Sunday, December 23, 2012

The day the world ended (for the geese)...

We got in late last night after a long 16 hour drive back from eastern Montana. The trip was about as good as any I can remember. With wonderful hosts, great company, and lights-out hunting, it really was one for the books.

Compared to most of our goose hunting here in eastern Washington... well it really didn't compare. Our birds in the Columbia Basin are hunted hard from top to bottom. Greater Canada Geese, or "honkers" are now a bit tougher to find with the large increase in numbers of Lesser Canadas spread throughout the Basin. Lessers are a fun bird to hunt, but they're very finicky and on many days, tough to finish into the spread. Honkers have a reputation for being big and dumb but they wise-up quickly when the hunting pressure is on.

The birds we found in Montana were big, unpressured honkers, and as our buddy Rex put it flock after flock, day after day- "They came to die."

This was hero-hunting at it's finest. Kill limits in the morning, pull out of the field and go scout the afternoon. Our biggest problem each day wasn't finding fields with geese, it was deciding which one we would hunt the next morning. Our trip finished with a hunt in a field we nicknamed "the silo field". We had seen 1000+ birds using it each morning but were unable to get permission to hunt it until Mark received a call and the go-ahead the morning prior to our last day. We didn't have time to scout it again, but we knew it didn't matter. The birds had been using the field for the past week and were comfortable feeding in a zone close to the edge on a fenceline that would provide an easy hide for our layout blinds.

We set the spread and brushed our blinds just in time to watch the Montana sunrise. As I pulled my camera out to take a few photos, I was interrupted with our first incoming group of birds. They were 150 yards out and already cupped and gliding. With a bit of light calling, the bird finished perfectly into the hole just 10 yards in front of the blinds. After the volley we high-fived and cheered with excitement. What followed in the next hour was heavenly. Group after group finished beautifully on the X, some coming in quiet, others honking and moaning excitedly as they glided into the hole. We finished with limits in about an hour and watched the birds still piling into the field as we drove off. I will forever remember the famous Apocalypse, December 21, 2012- the day the world ended for all those geese!

I hope you enjoy some photos from the trip. I'm now winding down the waterfowl season and gearing up for my winter guide season for steelhead on the Olympic Peninsula. If anyone is interested in booking a trip, please contact my via email at or on the phone at 509-460-9519.

Rex picking up after a good shoot
The pile

Stackin' up the natural sleepers next to fake ones...
Headed for the truck at the end of the hunt...

Brushed up good in the wheat stubble...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Adventures Continue...

"WTF mate?"
We rolled out of town early enough to fight ice on the lake if need be. Little did we know, word had gotten out about the high numbers of birds in the area and there were about eight other rigs at the boat-ramp that had already put in prior to our arrival. With plenty of room for hunters in the area, we weren't a bit discouraged and continued on with our plan.

We rode the GPS trail to a cove that was holding over 500 mallards just a few days prior. We were pleased to see a lack of ice and made it into our spot after a quick 20 minute run. We strategized our setup and began setting decoys and brushing up the blind. With just a few minutes until shooting light, I took off around the point, stashed the boat and made a mad dash for the blind before the magic hour started.

The view out front and right of the blind...
Unfortunately, we were given a harsh reality check and the magic hour never happened. A half hour into legal shooting time and not a single bird flying had us a bit confused. As daylight replaced darkness, I looked behind us and saw a boat stashed about 150 yards from our blind. Disappointed, we through our hands up in the air after seeing a wall-tent set up just up the hill from the boat. The tent was army-green in color, and we hoped it would blend in with the hillside, but that was wishful thinking at best.

What you don't want to see 150 yards behind your set...
What few groups came and looked at our spread were flared off over 100 yards out at the sight of the camp behind us! With not enough time to spare for a quick move and second set, we were forced to stick it out and hope something would come in low enough to not notice the camp behind us. We had to laugh about it, because otherwise we would drive ourselves nuts. We pulled our spread and headed for home with our tails between our legs!

Today we regrouped and headed to Tri-Cities  for a quick goose hunt with a good buddy of ours. Brent found a pile of birds last night using a field they have leased rights to just above the Snake River. We met Brent at six and started the process of brushing our laydowns and setting up the spread in the headlights of our idling trucks. Waiting for the birds to fly, reminiscing about previous hunts only added to the anticipation!

The birds began flying around 9 and we had our first group commit about an hour later. We let 5 birds land in the spread in an attempt to finish the above flock of 30 or so geese. Unfortunately, they were all Lessers and behaving as such, clucking excitedly as they circled pass after pass just out of range. After four passes they bugged out completely and we were left with the birds that had landed in the decoys. We jumped them out of the spread and dropped the pair, we were on the board at last!

All in all, the morning progressed in a similar fashion with lots of groups of Lessers coming in cupped and committed but unwilling to finish completely. We adjusted a few things with our spread but determined the conditions were to blame, with a 20 degree increase in temperature from the day before and most birds unwilling to finish to the grass field we were in. Maybe they were back on the corn today, hard to say. Such is life as a goose hunter! Overall we had a blast and Brent couldn't have been a better host. We worked a few groups, missed a few and shot a few and couldn't have asked for more.

Twilight on the spread

The closest thing I have to a pic of the super goose dance

Making adjustments

Looking forward to our next hunt with Brent and company! We're off to eastern Montana in the morning for a week of chasing honkers. Will have reports after the trip!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Window-time pays off...

We've been hunting and scouting hard nearly every day in an attempt to really hammer on the birds here in the north Columbia Basin. Overall, we're quite pleased with the numbers of ducks in most areas we're hunting. Some of our zones hold more birds historically this time of year, but we just haven't had the cold weather to bring new ducks to the areas. Most of the birds we're hunting right now came down with early cold snaps back in November, creating the all-to-common challenge of trying to decoy birds that have seen just about everything hunters have to offer.

We've done well using two main tactics here in the north basin- chasing desired conditions and putting in our time scouting. With good numbers of birds in many areas, our only hope for having a really good shoot comes with hunting in conditions that makes the birds fly beyond the quick flurries of action in the first half hour of shooting light. This could be as little as a 5-8 mph breeze versus dead calm, or finding places with large fluctuations in water levels on the river. It has become so important to find whatever we can for conditions that keeps the birds flying throughout the day.

Our recent success the last two days has also been due, in large part, to our scouting. By putting in time running around checking spots in both the boat and the truck, we've been able to locate several areas that are holding birds but not being hunted. I think this really comes with the warmer than average conditions we've had for the past three weeks. The spots we've found are normally worked over pretty hard by weekend warriors this time of year, but the warm weather seems to be deterring most dedicated waterfowl hunters. 

We're crossing our fingers and praying for colder weather. Once we get our new birds it's going to be a lights-out show for several days running! Until then, we'll keep working our tails off chasing the birds, or could that be chasing our tails?

We're rolling over to hunt eastern Montana for a week here soon so I should have a pretty good trip report with lots of photos for you gawkers. In the meantime, I'm tying quite a bit for the upcoming winter season and trying my best to keep my head in the steelhead game, but these birds are really messing with that whole mindset!

Hope you all are enjoying the hunting, fishing, or spending time with family as we approach the holiday season! More to come soon!


Jeff and Rex with a pile-o-green
Jessie has an insane nose, hide the salami!

A mid-morning spread in less than ideal hunting weather...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Chasing green... our waterfowl season is officially underway!

Gotta love the green...
To start this post I gotta admit- Life has been a bit hectic lately. After finishing up my fall steelhead season with numerous banner days down on the Klickitat, I headed home in a rush, packed a bag and hopped on a plane with wife and family bound for the east coast. We had a very special visit for about 10 days in northern Maine, where my mother's side of the family is located.

The whitetail hunting season was in full swing over there, and being out in the woods and hearing stories of family members chasing bucks around really helped me shift my focus from hunting steelhead to hunting things I can shoot! After returning home, I've spent the past couple days putting away my guiding equipment and gearing up for waterfowl. It's always fun to shake the dust off the decoy bags and check the layout blinds for mouse nests!

My waterfowl season kicked off today with a wonderful opportunity to hunt with two very good friends of mine from the Tri-Cities, WA area. I grew up chasing birds with these guys most days of the week back in high-school, and they've continued their obsession with killing ducks and geese since our younger days. It's always a pleasure to get back to my old stomping grounds with guys I grew up hunting with. Some of our special "honeyholes" hold so many memories from previous hunts over the last 15 years, we can't help but laugh and tell stories from years past!

We currently have good numbers of birds in the Basin pushed down by some early cold-snaps back in late October. I was very impressed with the flights of both mallards and geese  observed today, and it seemed like there was always birds in the air this morning. Unfortunately, with bluebird weather and temps in the high 50s, many of these birds fly so high it makes it a bit tough to get them to come down and pay our spread a visit.

Our first 3 flights of the morning came in within the first 20 minutes of shooting light and weren't able to make it back out of the spread. This was the story for today, with our three guns shooting 11 for 12 birds, only leaving a lone Teal to make it out of the decoys unharmed! It's always nice to work the birds close and kill everything that comes into the spread!

Today's hunt was nothing to complain about, but we were constantly adjusting our spread in an attempt to make the birds more willing to commit. The reality is, the majority of the birds just weren't interested in hanging out on our pond. It didn't take long to recognize the all-too-familiar scenario, but we adapted accordingly- adjusting our calling and our spread until we found what worked best for us today. We came to the conclusion that the birds had been hammered on several times in this spot. All we really need to make the hunting gangbusters again is some fresh birds who aren't savvy to our program.

I was excited to see the geese so responsive to the call. Unfortunately, a several mile hike back into the pond prevented us from even considering bringing any goose decoys. Next time we'll bear the burden of the extra weight and deal with it! We had many flocks circle and look hard, only to recognize the lack of any goose decoy on the water.

We're excited for some weather to come our way and more excited about the birds it will bring. We finished today with 10 beautiful mallards and a full plumage drake widgeon that I wish I would have taken more pictures of. We worked our tails off for the birds we killed and did well despite the tough hand we were dealt today.

Miah looking hard for birds...

First light and a pretty spread...

An accurate look at our weather conditions today... nice but a bit tough for hunting...

Brit with her glory-pose...
It's going to be an insane waterfowl season up here in the Columbia Basin! I will do my best to keep the blog updated with reports and photos... I hope you enjoy. If anyone is interested in a hunt, please send an email the or call me anytime on my cell at 509-460-9519.

Happy hunting,


The Nomadic Angler