By Matt Young
It was a sight you might witness only in Saskatchewan: a vortex of geese descending on a decoy spread like a feathered tornado, silhouetted against a glowing prairie dawn. Unfortunately for Chad Belding and me, we watched this spectacle from a distance rather than from inside our layout blinds. The first wave of Canada geese had left their roost earlier than expected and taken us by surprise as we returned on foot from parking the vehicles by a distant farmstead. Our hunting partners, Fred Zink and Jim Alexander, held their fire at first, waiting for us to return, but as more and more geese landed in the decoys, they eventually had enough. From our hilltop vantage point, we had a panoramic view as they flipped back the canopies of their Powerhunter blinds and fired a quick volley of muffled shots as hundreds of geese flared around them.
Zink and Alexander had just finished gathering up the fallen birds when Belding and I finally reached the decoys, out of breath after jogging across several football field lengths of pea stubble. "That was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen," Alexander said, hefting a pair of Canadas that he had just bagged. "Geese were walking less than five feet from my blind."
More birds left their roost on a nearby glacial lake, sending us running to our layout blinds camouflaged with dried mud and pea stalks. Surrounding us were several dozen fully flocked Canada, snow, and white-fronted goose decoys, wobbling gently in the breeze on motion stakes. With our decoys positioned along a high ridge overlooking the lake, the geese could clearly see our spread in the distance as they left the water.
A past world open goose calling champion and product development director for Avery Outdoors, Zink naturally assumed the role of chief guide and caller. He worked approaching geese with greeting calls, double clucks, and moans, while Belding, an Avery pro-staffer who has several state and regional calling titles to his credit, accompanied him with softer clucks and contented feeding murmur. A clamoring flock of more than two-dozen honkers responded to their calling and winged swiftly across the field toward our decoys. Flying just above the rolling terrain, the geese briefly disappeared from view as they dipped below a rise beyond the perimeter of the spread. Moments later, the big birds cleared the top of the ridge and loomed over the decoys, hovering for space to land among the lifelike impostors. The birds were so close that I briefly made eye contact with a startled goose when I sat up to shoot. Firing at point-blank range, we dispatched several of the birds within spitting distance of our blinds.
As the sun climbed above the expansive prairie landscape, a steady stream of geese left the lake and followed the same low-level flight path. We took turns shooting as a series of singles, pairs, and flocks of various sizes attempted to land in the decoys. With a generous eight-bird limit each on Canada geese, we all got in plenty of shooting by the time the flight ended later in the morning. Examining our birds after the hunt, we discovered that we had harvested three different subspecies: western, lesser, and giant Canada geese, ranging in size from 4 to 12 pounds.
Zink and Belding had made the trip to Saskatchewan to field-test several new models of Greenhead Gear goose decoys, and Alexander and I were lucky enough to tag along for the ride. The previous two mornings, we had been plagued by heavy frost buildup on our plastic decoys, which caused flock after flock of whitefronts and Canada geese to flare just beyond shotgun range. On this third hunt, we switched to a smaller spread of all fully flocked decoys and had much better success.
Zink had chosen to hunt in central Saskatchewan because of the remarkable abundance and variety of geese in the region. "Saskatchewan is a crossroads for migrating waterfowl in the fall," Zink said. "The province not only raises tremendous numbers of ducks and geese, but is also a staging hub for many Arctic goose populations that breed farther north. In the parklands west of Saskatoon, you can often take large and small subspecies of Canada geese, specklebellies, snows, and Ross's geese out of the same decoy spread. When you consider how generous many of the landowners are about hunting access, there's no better place to hunt geese than Saskatchewan." Few waterfowlers who have journeyed to hunt in this vast prairie province would disagree.
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