By John Pollmann
Located in the heart of North America’s prairie “Duck Factory,” Saskatchewan is a place where massive flocks of waterfowl and sandhill cranes can span the horizon, truly bringing the skies to life. If you’ve never visited Saskatchewan for a hunt, here are a few reasons why you should make a trip to the province this fall.
From local ducks and geese hitting grain fields in early September to the arrival of migrating mallards and Canada geese in October, Saskatchewan is a destination that provides excellent waterfowl hunting opportunities throughout the season.
Kyle Hauck, owner of High Prairie Outfitters near Moosejaw, says that early-season action includes pintails, mallards, and other puddle ducks, as well as giant Canada geese that can tip the scales well above 10 pounds.
“Sandhill cranes are some of the first birds to migrate into the area, and we’ll have big concentrations of those birds until early to mid-October, when they will migrate south along with most of the pintails,” Hauck says. “Starting in early October, each little pulse of the migration will bring in new birds and different species of waterfowl, including snow geese, white-fronted geese, and smaller Canada geese.”
By the middle of October, Hauck says hunters are focusing primarily on mallards, Canada geese, and snow geese, which will build to impressive numbers until snow and extremely cold temperatures drive them south.
“The number of ducks and geese that stage in the area becomes absolutely stunning as we near the end of October,” Hauck says. “Hunting later in the season means running the risk of dealing with some winter weather, but seeing the skies absolutely full of waterfowl everywhere you look is a spectacle to behold. It’s something every hunter should experience.”
For Paul Mastrella with Quill Lakes Waterfowl Outfitters one of the best things about waterfowl hunting in Saskatchewan is the opportunity to bag a wide variety of ducks and geese.
“I think our record last season was harvesting 13 different species in one day. You just never know what you’re going to see,” Mastrella says.
The weather and pace of the migration strongly influence the species of waterfowl that will be in a particular area, Mastrella says, but hunters nearly always have a choice of several species that they can pursue.
“Hunters will often go after snow geese or Canada geese in the morning before switching to ducks in the afternoon,” Mastrella says. “But there are days when you have cranes, Canada geese, snow geese, and ducks all in the same field, so everything kind of happens at once.”
Portions of Saskatchewan also provide tremendous hunting for sharp-tailed grouse, Hungarian partridge, and ruffed grouse, Mastrella says, and the province is also home to world-class fishing, creating opportunities for a cast-and-blast trip.
“Personally, the scenery and the people of the province are probably my absolute favorite part of hunting here,” Mastrella says. “There is just something special about Saskatchewan.”
Snow geese are among the most challenging waterfowl species to hunt, but Mat Schauer, with Northern Skies Outfitters, believes Saskatchewan unique location help even the playing field.
“The grainfields found along the southern edge of the boreal forest are the first that snow geese encounter during the fall migration after leaving their tundra breeding grounds,” Schauer explains. “When you combine their eagerness to get into those fields to feed with a large spread of realistic decoys, the hunting can be downright unbelievable.”
Schauer says that the first significant push of light geese usually appears in the northern parklands by the second week of September, while another migration of snow geese comes through the area around the third week of October.
“My favorite time to hunt snows in Saskatchewan is actually in the spring, however,” Schauer adds. “Starting the last week of April and through the first two weeks of May, the adult snow geese begin to stage here south of the boreal forest, where they are looking to fuel up before making the big push to the tundra for the breeding season. They are incredibly decoy friendly, and the birds are just beautiful dressed in their best plumage of the year.
“By around May 15, the geese just disappear in one mass migration. You can’t find a snow goose within a thousand miles. It is something else.”
This content is brought to you by Tourism Saskatchewan.