From waterfowl, snipe and cranes to pheasant, grouse and partridge, the Prairie provinces offer wingshooters unparalleled opportunities
While ducks may be the most commonly hunted gamebird across the prairies, geese are undoubtedly the most prized, particularly the immense Canada goose. There’s just something about the sight of young hunters holding Canada geese nearly half their size that just screams Canadiana.
Geese are almost always hunted over decoys in agricultural fields, though admittedly, some birds are harvested by pass shooters, and the odd one is taken over a wetland. Tradition supported by success, however, dictates that hunting in cropland is the standard. That means scouting is absolutely fundamental to success; some would say 75 per cent of goose hunting triumphs can be credited to dedicated scouting.
Large flocks of geese can do significant damage when grain is still in swaths, so it’s seldom a problem gaining access from farmers who don’t want to contend with these marauders. At one time, goose hunting on the prairies meant chasing Canadas, but hunters have now learned to also pursue the healthy, growing Arctic populations of snow and white-fronted, or specklebelly, geese. In fact, these alternative species are often considered better eating.
Scouting is key to hunting geese on western croplands
Snows, and their little cousin the Ross’s goose, are now hunted in both spring and fall as waterfowl managers look to trim their burgeoning populations. Dedicated snow goose hunters are gear junkies out of necessity, and no snow goose set-up is complete without several types of motion decoys, e-callers and as many decoys as you can possibly haul into the field.
Specklebellies are becoming the most coveted of our geese, largely because of their reputation as having the sweetest, most flavourful meat. They’re early migrators and typically depart the prairies by mid-October, so the window of opportunity for hunters is limited. While you can fool early-season or juvenile specks with Canada goose decoys, many veteran hunters say to consistently attract mature specks, with their beautiful and distinctive barred breasts, you must use dedicated specklebelly decoys.
As for Canada geese, they may not be as revered as roasting birds as they once were, but they’re still a popular menu item. These days, many hunters have turned to grinding them, either for making sausages or as ground meat for various recipes; they’re superb prepared this way.