The globe was our playground, limited by the depths that could float our vessels. In our professional pursuits, we captained ships and tugs around the world which required good gear and camaraderie amongst the crew. You may travel from point to point, but without strong fundamentals, the passage is more grueling, the time together far less enjoyable. These days, we travel from Alaska to Argentina, in pursuit of the wild places where quality gear is demanded and camaraderie thrives, hunting and fishing as shipmates of El Capitan Hunt Club.
It all started in the marshes of Anahuac, Texas, at Gene Campbell’s famed Oyster Bayou. In operation since 1974, Campbell has pursued the shifting waterfowl patterns east of Houston season after season with his own tight-knit family of guides. When we were fortunate enough to start hunting with Gene, in the early 2010’s, our founding member, Sean Arbogast, knew immediately that this place was special. The focus was on duck hunting, but these guys lived the salt air of the Texas coast which we all called home. By 2013, we were just a group of buddies duck hunting together, splintering off sometimes to chase trout in the salty bays, or stalking whitetail in the scrub brush of South Texas, or diving the depths to spear fish in the Gulf of Mexico. We were all ship captains. We all loved to hunt. Fortunately, our schedules mostly aligned to do it together. It seemed inevitable that we should have a base of operations so close to home to pursue our outdoor endeavors. El Capitan Hunt Club was born. Images (side by side):
“We were just a group of buddies duck hunting together, splintering off sometimes to chase trout in the salty bays, or stalking whitetail in the scrub brush of South Texas.”
Today, the club has grown to 30 official members, with plenty of friends joining along the way. The “season” is no longer relegated to 60 days of waterfowl. Members are pitching ideas all year long: from chasing billfish in Costa Rica to Cape Verde Islands, to wing shooting from Argentina to the tundra of Canada, to searching for big game from South Texas to the mountains of Alaska. The finest locations offer new challenges that will leave us either walking out with a good story or with a bitter taste of defeat. So far, our list of “we have to return” locations keeps piling up.
Although the “seasons” seem to keep getting longer, we don’t just hunt and fish together. It’s become a family. Our kids join us at the club to spend mornings in the duck blinds, long before they can shoulder a shotgun. Some of them are merely holding binoculars to glass the marshy landscape, while others ping BB’s off the spread of decoys. We want them out there with us, building their appreciation for the wild places that still remain. These places should not and cannot be taken for granted, just as the game we put on the table cannot. By introducing the next generation to the places we love, they absorb these habitats into their blood long before many of us did.
Watching youngsters take their first duck on the wing has marked the best days for us. It’s the building blocks we hope to forge within the club so that others may have these chances in the future. These kids are learning skills that might otherwise be lost, while also building patience and perseverance. Ducks do not always fly thick and plentiful. The right buck doesn’t come out on a timer. Learning patience and knowing a bit of disappointment strengthens their resolve for the future. Their attention is where it should be: on the landscapes we love and return to. It’s easy to enjoy a place when the times are good. But the slow days and empty-handed returns build fortitude that carries over in life far from the field. Pull Quote: “Ducks do not always fly thick and plentiful. The right buck doesn’t come out on a timer. Learning patience and knowing a bit of disappointment strengthens their resolve for the future.”
Just like the crew of a good ship, when camaraderie strengthens, the voyage always finishes on a high note. We are long from signing off from this hunt club. Each trip builds upon the last, and relationships strengthen, forged on trust. We lead by example for our next generation, so that they too can have wild places to pursue their outdoor dreams. At El Capitan Hunt Club, we are not exclusive or elitist. Our goal is simply to spend time away from the concrete jungle, appreciating moments afield with friends and family. In the end, we aim to finish this leg of voyage knowing that the next generation has places for their own adventures, long after we’re gone.
-El Capitan Hunt Club