From the Arctic to the Freezer

Covid-19 really put a damper on our waterfowl plans this past season, we’ll just leave it at that. But before our plans got totally derailed, we did manage to get out after geese twice, ducks once and spent a day in the marsh going after swans.

 drake mallard duck green head 

Carson soloed on this drake 'green head' mallard

Back in October we had an early season cold snap here in the northwest that caused a decent push of geese to begin their winter migration southward. Wasting no time we jumped at the early season opportunity and went after geese. It took some time, but we finally found a field where we were able to get permission to hunt and made plans accordingly. While we weren’t able to get permission to set up on the “X”, the exact place where the geese want to be, we were able to get permission to hunt an adjacent field. Our hope was that we’d be able to lure the geese away from the “X” and onto our field.

 duck hunting pintails  pintail ducks

                      Some long pins on those pintails                                Great day in the marsh with friends

Just before first light we hopped into our layout blinds and waited. All we needed now was for the geese to fly. Our 150 full body decoys were set, along with our 5 dozen silhouettes. And it didn’t take long before we heard the familiar honk of the Canada geese as they navigated their way toward the “X”, a mere field away. The frosty morning temps were hovering in the mid-20s so any little break in our calling caused our calls to freeze up. But with persistent calling we were able to eke out a sound that ultimately turned into that of a goose. However, call as we might, wave after wave of geese bombed into the field next to us. They definitely knew where they wanted to be. After about two hundred geese had landed in the field next to us, Carson volunteered to walk to the edge of our field to scare up the competition since our fake decoy spread couldn’t compete with live birds.

 labrador looking at Canada geese  i went hunting Canada geese

 Porter had lots of birds in the sky to watch           One blue bird day after limiting, Porter just couldn't resist

Carson made the 300 yard march to the fence line. His presence definitely had the intended effect as all of the birds lifted off and took flight. Birds were flying in almost every direction but none flew toward our decoy spread; just as we had predicted but certainly not what we had hoped for. Most likely the direction of Carson’s approach spooked the geese away from us, but at least our competition had moved on.

 Canada goose hunting  big honker Canada goose

                     Almost a limit for Carson                                               Dallas with a big ol' honker

It couldn’t have been more than a minute since the scattering that we saw several new lines of geese on the horizon. Dallas began waving his goose flag to get their attention. As they got closer, he began calling to the flock. Carson seeing the commotion hunkered down, way too far away to be a part of whatever was going to happen next. And what happened next was that a flock of 8 geese now enticed by our calling and the decoy spread had locked in on our site. The anticipation was building – the flock appeared to float in place as they battled the persistent westerly wind. The big honkers were finally floating on the deck, feet down and within seconds of landing. As they began to back peddle a short 20 yards from our blinds, Dallas called the shot. 5 blasts rang out in quick succession and 5 geese hit the ground! Hadn’t my gun failed to cycle my last shotshell, I’m confident that I too would have had 3 birds of my own.

 Canada goose limits  Canada goose limits

          Getting close to limits on day one                                  A couple of limits on our second time out

As we picked up our birds, Carson started dashing toward us. But before he reached us a single goose had locked in on our spread, so again Carson ducked for cover. Dallas singled on the goose at 25 yards and had limited out, 4 shots, 4 geese. Over the next while we were able to call in several more small flocks. I finished up with 4 and Carson ended with 3 geese for himself, not bad for a quick waterfowl outing.

 i went hunting tundra swans 

 Just before leaving, had several swans fly overhead

That same cold snap that pushed the geese south also pushed the swans into Utah. With two tundra swan tags between us, Carson and I headed into the marsh on sunny morning in October; a welcomed warm up from a couple of weeks prior. We made our way down the dike, tossed out a couple of swan decoys, along with a few goose decoys and crouched behind some brush near the water’s edge.

 i went hunting swans  tundra swan splashdown

                              Setting up the decoys                                                 Shotcam pic of swan splashdown

It wasn’t long before we saw 3 airborne swans. We belted out a series of “whoop woos” which turned the giant white tundras from their original route. Their relatively slow yet powerful wing beats brought them close within no time. Carson took aim and shot the left bird while I shot the bird to the right. And just like that we had both filled our tags with a couple of big mature aquatic fowl from the arctic!

 i went hunting swans  tundra swan splashdown

              Carson with his mature tundra swan                                       Loading up swans onto the cart