By Kent Danjanovich
Waterfowlers are a funny breed. You find them in all shapes and sizes, young and old and both male and female. Their camo outfits are usually covered with a thin coating of mud and dirt, many dab a little blackout under their eyes and all have a favorite call they carry with them where ever they hunt. Some still swear by their trusty old 12ga. pump or double-barrel, while others sport the newest auto-loader on the planet (most of those old jobbies still seem to do the job pretty darn well). But all of them have one thing in common – a distinct passion for killing ducks and geese.
Now I don’t by any means call myself a waterfowl expert, but you won’t usually find me turning down an opportunity to go on a hunt either, that’s for sure. I have always said, “there are two things that I would say get me about as excited as I can get in the outdoors and those two things include the flush of a rooster pheasant and the sight of a flock of ducks or geese back-peddling into a decoy setup”. Because of this, every year you will find me heading a little north to Alberta and Saskatchewan to partake in some of the very best waterfowl hunting in the world.
One of our newest Platinum Approved Outfitters is located about 2 ½ hours north of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and sits smack dab in the middle of the path of millions of ducks and geese as they make their way from the Northwest Territories on their journey to Mexico each fall. This Central Flyway is one of the four major North American Flyways that divides the U.S. into kind of an aerial freeway for waterfowl.
This area of northern and central Saskatchewan is covered in farmland, offering the first feeding area after the birds leave their nesting areas in the Northwest Territories. With water potholes dotting the area along with wildlife refuges nearby such as the Quill Lake area, Sykes Mitchell and his Duck Creek Outfitters Lodge is the place to be if you are looking for a waterfowling adventure second to none.
There’s nothing better than spending the morning with good friends while downing a limit of mallards and pintails.
2016 found us visiting his operation both in the spring for snow geese and in the fall for a mixed bag, but mostly ducks. Steve McGrath joined me in May as we finished up the last few days of the snow goose season from May 14-18th. At dinner, Sykes introduced us to our guides, Dusty and Ty and then filled us in on what they had in store for us the next morning. We would be setting up over a small pond in an A-frame blind in an area where thousands of snows had been converging on for the last couple of days.
As the sky started to awaken, we found ourselves surrounded by flock after flock of snow geese as they started their slow-motion circling above us as they descended on our spread. Soon Dusty whispered the word to get ready as a half a dozen barrel-rolled into our decoys. “Take ‘em”, he then exclaimed as Steve and I raised above the blind with barrels blazing. Not a bird escaped in that first group (I can’t say the same for the rest of the mornings shooting, but we did OK) and we settled in for two solid hours of non-stop action. By 9 am, we were loading up our gear along with 80 geese, not bad for a couple of Utah boys and their two Canadian guides.
We then made our way back to the lodge for brunch and a little down time before Sykes loaded us up in his Suburban and gave us a tour of the area. We also did a little scouting for the following mornings hunt as well.
The next morning found us in another area with not quite the same results, but still 40 birds on the ground. We knew that we were going to be bringing up the rear of the spring snow goose season and 120 birds down for our first two days – well that’s pretty good in my book. Days three and four continued the downward trend, with 16 geese down on our third morning and then we laid a big “goose egg ‘0’” on our last day, but all in all, our spring hunt was a rousing success!
Now, fast forward to October 7th. As I landed in Saskatoon, the surroundings looked very different from my trip in the spring. A giant snow storm had hit the area two days prior and blanketed the area with over 20-inches of the white stuff. I met up with David Draper, another outdoor writer who would also be on the trip and we soon had our rental car loaded as we headed north for the lodge.
On our drive to the lodge, we did manage to see quite a few ducks and geese still in the area trying to figure out just what to do with all of the snow in their way. Fields of unharvested crops could be seen in every direction, as farmers were relegated to sitting in disbelief, starring at their fields, hoping that they would be able to cash any portion of their crop that laid under the blanket of snow.
Soon we found ourselves in the yard at the lodge. Our first greeters were a couple of playful labs and then Sykes Mitchell, owner of Duck Creek Outfitters, walked over to our car and greeted us and started to help us unload our gear. Brooks Hansen from Camp Chef and outdoor writer, Brad Fenson, our other two hunting partners on this trip, had just finished up an afternoon session in the field and had bagged a limit of mallards, sprinkled with a few snow geese, so our snowy spirits started to rise immensely as they filled us in on what was in store for us during our stay.
After a great meal, we mingled with the rest of the guests and talked over the events of the next morning with Sykes and our guides, Hunter and Cody. Then it was off to bed for a few hours of shut eye before our alarms sounded at 5 am.
Brooks Hansen with a pile birds on a “snowy day” during our fall hunt with Duck Creek Outfitters in Saskatchewan, Canada.
Our first morning found us set-up in an A-frame blind, adjacent to a small pond and wetlands area. Heavy fog had set in because of slightly rising temperatures and of course the snow-covered ground. Geese could be heard moving by above us, but none made their way down to our spread. A couple of hours later, the fog finally started to lift and Sykes came out to our blind to inform us that he had been doing some scouting of the area and had found that the snow had really done a number on the geese and they were getting out of Dodge in a hurry. But, he had also found big numbers of ducks on a couple of nearby ponds for our afternoon hunt, so we loaded up and headed back to the lodge for an early lunch before setting up for our first afternoon session.
When we pulled up to our afternoon location, hundreds of ducks lifted off of the water as we made our way to cover along the cattail covered pond’s edge. Each of us nestled a bucket in the willows and positioned ourselves in hopes of getting plenty of opportunities at the abundant numbers of ducks in the area.
Spring snow geese are plentiful as my hunting partner, Steve McGrath (center) and our guides were able to down big numbers during our hunt.
It didn’t take long for our wishes to start to formulate, as a half a dozen mallards barreled over us from the west and quickly lost altitude for a quick decent on our decoys. I clicked the button on my Sony as David, Brooks and Brad folded all six as our afternoon got off to a rousing beginning! Group after group continued to converge on our location for the next two hours and soon Brooks put a call into Sykes that we were limited out with a great mixed bag of mallards, pintails and widgeons.
Whether you visit spring or fall, Duck Creek Outfitters offers some of the best waterfowl hunting in North America.
The next morning provided us with an equal amount of success, as we were again able to limit out at another location, this time shooting over just a small pothole with an A-frame blind as our concealment. The geese, unfortunately were not cooperating, but the ducks were more than happy to keep us occupied!
Our last morning would have to be cut a little short because of time restrictions on our flights back to the states, but the birds again cooperated and we were able to fill our limits of eight ducks a piece by 9 am. We then grabbed our gear, headed over to the truck, traded places with some other hunters as they headed to our ‘Hot Spot’ and we headed back to the lodge to pick up our luggage, say our good-byes and head to the airport.
Well, as you can see, both of our visits to Duck Creek Outfitters in Saskatchewan during the 2016 season were a rousing success, even though Mother Nature tried to throw a little monkey wrench at us. The Central Flyway through this part of North America is truly amazing and if you haven’t experienced it, you need too! And the outfit in Saskatchewan to do it with is definitely Duck Creek Outfitters. Sykes Mitchell and his staff do an excellent job in all aspects of the hunt and you can be assured that you will have plenty of opportunity to fulfill your waterfowl hunting dreams of a lifetime. Spring or fall, they have it all! Give them a call today at 541-771-4976 and check out their website at www.duckcreekoutfitters.com
. In fact, we have added Duck Creek Outfitters to our Pro Membership Sweepstakes drawing for a trip for two for a 2018 Spring Snow Goose Hunt. So, make sure you are registered for a chance to join me for a great waterfowl adventure as a Sportsman’s New Pro Member.