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By Brad Fenson
A crew of good friends was in for the better part of a week to hunt ducks and geese in central Alberta. We were enjoying a few days with Rob Reynolds of Ranchland Outfitters, providing rooms, meals, and incredible knowledge of the hunting area.
We headed to the swathed barley field where 1,000 big honkers had been feeding, along with hundreds of mallards. Our hunting crew was extremely excited at the thought of decoying the real big Canada geese, often tipping the Toledo at over 12 pounds.
Two of our party went to work on the blinds, ensuring they lined up, and looked entirely concealed. The rest of the team went to work, setting out decoys. Four dozen were used around the blinds to conceal shadows and movement. Ten dozen lessers were stretched out over the next four rows of barley, making the perfect landing strip for incoming birds. We settled into the blinds and loaded our shotguns.
The geese were getting restless, a loud honk from behind us turned heads just in time to see two of the big birds locked onto our spread. The wind was blowing from behind us, which meant the incoming geese had to swing around the decoys to come back into the wind to land. The geese looked huge and moved like 747 aircraft coming in for a landing. The reverberation of honking and groaning vocals made the pair sound as loud as a braying donkey. The deep, guttural honks and moans are why the big ones are affectionately called “sky donkeys.”
The duo winged past us west of the decoys, made a full swing out front, and started to come down the east side of our spread. Sitting in the farthest blind to the east provided me the best shot opportunity. Just when the birds were in range, a hubbub started in the west blind, and one of our hunting partners was yelling at the top of his lungs, causing mass confusion. I took my eyes off the geese to see what the problem was. The distraction was my buddy pointing at the birds and yelling, “quill, it’s a quill!”
The biggest of the two birds was almost entirely white on the breast and up part of its neck. The unique coloration is referred to as a “quill goose,” thought to have originated in the Quill Lakes area of Saskatchewan.
Focusing back on the big bird, it was quickly winging out of range. I shouldered my shotgun, found the huge honker, swung far out in front of it, and unleashed a pattern. The No. 7 TSS pellets ripped into the bird, and as it tried to escape and it quickly lost altitude and crashed into the trees on the edge of the field.
Everyone gathered to inspect one of the biggest honkers any of us had ever seen. The lack of pigment in the feathers, and even the bottom of the bird’s feet, made it a one-of-a-kind trophy.
Flocks of the big honkers flew for close to two hours, followed by waves of fat mallards, providing plenty of gunning, and allowing us to stack up the ducks and geese. I learned that rearranging decoys to create a spot where birds could cut through the spread for a quicker landing worked exceptionally well on the mallards and honkers. Several flocks were just a few yards from our blinds backpedaling wings with feet splayed out to find the ground when the command to shoot came.
As the setting sun painted our faces with warm colors, we laid out the birds and gathered for photos.
These are the days that waterfowlers invest for. And they’re why I recently ordered two boxes of shotshells from the Federal Custom Shop. The 12 gauge, 2 ¾-inch, 1 1/8-ounce load of No. 7 TSS has a muzzle velocity of 1,450 fps. They are insurance for the days when an advantage is required to turn an adventure into a successful trip.