As we drove northeast out of Saskatoon, the snow drifts along the roadside got deeper and deeper. Just a few days before, an October blizzard had swept across the prairie, covering the fields in a fresh blanket of snow, and stalling farmers in their rush to finish picking up the autumn grain.
While the early storm had hampered the harvest, it didn't immediately affect the region's abundant waterfowl. The blizzard was fast moving. The equally fast melt following the storm left rows upon rows of canola, barley and peas still in the field for feasting and acres of flooded sheetwater for roosting. Soon, the birds would push further south, but near Quill Lake, hunting with Sykes Mitchell's Duck Creek Outfitters, we would be treated to some of the world's best gunning for ducks, honkers and light geese.
Over the next few days, my friends and I enjoyed incredible waterfowling — some as good as I'd ever experienced. The weather made accessing a few of our hotspots difficult, but due to the large flocks of birds in the area, we never failed to find success. From small creeks to little lakes to a shallow sheetwater pond smack dab in the middle of a stubble field, nearly any place we threw out our decoys drew in ducks and geese. Before the waterfowl hunt was over, I was already planning a return trip to Saskatchewan the following year.
Saskatchewan is well known for its duck and goose hunting; the secret got out long ago. But the province has garnered its reputation as a bucket-list waterfowling destination for good reason. In September and October, Saskatchewan hosts millions of ducks, including mallards, pintail, wigeon and more, plus scores of both light and dark geese. The birds migrate from the northern tundra, spending weeks in the central and southern part of the province fattening up on the many agricultural riches the southern part of the province is known for.
The area is easily accessible for U.S. hunters willing to make the drive across the border, or the many direct flights into Saskatoon. Agents there see thousands of hunters every year, and showing up with your shotgun is no surprise to them. They make getting into and out of the country with a firearm as painless as possible with some basic paperwork and regulations. From there, outfitters are ready and willing to provide hunters with a trip worthy of Saskatchewan's reputation as a world-class waterfowl destination.
Legendary Whitetails, Too
There's more to Saskatchewan hunting than just waterfowl. In fact, if anything competes with ducks and geese as the prairie province's most-famous hunting opportunity, it's the whitetail. Milo Hanson secured Saskatchewan's spot at the top of deer-hunting's list of must-hunt destinations with his world-record whitetail measuring 213 5/8 inches B&C as a typical! The legendary deer not only made the "Hanson Buck" a household name, but still drives hunters north into Saskatchewan's unique mix of agricultural lands, open prairie and thick forest.
It's been nearly 25 years since Milo Hanson punched his tag on the world-record buck, but that lineage likely lives on in the area's whitetail population. And, as much as genetics plays a factor, the nature of Saskatchewan's habitat also allows white-tailed deer to grow to giant proportions in both body and antler size. The varied terrain, from the southern prairies through the central parklands on north to the boreal forest, all contribute to Saskatchewan's legendary reputation as the deer hunter's dream destination.
With all this territory available, it might be tough to nail down the top spot to hunt white-tailed deer in Saskatchewan. The province hosts hundreds of top-notch outfitters to help narrow the search. In fact, U.S. residents hunting big game are required to use the services of an outfitter to hunt here, and that's a good thing. Tightly regulating hunting pressure is what has made the area a continual producer of mature bucks.
A Bonus of Boreal Bears
Along with waterfowl and white-tailed deer, black bears draw hundreds of U.S. hunters north into Canada every year. While the bruins can be found throughout much of the province, most of the bear hunting opportunities take place in the boreal forests that make up the northern half of Saskatchewan. Here, outfitters operate remote camps deep into black bear country, creating a hunting adventure unlike any other.
While spot-and-stalk opportunities exist in some of the agricultural areas and open parklands, baiting is the most popular, and effective, strategy for hunting bears in the thick bush. A properly maintained bait site allows hunters the chance to get up close to several black bears on each hunt as they wait for a mature boar to arrive. In addition to the opportunity at a big black bear weighing as much as 400 or more pounds, Saskatchewan is also home to variety of color-phase black bears, including blonde, cinnamon and even auburn-colored bears that are a rare treat for lucky hunters.
The great hunting Saskatchewan offers has never been a secret, but, unlike other so-called hotspots that wilt under pressure, Canada's prairie province is a perennial favorite. From the world-class waterfowling to giant white-tailed deer to the beautiful black bears and more, Saskatchewan's wildlife is worth the trip.
To help hunters pick the perfect location, Tourism Saskatchewan maintains a detailed website complete with hunting information and outfitter recommendations. Visit huntsask.ca to learn more.