Waterfowl Hunting Canada
Many have the dream of waterfowl hunting Canada. Increased bag limits, limited pressure, and uneducated birds often lead to incredible hunts that create memories for a lifetime. We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to waterfowl hunt Canada just a couple weeks ago. We ventured north with plans to freelance hunt just as we predominantly do back home. The thought of not having any hunts lined up in a foreign place 25 hours from home was intimidating, but it all worked out in the end.
Hitting the Road
The trek from Illinois to Saskatchewan was a long 25 hours. With 5 guys in the truck, we ran it straight through taking turns along the route. Upon arriving, we unloaded what we could to the hotel rooms, unhooked the trailer, and set off in search of birds. We quickly located a couple good flocks of snow geese, spoke with the farmer, and had our first field lined up. A great start to the week! A few miles down the road we spotted a pea field holding snow geese and ducks. Field #2 was now set. With the first two locations close together, we took off west to locate some birds in another area. We located a pond not far off the road that appeared loaded with birds. Feathers and dropping were everywhere around it. Eventhough there were no birds on the pond at the time, the sign couldn’t be ignored. Since the pond was small, we figured it was utilized as a loafing area mid-day and not as a roost. We were able to gain access to that location as well and ended up planning on opening up our Canada trip on the pond the following morning.
Time to Hunt
We arrived early not knowing 100 percent what was using the pond or how they were using it. Shortly after first light ducks began to fly over the pond. We shot a few, but the Canada Geese and Snow Geese were flying off in the distance. The few dark geese that would fly over were on a mission elsewhere and we were beginning to doubt our decision to hunt the pond. Finally, around 10am, a small group of honkers came over the tree line barrel rolling and locked. These were our geese! They got inside of 25 yards and flared, but it was too late. Six of the 7 fell and another group was right behind them. The second group bugged out at 40 yards, came by for a second look and was gone. A few minutes later, another group coasted over the treeline with wings locked. The flared at 30 yards, but we managed to take a few more. We quickly moved the decoys to the far side of the pond to try and force the birds over us. The plan worked to no avail and the subsequent groups continue to flare. We checked everything around the blinds to see if anything was shining or sticking out in the sun. The only thing we could figure was wrong, was that they’ve been shot from this location recently. The farmer said we were the first to hunt it, but the reaction of the birds seemed otherwise so we decided to switch gears and hunt Snow Geese.
Our scouting the day before lead us to a roost/loafing pond with a barley field across the road. We had hoped the birds were resting mid-day as we made our move, but there were already a few hundred in the field. This field was located in a triangle of 3 roost ponds so we knew this was the place to be. We went ahead and setup a few hundred yards from the feeding snows. The birds that were on the ground didn’t have a care in the world as we set a spread of around 500 decoys. The birds we saw the day before were spaced out while feeding. They were content and had no plans of migrating unlike when we hunt them back in Illinois. We placed the decoys according to what we saw, climbed in the blinds, and within a few minutes the first bird hit the dirt. The next few hours were some of the best snow goose hunting we’ve ever experienced. Groups of 4-6 birds would drop in and not leave. Single and pairs would break off of flocks flying between roosts and feeds and sail in for a look at our spread. That afternoon we were able to shoot 79 snow geese! We quickly learned that snows are much easier to hunt at the start of the migration and when the juveniles have zero education.
The pea field was next and with snows and ducks in the field two days before, we ran a mixed spread of decoys. When we previously looked at the field, it was loaded with waste grain sitting on top of the chaff and dirt. As the sun rose that morning, the amount of peas was far less than what we had previously seen. We still enticed quite a few birds in that morning, but cut the hunt short because it was time to scout again. The locations we were hunting were 45 minutes from the hotel so 3am wake up calls and laying back down at 11 after cleaning birds, eating, and charging camera batteries was the norm. Exhausting, but worth it for waterfowl hunting Canada!
Scouting Leads to Success and Failures
The weather had been pretty warm and dry. There weren’t a ton of ducks and geese down from the north. The birds that were around, were predominantly locals other than the Snow Geese. The dry weather had many of the potholes lacking water, so the birds were sticking around larger ponds, lakes, and Ducks Unlimited Projects. This concentrated them few areas and by mid-week other hunters were in the area hunting the same birds that we were. Scouting was vital to our success and in order to scout we had to give up many of our afternoon hunts. One of the few days we hunted the afternoon we ended with a 5 man limit of 100 Snow Geese. For years we had dreamed of hitting that bench mark, and we finally accomplished it while waterfowl hunting Canada! One of the negatives we experienced on this trip was arriving at pre-scouted field that was loaded with geese and ducks only to find another group of hunters already setting up. The farmer had given us both permission and failed to say it was a first come, first serve basis. They beat us in there, so we had to relocate elsewhere.
All in all, it was an awesome trip! We traveled around 4000 miles in total. Our scouting and traveling from hotel to field took up around 1000 miles. Lots of driving in 5 days of hunting, but we played the cards we were dealt. Tons of drive time for a few hours of hunting each day. This year started much like last year ended for us with a lack of ducks and dark geese so we resorted to Snow Goose hunting. In 5 days of hunting, we were able to shoot 271 birds. The farmers are very grateful when you return to their house with bags of meat. Not only does it help fill their freezer, but it also is a great gesture for them allowing us to hunt their land. Next year, they’ll remember us and hopefully allow us to hunt their land again. Speaking of next year, we will make our Canada trip later in October and hopefully hit it during prime time instead of early like we did this year.
From what we saw waterfowl hunting Canada, the Snow Goose hatch appeared to be great. There were juveniles everywhere. We really can’t say anything about the record duck hatch reported this year. The groups of ducks we did see were comprised of many young birds, but there wasn’t enough flocks around to enjoy the reported record numbers. Shortly after we returned home, snow fell across portions of southern Canada and the Dakotas. Birds are moving south and hopefully as we continue to push toward winter, the cold fronts will continue and the 2012-2013 waterfowl hunting season will be one to remember.