From waterfowl, snipe and cranes to pheasant, grouse and partridge, the Prairie provinces offer wingshooters unparalleled opportunities
The Canadian prairies are at the heart of North American waterfowl production, and with some 20 different species available, it’s safe to say ducks are the West’s most popular gamebirds. And of those, mallards unquestionably stand head and shoulder above the flock. Few other sights stir a shotgunner’s passion more than hundreds, sometimes thousands, of greenheads descending into a field of peas or grain stubble.
Hunters targeting mallards generally look first to agricultural fields, where they lay out a spread of decoys, often including spinning-wing dekes. Then they wait in a blind for the first mallards to arrive, generally just as legal light peeks over the eastern horizon. On days when it all goes right, the hunt can be over in minutes.
When they don’t have the time or gear for a field shoot, duck hunters can turn to one of the thousands of ponds peppering the western landscape. On the smallest of ponds, such as willow sloughs often found within cultivated fields, huge flocks of mallards can be hunted as they water before and after feeding on waste grain.
Duck hunters in the West can expect to quickly limit out
On larger ponds, the diversity of species increases significantly; a wide variety of ducks can be taken by shoreline hunters hiding in natural cover, equipped with little more than a dozen floating decoys and a pair of waders. This is the simplest, and some would say purest, form of duck hunting, taking many of us back to our schoolboy days when time and money were rare commodities.
For an enterprising few, hunting diving ducks on large wetlands represents the epitome of waterfowling. It’s wet and cold, most often requiring a boat overloaded with decoys, and it takes several hours to plan and execute. The rewards, however, are unparalleled, with canvasbacks, redheads and scaup in the bag, and memories that can never be matched by the relative starkness of a field or pond hunt.