Alberta, Canada: If you love to bird hunt, this is a place you need to add to your bucket list. Even if waterfowl hunting isn’t your main thing, it’s still well worth the trip. Jeff Berg, a good friend of mine, told me all about the hunting in Alberta. He set me up with an outfitter he knew and trusted, and I decided I had to make the trip even though I knew the season would be drawing to a close. I took the time off work and booked myself with Dry Creek Waterfowl.
After hours of customs and endless conversations about how unusual it was for a woman to be making a solo hunting trip to Canada, I finally made it to Peoria, Alberta. When we pulled up to the lodge in the late evening, preparations for the next day’s hunt were well underway. The side of the lodge was lined with blinds propped against the building so they would be dry enough to pack in the trailer in the morning. Inside the fireplace was kicking heat, and the staff were cooking and packing up a storm while the hunters in the guest house had called an early night in anticipation of the 5 am wake-up call. Seth, the owner and the rest of the staff were extremely friendly, met me right away and helped me get settled for the evening.
I opted to skip the early morning group hunt to do some scouting and get to know the area better. We drove the long dirt roads and glassed the fields, checking out a few ponds that were stacked with ducks. I was getting pretty pumped up by all the birds we were seeing so we stopped to sit and get a short hunt in before heading back to the lodge at midday. Jeff thought it was a good idea I get in a little practice and “get the bugs out early.” Which turned out to be great advice seeing as I missed the first three shots I took at the group he lured over with a highball call. He managed to call the ducks back for a second chance, and I landed my first green head of the trip! We brought down a handful more before calling it a day and heading back to the lodge.
The morning group had met the max limit on geese and were getting packed up, but a new group of guests had come in, and I planned to head out with them the next morning for geese.
Five in the morning comes quickly, but not quickly enough when you’re amped up for the next day’s hunt . I was up and dressed within minutes of my alarm and someone was handing me a cup of coffee as soon as I emerged from my room (I love, love these people), and a hot breakfast was waiting before we loaded up for the day. While we didn’t need to get to the field super early for the geese, who usually feed later than ducks do, we had a lot to do dressing the blinds and helping the guides set out decoys. The air was a chilly wet cold, and the clouds were thick in the sky as we worked in the headlights shining from the trucks to cut soy plants and dress blinds. The bad weather ahead, the preparation, the camaraderie, the anticipation—this is what waterfowlers live for.
When the geese started to fly late morning, we were ready for them. The first flock came in and locked up above the decoys. Shots fired, one after another, and geese fell in all directions. Soon more birds were coming in, and then another flock and then another. The geese came from all directions! We had a a lot of action and came close to our limit quickly. When the birds slowed down, we took time for photo ops, rounded up the decoys, and headed in for lunch. Given a choice, I’ve always liked duck hunting better, so I opted to head back out with Jeff in the afternoon to hunt ducks instead of back out for geese with the guys.
We grabbed a good set of duck decoys, the mojos, and two blinds. Jeff had chosen a field with a few large puddles that he was sure was near a roost. We set up quickly but didn’t expect any immediate action, so we sat and just BS’d a little bit, not paying much attention to the sky. Within maybe twenty minutes, the first flock of ducks came in without us even noticing until they were feet down in the decoys! Small and large flocks came in every few minutes for a solid hour. It was INSANE! I shot a lot, missed some and made some. I worked out some more of my “bugs”, as it turned out, in spite of loading a shell in backwards once and also shooting the head off of a decoy. It was the most fun I’ve ever had duck hunting.
We hit our limit, and still birds were coming in, now by the thousands. Jeff motioned for us to run out of the field as quickly as possible so as not to scare the ducks away. We planned to come back the next night with the rest of the guests and have the hunt of a lifetime all over again. We sat high on the hill and watched them come in. They flew over head for a solid ten minutes at least, there were so many the sky turned dark as they passed. We were able to replay the hunt the next night with five shooters rather than two, and on a windy, snowy evening. It was epic. Like the night before, we made our limit and then just sat and watched them come in by the thousands, but this time we sat in our ground blinds. Several tried to land right on us, flaring only a few feet away. At one point something spooked a few thousand that were landed to our left, and when they took off they flew so close to the tops of our blinds that we could feel the vibration from the chatter of their wings. As long as I live, I will never forget the sounds and feel of that many waterfowl taking flight just a few feet above my head.
Each day that I was in Alberta, I made memories to last a lifetime. I want to go back next year, but with friends this time. Sharing this experience and my love of waterfowl with friends would make even better memories. I can’t thank Dry Creek Waterfowl enough for the wonderful trip, both the guided and DIY hunts. They were top notch and helped make my trip to Alberta one I will never forget!
Written By Erin Crooks