Earlier this year I booked a waterfowl hunt in Saskatchewan with Buck Paradise Outfitters. I met Grant, the owner at the Minnesota Outdoor News show, and instantly knew this was the place to go. He has monster bucks, big bear, and incredible waterfowl hunting.
Growing up, we spent many weekends hunting ducks and geese on local public land near my home. The youth day hunts were exceptional as it opened a weekend before the regular opener, but I had never really experienced anything like what Canada has to offer.
Upon arrival for our hunt, I was greeted with some unfortunate news. My direct flight from Minneapolis to Saskatoon was apparently overweight and they removed 54-bags from the flight. There were only 60 people on the plane so almost everyone was stranded without bags. Luckily most of our gun cases made it, so at least we had guns, the ammo was shipped ahead of time, but no clothes!
Lesson number one. Don’t travel to a hunt in flip-flops! I spend a lot of time in airports usually travel with comfort in mind, however quickly realizing I had no bags made me question my choice in footwear. Not wanting to miss any part of the hunt and a little unsure when the bags would finally be delivered we made a quick trip to Wal-Mart to re-supply. After grabbing some necessities like socks, boots, and a couple sweatshirts we were on our way to camp. Luckily a raincoat and rain pants were packed in my gun case to keep the guns from hitting each other and I was pretty happy about that packing decision. One thing I learned from this trip is the airlines will do everything possible to keep a firearm with the person flying, so a good tip is pack enough clothes in your gun case to get you by if need be.
The next morning we setup decoys in the dark. I had no idea what we were getting into. I was hoping the hunting would be good, and as were were setting up our decoys all you could hear were ducks and geese flying overhead. We couldn’t even see yet and this was probably more ducks and geese than I had ever heard, and the sun hadn’t even thought about coming up yet. On this hunt, some of my good friends from Field & Stream Shops were joining me. So much of my hunting is done either alone or maybe with a guide, but I truly enjoy the hunts where you get to be right alongside your friends and fellow hunters. I’m a people person and although I enjoy sitting long hours in a deer stand, I prefer hunting with people that can keep you laughing and smiling for the duration. Immediately I could tell we had an awesome guide who was cracking jokes, the weather was wonderful, and the number of birds flying overhead was clearly not going to be an issue. Once our setup was complete we crawled into layout blinds and just waited for daylight.
With our spread set, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I’d been missing out. Lying there in a comfortable blind, staring up the sky full of ducks and geese all the while joking and laughing with friends right by your side…yea this was what hunting is all about!
It really made me take a step away from the hunt and realize that sure, limiting out on geese in record time was fun, but it was everything else. It was the camp life, the guides, the new friends and stories that were shared, and the laughter that made this entire trip so memorable.
I couldn’t help but think about how waterfowl hunting has changed over time and what it must have been like for people 150 years ago when Winchester got its start. To think how far decoys, the calls, the guns and ammo have come yet we’re still out enjoying the exact same thing that was done so many years ago is pretty incredible. The material things change and will continue to change, but it the passion and excitement for hunting that stays the same. I can only hope that generations to come will be able to experience the same smile and awe that so many of us do today, and as we celebrate Winchester’s 150th I’m excited to see what the next 150 years will bring.