Ken Barnes photo

A nice flock of Mallard ducks at tree top level while working a small cattle water hole.

It's been almost 25 years since I took my first trip to Canada to film waterfowl hunts.

The only time I ever fired a gun was when my son Steve and I made a return trip after I had done a film with a group of guys. Our guide, Brent Reil, said, "Ken, I want you and Steve to come back next month after I am finished guiding and we will have a "fun" hunt. The only stipulation is, you have to leave your camera home, and bring a shotgun instead."

I agreed with this, so we made the trip back to Tofield, Alberta a few weeks later. The first morning of the hunt we set up in a pea field using lay-out blinds.

I will never forget the blazing red sky just before dawn when the mallards began landing all around me as I lay on the ground. They were walking around just inches from me.

One of Brent's friends was hunting with us, and we began to fire on these most prized of ducks. It was just about non-stop shooting and it only took about 20 minutes for the three of us to bag our limit of 21 birds.

We were picking up our decoys and walking to the truck before the sun came up. Looking back toward the field, I saw at least 4,000 to 5,000 ducks swirling like a mini-tornado trying to decide where to land. It was our shortest shoot ever.

Fast forward a few years. During most of the trips I had made north over the years, I usually had at least one of my three sons with me as part of the group I was filming for. But there was only one time when all three — Steve, Michael, and Mark — joined me, along with my friend, Adam Stull.

When we walked out of the airline terminal in Edmonton, there was Brent, who exclaimed, "The killer B's return. Barnes, Barnes, Barnes and Barnes."

We all greeted him with great enthusiasm, as we had become really great friends over the years.

The afternoon of the second day hunting, Brent sent me three miles out of town to watch a pea field for geese to hunt the next day. I was sitting in his truck doing nothing, when I noticed a small flight of ducks fly overhead, and drop straight down into a stand of trees about a quarter of a mile away.

I paid little attention to this until I saw eight or 10 bunches do the same thing over a short period. I drove down to the spot and parked 50 yards from the trees, which were right off the road. More groups of birds came, so I grabbed my camera and began to film. I figured there must be water there, but I couldn't see it.

Brent had a section map in the truck, so I looked up the area I was in and found an owner's name. He also had a phone book, so I found the name and a number to call. A woman answered, and I told her I was here from California hunting with my sons, and I wondered if I might get permission to hunt the property where I was sitting.

She said there was a water hole for cattle in the middle of the tree stand, and it would be OK to hunt the next morning as long as the cattle were not present. I thanked her, and headed back to town to tell the boys about what an exciting place I had found.

The next morning we parked right where I had been sitting, and walked over to the stand of trees. We found a small L-shaped water hole 40 yards long, and 10 yards wide, that was clear all around to the trees. We put out a dozen decoys and waited for first light. What happened next goes beyond fantastic.

Right at shooting time, 50 mallards swooped down over the trees into the water. The boys opened fire on them, and I started filming. Another bunch of at least 100 came a minute later, and these were followed by small group after group for the next 15 minutes.

I never had time to turn my camera off, and kept filming the guys blasting away. Suddenly, I thought we better stop shooting and begin counting the number of birds we had down.

I yelled at the boys to start picking up. They did, and 'yep' . . they were over limit by a few. Not intentional, but still against the law. They all felt bad about it and just said it was due to the fact that they had never seen that many birds in such a short time frame and were caught up in the excitement.

We got out of there as quickly as we could, and took all the birds over to the grateful folks at a Hutterite colony. We often shared our game with this clan.

And when I returned home, I sent a California gift fruit package to the owners of the property with a thank you note for the fastest, and all-time best, Canadian duck shoot ever.

BASIC FIREARMS & HUNTER EDUCATION COURSE: Next course offered: May 18-19, two day course. May 20 is an internet follow up course.

This is sponsored by Jay Busby. For more information call (661) 871-9025.

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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