Advice for the First Time Waterfowl Hunter in Saskatchewan

Advice for the First Time Waterfowl Hunter in Saskatchewan - Featured Image

Advice for the First Time Waterfowl Hunter in Saskatchewan

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Wide-Open Spaces

When we say wide-open, we mean you can scan the horizon with your binoculars without spotting any other decoy spreads. From the right vantage point you will likely be able to see numerous flocks of birds feeding in fields, migrating inbound, loafing on day ponds. Seemingly the entire countryside is yours. It’s a wonderful feeling. On your early morning drive to the field, expect dark gravel roads, a farm yard light every mile or two, and few other buildings or landmarks. Fortunately, your guide knows the way to the field.

Multiple Seasons in a Day

If you don’t like the weather, just wait an hour. A day in the outdoors in Saskatchewan can require a suitcase full of clothing. We recommend you start off wearing too much, too many layers, with a rain/wind proof layer on top. Your day starting at hunting camp, loading the truck with your shotgun, ammo, and field bag, can begin in temperatures below 0 degrees Celsius (32 Fahrenheit) with a slippery layer of frost to deal with. Even an early fall day in Saskatchewan can start with a little overnight frost. When you arrive at the field and before you start to help layout the decoy spread, carefully consider your work pace. While your guides might be moving at a rapid pace, make sure you work just hard enough to be warm, without working up a sweat under your layers. It can make for a tough day in the blind on the cold ground if you work up a sweat then lay or sit in a damp layer when the cold from the ground hits you.

Although the day might start below 0, a fall day in Saskatchewan can quickly climb to a plus 20 degrees Celsius afternoon (70 Fahrenheit). The ground can keep you cool even as the sun warms from above. At the end of the hunt, it may seem as if you have been through 3 seasons in a single day.

Most waterfowl hunting in Saskatchewan is via a field set up with decoys and ground blinds. However, there are exciting opportunities to water hunt especially an evening duck hunt. So if you have chest waders, and you have room in your luggage, bring them along. Besides being used for water hunting, on a cold chilly day, neoprene waders can be an excellent way to stay warm in a ground blind. Just be sure to only put them on just before you climb into the blind. You don’t want to wear them while setting out decoys and overheating.

Losing or Gaining Daylight

At the start of summer, daylight never seems to end. In fact, in a “regular” early summer day, you can go an entire waking day with the sun above the horizon. In fall, we are quickly headed in the other direction. Legal shooting time in mid-September is about 6:15 am. That usually means a departure from bird camp around 4:30 am. As the season moves from September to mid-October, we have lost as much as 2 hours of daylight. The bonus is, the morning wake-up call comes later. The flip side, the earlier sunset shuts down the evening hunt sooner. But not to worry, the birds adjust their schedules to match sunrise and sunset so your shooting opportunities are unchanged.

If you have travelled to Saskatchewan to participate in the Spring Snow Goose Hunt, we are rapidly gaining daylight. In mid-October, during the fall duck goose hunting season, legal shooting time in the morning is around 7:00 am. For late-April, the call for “take-em” can start around 5:15 am. The difference in daylight hunting hours from fall to spring can be about 4 hours in a day.

You Will See ‘em Coming

If you drove up through the southern portion of the province, you will have seen fields that stretch forever, often without a hill to block the view of the horizon. Yes, truly, you can watch your dog run away for three days. The land is criss-crossed by multiple rivers and dotted with ponds, sloughs and lakes. It’s hard to drive in Saskatchewan for 15 minutes and not see a body of water. If you flew in to one of the main airports, the perspective from the air is countryside full of agricultural fields and plenty of water for waterfowl, almost everywhere. There is more area covered by water than by concrete and asphalt.

From your vantage point in your blind, you will have a panoramic view, with little to block your view of the horizon. When a flock of geese lift off the pond and head to your field for the morning feed, you will see ‘em coming, for a few miles. When the flock of Mallards in the slough three fields over lift off and head to feed, you will see ‘em coming.
Make sure you have plenty of memory on your phone or camera. You’re going to use it up.

Practice Your Shooting, and Re-Loading

The birds are on the way. You could see ‘em coming. You guide says to keep an eye on the honkers at 2:00 and the ducks at 11:00. Anticipation is running high, adrenaline is flowing. The ducks swing in first, dropping their orange feet. The guide gives the call, guns go up and birds fall within the decoy spread. The guide immediately tells you about the next wave of birds, geese from over your right shoulder. You realize just moments ago you fired off 3 shots. Time to reload with as little movement as possible. The geese pass over, a hundred yards out the guide blows the call and they swing around, dropping lower, just as planned. At 40 yards, they flare, the guide gives the call, guns fire and more birds fall.

On a typical waterfowl hunt in Saskatchewan, you are going to have a mix of shooting opportunities. From ducks and geese that have dropped the landing gear and are preparing to set down in the decoys to birds that almost make the mistake. If they flare too soon, it’s merely a wave good buy. If they flare, just a little too late, it takes shooting skill to make that distance shot without being just a sky buster. Before you open fire in the field, know your gun, know your choke, know your ammo, and know your abilities.

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