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My two friends (Henry and Bill) and I just returned from three days of waterfowl hunting outside Saskatoon in the Province of Saskachewan (Canada) with Fred Lackie of Candle Lake Outfitters. Fred was generous enough to donate this hunt to the Dallas Safari Club last January and I was fortunate enough to win the auction. I shot ducks and geese before in Alberta a few years back and had a good time, but I've got to hand it to Fred, his operation was far more impressive. Great accommodations (his huge, modern and well equipped home were our base of operations), fantastic food prepared by beautiful wife Paulette (more about her later), first rate equipment, and attention to detail that made everything go smoothly. As per our request, Fred had picked up a case of Hevi-Metal shotgun shells (3" 1 1/4 ounce loads of #2 shot @ 1500 fps) for each of us to use in addition to the limited amount of non-toxic shot that we could bring with us in checked luggage.
Our travel to Saskatoon was via United Airlines from Los Angeles. Arrangements were made by Steve at "Travel with Guns" and for those of you having concerns about visiting our neighbors to the North from the U.S. with your shotguns: Don't worry! A simple form to fill out is available on-line and the cost is only $25.00 (CN) which you can pay using your credit card upon entry. Don't forget to register your firearms with U.S. Customs before leaving and your return will be just as simple.
When we arrived in Saskatoon, Fred was there waiting for us and the drive to his home outside the city took less than an hour. I'd met the Lackies at the DSC convention in January and had been impressed by them, but sometimes "first impressions" are wrong. Fortunately, that's not the case here. Fred and Paulette are good, down to earth people who really care about their clients and do everything in their power to make their stay an experience. Fred is extremely diligent, whether he's scouting out a good field/pond for setting up, planning the layout of decoys, getting permission from local landowners, or caring for the birds after they've been taken. Paulette is more of a "Type A" personality (always multi-tasking), but funnier than all hell, with more stories and hilarious come-backs than most hunters (or anyone else I know), and extremely talented in the kitchen. The food wasn't just good, it was prepared with the kind of concern and pride that an expert chef has for their specialties. Among the more memorable favorites were: short-ribs, homemade bread, spaghetti with moose meat sauce, "SOB" muffins (yea, you'll say it when you first try one), pizza made from scratch, and a variety of soups and deserts made from fruits and veggies obtained from their own garden or neighboring farms. Trust me. It's all good.
On to the hunting. Our days began early (4:00 AM) with a very light snack for breakfast and fresh coffee, as we needed to spend about an hour or so setting up the decoys for geese. Fred takes 1000 or more white goose decoys out, plus a good number of full sized "honkers" (dark geese decoys) to entice the birds which we found to be extremely wary.
Because goose hunting in Saskatchewan can't be done after 12:00 PM until the middle of October, we targeted them on our early hunts and ducks only as "incidentals" until the afternoon. When we were there, the limits were: 20 "white geese" (snows and Ross's geese), 8 "dark geese" (Canadians and White Fronted "Specks" geese), and 8 ducks per day/per hunter. Our morning shoots resulted in good numbers of snow geese, Ross's geese, several different subspecies of Canadian geese (from small sized "lesser" variety to the jumbo sized "greater" race). With their larger cousins, we also took good numbers of ducks and on the last morning limited out on them while taking about 20 geese.
When our morning shoot was finished (around noon), we headed back home and Paulette had a fine lunch waiting for us. Afterwards, we'd clean up and take a nap. Rising about 3:30 PM, we'd head out to a few nearby ponds, where Fred and his good friend/partner "Ronnie" had scouted out ducks. Among the types taken were: Mallards, Pintails, Green wing and Blue wing teal, Canvass Backs, Widgeon, and Shoveler. Fred utilized takedown blinds, floating and battery operated decoys. While we didn't have a dog (I was somewhat surprised to learn this.), Fred donned waders and did an admirable job acting as our retriever.
Usually, Fred's three day shoots include three morning (goose/duck) hunts and two afternoon (duck) hunts. On the last shooting day of our trip however, we enjoyed a special "bonus" experience. I'd heard a lot about hunting Sandhill Cranes (aka: "Flying Sirloins" or "Flying Ribeyes") and had mentioned to Fred when we'd arrived that we'd like to target these if it was at all possible. I was told that cranes are usually shot when they incidentally fly into goose set-ups, but Fred and Ronnie had scouted some wheat-straw stubble fields that held large numbers of these prehistoric looking birds that stand more than four feet tall and have wingspans reaching seven feet. After they'd secured permission from the landowners, we formed a game plan of driving into the fields that held birds. Although the flocks would fly off when we were hundreds of yards away, the three of us hunting would be dropped off to hunker down next to rolls of baled wheat straw. Fred and Ronnie would then drive away and approach neighboring flocks, scaring them into the air. With any luck, cranes would either return to their original location (where we were hidden) or come to us from neighboring fields.
Thus positioned, we waited for the "pterodactyls" and within 30 minutes a flight of three flew over Bill's position. Bill's Remington Model 11-87 boomed, but they were too high and none of his 3" loads of Remington "high density" BBs reached them. We heard more approaching from literally miles away (these birds have incredible voices), but on account of altitude and good eyesight none of us had a shot for nearly an hour. Then, two large cranes approached from the front and to the right of bales hiding myself and Henry. They were only about 30' above ground, but passed closest to me at a distance of 40-45 yards. I fired twice at the nearest bird with my Beretta A400 as Henry did the same. It staggered and crumpled to the ground! I targeted the second crane and it seemed to take a hit, but (perhaps seeing Henry to it's right) made a U-turn and came back in my direction. I'd only had time to reload two shells (one and a quarter ounce loads of 3" Hevi-Metal #2s) and fired both rounds in rapid succession. This crane too dropped and we had the pair!!!
Fred and Ronnie returned shortly after watching the action from a distance with binoculars and picked us up. We went to another field that held hundreds of cranes and repeated the same tactic. This time, Henry scored a single crane with his Beretta AL391 and within thirty minutes Bill had taken a double. The extra afternoon hunt had paid off for all of us. Seeing the excitement the shoot had generated, Fred said he planned on buying some crane decoys and roll up "hay bale" type blinds for future crane hunters and if anyone is planning on joining him for waterfowl in the future, I'd highly recommend reserving time for Sandhills!!!
After dinner and while his hunters slept, Fred cleaned, bagged and froze birds until after midnight. In the morning, we had time to buy three 40 quart coolers and we brought our birds home to be boned, smoked or turned into Polish sausage.
If the geese had been a bit less wary or the shooters had been a little more accurate, we'd probably have had more meat than the approximately 40 lbs each cooler held. But why be greedy? We left plenty of birds for you all to enjoy as they work their way south and returned with good memories as well as what filled the coolers.
Here's a link to Fred's website and you can also find Candle Lake Outfitters on Facebook. I'd highly recommend you check him out, not just for waterfowling, but for his archery only Whitetail deer/black bear hunts and Trapline tours. I'll post some of our pics for AR members to view. www.candlelakeoutfitters.com
"I'm not fluent in the language of violence, but I know enough to get around in places where it's spoken."
Tanzania 2012: http://forums.accuratereloadin...6321043/m/8331015971
Saskatoon, Canada 2013: http://forums.accuratereloadin...4121043/m/7171030391
Las Pampas, Argentina 2014: http://forums.accuratereloadin...4107165/m/1991059791
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Glad you guys had a good time up here in Sask. and got into some birds. Thanks for saving a few geese to migrate to the southern part of the province!
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