Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Patton / Ackels Group Waterfowl 2013

Where the Ken Fryer and Paul Blanchette group left off, our next group (pair) of hunters from Montana and Washington picked up.  Thursday morning had been a cold and rainy hunt and Thursday night was lining up to be much the same.  We had a pea field within 5 miles of the lodge lined up for a duck shoot to get the hunt started.  With some truck sliding in the mud fun we managed to get positioned and set up in a good flight of evening ducks.  The wet conditions contributed to some gun problems but they finished with a nice shoot of 10 mallards, all but two of which were nicely greened up drakes.

Friday morning conditions were considerably better and we had a Canada and duck hunt set up for a pea field.  Both hunters shot their limits of ducks quickly and efficiently.  By the time the geese were flying, a bright sun was up and the wind was all but lost.  The guide was able to coax a few small groups of Canadas into range and they added 5 big geese to the 16 ducks.

For this pair of seasoned waterfowlers, it was not all about the numbers of geese and ducks on the ground.  They took pride in every pull of the trigger and passed on many shots, that were certainly makeable given their shooting ability, and that many other hunters would attempt without hesitation. The Friday evening shoot ins pea field just across the 106 line was a good example.  Bright sky conditions and light winds kept the snow geese from final commitment and often flaring at 60 - 70 yards, a distance many hunters would pull the trigger on 3 times.  This group would show great restraint and patience and wait until we were able to bring the birds into a 40 yard range, and then they were simply deadly accurate.  That evening they killed 22 snow geese, on a night when they easily had enough birds in range to fill their 40 bird limit.

Saturday morning we set up in pea field with great potential for an outstanding mixed bird hunt and the hunters certainly took advantage.  The ducks came from the ponds to the South West, the snow from the large sloughs to the North West, and the Canada's came from the water to the East.  The ducks would stop at the drinking ponds just down the hill then fly up the hill to the decoys and the waiting hunters.  While the final bird count of 12 ducks, 15 snow geese and 5 Canada geese is not a big number, the variety of birds and action in the area left a smile on the face of the hunters.  Again, selective shooting was the order of the hunt and they typically had a shell to bird ratio that the guide estimated at around 2 to 1.  Amazing accuracy and patience.

For the Saturday evening hunt we were able to add another shooter to the group and together they were able to put down 25 snow geese and 10 duck in a barley field with some great flights of snow geese coming in in groups of 3's and 4's.

Waterfowl Fall 2013 - Gaylen Harken Group

This hunting group started off with a great hunt, along with a little bit of nervous anxiety.  The hunt began on a Thursday morning in a barley stubble field. The field was a little over a half mile away from a large slough holding a great number of birds and the birds had been flying up and over the crest of the hill to land in the field.  We set up so that the decoys sitting at the top of the flyer rods would be visible by the birds as they made their way to field, giving them a beacon to fly towards.  As the birds crested the hill, they would see a full decoy spread of 500 snow geese plus 3 dozen ducks waiting for them.  With a strong southerly breeze, the birds worked to perfection. 

The anxiety came at the end of the hunt.  Just as the guide called the hunt to an end, and the hunters started picking up decoys, the Conservation Officer drove into the field for a random spot check.  We get checked at least once a year and have always passed with 100% compliance.  After a gun and license check, he moved on to the bird count.  He started with the ducks, which were organized in piles of 8, a limit for a single hunter.  Pile #1 was 8 ducks, pile #2 was 9 ducks!  That meant that with piles #3 and #4, of 8 ducks a piece, we were going to be 1 duck over the limit.  The guide was very nervous, hoping only a reprimand would come of it and not a suspension, fine, or worse.  Pile #3 was indeed 8 ducks.  Pile #4, counted out at, 7.  One of the dogs must have picked up a duck sometime during the hunt and moved it.  Relief.  Final count, 32 ducks.  Exactly the limit, plus we had shot 30 snow geese.  The anxiety subsided but the pile of 9 ducks was the conversation topic for the rest of the day, with the hunters helping the guide count to 8 on every possible occasion.

For Thursday evening, we hunted a swathed barley field that had not been combined yet.  The landowner was more than willing than let us hunt the property as there we 50,000 to 75,000 snow geese in the area feasting on his swaths and costing him money.  We easily finished off the rest of the snow goose limit for the day that evening.  The hard part was constantly telling the hunters to hold off on the ducks that kept swarming the decoy spread.  We finished the day with all 4 hunters having shot both their limits of ducks and snow geese.

Friday morning we had our sights set on a field of Canada geese.  We had a canola field lined up that had already begun sprouting shoots with the warm weather of the fall and the birds were feeding on the shoots.  We set up a J pattern of Canada goose decoys with the hunters in the blinds near the bottom of the J and the ducks decoys and mojos out front.  The long arm of the J was stretching to the South West.  The plan was that as the geese came from the roosting sloughs to the East, they would turn up the inside leg of the decoys, into the wind for their landing.  Turns out the geese had a different plan that morning and flocked off in another direction.  We did manage to draw in a few lat morning Canada Geese and killed 5 of them plus two snow geese, but did well on the ducks, with a total of 25, mostly mallards.

Friday afternoon we knew we had some missed opportunity on geese to take care of so we selected another swathed swathed barley field where the birds were trading back and forth between several sloughs.  We set up with the full 500 to 600 snow geese decoys positioned as feeding right in four rows of the swaths and buried the blinds in the middle two swaths.  We had lost one of our hunters for the evening shoot as business requirements called him away early, leaving us with 3 shooters for the afternoon.  The duck limits were all taken up from the morning but they finished off the snow goose limit as wave after wave of snows passed across the field and many pairs, threesomes, and other small batches continued to break off and approach our decoys and well hidden hunters.
  Again, the guides and hunters has to all resist the urge to blast away at the ducks that would land in the decoys and stay until the next volley of shots were fired at approaching snow geese.

Saturday morning was the final hunt and we had expectations of a strong finish for the group.  We had lost another hunter from the group to an early departure for business needs so we invited a couple of local hunters from Saskatoon to add some firepower to the group.  We again were hunting a swathed barley barley field, only 1-1/2 miles from the hunt the evening before.  Over the last few days the number of snow geese holding in this area had about doubled from 50,000 to 100,000 and we meant to do our best to knock a few from the sky.  The field location was chosen to make best use of the strong wind to carry the sound of the shot guns away from the slough, but still within sight as the birds lifted off the water. Snow goose and duck decoys were set feeding in the swaths and blinds well buried as well.  We shot our limit of 24 ducks within the first 45 minutes, and then added 30 snow geese mixed in and a lone Canada that had come streaking across from right to left.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Ken Fryer / Paul Blanchette Group

Some groups you simply will remember forever.  Sometimes it is for their skill, for their friendships and great sense of humor, and others because they are simply a mix of great people, a hunt group cobbled together from several origins, that combine to be a lethal mix (at least to the waterfowl).  Ken Fryer and Ray Henri have hunted with Prairie Rose Outfitters for as long as I can remember.  They are part of a group calling themselves the California Goose Busters.  For the past 3 seasons they have made the Champetre County Outpost Camp half of a week long swing, hunting the other 3 days at the camp at Quill Lakes.  Paul Blanchette and Bud Allen are returning hunters as well, but first timers to this camp.  This year they brought along an added bonus with them.  Paul arranged to have Buck McNeely join in for the hunt.  This hunt was included in an episode of The Outdoorsman with Buck McNeely and can be viewed on the Prairie Rose Outfitters Waterfowl Hunting.

Video crews add a different dynamic to the hunt.  More people and more equipment to hide, longer set ups, the inevitable call for more batteries, and a host of other logistics not normally encountered.  This was the case on the opening hunt, a Monday morning pea field that scouted well for a good mixed bird shoot.  We actually ended up hunting our second choice field that morning.  The original plan was to hunt a field about 25 minutes away, a great looking field.  Our departure was delayed, the TV crew was still busy sorting, finding and packing gear, 30 minutes beyond our scheduled departure.  We were fortunate that earlier in the season a landowner had given us open access to a closer field, and we made the decision 1 minute after we finally departed to hunt the closer field.  We made the 5 minute drive, hustled through a record setting set up, and the hunters settled into a good bird hunt.  With the delayed start, we were still pulling trucks and trailers out of the set up when the first few waves of ducks passed over the decoys, without a shot fired.  Even so, the morning finished with 14 ducks, 20 Snow Geese, and 25 Canada Geese.  Not bad for second choice.

Time was short and we left a number of decoys in the trailer, but we were able to set up a standard snow goose V pattern, with a dozen Canada full bodies on the inner side of the snows, ducks and mojos in middle (about 15 - 20 yards in front of the blinds), 5 snow goose flyers and one set of rotators.  Much of the shooting came in the first hour, with a bright blue sky and light winds that seemed to keep the birds from finishing later in the morning.

For the Monday evening hunt, we had a pea field duck hunt that could not be passed up.  With a light morning on ducks, it was a perfect opportunity, plus the field for the next morning was looking like a real great shoot.  With 5 shooters, they made quick work of finishing off their limit of 40 ducks with many multiple kill shots.

For the Tuesday morning, we had an on-time departure for the same pea field we had planned for Monday morning.  Too bad for the ducks and geese.  The wind had picked up a few ticks and the sky was overcast.  We had the time this morning for a full combo spread, approximately 500 snow goose silo socks, 100 full body Canadas, 24 ducks and 3 mojos, plus electronic calls, flyers and rotators.  With cameras running, this was shaping up to one that would make for a great waterfowl episode on the TV screen.  Despite leaving a number of birds pass to get some closer action for the cameras, the kill numbers were impressive, 25 ducks, 40 snows, and 25 Canadas.  Later in the hunt Paul Blanchette took a few high altitude shots, showing off for the cameras.

We had a bit of a rough afternoon on Tuesday.  We set up for snow geese in a wheat field where birds had been bouncing between a set of large sloughs.  There was a weather front approaching and I was hopeful it didn't trigger a migration move, but it did.  We hit a few stragglers but most of the snow geese were targeting took off from their roost and grabbed a few thousand feet of altitude to head south.  The afternoon take was only 6 ducks, and 3 snows.

Wednesday morning was a day that duck hunting legends are made of.  Overnight rains had turned roads to mud and the rain was a strong steady drizzle, forcasted to last the next 2 days.  With a combination of four wheel drive and quads with sleighs, we pulled an array of duck decoys, some snow geese socks, blinds and hunters into early morning position.  The rain continued and wet conditions prevented the camera equipment from use so we had an extra set up hands to hold a gun and that upped the duck limit to 48 birds, which they took full advantage of.  Steady shooting, despite the wet and cold, yielded the full limit of 48 ducks and 11 snows.  The perseverance of this hunting group was outstanding.  As one of the group from California remarked, "I didn't come all the way from California to sit in my room and sip coffee, let's kill some ducks."

For the final hunt, we spent Thursday morning in a pea field, but with only 4 shooters.  The field was feeding many of the same birds from the Tuesday morning hunt, with birds having moved slightly. With a steady rain, some of the the birds simply choose to stay on the water but we managed to coax enough of the fliers into the decoy spread and finished with a good shoot of our limit of 32 ducks plus
15 snows, and 15 Canadas.

For more information on hunting with Prairie Rose Outfitters, see www.prairieroseoutfitters.com or on Facebook.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Doug McLean Group - Goose and Duck Hunt 2013

This group arrived in camp at a time when the weather and birds combined for conditions that make waterfowl hunting most challenging. Even under ideal hunting conditions, the eyesight of geese surpass that of their hunters.  Meaning if it is possible to spot you and identify you, they probably will.  For this reason we take great care to hide our hunters well and position them where they are most difficult to spot, in a field depression or with some sort of structure in the field behind them to keep their silhouette below the horizon.  Sometimes, the birds have the advantage, even when hunters are well hidden, such as when the weather provides bright clear skies and calm winds.  When these conditions are present, the early morning, before the sun has fully illuminated the field, the decoys, and the blinds is critical to your hunting success.

The Monday morning hunt for this group was exactly as forcasted, exactly as described above.  We knew the early morning low light period had to count.  We had a pea field of mixed birds lined up from the spotting of the previous day.  The ducks began buzzing the decoy spread well before first legal shooting time as the hunters anxiously watched the time slowly tick towards shooting time.  As a flight of 6 mallards landed in the decoys, Blake (the field guide) advised them they still had another minute to wait.  Shooting time arrived and another group of 6 ducks came drifting into the decoys, now a mix of synthetic and live decoys and Blake gave the call to "take em!"  All four shooters dropped at least one bird and a flurry of activity continued for the next hour while they knocked down 24 ducks, 5 Canada Geese and 10 Snow Geese.  Then the action slowed considerably as the sun rose higher and the decoys stood motionless in the calm air.  Only a few high altitude shots were taken at passing birds, but they finished the morning with a good start to the hunt of 39 birds.

Along with the clear skies and calm winds, we had a full moon evening.  This provided a good set of conditions for many birds to take to the skies in the morning, gain some altitude, and make the next several hundred mile jump further south.  When this migration period happens, it usually brings new birds from the north, which are somewhat unpredictable until they establish a set of feeding fields and roosting ponds, which may be different from the previous birds.

For Monday evening, we had chosen a knocked down canola field.  The birds were feeding on shoots which already growing from seed spilled early in the harvest and growing with the recent period of mild weather.  The birds had strayed from their typical pattern of returning to water for the late morning and early afternoon and had actually stayed in the field.  This often happens later in the season when days are shorter, or when the weather turns cold and windy.  We were forced to set up with birds in the same field we were hunting in.  We choose a location where a rise in the field separated us from direct view and spread out our decoys.  We saved the snow goose rotators and tall pole flyers until the end of our set up to keep the movement and attraction below the horizon.  As the afternoon and evening progressed we had a number of inward bound migration flocks swirl their way down on the field and the birds fortunately began to bounce around different parts of the field, including enough birds to pass our hunters, allowing them to kill 25 Snow Geese for the afternoon.  Normally we would not plan to set up in a field where the birds were already feeding but with the morning outward bound migration of many flock, the options were limited.

For the Tuesday morning hunt, we set out to put on a good hunt of Canada Geese and ducks, leaving the snow geese to settle into a pattern.  We had lined up a swathed barley field with several good morning drinking ponds for the ducks.  The birds were feeding in the swaths (see below) and we knew we a good chance if we could bury our blinds in the right locations.

The start to the morning went as planned, ducks from all directions came to the field, and most stopped at the drinking ponds while the sun continued to rise, and the wind refused to gather any sense of direction or velocity.  As the ducks made their way to the field, they were somewhat less committed to feed than we hoped, as were the Canada geese that flew to the field.  With mild weather conditions, birds do need to intake as much food and are less determined.  We still ended up with a decent shot of a dozen ducks and 10 Canada Geese, including 5 big Greater Canada Geese.  Under the right conditions, with the number of birds that came back to this field, this field had a chance to be a double limit shoot, but not this morning.

 For the Tuesday afternoon shoot, we had figured out the pattern of the recently arrived snow geese and we had a number of good fields to choose from, based on the past day of spotting.  We selected a field of barley stubble that had good contours to the field so that we have some shadows from hills to work with as the evening grew on and the sun sank lower.  More importantly, we had some wind, finally. Not a lot, but enough to wiggle the silo sock decoys and draw the attention of passing geese.  When the birds started flying off the big sloughs to the north, they made a line for our field and came in just we had planned.  With the wind working, birds setting up and drifting in, feet down, we had 10 Snow Geese on the ground in the first half hour.  Then our friend, the wind, abandoned us, and the birds began to skirt to motionless decoy spread, working their way to fields neighboring to the south. 
The final count was 20, 12 Snows and a mix of 8 ducks.  The ducks were mostly shot late in the evening as moved the hunters down into some tall grasses and bush close too a pond to finish off the hunt.

This group was only able to fit a 2 day hunt into their schedule as business meetings and travel schedules meant they had to depart camp late morning on the Wednesday.  Knowing they had a tight schedule, we tried to coax them into a pond shoot at a location close to the lodge, knowing we could pull them out of the hunt and get them back to the lodge fairly rapidly, while still getting a bit more opportunity to shoot some waterfowl.  Unfortunately for them, they felt their schedule was too tight.  Blake and I knew the pond held some promise and we couldn't pass it up.  We loaded up 2 dozen floater decoys, 2 mojo robo ducks, pulled on our waders and grabbed our own guns n' ammo. As tossed out the last floater, we had ducks lined up on the mojos.
We scrambled to our spots in the tall grass and quickly loaded, not wanting to let an opportunity to pass.  It turns out our hurry was not necessary.  In the next 30 minutes we were swarmed with ducks of all kinds and we quickly shot our limits of 16 ducks - mixed of everything from Mallards and Pintails to Shovelers, and Gadwals.  The ducks kept coming, long after we were done.  If we had had 5 more shooters, they would have had 5 limits.  Sorry guys, you missed a great pond shoot, but the dogs loved it!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Scammel Group - Canada Goose Hunt

We assembled a group of hunters for a mid-October goose hunt.  We had a pair in the fields from Edmonton, AB, and a couple singles added locally from Saskatoon.  The hunt was planned only for one day, with a Canada goose shoot lined up for the morning and a field of snow geese for the afternoon.

 The sequence of pictures below shows Jager on a long retrieve.  A duck was hit and sailed several hundred yards to the North of our decoy spread.  Jager chased it down and came straight back, then went out and pickup several others.

We finished with a great shoot.  25 Mallards, 25 Canada Geese, and 2 snow geese.  The two snows were just a warm up for the evening.

We only had 2 shooters in the field for the evening hunt.  A couple of our hunters had decided to position themselves in a separate location, just a little over a mile away.  When we arrived in the field, the scene was typical of late season snow geese.  Around 50,000 snow geese were gathered on the slough and bouncing back and forth between a spot in a field to the South East and near the slough.  We slowly pulled into the field and set up our decoy spread in the path between the two groups.  We had used this field a week prior and the birds where still following the same pattern so we knew what to expect.

Several hours later, we had finished off the limit of snow geese.  Just as expected, we had a constant supply of snow geese trading back and forth, in groups from 1000 to 1, and plenty of shooting opportunities. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Waterfowl Hunting - Bill Buckner Group 2013

  This group became on of our favorite groups of the year in a hurry.  They had definitely come to hunt and when it was time to get the decoys placed they were quick to grab a handful and get busy.  We started off the first morning hunt on a pea field just a few miles south of the lodge and set up for some birds that were roosting on the nearby slough.  We had a good hillside to put behind us and take away out profiles from sticking up above the horizon. 

The early bird action was excellent as birds came off the water and straight to the decoy spread.  Mid morning action slowed considerably but we ended up with a decent shoot of 21 snow geese, 10 ducks and one Canada goose.

For the evening shoot, we chose a another pea field that had worked well for us in previous weeks, where we knew we could count on the ducks.  We had to pass on the Canada geese that buzzed our spread as hunting regulations do not permit shooting them in the afternoon (until October 15th).  We had a good shoot of snows with 25 and finished off the limit of ducks leftover from the morning by killing another 30.  As one hunter said, we could have killed 100 ducks.

For the next morning we had chosen a barley stubble field that looked good for snow geese.  The morning wind started at a moderate clip and the snows came in early and steady but we lost the wind after the first hour and the decoy spread lost it's "life".  Even with the rotators, it was still tough to coax the birds to commit.  There were enough singles and pairs that needed a flock to keep us shooting. We ended up with a 50 bird shoot that tallied 29 snow geese and 21 ducks so despite a lack of wind, we had a good morning hunt.


It was another barley field for the evening hunt.  The wind had remained light throughout the day and the sun was shinning bright.  We found a low spot in the field to hide the hunters as best as possible and piled on the barley stubble over top of the blinds to blend in.  We also placed the silo sock decoys tight around the blinds, overlapping, to break up the outline of the blinds and hunters from above.  With the rotators running all evening, we attracted a steady supply of young snow geese and kept the guns firing.  A good shoot considering the weather was playing against us.  Another 25 snows but the ducks were late and really didn't come out until after legal shooting time so only 5 ducks were killed.

For the last morning hunt we had a good mixed field shoot lined up.  We had been watching this pea stubble field for a while but recent farming activity in the area had kept the birds bouncing around between neighboring fields and a big slough to the SE.  We put out our full decoy spread of snow geese, Canada geese and ducks as the field was good for all.  The sky was overcast early, which was a big advantage as the wind was light and shifting directions.  The early flights of birds were coming to the decoys from the side and behind.  After a few difficult shots were made, we turned the blinds to face the approaching birds and ended with a 45 bird shoot of 15 ducks, 15 Canada geese and 15 snow geese.  With a little bit of wind, and if the cloud cover had stayed, this likely could have been a 75 bird or better shoot.  Still, with the conditions, the shooters did well.

Father in-law and son in-law: