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Running in the Rain

We hunted saturday in the thunderstorms and hail. Surprisingly, there was good action throughout the morning in the thicker cover of the swamps. After we’d thoroughly soaked everything we owned, we pack it up and went for a short scouting run before trailering the boat. There are three clips from riding in the rain on the HFG YouTube channnel.

Sample of Recent GoPro Footage in the Gator Trax

North Alabama Waterfowl Season Opener

I guess it’s a sign that we’re getting old, when even duck season gets here before you know it. I’d done the bare minimum to get ready for the kickoff and ended up spending all day scrambling after filling up of holiday food (remind me to tell you about the kayak ghillie suit). I had the truck locked and loaded by 8:00pm and moved to the SCP (standard couch position) to visualize the unseen nightmares I’d be discovering in the dark on Friday. Before I fell asleep, I got the call to join some old friends hunting a fairly tough to-get-to spot. Although the area isn’t know to hold a ton of early season birds, it seemed a safe bet to be away from the crowds if nothing else.

We were met with heavy fog and surprising amounts of water, but not many ducks. It ended up being a dressed rehearsal, which was just fine with all three of us. Plenty of wood ducks traded all around us for an hour or so. We passed on some easy woodies and of course took some shots at a few more. A single gadwall got popped for spending too much time looking at the decoys, and that was about it. Continue reading »

LightStar300™

February 24, 2011, Longmont, CO– TerraLUX, Inc., makers of LED portable lighting products and OEM lighting solutions, unveiled the latest in its line of LightStar™ LED flashlights: the LightStar300™.

The LightStar300™ is the result of years of electrical engineering and manufacturing experience as well as customer feedback.  It features high/ low modes, a recessed tailcap switch (to prevent accidental activation and for increased durability), is available in standard gray and high-visibility orange, and is electronically regulated to ensure constant light output. It has logic built in that makes the LED flicker at the end of battery life to alert the user to change the batteries. Continue reading »

Post Apocalypse Weekends

I ran a quiet experiment during duck season this year. I intentionally refrained from blogging my weekly adventures. Why the hell would I do that? It’s a good question considering how much a part of this blog hunting season has always been. It wasn’t all about blogging, it was about simplifying everything about hunting season.

Over the last four or five years, the waterfowl seasons have grown increasingly complicated, expensive and downright stressful for me. It’s like we got serious in my late twenties and upped the ante every season since then. I’m 37 years old now and the stakes had gotten so high that I was losing the meaning of it all. Duck season evolved from a simple pleasure to something entirely too similar to work. Continue reading »

Waterfowl in Full Swing

I’ve kind of backed off of reporting every little thing during duck season, instead leaning into the stories that reach out from time to time when the cold fronts bring waterfowl into our back yards. This year’s season sneaked in amongst college football, long work weeks and other assorted distractions. Thankfully I’d bought all the gear and such in the off season to simply load up and go. Continue reading »

2010 Waterfowl SE Opener

It’s always a nostalgic time for me. Heading into the holidays, football season is winding down and duck season kicks in all at the same time every year. It gets a little easier to remember holidays and hunting from years past. This year my Auburn Tigers have made a bit of a run and I’ve been so caught up in it all, that I never even got my duck gear ready. I hoped that I’d done a good enough job sorting it all last season to make the launch simple enough. Continue reading »

Deer Story from the Net

Great story from our area that’s passing around in emails:

Get ready to hear about the most amazing whitetail hunt I will ever have.  It is a long story, but ends with me killing a northeast Alabama monster 9 pt. whitetail with my hands.

The day started at 5:35 when I awoke some 30 minutes after my alarm started going with the alarm still going full force.  Doing a lot of nothing wears you out I guess.  I decided that I would go hunt anyway and just be late…it was all I could do.  I get my gear and get to the stand about 6:15 some 30 plus minutes after first light.  It was a pretty morning and not really very cold.  I got seated, knocked an arrow, and gave the woods the good introductory grunt on the knight and hale grunt call.  Funny, I am as faithful as the rising sun to use that grunt call and about 90 percent of the time I feel sure it just announces to the deer to head the other direction.  The turkey were really talking hard and I was focusing on their cadence and calls.  Just trying to get some more time understanding the turkey talk as my turkey calling ability is meager at best. Continue reading »

Dual Purpose Kayaks

In the mind-numbingly confusing field of “angler” eligible kayak models, it gets even more complicated for me, personally. As usual, I up-the-ante by demanding my dollars go one step further. I’m a waterfowler. I could just leave it at that, but what that means is a whole new list of requirements and concerns.

For me, if a single boat covers both bases, then spending the money makes even more sense and becomes more of a necessity than a frilly impulse buy. As I creep into the middle-aged segment, my criteria for purchases becomes more elaborate. One of the big barriers I set for myself is “need/usage projections”. I’m over “new stuff” syndrome just enough to weigh the truths vs fantasy ideas.

 

I get red-faced mad at just the conceptual rendering of a $1,200 kayak hanging under my deck unused. It’s an exercise I employ for all purchases these days. If I can imagine any scenario of not needing something, I don’t buy it. So the process of infusing reality into a purchase consideration is best helped with field trials.
In my case, I was lucky to test the waters, not once but several times over the years.

I’ve hunted from the founder of American small vessel sporting crafts, the pirogue several times. The sexy, if not downright psychotic little pirogue is the cajun kayak just capable enough to do anything you need, including dumping you head first into the drink. I love them, and there’s no way they fit the bill for anything. I bought a cheap hunting canoe a few years back. The amazing three person-and-gear weight capacity is only outweighed by the virtual guarantee that your high center of gravity will catch up to you when you least need it to. Couple that certainty with the impossible task of solo paddling any distance at all and the legendary indian vessel is quickly relegated to summer camps and the history books.

My recent vacation in south Florida gave me the chance to rent a kayak for the week. It was a dedicated fishing model and I took full advantage of the trial period. I fished it every day in the inshore theatre and played in the gulf surf in the afternoons. The process of portage, car-topping, ingress and egress were all questions that needed answers for me and I got ’em in spades. I also had questions about just how easily I could paddle around, seat comfort, fatigue and true fishing practicality.
I can honestly say that I answered all of the questions that had stopped me from buying one blind. I also generated new concerns and criteria along the way. The exact model I was fishing was perfect for most any fishing application from small streams, creeks, rivers, inshore and light surf work. Of course, I never stopped imagining the same boat for duck hunting applications. In that regard it started to fall short.

It’s entirely possible that I’m asking too much of one boat. I happen to think that there is an answer, though, that I just haven’t seen yet. When you see pictures of groups of kayak fishermen, you’ll see as many different kayaks as fishermen. That’s because most anything that floats and holds a modest amount of gear meets the minimum technical requirements of being a fishing kayak. Sit-on-tops and sit-ins from $300 to $3,000 will fit the bill. True utility, touring, fishing and waterfowling is a lot to ask of a single boat, and the criteria remains a little fuzzy even after this long research and testing phase.

I bounce back and forth between the unsinkable, self-draining sit-on tops and the more traditional better concealibility of a sit-in design. In waterfowling sense, the better option is the sin-on-top in every aspect EXCEPT you can’t hunt layout style or conceal yourself appropriately. A traditional sit-in with enough room to lay down inside is the perfect platform to conceal yourself in most any situation. The problem with sit-ins starts with draining. Water will get inside, either from rain or from climbing in and out, but the real problem starts for sit-ins when you overturn. There is no way to get back in or get the water out until you reach the nearest shore. The sit-on-tops provide at least hope that you can climb back on and paddle to safety, with any water quickly draining out the scupper holes. It’s a sort of no-man’s land between designs.

Traditional layout boats fit the bill, but hull design and weight make them impossible candidates for fishing. Some of the fringe design duck boats come closer to dual purpose, but still are hindered by excessive weight and worse, price. The logical application is to find a fishing kayak that can hunt, rather than the limited hunting boats re-purposed for fishing.
In my personal hunt for the ultimate mini-boat, I’ve started to find myself looking at fewer alternatives. Focusing on a single sit-in and sit-on-top model, it has come down to the differences described above for me. I have hesitated to name brands and models, because it’s more a discussion on features and design for intended purposes, but the Wilderness systems models are the ones I am most interested in. I imagine that general quality is similar across the board. I keep looking back at the Old Town Vapor 12 Angler Edition as one of the more affordable feature rich models, but the design is more slanted to fishing with far less gear hauling options hurting its hunt-worthiness.

Without a doubt, the most important feature of any kayak has to be the ease in paddling any distance at all. The easier it is to cover water, the more utility you’re going to get out of it. Right up against that variable is the stability. If you get wet, you’re not happy. If you lose expensive gear, you’re devastated and probably in the wrong boat/scenario. The compromises of tracking/paddling and stability is what manufacturers spend all their resources on developing. There’s not much we can do about that, other than get the boat that best addresses your specific needs.

I want a boat that I can sit in an fish all day, paddle max distances and not worry about rolling over constantly. That part is easily addressed by any quality offering over 12 feet in length. I also want a boat that can carry me, a gun, 12 decoys and maybe even a dog through moderate wind-chop and maybe even let me hunch down and cover up without leaving the boat (layout style) and feeling like my life’s in danger. That complicates things. Consider a capsize event, and the equation gets even more complex.
I expect the primary function to be fishing for my purchase. the duck hunting would be nice if it could be done safely, but many of those questions are unanswered. I know I can use nearly anything to paddle to a spot, but i want to use more of a portable layout blind application, run-and-gun if you will.

Wilderness Systems Commander 120 Angler

The wilderness Systems Commander 120 quickly emerged as the number one candidate for my needs with the Ride 135 very close behind (and as the sit-on-top counterpart). Both boats meet every minimal requirement for stability and features with their basic designs being the deciding factors in the end. Perhaps soul searching or more forum scouring will reveal the better purchase option for me. They’re certainly too expensive to get both. the Commander 120 answers virtually every demand I can field countered only by the unsinkable-drainable comfort of a sit-on-top such as the Ride 135 or industry standard Tarpon 120.

Wilderness Systems Ride 135 AnglerWilderness Systems Tarpon 120 Angler

 

If I add in saltwater fishing at all (and it will happen) the sit-on-top eeks ahead, with the dual seating, low, concealable Commander dominating every other application, especially hunting scenarios. For me, its a coin flip right now, compromising one area to gain in another, but the markets saturation with fishing models is dangerously close to answering the call for hunters who want a boat for all seasons, as sportsman dollars and interest continue to pour into kayaks as the vessel of choice in the field or stream.

One of the more enjoyable resources I’ve stumbled on the internet is Kayak Bass Fishing. The site has a cool look and feel, and the subject matter seems closer to what most freshwater fisherman are into. Many of the forums for hunters and fisherman are littered with fools and grade-school banter making it impossible to learn anything or have good dialog with people, but so far KBF seems to be on the good side of that.

Geaux Custom Goes Bare Bones

The Louisiana custom boat builder has been building .125 gauge mud boats for a few years, now. The boys at Geaux Custom Boats have dabbled in everything from one off custom boats to main-line models for some big names out there. Their blue-collar attitude towards boat building shows up in tough-as-nails commercial-rated swamp runners from 15 to 20 feet long all over the country. The guys have been soul searching for the last two years. When I met Chad Melerine three years ago, they had three or four distinctly different models in all kinds on configurations.

In the restaurant business, a deep menu with complicated ingredients is a death wish. Longer prep and service times and the high costs associated with stocking so many ingredients is a quick way to go bust. In a lot of ways, Geaux Custom Boats have been “working their menu” for similar reasons. Every time I talk to Chad, he’s fired up and enthusiastic about building the best mud boat for the money. They’re good at it too, offering extremely competitive boats for equal or less money than the obvious competition from Go-Devil and Gator Trax.

I liked their attitude and boats so much I bought one of my own last fall. Granted it was a specific model that nobody else was bothering to build, but still I chose a boat from them over the monsters of the industry. Chad keeps me in the loop, because he knows I’m interested. I beat him up for information to publish each time we chat. He’s been flagging me off of blabbing their latest creation for a year now. I never knew exactly what it was, other than it was “smaller” and special. Hey, that’s enough to keep me interested.

The guys at Gator Trax shook things up a couple years back with their nimble Rogue. After trending larger, wider and heavier for years, they snapped the other way and offered a lighter narrower model on the heels of their duck skiff that never really took off. The Rogues were narrower than standard boats with shorter sides and lengths from 14-20 feet. Smaller boats aren’t for everyone, but a cheaper, faster boat for two or three men is very much in the wheelhouse of today’s duck hunters. Hunters that hunt in horsepower restricted areas and timber are prime suspects for the “diet”-sized boats.

Fast forward to today when I finally get an email from Chad with attachments. The fruit of Geaux Custom skunkworks efforts is the “Lil Outlaw” and it rocks. I mean smaller boats are for a specific client, to be sure, but they made a good run at the perfect model for modern waterfowlers on a budget. Chad knew I was all over him about the details, and he didn’t disappoint sending me the juicy details of what might end up being their breakout model.

The “Lil Outlaw” tips the scales at about 400lbs. Not a panty-waist by a sight, but lighter and more manageable for the smaller surface drives currently on the market. Top speeds beyond 20mph should be easy enough to achieve with anything making more than 20hp. The goal for Geaux wasn’t merely a smaller, lighter boat. They wanted a design that made sense for them, too. The simplified, well thought out rounded-chine Outlaw is a boat they can crank out faster than some of their older more complicated designs, and it benefits from heavy research in the bracing department, as well. The struggle to shave weight, cost and improve structural rigidity has haunted all of the mud boat builders for years. Geaux has managed a unique and effective interior structure that gives these boats plenty of tree banging hull integrity and speed friendly rigidity for the bottom.

The real kicker, is that this boat comes loaded with the basic features you want for less money. LESS MONEY! Check it out, you get 17″ sides and a nice switch box, grab bar, lights and a battery tray for $800 less than a Rogue. Of course, it’s not all about money, but look at like this, a 17’x38″ slick bottom boat, brand new for $3,200 bucks. You can buy a used Mudbuddy 23hp for $3,000 or less, drop $400 on a fixer-upper trailer and you’re in the game for less than $7,000. I know that isn’t chump change, but anyone who’s priced out a fully loaded rig these days knows that $12-15,000 is the norm, and it’s tough to find something with any life left in it for less than $8,000. It’s a real value by any measure and as the “mini” motors keep developing, boats like the “Lil Outlaw” will really start to come on strong. Being a brand new model, it might be a while before you see one in the swamp, but I have a feeling we’ll be seeing plenty of them.

  • 1738 Round Chine
  • 17” sides with 16” Transom & 51” Beam
  • .125 5086 Boat Hull
  • 4’ Enclosed Front Deck with Hatch
  • Multi-Position Grab Bar
  • Navigation Lights
  • 3 Gang Switch Panel
  • Battery Tray
  • Boat weight 400lb.
  • Price $3,200.00

 

Check out more “Lil Outlaw” images in the gallery, or Visit Geaux Custom Boats to find out more.