Missing Duck Hunters, Dog Found Dead: Texas Sheriff Reveals How They Probably Died

Three missing duck hunters from Texas were found dead on Saturday. The three young men — Christian Ruckman, 18, Spencer Hall, 19, and Starett Burk, 25, all from the eastern part of Texas — never returned from an early Friday morning duck hunt. After searching a few hours on Saturday, the Coast Guard, along with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office, found all three missing duck hunters dead in Texas Gulf Coast waters. As family members remember the three young duck hunters, people nationwide are wondering how they died.

The story of the three Texas duck hunters who went missing and were later found dead captured the attention of the entire nation over the weekend, as it’s eerily similar to the story of country singer Craig Strickland, from the band Backroad Anthem, who died of hypothermia just over a year ago at the age of 29 during a winter duck-hunting trip in Oklahoma. Strickland, along with friend Chase Morland, were found dead north of Tulsa, Oklahoma, one week after the two were reported missing. The only difference is that Strickland’s dog, Sam, was found alive, whereas one of the dogs of the three duck hunters in Texas was also found dead.

NBC affiliate 12 News out of Arizona reports that the three men and two hunting dogs set out around 4 a.m. on Friday morning for Matagorda Bay in the Gulf of Mexico, near Redfish Lake, a popular area for duck hunters. Spencer Hall from Mont Belvieu, Texas; Starett Burk from Wallisville, Texas; and Chris Ruckman from Dayton, Texas, were only supposed to be out for a six-hour duck-hunting trip, according to Ruckman’s girlfriend, who reported the three friends missing late Friday when they never returned and stopped responding to texts and phone calls. Burk’s mother, Tracey, told ABC 13 that the last time she spoke to her son was on Thursday evening.

“I texted him Friday night at 6:01 and said, ‘are you keeping warm, bear?’ and I didn’t hear back from him.”

Shortly after, Ruckman’s girlfriend called the Corpus Christi Coast Guard to report all three duck hunters missing. The Independent Journal Review reports that the land and water search for the duck hunters ended a few hours after 1 p.m. on Saturday, when two of the duck hunters were found dead in the water near Matagorda Bay, while the third duck hunter was found dead underneath a capsized 17-foot, flat-bottomed boat. One of the trio’s dogs was also found dead, according to officials.

“The first body was recovered after 11 a.m., the second was recovered shortly after and Ruckman was the third body recovered at 4 p.m.”

Ruckman’s sister said he died “doing what he loved.” The Texas Game Wardens Facebook page shared at 4:04 p.m. on Saturday that the three missing duck hunters in Calhoun County were found dead and that all of the bodies had been recovered. The post goes on to say that “thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the three men during this difficult time.”

CNN reports that the incident is still under investigation, but no foul play is suspected. Calhoun County Sheriff Bobby Vickery says the three missing duck hunters “maybe got into some boat trouble.” Investigators also say that a wind and small craft advisory had been issued for the entire day on Friday, with choppy conditions, cold temperatures in the 20s, 25 mph winds, and waves up to four feet high. Sheriff Vickery said that the three duck hunters, their supplies, and two dogs had all piled into the aluminum boat, adding that “it wouldn’t have taken much if they were weighted down, with the wind, the waves.”

Ruckman’s sister believes that all three duck hunters also died from hypothermia and said they were all three wearing life vests, although officials haven’t confirmed whether they were all wearing life vests when they were found dead.

Burk’s younger sister, Steely, says that she is relying on faith for support and added that Starett was a fan of the Baytown, Texas, country music duo Maddie & Tae, who donated three autographed guitars to be auctioned off as a fundraiser for the families of the three missing duck hunters found dead, according to Fox 26 out of Houston.

[Featured Image by Andrei Tudoran/Shutterstock]