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KEN BARNES: Specks, Specks and more Specks

Ken geese photo

Pictured is a group of U.S. waterfowlers with full limits of Specklebelly geese bagged during a trip to Saskatchewan some years ago.

Most of my readers will remember the times in past columns that I have mentioned the name of one of my closest friends for almost 60 years, Ron Hurlbert.

We first met when we were both shooting leased duck ponds from the Gilbreath Brothers out west of Wasco. He was also a very good junior skeet shooter at the time, so I would see him often during the year when I headed to the L.A. area for a shoot.

He grew up in the San Fernando Valley area. And, of course, you have heard me mention him when writing about Black Brant shooting over on the coast because we both were licensed guides during the early 1970s.

In the spring of 2009 he called me one morning and asked if I would be interested in filming a hunt in Saskatchewan where supposedly there was an area that held close to 500,000 Specklebelly geese during the fall and winter months. The birds would stage there for a few weeks before heading on south through the Central flyway.

All I said was, "When do we leave?"

Ron said he had three friends that would be going, and he would look into obtaining a guide that worked close to that area. My vibes were telling me this was going to be a very special trip. And, I was not wrong.

Fast forward to September of 2009. We all met in Los Angeles at LAX, and boarded a flight to Saskatoon, the capital of Saskatchewan.

The guys rented a van and we set out on a two hour drive to the town of Kyle. Ron had made arrangements for a guide, and he met us when we arrived. His name was Sam Van Buskirk of K & P Outfitters. I ask Sam where all the large numbers of geese I had heard about stayed, and he replied there was a huge reservoir that was part of the Saskatchewan River that held most of the birds.

He said it was almost impossible not to bag a limit of birds every day as long as you were a decent shot. We all went to bed that evening with that thought in mind, and were really excited about the next day hunting prospects.

After an early breakfast, we met up with our guide Chad. He took us to a harvested grain field that he said held close to a thousand geese the morning before. I figured he must be right because I could see a lot of fresh bird droppings on the ground while the guys were setting out decoys.

The group would be shooting out of lay-out blinds, and I went off to the side and got into some tall, unharvested grain with my camera. It didn't take long before the Specks began working the decoys and shooting started.

I have never really liked gunning out of lay-out blinds. Your movement is inhibited, and it is easy to come out of the stock with your face when trying to shoot from a sitting position.

After a couple of flocks worked, we all noticed a tall brush line at the edge of the field that had to be a least six feet tall, or more. And, three or four feet wide.

Ron told the guide we should move everyone into this foliage and use it for a blind, but the guide was somewhat hesitant. He thought it would spook the birds.

We assured him we had hunted out of places like this during our many trips to Alberta, and the geese get used to seeing bushes and trees all over fields everywhere.

After moving the decoys closer to the new blind area, the geese continued to just pour into the field. And, the high shrub gave me better access to handling the camera. During one clip, I heard a "whooshing" sound, and just barely had time to duck before a falling goose struck me on my left shoulder and knock me to the ground.

Very lucky it wasn't my head. I had been filming the flock that had just been shot at and had not noticed the goose using me for a target.

Everyone filled out their five bird limit in just a short time, and we began picking everything up. Now, what to do the rest of the day?

Sam had told us there were quite a few upland game birds in the area, so after an early lunch we headed to a spot just made for easy walking with great ground cover.

Did not have a dog, but just flushed birds by getting close to them. After a couple of hours, the boys had a nice number of Hungarian Partridge and Sharp Tail Grouse.

Sam's cook for the goose camp was Carol Mielke, and she really new what to do with fresh game birds. We had a terrific lunch and dinner every day we were there, including marinated BBQ Sandhill Crane that the guys bagged during one afternoon hunt. All very tasty.

Limits of birds were bagged all three days of the hunt, and it was just what we thought it would be. During the trip, I saw only one lone Canada goose flying by. It was just Specks, Specks, Specks and more Specks. A truly awesome hunt with a great bunch of friends.

NOTE: Kern Shooting Sports will offer an NRA Basic Rifle Class for Juniors 12-20 and Women at the 5 Dogs Range in September.

If interested contact: George Stilwill...509 Maryhurst St. ... Bakersfield, CA 93314...661 319-2589-C...661-589-2348-H.

ONE FINAL NOTE: A big congratulations to local Garces High skeet shooter Joe Fry who just returned from the Junior World Championships held in Ft. Bragg, N.C. The 15 year old gunner won the Doubles Championship, 12 Gauge Champion, 20 Gauge R.U. 3rd, High Over All R.U. 3rd, and High All Around R.U. Way to go young man!

Ken Barnes is a record setting shooter and longtime outdoorsman from Kern County. Email him at with comments or column ideas.

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