A VISIT TO THE DUCK FACTORY
"CANADA'S SASKATCHEWAN IS WATERFOWL
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
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
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.
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
Sunrises and sunsets have never been so beautiful in the eyes of
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
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.
will leap frog their way into Texas on routes used for eons of time by
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
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
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
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
Soon we will hide and wait. Soon we will be rewarded by the visit
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 is a professional hunting and fishing guide
here in the Paris
Landing area and host of the The Outdoor Channel's television series