Water Plus Feed Equals Waterfowl Everywhere
When waterfowl hunters from outside of Saskatchewan first arrive, they often mention just how much prime waterfowl territory there is. Within a 10 minute drive of the airport you can quickly begin to observe wide open agricultural fields rich in wheat, barley and field peas. Roosting water and day water can be found in all directions providing the two most important elements, water and food, that waterfowl need for a major stopover during their migration. Because of such widespread availability, ducks and geese do not simply make a short term stop in Saskatchewan on their way north or south. The stopover often lasts up to a month with enormous flocks of ducks, geese, and sandhill cranes taking up residence in the longest stop on their migration.
In the fall, waterfowl season officially begins September 1st with the peak of migration typically between September 15th and October 15th. When the hunting day starts, it will have been after much careful preparation by your Saskatchewan waterfowl outfitters. In advance of setting foot in the field for your morning field hunt, your outfitter will have been scouting flocks of ducks and geese, tracking their movement patterns, and highlighting the best fields.
Early Morning Start
When the morning begins, around 4 a.m., a light breakfast will start the day then departure for the field, depending on the drive distance. Setting decoys will take 30 minutes to an hour, putting out from 100 to 500 decoys in an array of full body decoys, motion decoys, wind sock decoys, and motorized robo decoys. Within the decoy spread will be a line of ground blinds to conceal your field guide and the hunters. The morning preparations will be finished in time for legal shooting time, 30 minutes prior to sunrise. Make sure you have a thermos of coffee and a pocketful of snacks for when you get a break in the action and you can take time to rest your shoulder and refuel.
The night before the first morning hunt is time to get yourself prepared. Mornings can be cool to downright cold so set aside at least an extra layer of clothing. During the hours of the hunt, weather on the Saskatchewan prairies can change drastically, for the better or for the worst. A waterproof / windproof layer is always smart to bring along. Check your shotgun, make sure you have the plug in the magazine. Only 3 shells at a time are allowed.
Make sure you have plenty of ammo with you. Your guide will let you know what species of birds to expect so be prepared for what might come to the field. Often in the flurry of action there may not be time to switch from a duck load to a heavier load for big greater Canada geese so you might want to have a good general purpose load such as #2 or #1 shot which can take down most waterfowl with a well placed shot. During a given hunt, it’s highly possible to have several flocks of ducks, Canada Geese, Specklebelly Geese, and Snow Geese, all on approach to your decoy spread.
The most common way to hunt waterfowl in Saskatchewan is field shoots, 100’s of decoys positioned to take advantage of the wind and laydown blinds, set in a field of barley stubble, wheat stubble, or pea stubble. When the birds leave the overnight roost, they head out to the fields to feed. A well chosen field, based on days and weeks of scouting activity, will results in 1000’s of birds who want to return to feed.
Weather has a significant effect on the daily activities of waterfowl. A warm clear morning might mean birds will fly early and you will want to be set in your blinds, loaded and ready to fire, for first legal light. A cold, overcast, or foggy morning can hold birds on the roost for several hours before they finally get the urge to go out and feed.
Making the Most of an Afternoon
Your afternoon often depends on your morning. Your daily bird limits are 8 ducks, 8 dark geese, 20 snow geese, and 5 Sandhill Cranes. What quantity and what species you are allowed to hunt depend on what you have left in your limits. Until October 15th, Canada Geese may only be hunted in the mornings, so often this is the prime species targeted in the morning hunt. If your morning hunt gets you into a large number of dark geese and Snow Geese, your outfitter may set up for a water hunt or a field hunt for ducks. If your morning saw limits or near limits of ducks, an afternoon snow goose hunt is your likely plan.
The Spring Snow Goose Hunt
If you have travelled to Saskatchewan to take part in the Spring Snow Goose Hunt, you may have the chance to witness bird counts that can only be described as legendary. When Snow Geese are making their migration northward, they are headed to the arctic, the breeding ground. They will push as far north as possible, as large bodies of roosting water become available and snow melt makes grain in the fields from last fall available. Flocks and flocks and more flocks can gather together number into the 100’s of thousands of birds. When extremely large flocks migrate in, they often descend from several thousand feet in the air in a spiral pattern to the ground. The Snow Goose Tornado. Imagine viewing this sight from the ground, looking up as thousands of white body birds slowly wind their way down towards you, in your blind, shotgun at your side.
One of the truly remarkable features of a fall waterfowl hunt in Saskatchewan is the highly likely opportunity to experience a “mixed-bag” hunt, being able to hunt a variety of species in the same field. The morning hunts often begin with ducks buzzing the decoys at the first hint of light, mostly Mallards and Pintails, but also some Gadwalls and Wigeons. Dark geese, including Canada geese and Specklebellies may follow shortly after first light or it might be early flying snow geese that show up. Either way, with a trained ear, you will often hear the geese honking on approach before you see them and be able to distinguish the sound of a Snow Goose from a Canada Goose.
For a truly challenging waterfowl hunt, try your luck at Sandhill Hill Crane hunting. These big birds have excellent eyesight and are not easily fooled by decoys and blinds. The rewards as well worth it as they are sometimes known as the ribeye of the sky. The breast meat of a Sandhill Crane is considered by many to be the best of all waterfowl. A Sandhill Crane hunt might be a little out of the ordinary, possibly setting up in a field of bales or a fence line with the plan to pass shoot the Cranes as they leave the roost and approach their feed field.
The key to a legendary Saskatchewan waterfowl hunting adventure is knowing where, when and how to locate the birds and getting permission from the landowner. It takes experience and local knowledge to get the best spots. Knowing the territory and knowing the landowners personally, is often the difference between a good shoot and a phenomenal waterfowl hunt. Local guides know. You can’t ask for a better person to be leading you to a field in the middle of nowhere, at 4:30 in the morning.
The Saskatchewan Commission of Professional Outfitters (SCPO) is an industry-driven, not-for-profit association made up of licensed professional outfitters. Our members know the lay of the land, the whims of weather, the habits of local fish & game. As licensed professional outfitters they operate within a code of ethics and to a standard that ensures your hunting experience will be everything you expect. Outstanding hospitality. Unmatched, experienced guides. Ethical hunting and fishing practices.
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