An early birthday present or Christmas in August.
I never thought much about it until it happened to me earlier this summer. I received the following E-Mail from one of my BFFs, Ron Hurlbert...."Ken...Saskatchewan...Sept. 24-28...On me..book your flight."
I immediately picked up the phone and called Ron to confirm this gift he was offering me. He said he had booked a four day hunt with an outfitter about 75 miles north of Saskatoon. It was generally the same area that we had hunted years ago when we went there seeking the Giant Canada goose.
Three of Ron's friends would be going with us. By that afternoon I had my flight scheduled, and began to think about the kind of action we would be getting into. Saskatchewan is loaded with Canada geese, Snow geese, Specklebellies, and a lot of ducks during September every year as they migrate south into the Central flyway. I was looking forward to getting a great film for the group.
After a couple of flight delays, we all managed to meet at the airport in Saskatoon where our outfitter, Quinton Tait with Tiger Hills Outfitting, was waiting for us. On the way to the lodge during a 90 minute drive, Quinton said we would be hunting harvested grain and pea fields and would be using stake blinds set up right in the fields.
This is very much like the blinds I had been using during all the many hunts I had been on in Alberta. A lot of guides shy away from these blinds because they think it scares the incoming flights, and as a result they are still using lay out blinds flat on the ground.
These are really hard to shoot out of for most hunters. When you are sitting down you just cannot get good movement and you have a real tendency to come out of the gun. Most of the waterfowl you shoot in Canada have never seen a decoy, and if you spook an occasional flock with the stand up blind it is worth it in the long run for the number of birds that come in right on top of you.
The blinds are covered in natural vegetation so they just look like another clump of bushes in the middle of the field.
The first morning was kind of slow, even though the guide Randy had said there had been a few hundred geese in the same spot the morning before. We managed a few geese, and then that afternoon went hunting for ducks. We drove up next to a small roosting pond that probably had 500 to 600 ducks on it, and quickly set our decoys up along the edge in the wheat stubble. It wasn't long until the birds started to return. Mostly in small bunches and they would just throw caution to the wind.
They would come in high, and to all appearances pull their wings back and drop straight down on top of us. I managed to get some pretty good video, and by sundown the boys had their limit of 32 birds. Mostly Mallards and Pintails.
The second morning began with a typical Canadian beautiful sunrise. You really have to be there to appreciate the sunsets and sunrises that are seen during these hunts. Just awesome. We were hunting a pea field for geese and were soon surrounded by flock after flock of Snows, Specks, and lesser Canada geese.
It never ceases to amaze me how well Ron shoots his old side-by-side, double barreled, 20 gauge shotgun. This has been his gun of choice for many years and I know that being one of the top skeet shooters in the nation helps his field shooting. The guys were on this morning, and I watched them take seven for seven once, and six out of seven twice. Beautiful shooting, and it adds up to a quick stack of forty-something birds.
It was more of the same until the last morning hunt. The guide said we were going to set up in a field that had 1,500 birds in it the morning before. We were hoping for a quick shoot because we had to leave by 10 a.m. to get to the airport to catch our flight home that afternoon.
While setting the decoys out in the dark, I happened to look up into the sky, and for a moment I thought I was seeing some high, wispy clouds. But then, they began moving. It was the Northern lights. I yelled to the others to have a look. Not much color to them like the ones I had seen in Iceland which were green. These were grey, but it was real special watching them fade back and forth.
The shoot was the best of the trip with boys taking 32 lesser Canada geese in just under one hour. Enough time left for breakfast and still get on the road.
This was my third trip to Saskatchewan and I have never been disappointed. Looking forward to maybe again next year with my sons. Great accommodations at a great price.
HUNTER SAFETY: The next Basic Firearm & Hunter Education Course will be held Jan. 13-14 for the two-day course, and the Internet follow up course on the 15th. For more information contact Jay Busby at Kern Shooting Sports at (661) 871-9025.
KERN WILDLIFE REFUGE: I spoke with refuge manager Nick Stanley this week to get an update on numbers at the Kern Wildlife Refuge. He reports that there are still about 4,500 acres of flooded habitat and 12,000 to 15,000 ducks using these waters. The shooting has picked up lately with the average per hunter this past Saturday at 3.6 birds per shooter. Much better than the two-plus the last few weeks. The majority of the birds bagged are still Shovelers and Gadwall. Five weeks of hunting left so it can only improve, hopefully.