Nov 13, 2014

Saskatchewan 2014 Waterfowl Hunt Teaser

It's been a couple of weeks since we got back from a week long waterfowl hunt in Bladworth Saskatchewan with LivingSky Outfitters.  This is our second trip with LivingSky and arriving in camp and seeing owners Trevor and Jeff and the rest of the guides and crew it felt like a family reunion.  Such a  great group of folks that work hard to make your week of hunting the duck factory everything you ever dreamed off.  We have hundreds of pictures and hours upon hours of video to get through and sort out so for now here is a few pics and short video clip to keep everyone happy.

Snow Geese were the main attraction.
I've never seen so many snow geese in one spot.  The larger water where they were roosting couldn't fit another goose even if you lubed him up and used a shoe horn.  Just amazing.    Look down the horizon in the picture above and those are all snow geese.

5 man limit of snow geese and ducks - 140 birds

The ducks loved to come into the snow goose spread so if you wanted to you could shoot ducks and snows in one hunt and which we did a couple of times.

Sand Hill crane mission accomplished.

The weather was warm and the Sand Hill cranes were still around in huge numbers and one of our guys had been waiting years to hunt for a cranes so we setup one evening and gave it a go and thank goodness these 3 decided to try and land on us because the other 500 just flew on by.  oh and it was delicious!

Last but not least a short video clip from our last morning which was a snow goose hunt and we limited out in 42 minutes and had to see 100,000 snow geese that morning.  It was incredible!

Nov 4, 2014

A Moose Visits our Neighboorhood.

The other day I was fortunate to watch a beautiful cow moose out in a field near my house.  It looked exactly like the same cow that visited the same field last year even at the same time of the yea just around Halloween.  I'm not sure what attracts here to that field at this time of year, but she seems to enjoy checking out the cows and showing off for the crowds that stop to watch her.

Unfortunately this field is on a main road and it gets lots of traffic which makes for some interesting watching of the two legged wildlife known as Homo Sapiens or just plan people.  It was difficult to determine what to keep my eye on, the lady who can't drive and smashed into a care as she tried to pull off the road to check out Miss Moose or the cows walking to the fence to see what this familar looking 4 legged creature was.

one thing for sure though, if people would just relax, take their time, stay in their car and keep their voices down they would get to enjoy much more of Miss Moose next time she is out in public~

Sep 19, 2014

Where oh where have you been?!

I must apologize for my long absence and my neglect of my blog.  Work and outside commitments has been flat out crazy this spring and summer and still crazy going into the fall but I will do my best to get back to some sort of regular posting here.

The cold temperatures here in the Northeast Connecticut have everyone excited for the fall hunting seasons.  Resident goose is now open as is our Archery deer season and i actually got out for both this week - report to follow.

The next three weeks will be plenty busy at work as I try to get ahead of the game before I leave for a week of waterfowl hunting in Saskatchewan.

I hope everyone enjoyed their summer and found time to get outdoors!

Apr 25, 2014

Turkey Time - Are You Ready?

For some states Turkey season is already under way, but here in Connecticut we still have a few days left before our season opens on April 30th, 2014 so I know I'm a little late with this post but what better time then now for a turkey hunting refresher. 

No turkey hunting post is complete with mentioning the NWTF - National Wild Turkey Federation and what there efforts have meant to restoring wild turkey populations across North America.  If you hunt turkey then in my opinion giving back to the sport is important and becoming a member of NWTF or attending a NWTF event or fundraiser is an excellent way to do so.  Check out this link for ways you can give back.

What is the NWTF?

The NWTF — a national nonprofit organization — is the leader in upland wildlife habitat conservation in North America.

Founded in 1973, the NWTF is headquartered in Edgefield, S.C., and has local chapters in every state. The NWTF is dedicated to the conservation of the wild turkey and the preservation of our hunting heritage.

Through vital partnerships with state, federal and provincial wildlife agencies, the NWTF and our members have helped restore wild turkey populations throughout North America — from a mere 30,000 in the entire United States to more than 7 million across the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Who Are They?

We are sportsmen, women and children who care deeply about our natural resources and the wild places we love to hunt.

We cherish the memory of the ridge top gobbler we hunted last spring and fondly remember the cornfield where we saw that big buck at sunset two years ago.

Collectively, we come from all walks of life to engage in conservation and preserve the hunting heritage we all hold dear.

... the champions of conservation.

According to many state and federal agencies, the restoration of the wild turkey is arguably the greatest conservation success story in North America's wildlife history.

We have spent more than $412 million to conserve nearly 17.25 million acres of habitat.
That area is larger than the state of West Virginia.

Wild turkeys and hundreds of other species of upland wildlife, including quail, deer, grouse, pheasant and songbirds, have benefited from this improved habitat.

Our dedicated volunteers bring new hunters and conservationists into the fold — nearly 100,000 every year — through outdoor education events.

Most certainly in the the State of Connecticut I do believe that the restoration of the wild turkey to be the greats conservation success story in our history.   I watched out turkey season go from a lottery only hunt in just one small corner of our state to the entire state being open to turkey hunting and now the ability to purchase and hunt both on state land and private land.  As you can see from this Wild Turkey facts sheet post on the Connecticut DEEP Wildlife website.

Wild turkeys were abundant in Connecticut when the first settlers arrived. However, a combination of forest clearing and a series of severe winters eliminated the turkey from Connecticut by the early 1800s. From the 1950s through the early 1970s, attempts at wild turkey restoration through artificial propagation were largely unsuccessful. The major breakthrough in restoration efforts occurred when free-roaming wild turkeys were live-captured and translocated using a rocket net. This large, lightweight net is fired by rockets from a remote blind and carried over turkeys that have been attracted to the area by bait.

Between 1975 and 1992, 356 wild turkeys were released at 18 sites throughout the state. These releases and subsequent population expansion have resulted in the successful restoration of wild turkeys to all 169 Connecticut towns. Recent land use practices in Connecticut have also favored the expansion of wild turkey populations as the landscape has become more forested. As a result of restoration efforts and the increase in forest habitat, sportsmen have been able to hunt wild turkeys since 1981, and landowners and others have enjoyed observing them in their natural state.
Know and obey all the local hunting laws.  You have to understand things like license requirements, gun and ammo restrictions,  Private land permission, legal birds and bag limits, hunter orange requirements, decoy regulations and sometimes just knowing what other hunting opportunities are available during the spring turkey season can shed light on what you might encounter while out there.  If you plan on hunting other states, make sure to keep your regulations straight.  In Connecticut during the spring season any legal turkey must have a visible beard.  That means it is legal to shoot a bearded hen, but just because it is legal doesn't mean you must.  My clan chooses to let the bearded hens walk on by.  Sometimes we might choose to shoot mature birds only and let the young ones take jakes if they want to.  As long as it is a legal bird and you choose to take it then it's a trophy in my book.

Hopefully many of you planning to hit the woods on opening day to chase turkey have already got your preseason preparations done, but if not you still have time to hit the woods and get your scouting in as well as patterning your shotgun, choke and ammo combination.  These birds are not only smart but they are tough so doing your homework and knowing where they roost, feed, strut, breed is crucial to a successful hunt, but even if you know all these things and have practiced your calling you better make sure you are putting enough pellets on target so spending time on the range to get the best possible choke/ammo combination for your firearm is extremely important.  For those chasing turkey with stick and string, well I have major admiration for you folks.  I have yet to use my archery gear for turkey and plan to some day but they are challenging enough for me with the firearm so I'll stick to that for now.

Making turkey sounds is important, but knowing what sounds to make and when to make them is even more crucial to success.  Some times I ask myself - do I really need to carry all these different calls with me?  Well the answer many times is yes.   There have been hunts where I have used every call in my vest within a 100 yard area, knowing there are turkey's there only to have no response on all but one of those calls.  The tone, pitch and volume sometimes just need to be what they want to hear and it is the only thing that works.  One tip about calling - try to sound natural.  What this means is don't use the same sequence, tone and volume when you call.  Mix it up.  If you are letting out some yelps in a 5 or 6 note string then for the next series maybe only yelp twice then pause and then yelp two or 3 more times and even through in some clucks in between and after.  Listen to the real turkeys and you will quickly notice that don't sound like a broken record repeating the same sounds and notes over and over so you need to do the same.  YouTube has plenty of great videos of live hens calling in the field.  Watch them and practice mimicking their calls.

Think safety and think defensive minded!  There is so much to cover when talking safe turkey hunting but understanding what you are actually doing out there will help put it all in perspective.  You are most likely dressed in full camo and hidden well.  You probably have a realistic turkey decoy out in front of you somewhere and you are making realistic sounds of a turkey.  This could be a recipe for problems but if you pay attention to these 10 Tips for a Safe Spring Turkey Hunt provided by the NWTF then you have the building blocks for a safe hunt.   If you are using decoys spend a little extra time when setting them out to make sure that anyone that might come across your decoys in the field can be seen and that if they take a shot at them you are not in the line of fire.  Remember think defensive minded at all times.  Decoy setup isn't necessarily a science but if you observed enough turkeys during your scouting you've picked up some little tidbits of information on how other hens, young toms and that old mature tom interact with each other.  Use that to your advantage when setting up your decoys.  Make them visible and position them in a way that causes that old tom to concentrate on them and not you.  There are times when the best decoy is none at all.  Don't worry the birds will tell you what they want.

Patience is key when turkey hunting.  If you've spent time in the spring woods chasing turkey then at some point I'm sure you've been in the situation where you've been working a gobbler that was sounding off and all of a sudden everything goes quiet.  Not a peep.  Your brain goes into overdrive trying to figure out what went wrong.  You change up call after call and still nothing.  It's time to move, right?  So you start to stand up and your hear it.  Put, put, put... and off he runs.   Turkey's have incredible hearing and eyesight and they use this to their advantage.  In nature it is the hen that usually goes to the tom so you are asking him to come to you.  Learn to be patient and not to quick to move your setup when a bird goes quiet on you because he just may be circling in nice and quiet for a look.  If he is with other hens, once those hens start to wonder off, he might just come back looking for you.

Once you got that bird on the ground make sure you take care of any tagging requirements before setting up for some nice in the field photos.  If you are allowed multiple birds, maybe even set back up and see if you can't get another bird to commit.  If you are going to mount the whole bird, cape it or even just mount the fan, take time in the field to keep blood off the bird and all the feathers in tact.  If you don't plan to use the turkey feathers maybe you cans wing by the local fly fishing shop or know some folks that tie their own flies and offer those feathers up to them.  I've tied many flies using feathers from turkeys I was luck to harvest.

For most the most regarding part of the hunt comes when that turkey is sitting on the dinner table.  I know for a fact that after harvesting a bird a comment will be made about eating turkey poppers before we even make it half way back to the truck.   You can pluck the bird, skin it or even breast it out.  Most folks I know just breast it our, but don't ignore those legs and thighs as they make great additions for soup.  My two favorite recipes are Southwest Turkey poppers and Turkey, mushroom and Wild Rice soup and you can get those recipes here:  My Favorite Turkey Recipes.

I wish everyone a very safe and successful spring turkey hunt and remember to share the outdoors with someone new if you can.

Additional Turkey Hunting Resources:

Turkey Hunting Success and Safety pamphlet from the NWTF.
Turkey Hunting Tactics  - NWTF Website

Apr 15, 2014

Connecticut Opening Day of Fishing April 19, 2014

Finally after a long hard winter, the weather has finally warmed up enough to feel like spring here in Connecticut and that means fishing season is just around the corner.  Actually the season opener is just  5 days away.  For many opening day is more about traditions then the fishing.  That means fishing the same spot with many of the same folks, maybe even camping out or stopping by one of the many fisherman breakfasts that will be happening around the state.

Salmon River, Colchester CT

For me the tradition of opening day has long faded, mostly because as my kids were growing up opening day conflicted with other opening days like baseball.  Also with many Trout Management Areas open to year round fishing, I no longer have to wait for opening day to wet a line and chase some trout.  But I still enjoying seeing others as they work on their opening days plans and preparations.  For me I will most likely spend the early morning out in the woods scouting for turkeys, but I will most certainly stop by my local fisherman's breakfast and then head home to get ready for the family invasion for our Easter celebration and maybe, just maybe I will even run down to the lake and wet a line just to say I fished the opener.

Willimantic River Rainbow Trout

So for all those heading out on opening day in hopes of catching that wall hanger, here are some links with great information on fishing in Connecticut.

DEEP's Fishing Website

Everything you need to know about fishing in Connecticut can be found on the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's (DEEP) website.   Here you can get information about licenses and permits and even make an online purchase.  Review the 2014 Anglers Guide for the latest fishing regulations and a list of lakes, pond, rivers and streams opening to fishing.   Don't forget to review the Stocking Reports and maybe even subscriber to the weekly fishing reports.  If you have young ones that like to fish or you are introducing to fishing for the first time stop by the Youth Fishing Passport page for all kinds of great information and special events for the young fisherman.  Don't forget to stop by the Connecticut Fish and Wildlife Facebook page so you can share photos from your trips and to get the latest information available.

Check those water levels

I am always checking the water levels of the streams and rivers I plan to fish, especially after we've had some rain.  Spring showers can blow out a stream or river quickly and using the USGS Website.  You can use these water reports to view current conditions, see the median levels over the course of many years and  to use it to gauge how quickly a body of water returns to normal levels after a rain.

Whatever your opening day plans and traditions are I wish you a very safe, fun and successful day.

Now get out on the water and enjoy!

Mar 8, 2014

Saskatchewan Waterfowl Hunt 2013 - Day 3

We thought it was tough getting to sleep after our first full day of hunting, but last night after an amazing snow goose hunt it was even more difficult.  The sound of snow geese filled my head all night long and made for a restless night which isn't good considering we had another 4am walk up call this morning.

Morning Goose and Duck Hunt October 16

Sunrise from the blind

We did something this morning that our outfitter Jeff from Living Sky Outfitters in Bladworth Saskatchewan doesn't like to do unless his scouting tells him to and that is hunt the same field twice in a week.   The soybean field we were headed to during another dark morning ride was the same field we hunted on our first evening duck hunt.  I wasn't that worried about hunting the same spot again, especially after seeing the amount of time, effort and work Jeff, Trevor and his crew puts into scouting.  I knew we'd have a good morning.  Unlike our first night were we had to target ducks, the original game plan was to target large flocks of geese that were using the field the morning before.   It's difficult enough driving these dirty gravel roads in the middle of nowhere in the dark, but our guide Billy had to be on his game as large cow moose stepped out in front of the old brown suburban towing a 17 foot trailer.  It was a good thing Billy was bright eyed and all in because there was a very nice bull moose following the cow.  Cool visual, but a little scary!

You can tell after two days we were in a groove as no one had to say a word, we got out and started the task of unloading the trailer, setting up the A-frame blind and laying out 6 dozen full body goose and duck decoys along with a Mojo or two.  It didn't take us long to get the spread setup, the suburban and trailer parked and all settled in to the blind to enjoy the first cracks of daylight.   My favorite time in the woods, blind or on the water is just as the sun starts to show itself and the wild starts to wake up.  The air seems to change, the sounds get louder and the anticipation grows.  Love it.

The day started out with a good wind, cold in the 20s and an early flight of 4 mallards that dropped in to the spread only to leave unscathed which was mostly by choice even though bubba did let one fly only to miss.  We could hear the snows getting vocal on the roost in the distance as 4 more mallards hooked into the spread.  These four weren't so lucky and they quickly became staying ducks.  The next group of visitors were two dozen Canadian Geese that were low and on a string right to the spread and we knocked a few of them down as well.

That's me
It wasn't long after that till we were covered up in geese and I mean covered up.  Sitting there watching  hundreds of geese working the spread and tolling in making for calling the shot a certain challenge, especially when we had geese on the ground in the spread.  You almost get caught up in the spectacle of it all and forget you still need to make the call to shoot.  Well our guide made the right call and I was fortunate enough to shoot a triple with my Browning BPS pump gun which was a first to me.  I was so damn excited I had to edit out some language in the video.  It truly was a show as they spiraled down out of the sky and into the spread.  After this I'm not sure I really cared if I shot another bird that morning.  How do you top what just happened.  Well you really don't and you soak in ever flight of birds and appreciate the fact that you have the ability to be there doing what you love.

We had another good group of geese work over the spread high and a few even joined the decoys on the ground but they didn't commit.  A small group of 10 broke off and made a swing low off the left corner and we took a few of them.  All that action and the sun wasn't even completely above the horizon.

After the flurry of geese came some small flights of ducks and we worked them over to pick off a few here and there to pass the time while waiting for more geese.  We did manage a few more small flights of geese including a flock about 8 giants that offered up some shooting off the left side of the blind.   We did get to laughing a bit as bubba chased down a running giant goose.  I laughed so hard my side hurt and I had tears in my eyes.  I'd love to bring the dog on a trip like this but then we wouldn't have enjoyed the bubba retriever show.

Not a bad morning considering the X was across the street

We definitely were not on the X today, because as we looked out the back of the blind across the dirt road to another field that was a couple hundred yards away and it was covered in snow geese, canadas and a load of ducks trying to get in.  Watching the ducks work into that field was just incredible.  We decided to stick it out and see if we couldn't scratch out a few more geese which we did, but we came up 6 short of a 5 man limit.  With nothing really moving and birds out on the feed we decided to pack it up and head back for some lunch.

Afternoon Duck Hunt

After a short break to get some lunch at the local bar which by the way had delicious food and specials every day and was priced very reasonable, we were headed back to the field for an afternoon duck hunt.  The weather warmed into the 40s and cloudy but the wind picked up a bit.  We setup the A-frame blind on the edge of a pothole in the brush and we were positioned looking up hill at the spread which consisted of a few dozen full bodies and  a single Mojo.  This setup made for some challenges as the ground wasn't level making standing up a challenge until we flattened things out and adjusted the angle of the  front of the blind.  Not to mentioned that we were sitting lover then the decoy spread by about 15 to 20 feet.   We also had another guide named Ronnie who is a good ol boy from Virgina with us and he definitely got a kick out of or crew.  I think they sent Ronnie along thinking Billy needed help wrangling us in but it really was so Billy could join us for a little hunting of his own.

I call this Where's Bubba?

The ducks starting coming back in pairs and small flocks so we picked away at them and got some good shooting.  The one rule we had was to not drop any birds in the water as our guide billy wasn't in the mood to go wading as usual we didn't listen.  Not really on purpose but those birds flying straight at us had some speed so when they get hit a couple landed in the water.  No worries, Bubba put on the waders and retrieved them up for Billy at the end of the hunt

Afternoon's results where some nice Mallards

Hands full of Greegheads.

The area we hunted was covered in potholes and just about everyone of them had birds on them.  We also saw a some mule deer.  We continued to pick away at singles and doubles while we got plenty of laughs and lots of exercise running up hill to retrieve birds.  It was nice to sit around enjoying a slow but steady hunt and we still managed to fill out our limit of ducks which was a good thing seeing we were eating ducks again for dinner tonight.  Man were they tasty.

A little appetizer of duck before dinner

Gear Used

One thing I used every day so far is my Drake EST Heat-Escape Waterproof Pullover by Drake Waterfowl.  Even though this is an early season piece it is something I find myself wearing even into the late season.  It's comfortable, seems to stop the wind very well and doesn't restrict my shooting that a heavy late season jacket can sometimes do.   For calls, I'm a Buck Gardner guy so I had two of my favorite ducks calls with me in the Buck Brush and Brad's Reactor both Acrylic calls.   The Buck Brush is just a sweet sounding single reed call (they also offer it in a double reed) that gives me everything I need and is easy to blow, plus it is Buck's favorite call so you know it is good.  The Brad's Reactor is a double reed call that has VFR Technology (Volume Flow Reduction) built into the insert which reduces the escaping air and provides more back pressure making for some sweet sounding quacks and you can get really soft with them or nasty.  Your choice.

Things I learned

As fun as being covered up in large numbers of birds is, today's slower paced duck hunt was something we needed as it allowed us to veg a little and have some additional fun in the blind.  After all, time in the blind with friends and family is what makes this sport so special.  I love to deer hunt and do so with my kids and friends, but when you can sit elbow to elbow and tell some tale tales and still kill some ducks, that is a mighty fine day.

Feb 11, 2014

Saskatchewan Waterfowl Hunt 2013 - Day 2

We took the easy way out last night and had a pasta dinner with goose and duck sausage which the outfitter provided, salad and some fresh bread and some brownies for dessert.  Talk around the table was loud as each of us tried to put into words what we experienced on day 1 of our hunt with Living Sky Outfitters in Bladworth Saskatchewan.   After cleaning up from dinner and sitting around while we enjoyed a few beverages we finally laid our heads on a pillow and tried to fall asleep.  Easier said then done as I still have images of the skies filled with snow geese and 100+ flights of ducks buzzing our spread.  Not sure when I finally fell asleep, but I do know that our 4am wake up came a little too fast.  Today's game plan was a morning duck hunt with the chance for some dark geese and then an afternoon snow goose hunt.   The crew from Georgia struggled a bit with their shooting on Day 1 during their duck shoot in the AM, but they did make up for it on their snow goose hunt that afternoon.

Day 2 Sunrise

Morning Duck and Dark Goose Hunt October 15.

We woke to temps in the low 20s and frost along with clear skies and no wind.  Waterfowler's don't like those clear no wind kind of days, but we were to make the best of it.   We setup a homemade A-Frame blind just inside some tall brush with a high spot in the bean field about 50 yards from us before the field dropped off and headed down to the wood line.  We setup 6 dozen full body decoys made up of canadas, some giants, mallards and pintails along with a robo duck.  We had the sun at our back and as I mentioned, no wind.

It  didn't take long for the first batch of ducks to buzz our setup only for a few to land amongst the decoys about 5 minutes before legal.  They left before legal with a smaller group that flew by.  No matter, we took that as a good sign.    It wasn't long before we had a small toll of birds that offered up some shooting and even with a little sleep still in our eyes we did manage to knock down a few out of that first flight.  We had ducks work into the spread from the right, from the left and directly from behind us.  When the birds came from behind you could have reached up and grabbed them they were so low and that was so damn cool.

Bubba and Brian with a couple of geese.
Pintail Pete with a couple of giant geese.

We did have a couple of large flights of cacklers swing through and those little guys are as freaking noisy and talkative as snows.  Holy crap are they loud.   We did knock down a couple Specklebelly geese which is a treat as we don't seem them in our flyway.  One of the specks smashed a decoy right at the front of the blind when he dropped from the sky like a wet bag of cement.  There weren't many specks still around but we did see some almost every day.

Smashed decoy being retrieved.

The General makign a great retrieve on a specklebelly.

My first Specklebelly
 The highlight of the day had to be the 4 Giant geese that took a pass at the far edge of the spread and thanks to our Patternmaster tubes we knocked 3 of them down.  The fourth decided to swing back around and fly the same edge and it was also knocked down.  Two unfortunately required another shot but all 4 were recovered and they were massive!

Brian with some ducks

Bubba with arms full of giants!

Day 2 Morning Results

We ended the morning with a limit of 40 ducks consisting mostly of Mallards with a few Pintails mixed in.  We did end up with 6 Giant Canadian geese, 2 specks and 8 cacklers.  We estimated that we had seen over 3,000 ducks and a few thousand geese.

Afternoon Snow Goose Hunt

The whole trip was just incredible but if I had to pick just one part of the hunt to put on the top of the list, this snow goose hunt was it.  We refer to this hunt as Snowmageddon!  We don't get into the snows in our area of Connecticut and every goose hunter has heard the stories about how frustrating it can be to hunt snows, but when it works it is just an incredible sight to see.  Incredible.  Amazing.  Unreal.  There isn't a single word to describe it but I will try my best to do so.

Brian the Goose Ninja ready to go.

We had to get a little earlier start then normal for the afternoon hunt as we had a 850 decoy snow rig to put out which consisted of 8 dozen full body and the rest socks, shells and flyers.  The weather had warmed to the low 50s, still very clear but the wind had picked up to about 15mph.   Our rig was setup in the middle of a cut wheat field that was easily a couple miles square.  Picking the right spot in these large open fields is a challenge and something our guides were damn good at.  After getting the spread out, we put on some white jackets and pants and tucked ourselves in amongst the decoys.  The electronic caller was set out and turned on as well.  The bag limit is 20 white gees per person per day and considering we only shot 30+ the first morning as tens of thousands flew by we weren't to concerned about the limit, just hoping for some fun.

Pintail Pete getting comfortable among the decoys.

After putting out 859+ decoys I'm ready to get busy.

The hunt started out with some small flights on snows checking out the spread as we picked off ones and twos that would just seem to drop out of the sky and try to get in.  This went on for about an hour or so and then the number of flocks and size increased for about 20 minutes and they committed in larger numbers.  The excitement level was extremely high and the laughs loud and smiles wide and bright.  Once it slowed decided we needed an accurate count and we were 40+ birds.

If the hunt had ended we would have been impressed but our guide for the night Jay told us to sit back down because there were still many more flocks to come.  About 20 minutes later you can see flight after flight off birds heading our way and many of these flocks were in the hundreds of birds.  Over the next 30 minutes all chaos broke loose as our guide struggled to call out all the birds that were committing to the spread from all over the place.  We would shoot 5 or 6 that dropped in and the birds above would start there way down as well.  It was fast and furious trying to reload and get your bearings again.  The tears in my eyes from laughing so hard made it a little more challenging but we got it done.  While you were picking out birds to shoot, you had to dodge the ones your buddy shot as they were crashing down on top of you.  I had one land and crush my shell box as I rolled out of of the way.  Bubba had one hit his boot as he was shooting at a different bird.  It was pure mayhem!    We had birds walking amongst the decoys in the spread as more were landing.  One of our guys lost track of a walker and just hammered a full body decoy that flew up int he air about 10 feet and did 3 flips.  That made it even harder to shoot a bird as I was doubled over laughing and crying.

We new we were close to the 100 bird limit at that point and decided to get up and gather up the birds and while doing so the birds just kept coming and coming some even landed as we walked among the spread in our white suits.  Official count was 95 so we called it quits, sat back down and enjoyed the show which continued for about another 20 minutes.  I had birds cruising just feet above my head as I laid there video tapping them and at one point almost had one hit me.

GOPRO Footage

Additional Video Footage

After The Hunt Footage

The geese finally stopped coming and we started to pick up as the sun was setting and as I looked back towards the sunset I was amazed at the toll off birds off in the distance that seemed to be setting into the sun itself.  I couldn't imagine a better sight to end an amazing hunt.

Sunset Toll~

Gear Used

The A-frame blind we used was home made and made of 8 sections (2 front panels, 2 back panels and 2 ends) of aluminum with a soft mesh covered in grass mats  and brushed in with the local brush from the setup.  It is easy to adjust the angle of the blind as you just changed the angle of each stake on the panels.  We used buckets to sit on as well.  You can never have enough cover and brush on these things and you need to make them look like they belong and it did.   Most of the decoys were from Greenhead Gear with a few different brands mixed in.  We bought ammo from the outfitter when we arrived and it consisted of 4 cases Kent Fast Steel 3inch #2s and one case of 3.5inch BB.  We used all the 3inch #2s and returned about 6 boxes of the BB's as we didn't really need them.  The giants shot during the morning hunt were taken with 3inch #2s.  The BB's might have saved us a chase or two though.  The Kent shells seemed a little dirty along with the dust bowl we hunted every day, we made sure to break down the guns and clean them once a day.  Other then that I was very happy with the Kent ammo.  We had one gopro mounted on a head strap and two small video cams (Sony and JVC) mounted on gorilla tripods and set on the ground or attached to the Aframe blind.

Things I Learned

I'm not sure I learned anything new but many things were reinforced.  The first is how important scouting is.  Our outfitters and guides would help get the hunting crews setup in the AM and then hit the roads to scout and they covered a lot of ground and always had us on birds every day and every hunt.  The second was the reinforcement of cover and concealment.  You'd think with all those birds around you could get a little sloppy but we spent plenty of time brushing in the blind and it truly looked like part of the landscape when we got done.  Actually I did learn one thing.  Bring ear plugs on a snow goose hunt!  I could NOT get the sound of snow geese out of my head after this hunt.  It took a whole day before I seemed normal again.

Feb 5, 2014

Saskatchewan Waterfowl Hunt 2013 - Day 1

Our first trip ever to hunt waterfowl at the waterfowl factory called Saskatchewan started bright and early this Monday morning. Wait, did I really say bright?  It definitely wasn't bright, early yes but bright - no.  In fact it was really dark and cold as we made the 1 minute drive from our trailer to the Living Sky Outfitters headquarters which was located across town -  a whole 3 streets away in this 5 street town of Bladworth.

We had flown into Saskatoon late Saturday and spent the night near the airport so we didn't have to rush on Sunday.  As we made the ride down on Sunday afternoon from Saskatoon, where we flew into late Saturday and stayed the night,  to our temporary home of Bladworth took just over an hour but it was an hour that just added to the excitement and anticipation that had already built up the last couple of months.  As we drove south along Highway 11 we were greeted by fields filed with geese, way too many to count while driving along at 100 kph, that's about 65 mph for the rest of us.  Damn near every single pothole that had water, had ducks or geese on it and there was a wide variety of them as well. 

Both Bubba and I were up before the alarm and had already double checked our gear before the General came stumbling out of  his bedroom with a large grin on his face and mumbled something about "who needs a damn alarm with you two around!"  The was not Gerry's first trip to Saskatchewan for Waterfowl or hunting with the owner Jeff of Living Sky Outfitters so he obviously wanted a little more sleep.

We were one of two groups of 5 hunting this week.  Our crew consisted of Me, Jim (bubba), Gerry (The General), Brian (The Decoy Killer) whom are all from Connecticut and an acquaintance that we hunt with in Maryland we call Pintail Pete.  The other 5 man crew were good old southern boys from Georgia.  It was 22 degrees out and it didn't bother us northern boys as much as it did the southern crew.  The game plan was for our crew to hunt snow geese, while the southern crew would hunt ducks and dark geese.

So we piled all our gear and us into one of the suburbans and our outfitter Jeff lead the way to the field we would be hunting that morning.  We had a familiar face along with us as our guide was someone we hunt with regularly in Maryland and he is a great guy, who works hard and has fun and is very good at his job.   After  about a 20 minute ride we turned off the gravel road and into a cut wheat field and drove to a spot in the middle of if it.  We stopped Jeff and Billy got out and discussed the setup for the morning and then came back and gave us some direction and we went to work putting out a 450 decoy spread that consisted of full body snows, canadas, mallards, pintails, some snow goose silos and a couple of robo ducks along with 6 layout blinds and an electronic snow goose caller.  With the 7 of us getting the spread out and the blinds brushed didn't take long at all which is nice when you have guys that hunt together back home and know the drill.

As we settled in to our layouts waiting for the birds to start moving we started with some excited conversation and a little teasing.  It wasn't long after that the sky started to lighten up and show signs of life.  Game on!  It didn't take long for a 3 ducks to come screaming into the spread and I am happy to report they all stayed.  I like staying ducks and hate those leaving ducks!  Off in the distance you could hear the sound of snow geese getting ready to lift off and due to the flat terrain we could see a very large group of snows way, way off in the distance and highlighted by the rising sun get up from the roost and head out.  These were not the geese that were using the field we were in, but it definitely drove the excitement level up as we watched a couple thousand snows fill the sky.

The white tornado of snows willow leafing into the spread never occurred, but we watched thousands and thousands of snows fly over our spread heading to a new field and it was definitely heart breaking and frustrating, but also breath taking.  Just an incredible sight to see and the noise level was deafening and something I ended up hearing in my sleep that night. It was so loud that the electronic caller that sat just a few yards away could not be heard over the natural sounds coming from the sky. We did pick off some snows as smaller groups liked the spread and tried to join in.  We also picked up some more ducks as well as some dark geese including a lone Speckle-belly.  For us it was a GREAT morning, for our Guide and outfitter not so much.

We packed up the rig and headed back to barn and on the ride out we flushed some huns along the side of the road, which we thought about trying for and as we were stopped there discussing  a game plan we were greeted by all those snows that flew over our spread heading our way and back to the roost.  It made for some nice video.  We also found the rest of those stubborn white birds on our ride out to the main road as they just sat feeding in another field.  We had to see 20,000 or more snows that morning.

Back at the outfitters headquarters we talked a bit about the morning hunt and listened to what the scouters had seen that morning, discussed plans for the afternoon and then headed out to get some lunch and a quick nap.

Due to the fact that hunting geese in the afternoon was closed for another day here in our part of Saskatchewan we set out for an afternoon duck hunt in a pea field.  We setup an a-frame blind in some tall grass on the edge of the field and brushed it in really good and then set out 4 dozen full bodies duck decoys consisting of mosly Mallards with some Pintails mixed in.  Two Robo ducks were placed in the spread as well as a dozen geese for some confidence decoys.

Seeing we couldn't hunt geese on this evening we most certainly expected to see plenty of them and we did.  We even had them landing out in our spread and farther out in the field and of course the ducks wanted to land with them.  When that happens you just have to get out of the blind and walk them geese up and get them out of here.  We even had 3 speckle bellied geese land on the edge of the duck spread and they stick around for a few minutes, until a few ducks showed up and committed only to become staying ducks!

It was a very interesting afternoon hunt with thousands of ducks working by the spread and enough of them committing to it so that we could put 34 ducks in the bag to finish off a 5 man daily limit of 40 ducks.  Many of these would become dinner the next night. 

Gear Used

I was toting my Browning BPS 12ga pump with a Code Black Duck Patternmaster tube which I just added this year.  We were shooting Kent Fast Steel 3" #2s and they did the job just fine.  There was also a Mossberg 935 12ga with a Patternmaster Long Range tube, two Remington 11-87s with factory chokes and a Benelli SBE II with Patternmaster tubes in our blind all week.   I was totally amazed at how much gun I actually had while using the Patternmaster tubes.  If you put the bead on them, they dropped and that included the birds trying to get out of dodge.  The tubes are deisgned to reduce the length of your shot string giving you more pellets on target and from what I had seen, they most certainly succeeded.  If you haven't tried a Patternmaster tube, I strongly suggest you do.  I just ordered additional tubes from my Remington 870s.

Things I learned 

I learned quickly that my simple plan of setting my video camera up on a tripod on the ground or attached to the blind was just not going to work out the way I had hoped.  The reason - well the birds just refused to commit to the area that was visible to my camera.  That was very inconsiderate of them don't you think.   That night while trying to sleep I also learned that those dang snow geese are so loud that their sound rings in your head for hours, upon hours after the hunt.

Jan 28, 2014

Orvis Cover Dog Photo Contest and Canine Cancer Campaign

If you have dogs or just enjoy seeing photos of dogs then you have to check out the Orvis Cover Dog Photo Contest.

Hannah and Jackson
My Hannah and Jackson

The contest is part of the Orvis Canine Cancer Campaign with Morris Animal Foundation to raise awareness and money for canine cancer research.

Our current Cover Dog Photo Contest is scheduled to end on March 31, 2014. Those who enter the contest between January 15th and February 15th, 2014 will be entered in a random drawing to win one of these great prizes:
  • Grand Prize: a one-year supply of Blue Buffalo Dog Food, a deluxe Tempur-Pedic® Dog Bed and a $500 Orvis gift card
  • Five Runners-up: Fleecelock Wraparound Beds
  • Ten Honorable Mentions: Personalized Collars

As of March 2013, Orvis and our customers have raised more than $910,000 to help fund canine cancer research. Morris Animal Foundation—the global leader in supporting scientific research that advances veterinary medicine—has used these funds to develop early cancer-detection tests and safer and more effective chemotherapy protocols for dogs. To aid researchers and continue this important work, the MAF developed a tumor tissue bank for common canine cancers. They have helped fund 150 canine cancer studies are 28 colleges and universities. Going forward, the MAF is also committed to funding the Canine Lifetime Health Project and the groundbreaking Golden Retriever Lifetime Study.

With your continued support, we can help create a brighter future for dogs everywhere.

You can enter your own furry family members into the contest or stop by to enjoy the photos and you can also donate to the Orvis Canine Cancer Campaign by voting for your favorites.

My Hannah and Jackson are entered here:

'Hannah & Jackson

Jan 17, 2014

Sharing my Christmas Present with my Followers

I must have been a good boy last year because Santa left me a Peterson Guide to Birds of North America 2014 Daily Desktop calendar.  Every day I get to learn about a new bird and refresh myself on some I already know. 

Purchase on Amazon
Along with some very colorful images of the birds there is a description of the bird, details about the bird's size, the habitat it lives in and even the sounds it makes.  There is also a range map image in the lower right corner.

So in keeping with my Backyard Birds theme lately, I will be sharing the daily bird with you and all you have to do is follow along on our PassinthruOutdoors Facebook page or my @PTOutdoors Twitter feed.

If you want to learn more about a specific bird I suggest you stop by the Cornell - All about birds home page and use their Browse for a bird by name and shape ID section.