By Kent Danjanovich
Ahh, getting up at 4:30 am in northern Alberta, Canada in late October can mean only one thing — waterfowl. As we all pulled on our insulated Browning Dirty Bird bibs and laced up our boots, there was definitely a sparkle in our eyes, knowing that we soon would be positioning our layout blinds, tweaking our decoy spread and loading shells into our Browning shotguns.
Rob Reynolds, owner of Ranchland Outfitters in northeastern Alberta, pulled into the yard at the lodge and helped us load our equipment into the trucks. After a quick stop at the local C-Store for a breakfast sandwich and juice, we were off to our first morning hunt in a barley field about an hour’s drive from the lodge.
One of his scouters met us at the field and directed us to the spot where hundreds of ducks and geese had been feeding the night before. We quickly lowered the back door on the enclosed trailer and started unloading our layout blinds and decoys. As some of us started to add straw to our blinds to match the surroundings, others followed Rob’s directions in placing decoys in a V-shape, leaving a bountiful landing area for incoming ducks and geese, positioned for them to backpedal into the wind. As the sun started to lighten the horizon, we all settled into our blinds, quickly loading our guns as wings whistled above us.
Within minutes, Rob’s calling had birds circling our spread. The first group of 10 made their last cautious decent as Rob whispered, “Get ready — Take ‘um”! Doors flew open from our ground coffins and barrels drew to the sky as fire started; as big mallards flaring skyward started dropping all the way down the line of shooters. One lone bird made it through the gauntlet as our morning had officially begun.
By 8:30am we had limited out on early rising ducks, our focus quickly turned to geese honking to our west. Lines of snows and big Canadas were heading our way as the Mojo’s shut off and Rob quickly switched over to his goose calls. It didn’t take long for the first group to spy our decoy spread. After the second pass, all of us knew that it was going to happen. The lead goose looked like a B-52 making its final approach as the rest of the group followed his lead. Another loud “TAKE ‘UM” rang through the morning air and six big honkers thudded to the ground.
With the skies quieting by 10:30am, we all slowly climbed out of our blinds and as Rob headed over to bring in the trucks and trailer, we all started piling up decoys and making a last walk around the area for downed birds. Our morning hunt had collected 48 mallards and 16 geese, not too bad for our first morning session and you know what, we had four more sessions to go!
That night our attention turned to filling our goose limit as we downed another dozen geese and the ducks just kept dive-bombing us as they made their way for a little dinner before they hit the waterways after dark. Too bad we had already limited out on ducks during our morning hunt, but it made for some great footage for an upcoming edition of Sportsman’s News Television, that’s for sure!
Let me fill you in on a little bit more about the area. Ranchland Outfitters is located northeast of Edmonton. They own many prime acres of land, but also have exclusive agreements with landowners throughout the area for both their big game (deer, moose and black bear) and waterfowl. This part of Alberta, near the Saskatchewan border, is right in the heart of where three migration routes converge. As the northernmost major grain-producing region in North America, this area is a magnet for migrating waterfowl raised across the boreal forest and Arctic. Starting in September, waves of Canada geese, white-fronted geese, lesser snows, Ross’s geese, mallards, pintails and other dabbling ducks descend on the region to gorge themselves on waves of grain stubble fields.
Back to the hunt. Our second morning found us in another area, this time setting up in a wheat stubble field, with a pond to our right about 200 yards away. Again, we found the location to be perfect and again the ducks were the first to arrive. Another 35 mallards fell from the sky, along with a handful of big Canadas. Now you may be saying, “Why not more geese?” As we talked over the trip with Rob earlier in the year, it was decided that we would make our visit in the later part of October when the duck hunting is usually hot and heavy and as you can tell, that is exactly what we found. Most of the lighter geese had moved through the area, but many of the larger Canadas had started to make their journey south, so the numbers were not as big as they had been in September, but you will not be hearing any complaining, that’s for sure.
That night at dinner, as we enjoyed appetizers and then a great turkey dinner with all of the fixin’s we had a chance to mingle with the other group of hunters from Louisiana at the lodge and get to know the members of our own group a little better. I was joined on this trip by fellow Pro-Staffer, Steve McGrath, as well as our latest Writer’s Contest Winner, Eric Boley and his hunting buddy, Dr. Chris Krell from Kemmerer, Wyoming. We were joined by two special gentlemen as well. Rob had given me a call to see if it was alright to have a couple of members of the “Soldier On” program join us for our hunt. My answer was a resounding, “You bet!”
Rob had graciously donated two hunts to the “Wounded Warrior” style program in Canada, providing current or ex-military servicemen a chance to enjoy a little down time from their daily lives and as a big “THANK YOU” for their hard work and service. Rick Ostashower and Lorry Bellamy were able to join us during our stay and it was a honor and pleasure spending some time with them and sharing our love for the outdoors.
Our last morning found us in a new location, one that would facilitate us getting back to the airport in Edmonton by noon. Well, let’s just say Rob didn’t disappoint us this time either and we again had our full limit of ducks and a half dozen geese on the ground by 9am. We even managed to take a couple of beautiful pintails and a big, colorful drake mallard which will all probably make gorgeous mounts in our offices. Our late season waterfowl adventure had come to an end with Ranchland Outfitters, but you can bet it won’t be the last.
We may have been there for the hunting, but let me say that everything else involved in our trip was also first class. The accommodations were perfect and the food was superb. Each day, after our morning hunt, we made our way back to their restaurant and Rob’s wife, Loree and her staff laid out a great brunch for us and each evening scrumptious appetizers, entrees and desserts unfolded before our eyes.
It is no wonder Ranchland Outfitters has secured a place in our family of Platinum Approved Outfitters and we are proud to recommend them to all of our readers here at Sportsman’s News. They offer not only the best waterfowl hunting that I know of, with very liberal limits of eight ducks, eight dark geese and 20 snows per day, but also great whitetail and mule deer adventures as well as moose (we spotted a bruiser along a nearby tree line) and spring black bear. You might even be able to talk them into a little varmint hunting if you really twist their arms. Give Rob Reynolds and his staff a call today to book your next great outdoor adventure at Ranchland Outfitters. Check them out under our endorsed outfitters, at www.ranchlandoutfitters.com or by calling 877-924-8440.