Like white bubbles floating on a choppy, oversized bathtub, thousands of snow geese were becoming restless. Soon it would be time for them to take to the fields. We stationed Mom and my boyfriend Philipp adjacent to the lake, to supervise their travel patterns. My Dad, uncle and I followed, with our trucks, multiple v-formations flying north, seeing which crop they would land on. The snow geese that Mom and Philipp were monitoring took off into the strong gusts, let the wind drift them a few hundred metres, and dropped into the barely. Now we knew where to ask for permission. The scouting had paid off. With permission attained we formulated a game plan for the following morning.
My parents had just purchased a truck camper for exactly this purpose. This was the first family goose hunt where we woke at 5 am to a heated room. It beats a tent! A cup of instant coffee and some of Mom’s baking fuelled our tummies.
The late October temperatures were apparent as we assembled our decoys; the cold plastic made for frosty fingers. Placing our spread amongst the golden stubble, we paid attention to wind direction, our camouflage and attempted to recreate a realistic flock, taking landing preferences into consideration.
„With the rising sun, I watched thousands of snows through my Geovids, all taking off towards the south.”
Though we may have thought the spread looked lifelike, the geese thought otherwise. With the rising sun, I watched thousands of snows through my Geovids, all taking off towards the south. We were south-west. A lone scout goose flew overhead, yet we didn’t want to shoot in case that spooked the larger flocks still on the lake. That morning we only shot five geese in total. Was it our decoy spread, our camouflage, the wind, a reflection off our shotguns, or a combination of all elements, we’ll never know.
The afternoon was spent back at the camper napping, plucking geese, and devouring a bacon and egg brunch.
The evening was an even worse repeat of the morning. It appeared that we would get skunked until the last few moments of the hunt when Philipp pulled off a fantastic shot at a far, lone goose.
After much searching, their secret was out; we knew where the geese were flocking to, a highly attractive crop of barley stubble a few kilometres south of the lake. They beckoned, we followed.
Things were looking up and we were looking up, watching disheartened as the incoming geese landed in the field a few hundred metres from our spread. A noisy, massive natural flock was forming, which obviously deterred the attention away from our decoys. We strategically repositioned Philipp to the edge of a pond, where his pass shooting caused the mega flock to lift up, causing an incredible commotion. While I was concentrating on ducks one pond over, Mom, Dad, and Keith connected with 21 geese.
We were invited to the local Hutterite colony for lunch. They fed us good homemade food and gave us a tour of their impressive, modern set up. Learning about their origins in Europe, meeting a four day old baby, seeing their Holstein milking facility, and chatting about global politics were all highlights of our eyeopening visit.
„Hundreds of mallards flew overhead, their telltale wingbeats drawing our attention to the dusky skies.”
Fed up with the often unpredictable geese, Keith, Philipp and I spent the evening pass shooting ducks. Hundreds of mallards flew overhead, their telltale wingbeats drawing our attention to the dusky skies. Teal impressed upon us their impeccable aerodynamics, their incredibly twisty flying being a difficult target. Mallards, pintails, buffleheads, shovelers, gadwall, etc. were frequently spotted species this trip. As a kid on our annual Thanksgiving Goose hunt we targeted exactly that, only geese. Hence, ‘deprived’ of the challenge and variation that duck hunting entails, I am now quite the fan of these tiny avians. Turning to look behind us, Philipp and I spotted a moose travelling the pond’s edge towards us. Remarkably, he came to within 40 yards from us, providing some fantastic photos.
The sunset reflecting off the duck pond showed double the saturated reds, yellows, and every hue on the warm side of the spectrum.
I managed to persuade Dad to join us for ducks in the morning. Despite his initial grumbling about geese being more fun to hunt, I think we changed his mind. You can imagine our surprise while retrieving a mallard from some willows and cattails, looking up to see our friendly moose staring at us from 10 metres away. He kept feeding, we continued gawking. This must have been the somewhat tame moose the rancher had told us about, who always eats her Saskatoon berry bushes and couldn’t be bothered by the attempts at driving him out.
For a very bland landscape, the colours present on the prairie make this one of my favourite terrains. Heavenly sunrises, baby blue skies during the day, and the iridescent plumage of a duck bring life to the endless ochre plains.