Known to their buddies as “the mixed bag kings,” Jake Dahl and Spencer Podgurski have forsaken traditional big game hunting pursuits most popular among Canadian hunters for feathered fowl. They’re a couple of young, savvy heavy-hitters that put in the miles and time scouting, playing for keeps while hunting. Snow geese are their passion. What was it like growing up in Canada, how many of their classmates hunted waterfowl, and what lead them to waterfowl over big game? What’s the power hour? What is it about “high risk, big reward” snow geese that excites them most? How long is their season? What do they do with all of those birds, anyways? How does hunting in Canada differ from most parts of the United States, and how’s it becoming increasingly similar? Like watching snow geese back-flipping into the decoys eye-ball high to your layout blind, this episode offers excellent perspective of what it’s like to be a genuine waterfowl hunter north of the border.
On the North American Tour: Alberta
I’ve been coming to Alberta for a long time, in fact GetDucks was started not too terribly far from here 20 years ago.
Ramsey Russell: I’m your host Ramsey Russell, join me here to listen to those conversations. Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere on the road, North American Tour underway, I am in Alberta. I’ve been coming to Alberta for a long time, in fact GetDucks was started not too terribly far from here 20 years ago. That’s how long I’ve been coming up to Alberta and I love it, I absolutely love it. But I’ve never hunted this part of Alberta and I’m fortunate enough to fall in with a couple of real deal duck killers, goose killers, goose hunters, which is unique to me for Canada or for Canadian hunters. A lot of us come up here to hunt from the state and we bring that American attitude for limits and equipment and scouting and just put the birds down, and that’s really unusual. I’m used to hunting with a lot of local Canadians farmers. They’re used to looking at their back door and seeing the birds out there and they might go out in between deer hunts, moose hunts, elk hunts, opportunities to put freighter full of antlered protein in their freezers. But the birds are just kind of an afterthought. Today’s guest Jake Dahl, Spencer Podgurski, they’re the opposite of that. They’re a couple of young guys up here in Alberta that go after these geese and ducks like they hurt their mama, they really do. And it’s been a lot of fun. We’ve had a great time hunting these past few days. How are you all doing this morning?
Jake Dahl: Good. Had a blast the past few days.
Learning to Hunt in the Headwaters of the Continental Migration
We had 12 decoys to start things out.
Ramsey Russell: That’s an understatement. And I don’t know where to start with you all. But it’s been a very eventful 3 days. We went out that first day and it kind of threw us a curveball – by American standards it was a great hunt but I can tell you all were disappointed. We did have a newbie hunter with us that got her first duck, so that was a win in my book. But the next 2 days were epic. They were epic. What I want to talk about the – first Jake, tell me, and then you too Spencer, what was it like growing up in Canada? What was it like for you all to grow up in the headwaters of the continental migration? What was it like growing up around here?
Jake Dahl: Yeah. I mean, I grew up in the Northwest Territory, so I was there till about 12 and then moved to Alberta, and my dad had done a bunch of hunting as a kid there in Saskatchewan. We had 12 decoys to start things out. And it’s just been amazing kind of growing up with it and really just learning things every year. And I mean blessed to be in the area, where we are with the birds that we do have.
Ramsey Russell: Talk about your first hunt with those 12 decoys, I’m assuming Canada goose decoys.
Jake Dahl: Yeah. So, it was just my dad and I and we shot 2 geese and 1 duck, and I mean, it just got better and better. I started asking for more decoys for birthdays and Christmas, and it’s really taken off.
Ramsey Russell: What was it about -? How old were you?
Jake Dahl: I would have been 13, would have been my first hunt.
Ramsey Russell: What was it about that first hunt? What was it about those birds coming in that just -?
Jake Dahl: Yeah, well I think it was more of a lack of birds coming in than that, that’s right. But no, like I’d always done a bunch of puddle jumping with watching my dad up in Yellowknife but it was fun to shoot there. I think just the action of it really got a guy hooked on it and then once I started able to drive and whatever at 16 then I could get out and do my own scouting.
Ramsey Russell: Did a lot of the people you went to school with in junior high, high school, did they duck hunt also? I mean, did a lot of people in your school – was everybody talking about the duck season and duck season’s opening? It’s opening day. Was there a lot of that going on? Was there a lot of buddies to fall in with?
Jake Dahl: 0 that I knew of really. Like I mean, even Spencer here we didn’t really know of anyone.
Ramsey Russell: Why is that? What do you think Spencer?
Spencer Podgurski: I can’t really speak to that. But I only started hunting 4 or 5-6 years ago, so I wasn’t into hunting in high school, so something I never really paid attention to.
Ramsey Russell: Why is that? I mean did your dad hunt at all?
Spencer Podgurski: No family. Only really once I started meeting Jake that he kind of took me out and showed me how to do it.
Ramsey Russell: Jake was a bad influence, brought you over to the dark side.
Spencer Podgurski: Some might say so.
Jake Dahl: Yeah. I think Alberta, especially central Alberta, everyone’s pretty big on deer. Like people love their deer because I think in some ways a lot of people don’t need a lot of equipment to do it, right?
Ramsey Russell: That’s a good point. You need a deer rifle and an orange coat.
Jake Dahl: Deer rifle and a truck and I think that’s one of the main reasons really is it’s just kind of – you can find some permission with some land on and you just kind of hope for the best you do a little bit of driving around and some people get lucky and I mean it’s just easy.
Ramsey Russell: Well, how does that contrast with waterfowl hunting up here? Because the ducks and geese – and it is there everywhere. I mean everywhere you go you see them, but at the same time they’re really not everywhere. They’re real unequally distributed across the land, I guess around food and agriculture and water and stuff like that. What about access for hunting properties? Have you always just knocked on doors? Is that kind of how you’ve done it growing up? Because I think that kind of went away, at least in Mississippi, back in the 50’s and 60’s just knocking on doors, or 70’s, saying could I go hunt your property? I think that just kind of vanished but is that still how you did it in high school?
Jake Dahl: Yeah. So, when I was – like, I have 2 younger brothers, so my dad would always use us as a good way to get permission. Just wanting to take the family out, wanting to take the kids out. And it’s just – yeah, you got to really just drive up, knock, be polite, let them know what you’re trying to do. A lot of people just are happy to have that positive experience whether they’re going to say yes or no. It’s important to approach it in a positive way that these farmers aren’t getting scared off or whatever. And I find a lot of people that are getting into waterfowl hunting are very afraid to go knock on doors.
Ramsey Russell: Really?
Jake Dahl: They’d rather go, not saying it’s a bad thing, but they’d rather go hunt like a DU property because you don’t need to ask for permission there but it’s not really setting themselves up for those good hunts I guess. You can have good hunts but it’s not the same as getting private permission.
Who is the Average Canadian Waterfowler?
A lot of people we know go 4, 5, 6 times in a year and then as soon as October ends, deer season starts here November 1st and we never hear from them again.
Ramsey Russell: Did I kind of describe the average Canadian waterfowler accurately, when I opened the show talking about -? They really don’t take it seriously. I mean, you all really truly are the – what allured me and made me want to hunt with you all is, you all are the most serious from looking at your Instagram feeds and talking to you on the phone. You all are just like guys who grew up in Kansas or Arkansas or anywhere else in the United States. You all are serious, man, you all approach it from every aspect of it, as a science and art form of killing feathered fowl. But did I describe the average people pretty accurately – just kind of lackadaisical if they even hunt them at all?
Jake Dahl: I think so. Like, I mean, especially it being Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada right now, it’s our busiest weekend because anyone with a few decoys is out right now. So it’s amazing the jump of scouting activity that you see, and trucks on the road, and small spreads and whatnot. Like, I mean everyone’s got to start somewhere. A lot of people we know go 4, 5, 6 times in a year and then as soon as October ends, deer season starts here November 1st and we never hear from them again.
Ramsey Russell: It’s a traditional holiday and people are out. And in both nights I went scouting with you all with Spencer, both nights we ran into – there were other people looking at those birds, is that normal? Would that have happened were if it’s not Thanksgiving?
Jake Dahl: Yeah, it’s going to happen when you’re around there, but definitely you see a lot of people come out of the woodwork there on Thanksgiving. Like you said, there’s other people watching the birds, they’re going to try and get permission, they might not be successful, but it’s all about putting that time and then driving around keeping your options open. We went around there and we drove an hour and a half one way, the next night we’re 45 minutes the other way, so we’re covering some ground.
Ramsey Russell: Boy, you all are covering some ground. When you said we were going – we left here whatever 4 o’clock and we weren’t going to get back till 9, I’m like ha-ha! He must be messing with me, man you weren’t kidding, we did some driving, way out to boondocks from here to go find those birds. We found a bird, we found geese and there was a guy there looking at it. But in both instances that we encountered somebody else, there seemed to be some confusion on their part, or just some shrugging off on their part of who really had permission, or who the landowner was? I mean both instances, it was just guys were going to hunt that field but didn’t seem to really know what was what? Is that common?
How to Approach a Canadian Landowner About Hunting on Their Land
So in that situation, he had talked to the renter, where we had talked to the landowner.
Spencer Podgurski: More often than not. I think it’s good. Like you saw the interactions with the landowners there, if you’re going to give them the respect, they’re going to engage in those conversations with you and they’re going to work with you. Like the landowner over there East, he said, well I can go talk to this guy and straighten him out for you and I think that was because I took the time to go talk to him on his porch, find him at home, tell him what I was going to do, let him know my intentions and do it the right way. This is their livelihood out there, so if you mess with it, you wreck their land, they’re going to take a hit on it and it’s going to ruin it for the next guy that knocks on his door.
Jake Dahl: And I mean to add to that, that’s becoming a lot more popular. I mean it’s a lot easier for these farmers to say, no to hunting because it just eliminates that risk of them being burned in the past or something or digging pits even that’s a thing of the past but a lot of guys will still bring that up, like you’re not going to dig pits out there, are you?
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. We went out the second night, we had a heck of a snow goose hunt yesterday afternoon, heck of a snow goose hunt. And we found that feed night before last, and as we were sitting there glassing and I’m thinking, oh my gosh, look at these birds piling in. Coming off that big lake and just swirling and there’s another truck down there and we go and talk to him, the guy’s like, oh, I got permission. Explain what was that situation? The guy had permission, but he really didn’t.
Spencer Podgurski: Yeah. So in that situation, he had talked to the renter, where we had talked to the landowner. Essentially what it boils down to is once the crop’s off, the permission falls back onto the landowner, not the renter. So, just given he was writing his train of thought of talking to the renter, but at the end of the day, it was the landowner who superseded that.
Canadian Methods of Hunting Geese
Mixed bag kings. Yeah, we’re all about taking what we can get. We’re not going to go just always target one species or whatnot.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. And what got me is how he was going to go out and hunt those geese. And I’m not beating up and saying this is bad because it is kind of blessed to be in this part of the world where in the headwaters of the migration, the birds are not as educated, they’re a little more acceptable to – but how is he going to hunt those snow geese? He said he had 50 decoys –
Spencer Podgurski: Yeah, 50 decoys and he’s going to roll up some paper and get out there.
Ramsey Russell: What kind of paper he was going to roll up?
Spencer Podgurski: Just some standard 8.5 by 11 printer paper.
Jake Dahl: No. E-caller.
Spencer Podgurski: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: No, e-caller and just go out there and hope for the best.
Spencer Podgurski: Knowing what we know now with how many juvi’s were in there, he probably would have got some but –
Ramsey Russell: He probably would have got a few, there’s no doubt but –
Spencer Podgurski: Still would have been outnumbered for sure.
Ramsey Russell: Oh my gosh! How did you all find that – second morning we went, you had gone in scout with Keira and said that a bunch of ducks were using this particular field. There were some whites, there were some darks, meaning specks, and we went out and that was just a beat down. Roger joined us and that was an absolute – were you surprised when the way those birds set up? I mean when all the white geese showed up, that many white geese, that was a heck of – that probably one of the top hunts I’ve been on this year. It will have been on this whole season certainly one of the most memorable hunts of my season. Talk about finding that field and talk about the setup because I thought the setup could not have been any more perfect than we did it.
Jake Dahl: Yeah. So, I found that field just the night before and I’d seen some ducks, ducks and geese hitting that a few days prior, but they really moved in there that night. So, what we’re kind of looking for, I guess when we’re doing some scouting is just seeing how comfortable the birds are for one if they’re getting up and jumping and flying around and whatnot. It’s kind of not what I’m looking for, especially for snow geese because they’re terrible to begin with some days. And then that field was set up pretty cool that it had some grass rows running through the middle of the field where some old fences had been, so I figured it could probably be a good hide for us there. And then we love shooting snow geese in the morning because you get that first half hour of dim light. And we always call that the power hour really. And the geese just – you’re not getting that potential shine off the decoys, like if there’s frost, or even just when the sunrise hits there’s certain angles where whatever you do, there’s some shine on whatever. So yeah, the snows did it great there for 30 or 40 minutes and we had some ducks, had some specks and it was a good hunt. That’s what we’re all about there: getting some variety. Like we’ve had some people call us what the variety kings or –
Spencer Podgurski: Mixed bag kings.
Jake Dahl: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: Mixed bag kings.
Jake Dahl: Yeah, we’re all about taking what we can get. We’re not going to go just always target one species or whatnot. It’s just whatever we can make work I guess.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. How did you decide to set up like we did? Because here it was just a perfect scenario. We ran those snow geese, full body Dave Smith-type decoys. Ran them in family groups kind of in long lines with the roads or with the tire tracks out in front, and then we put some behind us and we were in this grown up old fence row, didn’t have wire yet, but still had tall grass, couldn’t see nothing. I mean it was just absolutely – and the birds were coming – I guess that was kind of out of the south, out of the north really. They were just coming right up that hill and coming right in working off, and what was so cool is that they stalled kind of right on my end, and that was when they dipped in and you then take them. They had nowhere to go but run the gamut and there were some – it was some pretty good shooters, it was a pretty good shooting going on. I know Char dog got bogged down real quick trying to keep up with all those birds. And is that where exactly where the birds were located at the time?
Jake Dahl: Oh they were a little further up the hill actually. But I mean just with that fence line there watching the birds of the night before, they were kind of just jumping over that fence back and forth as they’re racing each other for the food. So, I figured they’d be more than comfortable being around that fence line, which they were the night before. So, yeah and then just super cool the way the wind was, we were almost cross shooting them. And then yeah, just kind of mimicking what we saw last night by throwing some decoys on the other side just to give it that realistic approach. And if you had decoys on either side of that fence line, it kind of shows that it gives the birds the confidence to approach that fence line.
Ramsey Russell: And they did. A lot of them would set up initially on the front part and then drift over the fence line kind of working those flyers or whatever you had back behind us and it couldn’t have been more perfect for that, they were very vulnerable and until they weren’t. Shot quite a few specks and the ducks, really, there were a lot of ducks, but they really just – we shot a bunch of ducks, but there were so many thousands of ducks working, I don’t know. You think that was a function of there were just so many birds that didn’t work in good? Or why do you think the ducks didn’t work no better that morning? Because ducks are ducks and I’m just saying everything was perfect enough of them did to give us some shooting. But God, there were some flock, there seemed to be a 1000 birds.
Jake Dahl: Yeah, I don’t know if that was a weather thing that day or did they feed more the night before longer or something. Because we’ve had those experiences a few times where they feed longer in the afternoon, they don’t come out really as hungry in the morning. Not really sure. Because usually ducks are pretty much a home run most days, but they do find ways to kind of be tricky, I guess once in a while.
What’s the Draw of Hunting Snow Geese?
It’s high risk, high reward. You put in the time and some days you win big and some days you get humbled pretty quick.
Ramsey Russell: What is it? I just know that because you said something while we were cleaning birds last night. I’m trying to think of how you worded it, but it was something, the fact that March – here we are in October, March can’t get here quick enough. What is it about snow geese that enamored you?
Jake Dahl: Holy, I got introduced to –
Ramsey Russell: Because I think this part and I love to shoot fall snow geese. But man, you got all these Canada geese and all these ducks and specks and a lot of people kind of shun, “sky carp” or “white devils” but you all go after them.
Jake Dahl: I was fortunate to meet a – now a good friend of Spencer – on the side of the road. I was scouting one night and we started hunting a bit together in the fall and he said, you guys got to come try the spring with us, and it is the most fun of our lives. I really would fast forward. I think, it’s just unbelievable, the past few springs we’ve had.
Spencer Podgurski: It’s a whole different game. It’s high risk, high reward. You put in the time and some days you win big and some days you get humbled pretty quick. But it’s all about that rush of getting out there and seeing what you do because if you stay home, you’re not going to shoot any.
Ramsey Russell: Right. It is a high risk, high reward. For example, kind of what I’ve always heard and looked at and believed is we’re out here scouting, you all are making these big loop you go by one day and you see a 1000 snow geese or whatever out here, you go by the 2nd day and see a 1000 snow geese out here and you go out the 3rd day and starting to build, on the third day they’re stuck. But then on the day that, that all of a sudden you go from 1000, 1200, 1500 it starts to build and that’s the time to hit it. And I asked that yesterday in front of Roger and Roger’s like, you’re exactly right until a year like this year when there’s so little grain out and he fields these birds, hit it, and they may feed it out in a day. Have you all seen that? I mean, I guess that’s a function of this drought going on.
Jake Dahl: Those snow geese, like they are still devils. I mean, there’s some times where we can’t even get permission fast enough for these fields because they’re into the next one there in 30 minutes, and then 30 minutes, and 30 minutes, and I mean they just jump like crazy. And do you want to be working with those birds anyway? They’re so erratic and whatnot that it’s probably one of those groups that –
Spencer Podgurski: It’s not worth your time really.
Ramsey Russell: I rode out with Spencer the first afternoon and how many mallards were out in that field, Spencer? 3000, 4000?
Spencer Podgurski: Yeah, that sounds about right, Ramsey.
Ramsey Russell: I mean, like an ant mound. I mean the ground was just crawling with them and they’d get up and roll and fly and it was gorgeous. But they really were concentrated right up next to the road and Spencer made the observation, he said, it worries me to go after these birds because I think they’ve pretty much cleaned it out. You know, usually when they start feeding up that type to the road, they’ve cleaned out the rest of the field. Then you and Keira went the next evening and there was just a fraction of the birds in there.
Jake Dahl: Yeah, like they –
Ramsey Russell: It’s kind of like trying to chase a moving target at times, isn’t it?
Jake Dahl: Yeah, I mean it’s just little things you start to look for I guess as you get more experienced with it, like I mean you could have gone in there the next morning and shot ducks, no doubt there’s so many in the area and they were still checking out that field, but it wasn’t the hot spot anymore. So, we decided to take a different approach today than yesterday.
Ramsey Russell: Let’s talk about yesterday because that was a hell of a day from start to finish. And for an old guy like me, running down the road and getting up every day, and I try to tuck in early man. I try to – boy, I guarantee you in about another 2 months, I’ll be saying good night around 7:30, 8:00 and getting up early. And we went out – Spencer and I went out – and looked and found those snow geese. We clearly had permission, Spencer, man, he handled that negotiation with that guy like $1 million dollar negotiation deal. Because I’m just sitting there, I said, well I know I don’t need a Southern accent weighing into this discussion, so I just looked out the window at the birds and at some point said Dahlboy, like we got to figure this out, don’t we? And Spencer just got quiet. I’m like, that’s pretty damn clever cause sometimes saying nothing is the right thing to say. Let the other guy kind of sort it out. Well, Spencer was texting the landowner and then walked out and said, well I just talked the landowner, here’s what he said, and at that point the guy said, oh well I guess you all got the field. So, I assumed we were going to go shoot it yesterday morning and we didn’t. You had another trick up your sleeve. And so as we were drinking peach brandy and eating snow goose barbecue, you said well we’re going to sleep in the morning, we’re not going to leave here until 8:00 or 8:30. I’m like what? Talk about what the strategy was yesterday because it worked. Boy, I mean we got dog at work good.
Jake Dahl: Yeah, we got a few little day loaf spots around that we call them. And the geese up where we are, come off the river, they go feed in the field and then they want a comfortable place to sit for the day before the evening feed, so it’s usually these almost cattle ponds, I guess that don’t really have vegetation around, like there’s no cat tails, it’s just nice green grass that they can feed on during the day, even sit in the sun. It makes for some interesting scenarios I guess if you can find those right places because the water body can’t be too big. You’re generally looking for a certain kind of wind. Unfortunately, we didn’t really have the wind yesterday. Yeah, what we do is those birds go feed, then we got set up and I actually went and scouted the snow geese, so I didn’t really have a part of that, but you guys brushed those blinds in real nice.
Ramsey Russell: And you were glad we didn’t go after those snow geese because they all – 2000, 3000 birds came in, but they came in like 2 waves.
Jake Dahl: Yeah, so watching those geese come out in the morning, it was a little tent and still much confidence there that’s for sure. But it’s just one of those things that I think, I mean we’re all planning on giving it a try in the afternoon, so just had to make sure that they were going to show up there in that same field.
Spencer Podgurski: Not to mention make sure no one else went in there.
Jake Dahl: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: It’s what I love about traveling and seeing different little corners of the earth. Everybody’s got a little piece of heaven and how they hunt, it’s just default. If I’m not there 30 minutes before legal shooting time, I’m late. And here we are getting up at 8 o’clock sun done come and gone, shooting time done come and gone, in fact, I got up and shooting time, took a shower, drank coffee, yada yada. We’ve stopped, we cut a bunch of grass, I mean golly, it was 9:00, 9:30 when you got there. And then we sat around bullshitting for an hour till somebody heard, and we look, here comes that first flock, and then we hunkered up, and it was pretty quick section of big completions hitting the pond in the nearby banks. But there was a little fly in the ointment, so to speak because somebody, a local, had gained permission to hunt where those birds were feeding. What could have happened then?
Jake Dahl: Yes, that was an interesting scenario. So, we followed those birds on the day before to see what field they’re actually were feeding on, so I called to get permission on that because if someone hunts that field, it’s going to screw up where those birds are going to go for the loaf for that day. So, unfortunately the farmer’s son there was planning on actually giving it a try and hunting those geese in the field. He’s a new hunter, like very inexperienced, so we thought, well this might be a good opportunity to bring him along there and I think he kind of had the time of his life really.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, I know he did because I know kind of during a lull or kind of an intermission between the volleys, I was counting birds, and getting them sorted back behind the blinds, and Char was still picking up a few birds out on the water, and he was back there looking at them, and I said something to him and he just indicated that he’d never seen anything like that. And boy, those birds did it. I love to see those Ross’s geese and snow geese, but especially those little ross is the way they will, what I call backstroke to start maple leaf and they roll over on their back and just dump and as they’re coming in man to see 50 Big B-52 size Canada geese doing it there to the left on the end of that slough as they were setting up. Holy Cow man, they were dumping air working in there quick.
Jake Dahl: It’s a different kind of Canada goose hunting and it’s cool to see big geese over these little loaf ponds.
Ramsey Russell: Oh my gosh. And if we had just come back and taking a nap and eating lunch or whatever we did, that have been a heck of a day. I know, Char dog wouldn’t have minded sleeping in the box the rest of the day, but that wasn’t the plan. We came in and regrouped, what? We leave about 4 o’clock and –
Spencer Podgurski: Little earlier.
Ramsey Russell: A little earlier maybe and went out and hit those snow geese. Because nobody had hunted them that morning, fingers crossed, they didn’t all come in one or two waves, and they didn’t.
Jake Dahl: Yeah.
The Joys of Juvie Snow Geese
Yeah, that was one of those hunts or it’s still cool whether juveniles or adults, it’s kind of cool to see those birds.
Ramsey Russell: We were still brushing blind. Well we got there, there were bird’s just flocks. A few and then right off the bat, boom, here comes a – and you could tell that this is oh ho-ho it’s going to be one of the days because that froze first bird just dumped right in there, they started paying rent right off the bat, didn’t they?
Jake Dahl: Yeah, it was quite the juvie party. Especially that first hour, we actually had some wind there before it went totally flat. Yeah, that was one of those hunts or it’s still cool whether juveniles or adults, it’s kind of cool to see those birds.
Ramsey Russell: Why did you decide – was it because you weren’t sure of how many birds were going to come in that evening? But why did you decide to put out a relatively small spread compared to what we put out the other day?
Jake Dahl: Well, one there’s already some birds flying around so I –
Spencer Podgurski: Kind of in a time crunch.
Jake Dahl: Yeah and then I think two, it’s just trying some different things once in a while like I mean it’s definitely something like back to the spring just experimenting with different setups and sizes and just like – I mean we were grasped from – we used ditch grass for that loaf pond and we used ditch grass blinds in a barley field last night and I mean those juvie as they were landing 3ft.
Ramsey Russell: If I were quicker, I mean there were a lot of times and the way we set up those that spread, it was just real loose and the birds could just kind of work and just there were a lot of places, it was very inviting from any different angle just about but there – I could kind of had my camera looking down and I could see them kind of almost landed on you all’s blind. I’ve seen them almost knocked his hat off a few times, it’s almost like I could have reached up and grabbed the one, they were so close and God bless, I love a juvenile snow geese. I like the gray birds more than any bird in North America because they just give it up, man, they just come on in like they do. And I know that I set out a few volleys just film because it was just like boom-boom. It’s just 2s and 3s and I know when I send Char, I’d look on you all’s and you all were doing the same thing because they were just giving it up. What about that one flock that came in must have been a dozen birds and we punched a big donut hole right in the middle of it and then the rest of them just flew around yelling mama and just kept – there wasn’t any survivors out of that, they didn’t get to go tell nobody about that.
Jake Dahl: Well, they saw their friends dropping into the party so –
Ramsey Russell: So they figured they’d come back.
Jake Dahl: No, it’s a fun thing. If there’s some adults, I mean as bad as it sounds, if you target those adults first, those juvie’s will usually swing around again too.
How are Juvenile and Adult Snow Geese Different to Hunt?
But I don’t know, there’s something about adult snow geese that, when you’ve got a pile of them, you did something right.
Ramsey Russell: How unusual is it outside of your team, you and Roger and Spencer, for Canadian hunters to have the level of investment in decoys that you all have. Because you all got 2 traders a white trailer and a dark trailer with full bodies and silhouettes, and some really nice snow goose decoys, and a whole lot of other stuff. I mean that’s a huge commitment for anybody listening, that’s a huge commitment in decoys.
Jake Dahl: Yeah, like we’re definitely one of the few I guess, especially with the snow goose decoys. But yeah, it’s just kind of – it’s just something that we keep building on every year really like it’s just always what can we add next?
Spencer Podgurski: It’s some here some there, it’s not like we went out and spent all this money at once and decided this is what we’re going to do it.
Ramsey Russell: You have to be somebody special to go do that. I mean that’s a heck of a couple of trailer worth of gear, you got assemble there, I couldn’t imagine just going out and write a check for it all in one fell swoop, but still it’s impressive. We shot a lot of juveniles last night, but you told me you target adult geese. What’s up with that? Come on.
Jake Dahl: Oh, it’s just –
Ramsey Russell: I shoot the next white bird that comes in.
Jake Dahl: For me personally, fooling the adults is – and some sometimes like we’ll be looking for adults and those flocks are so hard that sometimes they’re only shooting twice because it’s like adult looking for a 3rd one, and by that time, they’ve kind of gone past or whatever. But I don’t know, there’s something about adult snow geese that, when you’ve got a pile of them, you did something right. Or the weather was just – I mean a big part of it too, right or something.
Ramsey Russell: You get that level, it’s about playing the game.
Spencer Podgurski: Yeah, it’s about winning. That’s really what it is when you fool those adult birds, you know, you’re doing it right.
Ramsey Russell: Are they more wary in the spring or less wary?
Jake Dahl: I’d say they’re probably less in the spring.
Ramsey Russell: Really?
Jake Dahl: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: Fly back crossing that border, they get dumb again.
Jake Dahl: I think so. I think they got priorities. It’s kind of a race to get up north there and I think if you find those right groups of birds to work with and whatnot, it can get real fun. It really can. And we see a lot more Ross’s geese in the spring, too, up here.
Ramsey Russell: And for all the white birds we’ve shot in the last few days, one or two Ross’s geese, maybe they were juveniles that is weird that we’re not – because I just came from over there in Saskatchewan, there’s a lot of Ross’s geese. They just don’t get this far west in the fall.
Jake Dahl: No.
Ramsey Russell: But they come back in the spring.
Jake Dahl: Yeah, so I mean that’s beyond my expertise of why, but it’s been like that since I’ve started paying attention.
Ramsey Russell: God bless Ross’s geese. I love them
Jake Dahl: Yeah, they’re one of my favorites.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, I guarantee you they are, man. They just give it up, son. They love those decoys. Absolutely love those decoys. And then to conclude, so we go out and we shoot a loafing pond and just a bunch of Canada geese. Then we go out and surprise a lot of juvi’s make a show and we just clobber them and then we come back and somehow another Spencer between hunting and doing everything else is somehow coordinated the best meal I’ve eaten in Canada yet, which was beautiful brisket. Thank you. That was awesome.
Spencer Podgurski: Yeah, you’re very welcome.
Ramsey Russell: How did you get into smoking? I mean that was good stuff, man.
Spencer Podgurski: Just something I’ve always been interested in and since I moved out, I kind of had the time and space to do it. So, this spring I went out and bought a Traeger and started messing around with it and it’s pretty foolproof. You can do whatever you want and it’s hard to mess it up.
Ramsey Russell: Those pellet smokers are like having a magician on the back porch.
Spencer Podgurski: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: I like that for beef briskets. As a matter of that Alberta beef you all brag on too.
Spencer Podgurski: Yeah, like the brisket was in there for 12 hours. And of those 12 hours, we probably spent 7 or 8 of them in a blind nowhere near it.
Ramsey Russell: And it was Bluetooth, it was talking to your phone, you knew where you were. We were walking to the truck after the Canada goose hunt, you said something about the temperature was at 161 and it was getting there, you’re going to have to talk to Amanda to help you out or something, you get there, it was God dog boy.
Spencer Podgurski: Yeah, it was a team effort there.
Ramsey Russell: That was a perfect way – that and those cold beers. That was a perfect way to finish such a great day out there. Perfect day. Where do you go from here? Your dad was telling me the other day and you were telling me, you all were telling me that, you all have mallards and Canada geese all year. They stay up here. And when did you all season closed? It opens September 1st, when does your season close?
How Does the Weather Affect Waterfowl Hunting Season in Alberta, Canada?
What is it like hunting up here when it gets – how cold is it in December, late November, December? How cold is it up here?
Jake Dahl: So, ours down in this area of Alberta closes 16th of December. So we get 3.5 months.
Ramsey Russell: But it starts to get cold. Like I know the weather forecast has changed just a little, but I saw a forecast a few days ago that calls for – I mean, you all figure it around mid-October, you’re subject of catching a clipper, getting some snow, getting a lot of these loafing pond, these areas starting to freeze up. What are the ducks doing? I mean the ducks and geese.
Jake Dahl: Yeah, so I mean there’s obviously the rivers, there’s areas that stay open a little longer, but generally like we’re pretty frozen by the end of October, like a lot of these ponds around here. So, those birds start moving to bigger water. And like it’s been a weird fall, it’s been warm, it’s like usually we have a freak snowstorm at least a couple of times by the 3rd week of October and the 2 week forecast here just looks pretty clear.
Ramsey Russell: There was a morning, it was in the 20F, 30F it was frosty. I guess all 3 mornings I woke up early enough to see it yesterday morning but the first 2 mornings there was frost, good frost. But then it warm, I mean it warm up 30-40 degrees by lunch so it’d be 50-60 degrees. And you all are just used to that. The birds I guess are used to that. They don’t seem to be any hurry to move along.
Jake Dahl: No, I mean especially without the weather to – I mean don’t get me wrong those freak snowstorms can be a lot of fun.
Ramsey Russell: Oh yeah, I’ve been here.
Jake Dahl: A lot of fun. Like I could go for a couple right now actually because those birds have a different agenda in mind those days and you can really –
Ramsey Russell: They get into a frenzy, like a Black Friday shopper, you know they just go nuts. It’s something about it that change the weather like that just makes them stupid. What is it like hunting up here when it gets – how cold is it in December, late November, December? How cold is it up here?
Jake Dahl: Well, I know we’ve sat out there in -25 before which I don’t know what that is in –
Spencer Podgurski: Fahrenheit.
Ramsey Russell: I can’t do the math but it’s cold. It’s damn cold. I’ll tell you that. -25 on either side Celsius or Fahrenheit is cold.
Spencer Podgurski: That’s about minus 13F.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, that’s pretty damn cold.
Jake Dahl: But I mean, just depending on the temperature, we figured those birds on pretty well, the colder it is, the later those geese will fly. So, I mean generally we can time it out pretty well that we can get it within half an hour of us, so we don’t have to really waste a lot of time sitting out there freezing.
Ramsey Russell: And you were saying the first morning that’s why you all like those Bigfoot decoys, it really makes late season easy. You’re not having to drill a hole or pound ground stakes or nothing, you just can go out there and lay those things on top of the snow on top of the ice and it works.
Jake Dahl: Yeah, I mean, again, like every piece of equipment they have there, their purpose and –
Spencer Podgurski: Their time and their place.
Ramsey Russell: You know, a lot of us guys from down south, a lot of folks come up here in freelance, I come up here and hunt with friends and outfitters. But for a lot of guys back home, it’s as much a function of time is money and so outfitters provide a valuable service. We can come up here and they’ve got scouts, they’ve got cooks, they’ve got the amenities and we can make the most of our 3 days away from real life. How do you think – how would you compare, how you all hunt to maybe a commercial operation?
Jake Dahl: Yeah. I guess for one thing, there’s maybe some reduced – we put a lot of pressure on ourselves, but I guess there still isn’t that pressure to really perform, right? And we’re very blessed to hunt a lot. So, if we were going to – I mean it’s going to happen where you’re going to get screwed over one of these mornings. So, it’s kind of you just roll with it and it’s part of it and you get revenge the next day on them. And I think that’s one of the biggest things, and then mixing in work, and social lives, and girlfriends, and wives, and whatnot, families. A lot of the guys that we hunt with have kids and whatnot.
Has Commercial Hunting Changed Local Canadian Hunting?
I think every year it gets harder.
Ramsey Russell: It’s a lot of pressure for a commercial operator to have clients in and out every day because clients really do want to hit those numbers. I mean that’s what they’re up here. They’re not here to watch the sunrise and drink Canadian beer, they’re up here to shoot some birds and have a good time. It’s a lot of pressure. I mean when you got warm weather, hot weather, no weather, no wind and it’s a lot of pressure for those guides, but they have to go out every day, they have to make a show and they have to play for limits and I think it really is a lot of different mindset to be able to go out just and hunt when this right here in your backyard, isn’t it?
Spencer Podgurski: And we have the luxury of doing this for 3.5 months, whereas those clients coming up here might only have 3.5 days.
Ramsey Russell: Right. And that’s a big difference.
Spencer Podgurski: Yeah, like watching those snow geese build and get comfortable and hang around, we had the luxury to do that where operations out there might not, they have a day to hunt and you’re going to hunt it or not.
Ramsey Russell: Western Canada, to my knowledge, has a pretty cool concept that leasing is pretty much illegal or discouraged. I was told a long time ago that the reason some of these Western provinces don’t let people lease hunting land is just to create opportunities for Canadians. Has commercial activity complicated you all being able to go out as local Canadians and just hunt and have a good time anymore?
Jake Dahl: I think every year it gets harder. Definitely as there’s more people out and outfitters and whatnot, it just seems like it’s getting harder than what I remember it being there even 10 years ago, right? So, it’ll be interesting to see how that progresses in the future. But I don’t know, it doesn’t make me very excited almost in a way, I fear that it’s only going to get worse really.
Ramsey Russell: How many operators are within you all driving area? Half dozen?
Spencer Podgurski: Yeah. I can think about of 4.
Jake Dahl: Yeah. And then there’s a few more that takes just residents or what not too, right? So, I mean there’s people around.
Ramsey Russell: And you were saying one time you could make it easier. I mean, if I were a farmer rather than having 50 people knock on my door to go hunting, it would be easier to just deal with one.
Jake Dahl: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: That kind of makes his life simple and everything else simple. Do the farmers up here get frustrated with that? I mean do a lot of landowners just get – this time of year do they ever just say, oh my gosh, they ever just unplug their phones or turn the lights off, where people won’t come knock on their doors?
Spencer Podgurski: Yeah, and just talking to these guys the last couple of days trying to set something up for you guys, you get a variety of it. Like I spent 20 minutes talking to a guy on his deck and he was pretty appreciative. This other guy came and looked at his field, and he asked if I wanted him to straighten this other guy out for us so he wouldn’t go in and shoot our birds. And then you go to the neighbor and you can’t even get out of your truck and he says, no, I don’t allow hunting, get off my land. So you definitely get a variety and that’s kind of what we were talking about earlier with the past experiences of the past hunters, the trespassers and people not really knowing what they’re doing or not respecting their land.
Jake Dahl: And it’s like I think a lot of our farmers here in the fall, I mean it’s their busiest time. Like a lot of those guys you call them and they’re running a combine and it’s like sometimes it’s like you’re the 5th guy that’s called tonight or whatever, right? And so –
Ramsey Russell: He’s trying to get those crop done to make his living.
Jake Dahl: Yeah. So unfortunately it’s their busiest time and sometimes you’re trying to put some of these hunts together last minute, or just trying to keep things organized, and I mean, I can see why it’s just easier to say no, I really can. I mean even this year, I’ve been told no on some land that I’ve hunted in the past. So what changes there? It’s unfortunate and then a lot of the places around cities, people just don’t, they don’t know what – they live out in the country, but they don’t understand hunting. So it makes things difficult. We’re seeing that we’re having to go a little farther to get to less populated areas sometimes.
Favorite Recipes for Goose
Well, I mean we do just a ton of jerky pepperoni.
Ramsey Russell: I noticed after every hunt immediately we go start plucking duck, breasting ducks, I mean geese, ducks when we clean them, right? And especially those snow geese, it’s so easy to shuck out of snow goose when it’s still warm and it took no time. 30 minutes to get all those guys from last night, maybe 30 minutes. What do you all do with all the meat?
Jake Dahl: Well, I mean we do just a ton of jerky pepperoni.
Spencer Podgurski: Sausage, pastrami you name it, Ramsey.
Ramsey Russell: Well, I had your pastrami and you smoke that?
Spencer Podgurski: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: How did you make that pastrami?
Spencer Podgurski: That’s a great question. I’d have to check the recipe but it’s something just experimenting with, like getting that pellet grill this year, like just trying something new and not being afraid to do it.
Ramsey Russell: It was delicious. It didn’t last long on the table last night.
Spencer Podgurski: No.
Ramsey Russell: And then those pepperoni sticks we had, I think I ate your whole sack. I told you man don’t put that thing around me unless if you don’t want any left. That was good stuff.
Jake Dahl: Yeah. We found a few butchers that do a great job with some of that too. Sometimes like for me personally I don’t fool around trying to make my own jerky and whatnot. It’s just kind of easier to pay someone, and then it’s done delicious, and it’s easy to eat. And then like for me do a lot of pulled goose like pulled pork and then sometimes I’ll just kind of fry it up and kind of cut it sliced as thinly sliced and kind of put it in wraps and whatnot, take it for lunch.
Ramsey Russell: If you had your druthers, what’s your favorite goose to eat up here or is it all the same? Or what’s your least favorite?
Jake Dahl: Canada geese are tough. I couldn’t just fry up a Canada goose and eat it, I don’t think.
Ramsey Russell: They’re tough birds.
Jake Dahl: Yeah, but as soon as you put into the jerky, anyone will eat it. I have friends that will come destroy a whole pack of it and then they’re like what is this? And you tell them, its goose and they’re like, there’s no way.
Ramsey Russell: We did that pulled pork barbecue, so to speak. I know your dad that’s kind of his specialty you were saying and I just borrowed the recipe that some of the new species is I called my Nova Scotia buddies affectionately told me how they cook it and I thought it turned out great.
Jake Dahl: Oh yeah, super tender, easy to eat. I mean that’s what you got to do when you’re harvesting birds. I mean, you got keep eating it.
Ramsey Russell: And there’s a lot of people around here that will take them, isn’t it?
Jake Dahl: Yeah. I mean, I got some buddies that they don’t hunt, but they totally like eating it, so it’s no harm to us.
Ramsey Russell: I sure appreciate you all having us. I’m going to tell you, I have had a wonderful time. And it was just – from a quality standpoint, it was real memorable the last couple of days. I couldn’t have had more fun. What was it like for you guys going hard like you do? What was it like having a newbie hunter in the blind when Keira showed up? I mean, have you all ever had that introduced those? I mean, you realize you introduced this lady to duck hunting? She was smiling ear to ear yesterday when she was hitting them.
Jake Dahl: I think it’s something that, you know what a small percentage of people ever get to see and they’ll never understand. I think if it’s something you can get on an experience that it’s so worth it just to see the birds working like that. And to see new people getting into it, right? Because I know hunting really gets a bad light by a lot of people and it’s just – you can get another person on your team may be on your side about it and just realize that there’s so much more to just pulling the trigger really, right? Like it’s not all about that. If it’s about that for you, then you’re kind of in the wrong point maybe –
Spencer Podgurski: In it for the wrong reasons. And it comes back to like sustainability of it, show a hunter – and Keira liked it, so maybe she’ll show a friend and then she’ll show another friend and get more people out there, get more people involved in it.
What’s the Alberta Public’s View on Hunting?
I mean those duck shows and snow geese can just be amazing. It’s what keeps us going back every day really.
Ramsey Russell: We sure need that a lot. Do you all really run into a lot of anti-hunting type sentiment outside the landowners? What is the public sentiment around the cities up here?
Jake Dahl: It can get pretty bad. I was working up north this summer and it’s a thing that’s not very well understood. I like ducks more than anyone I know, but no one can understand and it’s so hard to explain that how can you shoot ducks if you like them so much and I mean it’s just so much more than that.
Ramsey Russell: It is kind of a strange connection that we love them and we go out and hunt them, but it really is conservation, pay to play. But I agree with what you said Spencer, we probably all ought to take more new hunters hunting just to recruit them into this thing, whether they become hardcore, like us or just appreciate it for what it is. It’s like, I can remember hunting with a friend, an American that would spend weeks in a little small town in Canada and landowners gave them permission, but they didn’t understand why would somebody come all the way up here from Texas and spend 6 weeks shooting these birds that we just look out our window every day drinking coffee. He said, well, if you’d like to just come out here and join me in a blind one morning, and he described that this older couple – he set up the decoy, set up the blind, made a thermos of coffee, got everything right because he normally hunted by himself. Here comes this couple, and he went up there on his ranger, and brought them out and got them situated comfortably, and they commented holy cow, we’ve lived here our whole lives and we’ve never seen this. We’ve never seen these birds just coming in and people talking to them, and them reacting, and they became regular guests in his blind. They never brought a gun, never cared to pull the trigger but they just enjoyed the spectacle that all of us duck hunters get to see all the time.
Jake Dahl: Yeah. And what a spectacle it really is. I mean those duck shows and snow geese can just be amazing. It’s what keeps us going back every day really.
Ramsey Russell: Absolutely. It keeps me going back. Folks, you all have been listening to my buddies, Jake Dahl and Spencer Podgurski. I probably messed up your name that time I told you I would. And up here in Alberta, a couple of diehard duck hunters, The Mixed Bag Kings. You all want to give up your social media name? How can people connect with you, check out some of your pictures?
Jake Dahl: Yeah, my Instagram is Central Alberta Waterfowl.
Ramsey Russell: Sounds commercial, but it ain’t.
Jake Dahl: No, it’s not. I get a lot of people asking if it is, but it’s a way to really connect with even a lot of biologists. I mean like I managed to get a tarsal band there on a blue.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, I forgot to ask you about that. Talk about that band.
Jake Dahl: So, we’re on snow goose hunting and a blue comes in with a juvie, just a pair of them and those two birds drop and we go about -flocks are still coming in sort of shooting and me and my buddy walk out there and kind of at the same time, you can see that green tarsal are still sticking up on the leg and we’re just like, holy smokes, like I’ve never seen one on a bird before.
Ramsey Russell: And the metal band was A-vise.
Jake Dahl: So, the guy was with has got a few of those and they’ve been like 15, 17 year old birds. So he was like, holy, this could be an old bird, but when I reported it, it was a 2019, Russia band. Yeah, but it was the only blue we shot that day.
Ramsey Russell: How many? Gosh, it just makes you wonder if a lot of these un-banded birds are coming from Russia, isn’t that incredible?
Jake Dahl: We’ve got quite a few Russia bands over the last couple of years.
Spencer Podgurski: We collected 4 in the last two years now.
Ramsey Russell: Wrangle Island that would be it. Isn’t that something?
Jake Dahl: Yeah, it’s definitely a special bird there.
Ramsey Russell: But you all don’t shoot a ton of band here.
Jake Dahl: Not on Canadas. I know we got 17 snow goose bands this past spring and 19 the spring before, we do pretty well –
Spencer Podgurski: We’re getting there
Jake Dahl: A few specks.
Spencer Podgurski: A mallard, a pintail.
Ramsey Russell: Fantastic. Keep chipping away.
Jake Dahl: It adds to the story.
Ramsey Russell: Absolutely. Folks, you all have been listening to Jake Dahl, Spencer Podgurski, Alberta. Thank you all for listening to this episode of Duck Season Somewhere. See you next time.