Taking the Long, Scenic Road to Goose Hunting in Alberta

Written by Al Hague | Photos by Al Hague
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If you love goose hunting then western Canada is Mecca. Last fall my hunting partner Mark and I planned a trip to western Canada to the province of Alberta. Our connection up there works and lives in the fast growing region and city of Grand Prairie.

Located a bunch of miles north of Edmonton in the center of the oil and gas fields as well as a heavy agriculture area, Grand Prairie has acres and acres of great goose hunting area. The farmers raise peas on these wide open fields and the geese flock to them morning and evening.

Since we live in the Pacific Northwest we have a couple of routes we can take to get there. This trip we decided to follow the route that would take us through several national forests both in the US and Canada past the ice caps and following some of the most beautiful rivers on earth. In preparing to go to Canada with your firearms it is necessary to get the proper paperwork for leaving the US with guns and entering Canada with guns. Visiting our local border patrol office we obtained the necessary paperwork for both directions and instructions for crossing the border.

If you should plan to make a similar trip be sure to get the paperwork at least a couple of weeks in advance in case you need something confirmed. As with all government processes make sure to give yourself a window of time to make the process go as smoothly as possible.

Also check the current regulations as to the amount of ammunition you can take across the border and now a passport is a requirement. When we made our trip we were allowed two shotguns each and 500 shells. Rules like this have been known to change so look it up to be sure.

Permits in hand, gear packed to the ceiling in the back of the Yukon XL along with Mark’s great hunting Lab, Puck, in his kennel. We headed east to Montana to the border crossing that would take us through the Kootenay National Forest into the Yoho National Forest to the edge of Banff National Forest and finally into Jasper and the last forest, Jasper National Forest.

There is perhaps a faster route but none as beautiful. The town of Jasper is a magnificent, small town very popular for skiing and is a pretty high end vacation spot. We only stopped for some refreshment and pushed on to Hinton where you take a left and find route 40 into Grand Prairie. Most hunters head to Saskatchewan for goose hunting and it is always good there as well but we were better connected in Grand Prairie for good fields and we would not have to waste any time scouting for bird activity.

collage
Goose hunting in Alberta.

Upon arrival at our destination we checked in with our friend, Greg D. as to what time and where we would meet. The plan was 4:30 am at his office and head to the fields from there. Clearly the weather in October in Grand Prairie is a big difference from Spokane in October.

The thermometer read about 26 F and with the wind it was less. Greg assured me it would warm up a lot when the sun came up, assuming it did. We drove what seemed like hours and finally turned into an open field. Greg drove slowly looking for goose droppings that would indicate the area that the geese liked in this huge field.

Finally Greg stopped, turned out the lights and opened the trailer. Inside was a huge supply of decoys and canvas blinds with willow branches attached by elastic straps we would put into place. The way the decoys are spread for goose hunting is a major issue. Ideally you want to be able to call the geese into the spread and provide almost a runway for them to land which should also be your shooting zone. Greg chose to spread the decoys in a V pattern with the blinds facing the point of the V with the goal of having the geese land into the wind in an open area between the decoy spreads.

We also have layout blinds for use as well and with the wind changing directions on us we decided layout blinds would be best this first morning. Once we had the blinds and decoys in place Greg and Mark took the trucks to park them more than a half mile away in as much a hidden spot as possible. Geese really spook easy and when they circle they will not come in unless all looks normal and comfortable.

We settled into our blinds just as the sun started to rise. Off in the distance was a body of water and we could hear what seemed to be thousands of ducks. By the sound they were making we could tell they were about to lift off and go to feed.

Since we had duck stamps as well, we had high hopes they would come our way. Incidentally, to hunt ducks in Canada you do need a US federal duck stamp to get your license in Canada.

PuckHague
Puck at the ready.

Next to me in his own personal blind, Puck was in work mode with his eyes glued to the skies. Not being particular what he retrieves he would be just as happy with ducks or geese but in any case he is all business in the blind. In about 30 minutes the ducks lift off and we can see them against the pink sunrise sky. There are so many they almost block out the sun. The ducks continue to fly around the water and then head in a direction away from us. I can hear Mark muttering something in his blind and I am sure it is not repeatable.

Shortly after the ducks are gone Mark spots a small flight of geese coming our way. Both Mark and Greg start calling and I slide down into my blind so as not to be seen from the air. Sure enough a flight of about six are coming straight and starting to make the turn around us and over the decoys.

Geese always have to take a look before they will come in. Now Mark and Greg are both good callers and as I peek out of my blind I see two birds feet down and wings out coming in for a landing. I wait for Mark’s “take `em” command and when I do shoot the first one comes down almost in my blind. Being steady to shot, Puck wants to go but is waiting for Mark to send him. If memory serves out of the six we shot, we brought down five and Puck was fast to retrieve them all.

We were all shooting 12 gauge and the ammo was Kent Impact 2 ¾ #4’s. Some would say you can’t take geese without 3-inch shells and that’s not really true as long as you call them in close and make good shots. We stayed in this spot until about 10 am and packed up the decoys and blinds for the morning. We would use the same procedure for the late afternoon hunt only in a different spot.

Much of the fun for me is watching a great dog like Puck work. His passion for work is amazing and his strength in retrieving bird after bird had everyone in awe. This trip Puck would make well over 80 retrieves, many on water, as a couple of the days we set up on the shore of watering holes loved by the geese.

All in all we spent five days hunting in great goose country with tremendous success. Of course the down side to getting so many birds is the cleaning duties. Geese are best breasted out as wild geese are pretty tough everywhere else. Do not plan to take meat home with you as they frown on that at the border. I am not sure if you could ship it or not but before you do check the law. I personally am not a fan of goose meat. Our host usually makes sausage from it so we gladly gave him all of the meat we harvested.

The daily limit in Canada is eight geese per gun and we filled our limit each day. One afternoon Greg took Mark and me along with Puck to a waterway for an afternoon of duck hunting. Standing on a blind stand made from a pallet and supported by weak 2x4s was a bit risky and I fully expected to be in the water every time I shot, moved or turned.

The size was barely large enough for Mark, me and Puck. It was there in the middle of this sluice that I saw Puck make what I consider the greatest blind retrieve I have ever seen, but that’s another story for another time.

The ducks came along nicely and were following the channel so we had mostly passing shots. We had only a few decoys out and there was not much of a landing area anyway for this blind. We still managed to take seven nice ducks between us, mostly greenheads. It was a good day.

The worst part of a hunting trip is always the day it is over. The time we spent in Canada was a great trip and all we could have wanted. Our host was more than gracious and knowledgeable and was a lot of fun as well.

We took the shorter route back or at least Mark did. He dropped me at the Edmonton airport as I had to be back in the office before him. I don’t recall thanking him for driving the rest of the way alone but I must have. He asked me to go again this year. Wish I could but I will be doing some bird hunting in Italy in October.

Al Hague is an avid outdoorsman and published author as well as outdoor photographer. Al resides and hunts mostly in the western half of the US and Canada. His photos can also be seen on http://www.shutterpoint.com and http://www.theartshop.com.

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Last modified on Saturday, 26 January 2013 15:35