Thunder Creek Outfitters - world class outfitters in southern Saskatchewan.
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Dan and I were really looking forward to the Fall of 2017 and it didn’t disappoint. We shot 100 snows on Sept. 22 - which is the earliest that has ever happened for us. It is great to feel like we are still learning little subtle things about decoying snows. It is no mystery that the two most important factors are weather and juvies. There was a good hatch of snows, apparently, but the young ones were very slow to show up. The warm weather in October was likely the main reason for that. I should clarify, one flock of Ross geese did come early with their young. But on several of our big shoots, we shot 90 % or more mature snows. That is encouraging because it indicates that we are doing a lot of things right. One of our hunting parties averaged more than 100 birds per day. It has been a few years since that has happened.
Some outfitters only do one field decoy per day. That would simplify my life considerably but if I were a client I would want two hunts per day. If there is a lot of hunting pressure, it is stressful to get two good hunts a day because some of the places I plan to hunt get shot just before by someone else. That did happen to us a couple of times with afternoon duck hunts but for the most part we were still able to come up with a good alternative.
One of the things that was new for us is using layout blinds. Even though the biggest snow shoots we had, we were not using them, they gave us more versatility to adapt to the situation. We bought the Rogers Goosebuster XL blinds because they had the best rating. They do seem to be durable and set up quickly. I spent a couple of weeks tying jute and sisal twine on them which did speed up the “brushing” process. When I have time, I plan to put even more sisal twine on them. We used the blinds more consistently for cranes, ducks and honkers than I thought we would.
Speaking of cranes, we had our best season decoying them. They are fun to hunt because, as one of my sons said, “they fall out of the sky like a lawn chair”. We have learned not to trust them to come back to the field in the afternoon if it has been cloudy and stormy all day. But if it is sunny and pleasant, they are pretty dependable. They are large birds and very tasty. Their eyesight is exceptional but they will fly close to, or over cover, more than geese will.
I was surprised that the duck populations weren’t higher. The last three years we have had ridiculous duck numbers so I assumed that would continue. There were plenty of ponds left from last year even though it was a dry spring. I am not sure of the reason(s) but our duck numbers were good but definitely somewhat down. We still had numerous great dry field duck decoys but the spotting took a serious amount of driving. We liked the 3 doz. Avain X FB mallard decoys we bought so well, that we bought more. They set up quickly and look great. We have increasingly used full body decoys for everything we hunt. If we have enough room in our decoy trailers, they seem to be the best choice.
As I reflect on our season, I notice I have a smile on my face…and want to express appreciation for good weather, good hunts and especially the good people that have become our consistent clients and close friends.