February 01, 2023
By Chris Ingram
Whether you’re a greenhead greenhorn having just experienced the thrill of your first waterfowl hunting season or you’re a weathered flyway veteran, you’ve undoubtedly encountered the two synonymous terms—waterfowl and Saskatchewan. If world-class waterfowl hunting is on your radar, this place is the mallard mecca, the honker hotspot, the specklebelly spotlight, the holy snow goose grail—ok, you catch my drift.
No matter if you’ve been there before or it’s recently climbed to the top of your bucket list, duck and goose hunters daydream of the wide-open, endless prairie skies turned black with migrating fowl. Ducks, dark geese, light geese, and even cranes are found in big numbers throughout the fall and spring hunting seasons. To go up to the top of the Central Flyway and get under the migration is a memory you’ll never forget.
In the springtime, when most bird hunters start lusting for longbeards, things are only beginning to heat up in Saskatchewan for snow geese. As the snow line creeps north and the birds break over the border, they become much more relaxed with reduced hunting pressure and find a lot more space to spread out. They’re getting close to their artic breeding grounds and start letting down their guards for the gunner for an up-and-close Canadian snow goose safari that’s hard to compare to.
Last April, I spent a few days with Apex Waterfowling, based in Landis, Saskatchewan, an easy 90-minute ride from Saskatoon—the launch point for most provincial perambulations. I arrived on the heels of a late spring blizzard that covered most of the prairie pothole region of North America in a blanket of snow, leaving the geese confused and a bit dispersed, but our guides worked tirelessly to locate birds and procured a few memorable hunts for our crew.
There were plenty of birds in the area and things only improved over the course of my stay. Swarms of snow geese continually dotted our horizons each morning and the audible roar of the mega wads of geese was deafening, with only the childlike chuckles and celebratory clamor breaking through the white noise. We hid in layouts and safeguarded our full body spread as we worked bunches of birds in the tens and twenties (sometimes more), presenting our entire group with ample shooting opportunities on each pass. The occasional pair and lone single kept us engaged between flocks and we saw consistent activity each morning with everyone in our hunting party smiling and stuck on Cloud 9 for days on end.
If fowl and fellowship are what you’re after, you’ll never be in short supply while in Sask. Our motley crew had members that came together from across North America, all the way from New Hampshire to Alaska. We created new lifelong memories on those volleys together and swapped stories of our most cherished moments in the duck blinds and goose pits from back home. Aside from the abundance of birds, it’s the culture, camaraderie, camp life, painted prairie skies, and stunning sunsets that remind me there is something special about Saskatchewan and you just can’t help but feel it in your soul when you’re up there.
Fall In Love
Back at the lodge, I sat down with Ryan Reynolds, owner of Apex Waterfowling, to find out what lured him over here to set up his outfitting operation and find out what he enjoys most about being here in the mecca of waterfowl hunting. “After coming here every year to work as a guide, I knew I always wanted to land here to start an outfitting business,” Reynolds said. “I got started about five years ago and it has really taken off since.” He mentioned that aside from the world-class waterfowl hunting, there were several other factors that drew him in. “The landscape, the culture, and the scenery are just incomparable, they’re in a league of their own. Everyone knows there’s an obvious abundance of birds here and we have liberal limits on multiple species; it’s not uncommon on a given fall day to shoot a limit of five different species in a field without having to move at all.”
It’s no secret that Saskatchewan is a target-rich environment, especially during the fall migration when everything is in full. Reynolds argues there’s no bad time to be in-country during waterfowl season. “We kick things off on Sept. 1 with local birds, and by the middle of the month, everything is moving in, including ducks, large and small Canadas, specks, snows, and sandhill cranes. Hunters will easily get their fill and a sore shoulder pretty quickly with daily bag limits of five cranes, eight ducks, eight dark geese (Canadas and specks), and 20 snows.”
He added the only real kicker during the fall flight is Mother Nature. “With every weather front we get a push of fresh, new birds. By early October everything is moving in, specks, snows, and Cans, and every pothole is holding divers, teal, gadwall, and every field is covered with mallards and pintail. Our season tends to wrap up around early November when the weather turns cold and pushes most of the birds out.”
Reynolds and his guides are constantly scouting and keeping a pulse on the migration and are even able to offer species-specific hunts for their clients when requested. “When you hunt with us, you’re going to have the opportunity to see it all,” he added.
While world-class hunting is fairly obvious, Reynolds and his team are focused on providing their clients with an unforgettable memory. “With us, it’s all about the experience, the trip, the vacation. You’re able to disconnect from your busy life, turn down a dirt road, and be surrounded by the Northern Lights around a campfire, take a huge, deep breath and hit the reset button, all along with some top-notch wingshooting.”
If you ever thought that an over-the-border hunt is logistically or economically out of the question, think again. There are a number of qualified and skilled outfitting services ready to put you on the trip-of-a-lifetime, but keep in mind, the experience doesn’t begin and end in the field. Many outfitters have comfortable and well-equipped lodges complete with first-rate chefs and cozy accommodations. Many will make you feel like royalty by picking you up at the airport, catering to your every need, and even providing shotguns and ammo, leaving you only to remember to bring the right clothing and essentials on your avian vacation.
If you’re like me where planning and preparations make you obsess over every little detail, Tourism Saskatchewan is a valuable resource to assist you with every step of your journey. From understanding the hunting regulations and logistics, to locating an outfitter, and even helping you navigate through all the red tape of international travel with guns and ammo, taxidermy trophies, and dogs, they’re ready to help answer any questions or concerns you may have.
Ready to pull the trigger on a trip to the Great White North? No more excuses. Put in that time off request, start saving up, and assemble a band of your best buds to share some expenses—and make some lifelong memories with. You’ll never regret not going, and with (fingers crossed) all of the COVID-19 border crossing and bird flu restrictions behind us, there’s really no better time to go than now.
My Saskatchewan spring snow goose soiree left me entirely smitten with the “Land of the Living Skies.” Every single part of the journey plays a role in the Saskatchewan story, and with ample opportunities to target multiple species of waterfowl during both spring and fall migrations, the hardest part is trying to decide which season to select. With abundant numbers of birds, limited competition, reduced hunting pressure, and generous bag limits, I predict you may end up going back again—and again—and again. Go up alone or grab a group of friends or family and make an unforgettable memory together, just don’t keep putting it off; make plans to get to Saskatchewan while you still can!