winds from the north. As a response, below the waves of our waders were layers of various insulating garments that we hoped would insure against discomfort. The unforeseen consequence of our layering was that we were now puffed up and packed in the trucks. While we took the ferry across to Aransas Pass, I took note that we were all in waders, in a truck, and on a ferry. I looked at David and said “too much packaging.”
Once we made it across the channel, it was only a few minutes until we turned into a sandy lot. The only sign in the darkness that we were in fact in the right place, was a beached airboat, a man, and his dog. We headed to the boat and were met with a warm welcome from Captain Trey and his assistant Moke.
Captain Trey operates out of Port Aransas, Riviera, and Corpus Christi, Texas. He runs hunting trips for dove, ducks, and inshore fishing trips targeting redfish. Moke is Captain Trey’s loyal assistant who made it clear that he loves his job. Together, they run flawless trips.
Once we boarded the boat and settled into our seats, Trey pushed off. We drifted across the oil black water in total darkness, but only for a minute. The silence was broken by the engines coming to life and off we went. The only light that allowed us to see anything at all came from the moon or twinkling refinery lights.
If you’ve ever been on an airboat there are two things that hit you almost immediately. First, it’s loud and you become immediately grateful for your earplugs. Second, these boats skip and slide across the water, creating a thrilling experience unlike anything else. When traveling through only a few inches of water though, it can be unsettling.
The short ride out was brisk but refreshing and by the time we set foot in the blind the first signs of the sun seeped across the horizon. We picked our spots in the blind, distributed shells, and did final weapons checks. While we settled in Captain Trey set out the spread with each decoy hitting the water with a familiar Smack-Thunk sound. It wasn’t long after Trey stepped out of the water and into the blind that we got our first chance.
The conditions were rough with grey skies, choppy water, and stout wind that stung our cheeks. Our view of the sun crawling over the horizon before slipping behind the clouds was beautiful and small groups of ducks in flight made it even better. After watching a couple of groups fly over, the next group turned toward us and we turned away to not be seen. With the wind and decoys in our faces, we crouched and prepared to shoot behind the blind. Trey explained the rules of engagement in one sentence: “when you can hit them, shoot.” as the ducks banked against the wind we popped up and let shells fly. In the thunder of shotgun blasts, the ducks flared hard and the wind swept them away. No ducks hit the water.
Everyone looked exchanging puzzled and sheepish expressions then settled in for the next round. The groups came in waves and showed up from all sides. After a few more missed opportunities, a group of pintails came in fast and swirled overhead. They were banking hard as the shots rang out and a long shot from Jonathan on the far end of the blind brought down our first duck of the day. As the day continued, we picked up a few more ducks here and there.
Moke stood at attention and shook with enthusiasm as he peered out of the blind through a hole in the brush. He only left his post to hang out with me, check on the rest of the team, or retrieve ducks. The wind was bitter and the air still cold but Moke didn’t seem to mind flinging himself into the water. With guidance from Trey about the location of the downed duck, Moke was able to swim out and locate every duck that hit the water. He even snagged a couple of birds that were shot by a group that slid in upwind of us right at sunrise. With the birds falling behind them and without a dog to retrieve them, the birds blew toward us. Whether the birds were ours or not, Moke didn’t seem to mind.
By late morning the wind still howled but it had slowed just enough that the whitecaps were gone. The number of ducks in the air picked up and we had several more good looks. Our shooting had also improved and we began to pick up ducks. On two particular passes, a pair of ducks fell close to each other. Moke hit the water seconds after the last shot and headed straight for the birds. At some point on his approach he must’ve realized there were two ducks. As soon as Moke reached the first bird he kept motoring toward the other. Both times Moke juggled both birds for a bit before getting the perfect grip on both, all while treading water. I’ve never seen a dog so proud as Moke who seemed to grin and paddle a little harder as he approached the blind with both ducks.
With the sun high in the sky, the ducks started to be hard to come by. A few pairs of ducks snuck in flying low and fast and a single duck buzzed the blind and each time caused a frenzy. Finally, after a long lull in the action, it was time to pack it in. Inevitably the second someone steps out of a blind, ducks show up. Attison and Jonathan stepped out to collect decoys and when they reached the first one, we called them back to and tried to get ready. With not enough time to prepare, the birds flew over the top of the blind at full speed and our attempts to hit them were unsuccessful.
The hunt comedically ended the same way it began. We traded light-hearted jokes about our shooting prowess as we packed up and there wasn’t a frown in the bunch. The airboat ride back was just as exhilarating as the ride in. The sun allowed us to see just how shallow the water was. In any other craft, we would be stuck but we skipped over the flats and slid around turns which made for a short trip back.
As we unloaded the boat and reloaded the trucks we were all disappointed that it was over. We thanked Captain Trey profusely and I said farewell to my blind buddy Moke. While the weather was rough on us and less than ideal for a duck hunt, but we never got cold and managed to walk away with ducks. The experience was amazing and I think ducks or not, we would all do it again.
Updated on December 6, 2022
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