As Independence Day approaches, it’s time to start thinking about successful waterfowl hunts this fall – and for those who dream of limits of big Canada geese heading for the kitchen table, Chad Belding of The Fowl Life has some timely advice.
For Chad Belding and The Fowl Life crew, life is about to get pretty simple.
Because in just a few weeks, it will be Uncle Sam’s annual Independence Day birthday celebration across America with the usual fare of fireworks and backyard grilling.
And with the Fourth of July marking the high point of summer, don’t bet against Belding and his crew enjoying some grilled brats and burgers, and maybe, just maybe, a little dessert with slabs of ice cold watermelon or scoops of peach cobbler thrown in for good measure.
Topped off with some homemade vanilla ice cream, of course.
After that, it’s all about Belding and his crew getting ready the upcoming duck and goose hunting seasons in the fall of 2018.
In fact, after the Fourth, there’s only a few weeks left on the calendar until early teal and goose seasons start, followed up by the regular waterfowling seasons that will last all the way up to and beyond the Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays.
With another full schedule of hunts to film this fall and winter, Belding says that the process, while certainly demanding plenty of early morning wake-up calls and hard work, is actually a pretty simple one.
No matter where The Fowl Life cameras happen to be, whether that’s over a cut corn field in the Midwest, in a marsh along the Gulf Coast, or maybe even wading knee deep on a pin oak flat dropping acorns in eastern Arkansas.
“You scout them, you hunt hard, you kill them, you clean them, you eat them, and then you go do it again,” said Belding. “That's what it's all about in The Fowl Life.”
Take scouting for geese, for instance, a topic that Belding is well-versed in, offering up some hard-won advice despite the mid-summer date.
“A well scouted field equals successful results,” said Belding.
As a case in point, he references a recent The Fowl Life episode on Outdoor Channel where he and his crew hunted with Stillwater Outfitters for greater Canada geese flying into decoy spreads situated in corn fields along the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies.
While that hunt took place over pit blinds, scouting was still necessary to find the right field to hunt, choosing the one where blinds were nearest to the proverbial X.
Such scouting chores become even more important when you’re hunting freelance style, moving from one field to another and using layout blinds or brushed up fencerow blinds to hide in.
In such cases, the bottom line is that you want to hunt the next morning exactly where the birds wanted to be the afternoon before.
“Most of the time, Canada geese are going to hit in a high spot in the field, so when you're scouting, make it a rule to have a pair of binoculars, to have a spotting scope, to have a notepad, and know where these geese are hitting once they approach the field,” said Belding.
While the hunt mentioned above was for greater Canadas in the High Plains of Colorado, the same strategy also applies elsewhere for giant Canadas in the pothole prairie country of southern Canada all the way south to the Texas Panhandle famed for its clouds of lesser Canada birds.
“More than likely, (the preferred landing spot), it's going to be a high spot and they're going to walk down into a ravine or a cut, to get out of that wind or the food source might be down in it,” said Belding.
“You might get to that scout (situation) late and they might already be low, but always remember, when you set up, you want to get a little bit of a vantage point and set up on a higher spot in the field.”
If scouting is one chore of fall waterfowl hunts that Belding is actually looking forward to, then the process of cleaning, cooking, and eating the winged fruits of their hunting labor is another.
While some hunters might see cleaning a limit of big Canada birds as a tiresome, time consuming process, Belding notes that it doesn’t have to be.
When field dressing a bird – or breasting it out as many hunters call the process – the Outdoor Channel television personality will start at the top part of the goose’s breastbone, searching for the empty soft spot just above that.
Once he locates it, he puts his index finger there and his thumb down near the top of the breastbone, grabbing the bird’s skin and feathers and pulling hard up towards its beak.
That initial effort will make a sizable hole in the bird’s skin, allowing Belding to then take his thumbs and index fingers to finish off the cleaning process.
“(Once you) get down in (there) under that skin, (pull it to the sides) and overexaggerate it, ripping it all the way down (to the wing joints),” said Belding. “(You want to be giving yourself) ample room to cut through that (meat) and get all of that meat, leaving nothing on that bone.”
The end result of such field-dressing labor is a quick, easy fileting process that leaves hunters with two large pieces of goose breast meat and tenderloins, protein that is ready for any number of good recipes to be found here on OutdoorChannel.com.
If you’re like Chad Belding, a hunter beginning to get that waterfowler’s itch as the middle of summer arrives on the calendar, give his timely advice a try this fall and see if you don’t feel about the whole process the same way that he and his crew do.
“It’s about being a hunter, an American hunter,” said Belding. “I’m humbled to be able to live this life.”
A life of effective scouting, hard work setting out the decoys and brushing in a blind, good calling and shooting when the birds appear over the spread, and then some of the best eating to be found anywhere on the North American continent.
All before getting a good night’s sleep to get up and do it all over again the next morning.
Because that’s the fowl life way, even if there aren’t any television cameras around the blind to record the action.