Couple Saturday hunts (Sept 13, 2014)

MORNING:

The snow geese that had been congregating together during the week up to this Saturday (09/13) was split into smaller flocks and nothing really good looked likely. There were quite a few Canadas in one field owned by a cousin of mine, so we set up to hunt there on Saturday morning.

With no lay down blinds, and nothing to hide us with only 30 Canada geese decoys, we have to set up near the edges of the fields or off a patch of grass or trees. Where we were setting up was a couple hundred yards from where the majority of them had been landing.

True to form, they started landing where they had been landing. After a little bit we had 2 flights that gave us a close look. 3 of us hunting taking 20-25 yard shots on 2 nice sized flights of Canadas only knocked 2 of them down. We are talking 18 perfect shots for a 1/9 ratio. I’ve heard average shooting is 1/3, so we were way below average on those. We were disgusted with ourselves, me and dad especially as I think my brother knocked the 2 down.

Later on, snow geese started appearing and landing in the next field. We had one flight of them come down low enough to shoot at as they went over us. My brother, Aaron, shot a beautiful blue phase out of them and as they flew away I took a desperation shot at about 60 yards as 2 of them came close together. To my surprise they both tumbled down. As wonderful as it was to have made a long shot like that, it made me more disgusted at missing the close in shots at the Canadas. I am still also regretting not keeping the blue to get mounted as I have been toying with the idea of getting a blue goose mounted. I wasn’t sure on the proper care prior to freezing etc, so decided to breast it and read up on it and keep one later on. To this day I have not come across one nearly as nice. I did however take a good picture of it.

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The odd duck flights around us kept the hunt from being a complte bust as we managed to get 8 of them. 2 Canadas, 3 snows, 8 ducks for the morning. The hunt was not a bad hunt, just plagued by bad shooting.

EVENING:

That evening my brother and I decided to try seeing if the snow geese would go in the neighbouring field again. We finally had  enough decoys to start setting up in the middle of them with white clothing. We had never tried it and I wanted to try it once on a minor hunt before trying it on some of the bigger hunts. We set up mid afternoon and while big flights did not come in again, there were enough small flights that came in nice and close and we got 9 snows and 3 ducks (1 mallard drake and 2 hens). The geese were stupid as they would come back 1 or 2 times after we had shot at them, all of them were juvy snows.

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We (read I) also managed to get the truck stuck in the mud. Luckily we were in walking distance of the farm that my brother works at and he went and got a tractor to pull me out. Remember me saying that the 4 wheel drive wasn’t working on my truck? I wouldn’t have gotten stuck here if it was… I still haven’t gotten it fixed either… 😦

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Snow geese arriving (Sept. 11th)

So a couple days after my brother in law headed home, I was watching the snow geese with a lot of interest. They were starting to appear in numbers a few days earlier than usual. I saw a few smaller flocks in fields as there were starting to be a few more stubble fields appearing as it stopped raining, dried up, allowing the farmers to combine. After about 2 days, I finally found a big concentration only about 2 miles out of town. There was probably 30-40,000 of them.

They were sitting in the middle of a field without a road adjacent to it and it was really hard to figure out where they were exactly on the field as the highway I was glassing from was at an angle, so I couldn’t see them squared up on the field and lots of different potholes and trees among them and behind them. Depth perception goes out the window a mile away from them with binoculars.

I had a buddy that, due to the restrictions on deer season this year in SK, wanted to come goose hunting with us to stock up his freezer with goose as he is only going to be able to shoot 1 deer. I gave him a call and he was up for hunting the next morning.

We set up our 150 snow decoys and the electronic call. We had a few flights of ducks early and shot a couple of them.

The geese started coming and landing in a different part of the field than where we were. I had judged where they were landing the night before wrong. We were about 400-500 yards further away from them. Snows a lot of times will not decoy if you aren’t set up where they have been going. There was nothing we could do about it at that point but sit and wait.

Once the big flocks were down in the field we began to see action as smaller flights started taking off from the main flock and would come check us out. They were flying over a dry pothole behind us and most of the ones we shot kept falling into the thick bulrushes. It was a job finding them all and we probably missed one or 2. We ended up with 20 snows along with 2 ducks by the time it was time to head to work. Not a terrible morning, but nothing compared to what it could have been and what it would be the next week.

Sorry, no pics from this hunt for some odd reason.

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This mornings hunt (10/17/2014)

I went scouting last night and found a couple big flocks of snow geese along with a lot of sandhill cranes. I didn’t really see any Canada geese, I think they have started heading south. It’s really late up here for the snows right now and they have been hunted a pile and a re very wary. I thought most of the hunters from the States had cleared out at the end of last week, so I decided to try hunting them again and see if there were any new birds or if they had settled down a bit.

I checked with the owners of both fields and the one might have someone hunting this morning and the other didn’t, so that made choosing one of the fields a lot easier. We set up nice and early in case there were other hunters that had planned to set up nearby.

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It was supposed to be below freezing, but was a pleasant 5 C instead. We set up the decoys really loose hoping to draw wary snows in. Ducks started flying around at light and we shot a few down. My highlight of the morning was shooting 3 down with 2 shots. Finally the snows started flying from the roost. I noticed them flying north to the other field where they had been, but they weren’t landing there. The first couple flights our way came in, after a couple turns above us, poor shooting only got us 1 out of the first batch and 4 out of the next ones. After that, the big flocks started coming over and the ones that gave us a look would not come down. They would take one turn over us and then head off elsewhere. Even the ducks decided on landing in a different part of the field, but they at least buzzed us closer than the geese.

We packed it up at 8:30 and me and my brother headed over to the flock of ducks, he took a few longer shots at them and I managed to shoot a nice drake almost in full plumage.

Final tally was 5 snows and 8 ducks. I think it is time to stow away the snow geese decoys for the year and try my luck at sandhills again or find some Canadas

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On the way back we ran into a bunch of eagles on a field along with a bunch of ravens. I would guess that some hunters didn’t find a couple “gliders” the day before. There was 7 eagles within about 400 yards.

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Oh yeah… The reason the geese weren’t landing in the other field where they were the night before? There was a hunter set up in that field… They avoided him like the plague the same as us. At least they weren’t just spiting us… 😀

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Weekend of hunting with the brother-in-law (first weekend in Sept)

My brother-in-law Jaylon and his wife came up for a visit from Arizona back on the first weekend of September. He timed it (unintentionally) with goose season. We went out 4 times for various types of hunts over the weekend. Saturday we hunted the pea field I had hunted on opening day again. No one had hunted it since I had, but 5 days later, we did not have the hunt I had had on the Monday before. We set up on the edge of the field as there was 5 of us and did not have the capability of hiding us all in the middle of the field. The Canadas gave us a wide berth for the most part, but a couple flights came in and we managed to get 7. We would have had better luck setting up for snow geese as there were a lot more in the area than I thought. They flew over quite regularly. We had a small river behind us about 20 yards and there were quite a few ducks flying around and we manged to knock down 7 of them as well. For some unknown reason, I had decided to leave Spad at home and we were forced to retrieve some of them with some unconventional methods which will remain unspoken… 🙂 What will not remain unspoken is how Jesse, one of my friends along for the hunt, happened to split his pants somehow in the middle of the hunt. He wasn’t too impressed, but we thought it was pretty funny. IMG_20140906_083954 That evening, we headed over to another friend’s who has land bordering a DU and has a bit of a flyway with the ducks. We had some decent shooting for a little while but it slowed down afterwards. Spad got his workout there as we dropped about half of the birds in the water. Several glided a good quarter mile into other parts of the waterholes the were pretty much inaccessible. We ended up with 11 ducks on our side of the road and the other guys got 10 on their side. On Monday morning we tried hunting some Sandhills I had found. The snow geese were starting to show up, but I was unable to find any good fields where they were starting to congregate, so we decided to give the cranes a try. They came from a completely different direction than I was anticipating. I had expected them to fly over some trees into the field and we set up in them. They decided to fly past the end of the trees and then come in the untreed side of the field. We had a shortened hunt due to my little brother having to get to work, and got 4 in total. We went out duck hunting again that evening out on the DU, ended up with 8 more ducks. Spad started the evening quite well, he was on the birds quickly when they fell. He evened it out at the end unfortunately as he missed 2, what I thought were, easy retrieves in close in some reeds as he couldn’t find them when he got close and gave up and started looking everywhere else. Disappointing, but I was quite a bit less equipped than him to do any water retrieving, so I didn’t have much of a leg to stand on arguing with him about it. So Jaylon missed out on the good snow goose hunting a week later, but I think he is inclined to time his trip properly next time. 😀 He had fun shooting ducks even if the crane and goose hunts weren’t as successful as hoped. (sorry, no pics from 3 of the hunts)

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Tale of defeat? (Sept 4th, 2014)

Well after my success of opening morning (see blog post for Sept. 1st), I figured there should be no reason why we shouldn’t be able to repeat it. Why not with 3 guys this time? My dad and brother were back from the lake and raring to go. My brother in law was supposed to be coming by the weekend and I wanted to save the pea field from opening morning to hunt again when he was with us. The geese were still piling into it and I figured they would still be there by Saturday.

The first pea field I had tried on opening day (but was already taken) to hunt had been hunted at least twice during the week, but geese were still heading in there. Seeing harvest had not really started, there were few other options to hunt. It was situated in the middle of several sloughs and there would at least be a few ducks flying around if the Canadas refused to come in.

Having no laydown blinds and a pool table smooth, combined pea field, we set up near the edge of the field and sat in the cover of the weeds on the edge. I took along my Chessie, Spad, and picked out a spot close to a couple small trees that would hopefully hide my sometimes enegetic, refuse to sit still puppy… (he’s actually 4)

The ducks started flying over regularly right before light. We waited till legal light and started knocking ducks down. The ducks we dropped kept dropping behind us into the tall reeds. I sent Spad to get them, but he had trouble finding a couple. I have no idea if he can mark as he never seems to look up and see them fall. It seems like unless they hit the ground where he is looking at the moment, everything turns into a blind retrieve. Oh well! There was one small little pintail that gave him a run for his money as he tried to chase it down in some bulrushes, I watched it change directions on him and run right through his legs twice, before he finally managed to grab it. Then there was 1 other duck that hit the ground and Spad went racing to it, only to have it fly up and go across the field with him in hot pursuit. He finally realized it was pointless after about 400 yards and came back. He is Chessie (stubborn) so I was shocked that he came back so soon. I had visions of him following it a half mile across the field to the highway.

The Canada geese started coming by, but it was easy to tell they were shy of our spread and calling as they refused to come in. Apparently getting hunted 3 times on the same field is a turn off, who knew?? 😉 We had a couple flocks that had apparently not been there with other hunters as they came straight in and we were able to knock 3 of them down.

It wasn’t the hunt we anticipated, but not every hunt is. It was a fun morning, got some good pass shooting at some ducks before we headed in as both me and my brother needed to get to work. Final tally was 3 Canadas and 11 ducks.

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The start of the 2014 Goose season (Sept 1st, 2014)

‘Twas was the night before opening morning of goose season (well, in all honesty, the opening of a lot of seasons in SK, archery big game seasons, most game bird seasons, etc.). I had been under the weather throughout the day and had no urge to go hunting the following morning. Contributing to that was the fact that harvest was late starting this year due to the lack of mature crops and a bit of wet weather near the end of August and there were few places to hunt them. However, that evening as I felt better, the urge hit me to go hunting.

I had done no scouting, my dad and brother were away for the long weekend and there was no one I could think of that would have a license and be able to go with me. It looked like a bleak prospect for hunting in the morning and I knew of only a couple fields of peas and only knew of one that had been combined. Flocks of migrating snow geese had yet to arrive, but the local Canada geese had been bunching up in numbers. I had been seeing them on that one pea field that was combined. There were usually a couple hundred. This early in the season, I knew that hunting that field by myself would give me a chance to shoot my limit in Canada geese. I had never shot my limit in Canada geese and the prospect of doing it with my dad and younger brother away only intensified my urge to go out the next morning. I phoned the owner of the field and he informed me it was already taken for the next morning. However he was quick to inform me of another pea field close to his farm that had hundreds of geese on it. It was not yet combined, but that owner had decided it not worth it to combine and was going to till it under. He told me roughly where it was and with about 5 minutes of daylight I quickly drove the 2 miles of gravel to find it. It was right where he said, so I phoned that owner to inquire about the possibility of hunting it. He said I could if only his son had no plans of hunting it. His son was driving back after a road trip, but he promised to find out and phone me back. After about a half hour of tense waiting, he phones and said I was OK to hunt it, but said it was pretty muddy. I had already realized this and, due to a recent encounter with sand, knew that my 4×4 was not working on my truck and that I would have to walk in as I had no desire to either get stuck or rip up someone else’s field.

I woke up with plenty of time. I drove down, grabbed my sled and filled it with the essentials: shotgun, several boxes of shells, and about 30 goose decoys. I dragged it out about as far as I felt, about 400 yards from the road. At about that spot I started seeing goose droppings and knew this must be the right spot to set up. As I had not scouted the field with geese on it, I did not know where they had been feeding. The field comprised half a section and could only access the one edge of it without a truck and unfortunately that was the side farther from the roost the geese would be flying from. I set up my 30 Goose decoys in a loose semicircle pointing into the north wind. There was just a slight breeze that just barely moved the dozen Sillosock decoys. The rest of my decoys were shell decoys but I was setting up in the sparser area of the field which would make them more noticeable. I set up a makeshift laydown blind about 15 yards off the decoys in some thicker peas with my sled as my pillow, covered with a reed mat and another reed mat overtop of myself.

The first birds to come in were ducks. I knocked one down with some abysmal shooting that informed me that I should shoot some skeet next summer to stay in practice. Finally the Canadas started coming in just before dawn. I dropped a couple in the first few flights that came in. Never much of an afficionado with a mouth call, I nevertheless was getting some of the warier birds to circle around after their first look. There were a few more local snow geese than I anticipated, the first 3 coming in caught me by complete surprise, flying in at ground level and starting to land before I saw them. 25 yards was as far as they were and I anticipated being able to get all 3 as they took off. I stood up to get them to fly and realized that my shooting had not yet improved as I only managed to knock down 1 of them.

The Canadas kept streaming by and I had dropped 5 when it seemed that the flocks had slowed down. I was still hopeful of taking the limit as a flock of snow geese came by within range and I finally manged to knock down 2 out of 3 shots for the first time that morning. I went to collect them and was caught out by a flight of Canadas intent on flying low directly over my blind. They were headed my direction out into the field and as they kept coming I still managed to get nearly as good a shot as I would have had I been in the blind. I managed to knock 2 of them down, leaving me 1 goose short of the limit. I sat in the blind hopeful that I would have a single fly in and try his luck at landing. I figured a single would be better, although I should have realized that my shooting up to that point had been hard pressed to knock down 1 bird out of a flock, never mind 2…

I was finally rewarded for my patience when a loner Canadian did exactly what I had hoped one would do. It came in nice and low, setting its wings to land about 25 yards away. I was already imagining bragging about getting my limit to my little brother before I even raised up to shoot it. I sat up and swung my gun up. Disaster struck as the reed mat swung up with the gun. The swivel stud on the end of the magazine had gotten tangled up in the mat. The goose flared as I tried to free my gun and by the time I got it clear, the goose had moved directly in line my the sun. I shot blindly, hoping to hit it in the sun and missed him. I took a second blind shot, not because the goose was still in the sun, but because I was still blind at that point. The goose got clean away and I sat hoping and waiting for another chance at the now elusive last goose.

After another period of waiting a pair of geese came over checking me out. I managed to call them to come back for a second look. They showed no interest in landing so I took a shot at the one as they passed by the second time. It faltered a bit, but my second shot left no doubt as it fell. I had gotten my limit. A quick picture and MMS later and everyone that needed to be informed of this triumph, was informed.

The trip out of the field was much harder than the trip in. I filled my sled with the 13 birds I had gotten, 8 of them being greater Canada geese, weighing at least 10 pounds each. The mud held me back every step back to the truck. I had not realized with 100 pounds of birds that it would be that hard with the mud. Of course at this stage in the game, Geese were flying over regularly within easy shotgun range, happily honking, quite possibly aware that I was no longer a threat to them. Thus started the goose hunting of the 2014 season. I had been hunting geese and ducks for 15 years up to this point and had finally shot my limit in Canada geese. Granted, we had never gotten too seriously into hunting waterfowl, until the last 3 years or so as I started buying up a few dozen decoys each year and honing my craft. Try to see if I could improve this year at all over past years.

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Stay tuned for further posts from this goose season, I have a bit of catchup to do… -Chris

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