The weekend of the layout hunt, as dubbed by Don Novicki, as "Wooden Ships & Iron Men" is now history. I have had the chance to read SOME posts on the few forums that participated, and can only laugh. Some people who have no idea of what they are talking about, NEVER EVEN PARTICIPATED, but were very vocal on their opinions. I have nothing against these people, nor their opinions, but they make comments based on rhetoric and hearsay. I guess if I posted several thousand smiley faces, people would think I am an expert as well. I'll get around to posting on their forums and set them straight with their own misinformation.
The biggest question is was it a success? I think so. The actual event was on saturday and Sunday, with an emphasis on saturday to get the most people in and out of the rigs. I measure the success as having everyone get a chance to run through the rigs, have opportunities with birds, and return back safely. Safety was my main concern and I stayed at the docks all day with binoculars and radios until everyone returned. Everyone that participated had a good time and some very nice birds were harvested. The morning grouping went off without a hitch. A friend ran some aerial photos of the lake Friday afternoon and we knew exactly where all the birds were sitting. The wind was strong and most of the parties were sent off to areas of intercept that provided some relief from the wind. We had 2 captains unable to participate and had to do some last minute rearranging, but everyone that needed a crew and made it known was able to take a spin in the box. We also had 4 less layouts than captains reported, so the arrangements got made with some going out second shift. The last boat came in, and everyone I talked to had smiles. I don't really know what the final tally was, but there were quite a few that had harvested their first birds (even canvasbacks) from a layout rig for the first time. Of particular note was Matt L's son, and John S's little guy. The birds were out further than the winds made comfortable, but birds worked in and out of the areas that were identified. Considering all the curves thrown, and Don's planning for a year with the tremendous help dockside by Bob Presley, all went smoothly. Of course those that didn't have the balls to get out of their vehicles, and would look through their windshields in the darkness because they were chicken sh*ts, claim it to be a clusterf**k, I have yet to see or hear anyone say that. In fact, the only people, the same constant negative people, were the ones complaining and they never even got out or hunted with the group!!! It's their observation, and yet to be confirmed by anyone that DID PARTICIPATE.
According to Bob, there were over 60 people that went out. Bob took it upon himself to make shirts and commermorative goose bands. Everyone got a band as a token of thanks for participating. The shirts were nice too. It's guys like that, and you all met Bob both Friday night and at the launch all weekend long, that make this that much more memorable.
Anyone that was there last year knew that I wanted nothing to do with planning for this year. It's a lot of work. Don stepped up last year and did much of the legwork. He asked me to kep a page up on my site for anyone to read and to contact him. I'm still not sure why the confusion with registration happened, but when my part (pairing up crews) came and I couldn't get the info, I changed the registration to add additional information and this time when you hit "submit" it went to me and not Don. This was posted on all the sites that Don had made the announcements. In September. A few weeks before the event, I began matching experience levels and numbers of people to the guys who gratiously volunteered their rigs and equipment to others. Messages were sent and announcements made to be sure you got a chance to see it. Those that didn't register the second time, didn't get the messages. Through email we got most everyone paired, and to be sure posts were made publicly again.
The other thing i would like to comment on was the Friday hunt. I was pleased to find 4 great guys show up that wanted to multi rig. The winds were brisk, but nowhere near treacherous as has been reported. There was a particular raft of birds that we targeted. Waves were 1-2 which is by no means extraordinary for this lake, this time of year. The layouts were set, decoys out in our rig and the other boat was setting still. One decoy was listing on an inside line. One of the guys new to layout hunting, but not new to boating was driving the boat so we could deploy decoys efficiently. We decided an upwind stab at the lines would allow us to grab the lead decoy, reverse slightly upwind, and drop the decoy line. The first stab missed the line, and instead of reversing, the safe way was to drift down the lanes and make another stab upwind again. During the drift, the boat turned slightly broadside. This shift in the boat put the prop over another line which ultimately made 2 wraps around the prop. Not a big deal happens to everyone. This wrapping stalled the motor and the wind immediately shifted the boat broadside. Ok, so a line is caught and we are clear of other lines. I went to the back of the boat as the motor was raised and grabbed a hook to grab the line in an attempt to free it or cut it. Because the War Eagle transom sits so low, and being broadside to the wind, waves splashed over the transom. Within seconds, the boat had water in the rear boot deep. Normally not a problem, but the additional weight of the water rought the transom down further and water quickly gushed aboard. Wasn't time to bail, bilges couldn't handle that quantity very quickly, and sitting over the back edge to try to free the line or cut it wasn't an option. Since we were set up with the other boat just a few yards away, we hailed them over to get a few guys off the boat and get the water out. W may have been able to get to the prop with the other boat, free the line and fire the outboard to get the pumps and plug to extract the water, but the 2 captains weren't comfortable with doing this with the prop sticking up and weight of the rigs. The decision was made to tow it into shallow water and free it up, bail the rig, and then continue. We did. The nearest shore was Metro, and the boats headed that way. Once the water was shallow enough, we freed up the line, got the outboard fired, and headed to a calm bay to bail.The work was done in less than 30 minutes and at no time was anyone, EVER, in peril. Heading back out the outboard stalled and wouldn't fire. Water in the gas from the vent line of the permanant tank. One of the crew worked for the Sherriff's Marine division and called his friends to tow in the rig while the other boat went to retrieve the rigs. No sense in attempting to hunt with 1 tender and 3 layouts for safety's sake. We all arrived back at the dock within minutes of each other and worked on the outboard. Went to the marina to get fresh plugs and then to the hotel to make sure everyone had arrived safely and without incident during the travels. Don had cancelled his room, which also triggered a cancellation of the hospitality suite. We got that taken care of, even though it was much smaller than we anticipated. Better than nothing and most of the rooms were adjacent for overflow. David's battery went dead trying to refire after bailing and I offered to take it home and charge it so that he could hunt with a full crew the next morning for the event. I also brought another battery in case. Bob stayed to greet the new arrivals after I left around 4PM. I wanted to stay and chat, but felt it more important to restore the rigs malfunctions so others could hunt in the morning. By 4, most had arrived and checked in and I greeted those people. The planning for the morning was already done, so Bob stayed and showed the late arrivals the maps and locations. I also picked up the aerial pictures and didn't get home until well after 11 and wasn't about to drive another hour back to the hotel to get up in 3 hours. So, no I wasn't there for Friday night as hoped. saturday morning the launch was full of excitement, crews introduced, last minute positioning, maps and pictures of the lake shown and hunt locations coordinated. David's rig was not going to fire, and his crew spread out. Most of the rest of the morning ( I opted to stay at dock and maintain radios and spotting of boats) while everyone hunted we chatted with the conservation officers, Coast Guard, and several media that asked for reports and interviews.
Everyone came in safely, nothing was jeopardized, people got chances to do some layout gunning and see the different rigs, and all had a good time. Birds harvested was a nice bonus, and seeing the faces of those kids and father-son teams was quite refreshing. With that said, I say it was a great success.
Thanks to everyone that particiapted, and especially to those that have send kind words, and those that opened their their rigs-knowledge-and experience to others for the sake of promoting this sport-within-a-sport to someone who would otherwise not have the opportunity. It was the combination of all the participants that made this a success.