By Kent Danjanovich
The Sportsman’s News Team is always on the lookout for new operations to join the ranks of our Platinum Approved Outfitters family. Some lodges, guides and outfitters contact us, many are referred, but all are vetted to make sure that they truly deliver on what they advertise. That has been our biggest emphases since the inception of this program and always will be.
We know that the average sportsman in most cases is going to have to diligently save up his hard earned money, sometimes for many years, to be able to experience that trip of a lifetime. Our job is to make sure we offer that sportsman some great choices that will pretty much make it a lock that they will experience success on their adventure.
One such operation that fits our mold perfectly is Ranchland Outfitters in northeastern Alberta, Canada. Rob Reynolds has been operating his waterfowl portion of the business for eleven years and has built a reputation unrivalled in the industry. If you are looking for a truly world-class waterfowl experience, then Ranchland Outfitters is the answer.
When we were putting together our list of grand prizes for our Pro Membership Sweepstakes, Rob was one of the first outfitters we contacted about being included. Since I had already visited his operation for both waterfowl and whitetail deer, I knew that both of these hunts would be worthy of placement in our prize rotation.
The decision was made to set the dates for the season opener, September 1st. The hunt would consist of five fully guided sessions of hunts (morning, evening, morning, evening, morning), three nights’ accommodations, all meals, license and stamps and ammo. Even 12ga. semi-autos were available for those that did not want to worry about bringing their firearms along for the hunt. Now all we needed was a winner and their guest to accompany me on the trip.
Well, the later was soon taken care of with a spin of the barrel, as hundreds of golden cards tumbled ‘round and ‘round. The hatch was opened and the lucky ticket was drawn, as Bond Isaacson was announced as the winner of the Ranchland Outfitters waterfowl hunt. He and a guest would be venturing to Alberta for a waterfowl experience of a lifetime.
On the afternoon of August 31st, I met up with Bond and Bond Jr. at the Edmonton International Airport and we quickly loaded our gear into Rob’s awaiting truck and headed to the town of Elk Point, about 2 ½ hours to the northeast, towards the Saskatchewan border. Flat farmlands, sprinkled with pockets of forest could be seen for miles in every direction as we made our way to our destination. Along the way, it seemed like just about every pond had ducks or geese splashing around and many fields supported big flocks of ‘Big’ honkers. To say the anticipation was mounting a little would be an understatement!
Soon we found ourselves pulling up to the “Outback Ranch House” Restaurant, the premier eatery of the area, which would be our home to luscious meals, morning and night, throughout our stay. Rob’s wife, Lori and her staff do an exceptional job with the food to say the least. We met the other eight hunters that would also be mingling with us during our stay and after some discussion on the plans for the next morning, it was off to our accommodations and a few short hours of sleep before we headed for the field at 3am.
Our first morning found us unloading our layout blinds and decoys in a harvested pea field about 20 minutes from town. Rob instructed us on the setup, making sure that we would be taking the wind direction into consideration for the incoming birds. This morning, the sun would be to our backs, making it a little bit easier for me to capture the events on film for an upcoming edition of our SNTV series (watch for it at the registers during October and November at your local Sportsman’s Warehouse).
Almost as if the birds knew when legal shooting time began, they started to appear on the horizon. Soon, hundreds, if not thousands of birds could be seen in waves all over the sky. Rob quickly went to work with his calls and the first group of geese started their decent.
Knowing that Bond and Bond Jr. had not been on a waterfowl hunt of this magnitude before, I took a quick look over at them in their layout blinds. I could see that the anticipation was reaching a crescendo and I couldn’t wait to see them explode out with guns blazing for the first time!
Soon the flock of eight speckle belly’s set their wings for the last time and Rob gave the word, “TAKE ‘EM”! All five hunts exploded out of their blinds and fire could be seen flaring into the sky as five birds crumpled to the ground. I don’t think I can justly express to you the looks on the faces of our newly christened goose hunters – but I will say you could see a glimpse of a smile – literally from ear to ear on everyone as high fives began and continued for the next hour and a half!
Wave after wave of geese descended on our decoy spread and soon, Rob gave the unwelcomed delivery statement of, “We only need two more birds’ guys”! Five minutes later, our morning hunt was over, as 40 geese (five specks, two lesser and 33 big Canada’s) lay piled in five neat bunches behind our hunters blinds.
After a quick photo session, we all pitched in rounding up the blinds and decoy spread as we loaded everything into the trailer and headed back to town for a great breakfast spread and shared stories with the other group of hunters.
After a little midday siesta, we headed to another area near town to try our luck for a few ducks. Although they weren’t flying quite like we would have liked them too, the group did manage to down a variety of feathered species, including mallards, pintails and spoonies.
Day two found us again loading into the trucks at around 3am and heading to another field, this time a large grain field to the south. We would pull all of the pea vines out of our layout blinds and line the outside of them with straw from our new field to match the surroundings. At about 6:30am, the first birds could be seen in the distance.
This morning would be a little different from the first. Not that the outcome was any different, as we were able to limit out with our 40 birds in just over an hour, but the birds didn’t come into our setup in the big groups on this morning. Smaller groups of four, five, six birds descended on our decoy spread, providing our hunters with point-blank opportunities that they all took advantage of. The Isaacson Boys put on a clinic right before my eyes, as I don’t remember many birds escaping the wrath of their smoking Super Black Eagle II’s.
That afternoon, Rob, Bond, Jr and I decided to try our luck at a little varmint action. After hearing plenty of coyotes’ howling our first two mornings, Rob ran us around the outskirts of town in hopes of taking a few ‘dogs’ out of the population. Unfortunately, they weren’t too cooperative, but still a good time was had by all. The other group of hunters did manage to finish up their limit of geese and add 16 ducks as well.
Our last morning found us again in a pea field changing out our blinds, preparing for the onslaught. This time Rob set us up near two small water holes in hopes of luring in a few more ducks as well as geese. Before we had even finished putting out our last decoy, the ducks started dive bombing us and for the next thirty minutes, hundreds of mallards filled the morning sky in front of us. Of course, this was all taking place before legal shooting time! But don’t despair, they just kept coming in for the next two hours, along with plenty of geese as well.
Because the wind was coming in from the east on this morning, the sun was right in our faces, making it almost impossible to film. So begrudgingly (well kind of) I put down my camera and picked up my shotgun for a little shooting of my own. And what a morning it was – 35 geese and 45 ducks.
That afternoon we sadly said our goodbyes, but you can bet it won’t be for long. I fact, I will be back in November to film another winner from our Pro Membership Sweepstakes on an exciting whitetail hunt and we have already secured another waterfowl hunt to be given away for the 2018 season as well. Yes, membership has its privileges, just as Bond Isaacson and his son, Bond Jr. They have both won prizes in the Sweepstakes and you know what they say, “You can’t win if you don’t enter”!
For more information about Ranchland Outfitters, give Rob Reynolds a call at 877-924-8440. And for more information about our Pro Membership Sweepstakes, www.promembershipsweepstakes.com, you’ll be glad you did.