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part 1 of 2

by Steve McCadams

  Since first seeing a sunrise from a duck blind almost 40 years ago I've been intrigued by the migration of waterfowl. Where do they come from and where are they going?

  Last week I had a chance to see where they come from. I hope to spend another 40 years trying to find out where they're going.

  Hundreds and hundreds of miles to the northwest in the rural setting of Canada's Saskatchewan, the province where the lion's share of the Mississippi flyway's ducks are raised.

  Here is where it all begins for many ducks who are raised in the potholes surrounded by cattails. Scattered across this vast backcountry are literally thousands of tiny wetlands, the footprints of glaciers that dominated another era in time.
  From the dark, rich soil where small rocks litter the surface is where thousands of acres of farmland produce untold bushels of barely, canola, oats and wheat. The ground is fertile and fields are massive, as are the farming operations who sow and reap the bounty of their annual

  Known as the "nation's breadbasket", Saskatchewan is nothing short of  heaven on earth when it comes to viewing waterfowl. Snow geese by the thousands stage here. They're joined by speckle belly and Canada geese too. 

 While the geese raise to the north, it is here where they congregate in the early phase of their annual migration that will take them thousands of miles. Over fields and farms, lakes and rivers. This is the confluence of waterfowl interstate highways as the abundance of rowcrops and wetlands appeal to the needs of these winged wonders.

  For a waterfowler it is, indeed, a little bit of heaven on earth. From horizon to horizon you can see ducks and geese trading places. Sometimes they swarm and corkscrew a flight pattern into a grain field. Here one day; over there the next. The sound of thousands clucking is almost unbelievable. The sight is equally unreal. The moment is priceless.

  Sunrises and sunsets have never been so beautiful in the eyes of a waterfowler. God has painted a picture here with a stroke of the brush that needs to be witnessed. Words and pictures can help tell the story but there's no substitute for being here.

  The roar of what seems to be 10,000 geese lifting off a marsh sends chills down the spine. You can almost feel the vibrations. It is nothing short of magnificent, sure to draw a smile and a comment.

  Say hello to one of nature's phenomena. The annual migration of waterfowl is something to behold and you cannot help but get caught up in the spell. Gazing into the high heavens you see flock after flock of the winged creatures, some of which will venture here to Tennessee. Others will leap frog their way into Texas on routes used for eons of time by their ancestors.

  Through snow storms, gale winds, rains and every element Mother Nature has to offer will pass these winged wonders guided by instinct. Mallards, pintails, gadwalls, widgeons, and more. They're under the influence of a power much stronger than most of us understand. How they know when to depart and where to go remains a mystery.

  Triggered by cold weather that puts ice on the ponds and freezes the golden grain fields as hard as the rocks that share the soil, bunches of ducks and geese head south to find open water and a buffet to meet their needs. Like the seasons that push them, their stay is temporary before moving on.

  Before daylight our hunting party is up and out. Setting up a huge spread of decoys is standard procedure long before breakfast is served. In the headlights of  trucks is built a configuration of white rags in hopes of fooling the snows geese, half  shell Canadas for the "dark" geese and ducks.

  It's the middle of a dry field and the ducks flog the areas and feed right with the geese. In fact, for miles away the ducks come to the big concentrations of geese knowing their feathered friends have found a treasure.

  Soon we will hide and wait. Soon we will be rewarded by the visit of more waterfowl than most hunters can ever imagine. Soon it will be a sight for sore eyes.

(Part One of a two-part series on Canada's Waterfowl Wonderland)

The information above is compiled by outdoor writer
Steve McCadams

    Steve is a professional hunting and fishing guide here in the Paris Landing area and host of the The Outdoor Channel's television series  IN-PURSUIT.