Sandwiched between the massive lakes Winnipeg and Manitoba, the vast region colloquially known as the Interlake forms a giant migrator funnel for “Churchills” and other waterfowl. Goose hunting culture thrives here. Meeting with Troy Bennet and Dustin Dola over dinner, Ramsey gains insight into what its like growing up here, why goose hunting is so important, how waterfowl are hunted here versus other parts of Canada, and how local hunters may differ from some non-resident guests. He also begins to understand why his new buddies regard their own back yard as pretty damned special.
An Introduction to Canadian Goose Culture
I’m like, man, goose hunting culture is alive and well in this region right here. Like, I’ve really never seen it.
Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere, I am in Manitoba. Look, I’ve been to Manitoba a lot of times, but I have always wanted to come up here to the Fabled Interlake region between Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba, how can I forget that, it is in Manitoba. Lake Winnipeg is the 12th largest lake in the world and I learned today that Canada has 1/4th of all the wetlands in the world and Manitoba has the most of it. That’s incredible.
Troy Bennet: The most in any province in Canada.
Ramsey Russell: Been up here a couple of days hunting big old Canada geese with Troy Bennet, Dustin Dola, a couple of young guns up here that really have an A-game for introducing a guy like me into true Canadian goose culture. Welcome to the show guys. Thanks for having me up here.
Troy Bennet: Any time Ramsay. We really enjoyed you being up here.
Ramsey Russell: Troy, when I came up, I was on the way up here, you dropped me a pin, told me where we’re going to meet and you said, we’re going to dinner some event, I couldn’t really understand, a goose shoot or something and we drove way out in the boondocks.
Troy Bennet: It’s a little town called Inwood, Manitoba.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, and it was way out in the middle of nowhere. How big would you say that town is?
Troy Bennet: That town is no more than 500 people, I would say.
Dustin Dola: Yeah, 300 or 500.
Ramsey Russell: Is there a stop sign or a red light? I didn’t see one.
Troy Bennet: There’s no lights for sure, I can guarantee you that, there’s definitely a couple of stop signs, but probably no more than two.
Ramsey Russell: And we go into a hockey rink and I can say that at age 56 I finally set foot on a hockey rink in Crocs and there was 125 people, 130 people from all over.
Troy Bennet: All over. There’s people from Oak Hammock, all the way to Lundar area.
Ramsey Russell: Big. And I love stepping off into a situation like that. And I walked through the door to a big open door onto the gravel that will be an ice rink one day when it gets cold enough. The first thing that struck me about a hockey rink for a southern boy, when there’s ice on that rink, you got to be wearing a coat, there ain’t no heaters around there.
Troy Bennet: No, that’s all natural ice in there.
Ramsey Russell: It didn’t look like that, I wasn’t thinking that, but it must be pretty darn cold in here when hockey season’s going on.
Troy Bennet: Those old arenas like that get very cold, they’re as cold as the temperature outside.
Ramsey Russell: And it gets pretty cold up here?
Troy Bennet: Pretty cold. We get around with the wind chill, we’ll get to -45°C.
Ramsey Russell: Dustin, you were saying, one night we were out scouting geese, you said that at some point last winter or two the coldest spot on earth was somewhere around here.
Dustin Dola: Yeah, that was a couple of years ago where Winnipeg was colder than the North Pole and the South Pole on a specific date. So it gets pretty cold here.
Ramsey Russell: I knew an old timer down in Texas 25 years ago, he was kind of tired of living down in South Texas against Mexican border and he told me, he said, boy, one day, I’m going to hang a tortilla on that radio antenna and I’m going to drive north and somebody asked me what the hell that is, I’m going to stop. And similarly, I got a life rule, if I’ve got to live somewhere that I got to plug my truck up to crank it in the morning, I’m probably not going to be happy there in the winter time, but you all are. Born and raised right here in this community, this area?
Dustin Dola: Born and raised both of us.
Troy Bennet: Born and raised in this area. Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: Talk about that dinner, we went to the other night.
Troy Bennet: So what we went to was a goose shoot and there’s a few and a few local towns around here and what it is mostly is, a bunch of guys enter a contest and the group that shoots the heaviest 20 geese wins the contest. So it’s kind of like a big conjoin of lots of people from everywhere.
Ramsey Russell: How many teams were there?
Troy Bennet: There was 27 teams.
Ramsey Russell: 27 teams. How many people on the team?
Troy Bennet: 4 shooters per team over a 100 folk.
Ramsey Russell: And they’re not all from that little town.
Troy Bennet: No, not all.
Ramsey Russell: And they’re hardcore goose hunters.
Troy Bennet: Every one of them loves to goose hunt.
Ramsey Russell: And one of the first things that struck me is the North Wall there was just a 100 yards of door prices and raffle items that local businesses donated very similar to a Ducks Unlimited banquet, but it wasn’t. What do the proceeds for this event go for?
Dustin Dola: The proceed to that one specifically that event was to keep the hockey rink going for the kids and they were at a pretty tough point there a couple of years ago where they weren’t sure if they’re going to have enough money to keep the rink going. And they actually had a hockey tournament and I think it was the first year that they had it, they had raised enough money to keep it going for 3 years.
Ramsey Russell: How important is something like that hockey rink to the local community.
Dustin Dola: A community like that, it’s everything. It’s a place to get together, there’s not any other places in that town and everybody knows everybody, so it’s special.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. So, I’m walking down, I got all my little raffle tickets buddy, I’m going to donate and win me something and I walk down twice and I look at all the prizes and I go all in on a pellet rifle and a drill kit. I’m like, I’m going to win. I mean, I put a whole bunch of, I didn’t win nothing.
Troy Bennet: I didn’t win anything either.
Ramsey Russell: But I had a good time and I knew my money went to a good cause. I’m sitting, I’m all freaking in on that pellet rifle and don’t ask me why, I can put in my tool box and carry it home. And I’m going to say a couple of teenage girls come up and I’m going to guess 13 years old, I said, you go goose hunting? She said, yeah, I’m going tomorrow, I said, you go goose hunt and she go, yeah. I said, you all win? They go probably, we did good. I’m like, man, goose hunting culture is alive and well in this region right here. Like, I’ve really never seen it.
Troy Bennet: We definitely have a lot of young people that like to hunt and goose hunting definitely thrives in this area with the goose hunting quality that we have.
Ramsey Russell: It’s unbelievable. Today, we went and scouted, “the killing field” I’ve never seen anything like it, ever.
Troy Bennet: And we’re pretty used to that around here.
Ramsey Russell: And you were telling me the migration ain’t even down yet.
Troy Bennet: No, the peak migration isn’t even started.
Ramsey Russell: That’s amazing.
Dustin Dola: We take it for granted. We don’t really realize what we have and then meeting someone like you and coming up and going and getting a reality check almost is –
Troy Bennet: Gives us a different perspective and aspect of it.
Hooked on Goose Hunting
Bob gave me a goose call and it was when the short reed kind of started really getting popular and he said, you learn how to blow this, you’re going to know how to kill geese.
Ramsey Russell: But Dustin, I’m from Mississippi and my grandfather’s generation goose hunted, but it’s been since the 60s that people really hunted migratory birds in the Deep South, maybe the 50s. And so we’re completely bereft of a goose hunting culture and I don’t know why, my gosh 1997 or 1998 a long time ago, I’d hate to even know how old you all were then. But I came to Canada just to shoot migratory Canada geese because I was hungry for it and I like to shoot ducks, I like to shoot geese, I spent last week targeting white geese with some buddies of mine from out in Nova Scotia. But like today, we were all in on that feed, we spent 30 minutes on the side of road, you all hatching a plan on how we were going to hunt that field and I was sitting there answering a text to a client when I heard you all get on the duck call, I did not even look up, I mean, 2 days right here and I don’t really care about a mallard duck, not now, not today, not here. I’m all in on the geese. I’m in, hook line and sinker.
Troy Bennet: This is goose country. It’s easy to get hooked on goose hunting here.
Ramsey Russell: How easy is it, Troy? You go first. How did you get into goose hunting? Talk about growing up in the Interlake region where big old Canada geese are at?
Troy Bennet: So I grew up hunting a little bit with my father and we would kind of just do some smaller stuff, a little bit of marsh hunting on the edges, kind of pass shooting a little bit and I kind of met a guy that my dad hung out with named Bob Yaworski and I ended up kind of just doing some stuff with him and he’s a small time outfitter and we kind of just started hanging out together a lot and he started showing me the ropes of goose hunting and ever since the first time in a field, I was hooked ever since.
Ramsey Russell: What was it like hunting with your dad?
Troy Bennet: Hunting with my dad was very fun. It was kind of just the two of us –
Ramsey Russell: How old were you when you all started going out together?
Troy Bennet: 12 years old because in Manitoba, you got to be 12 years old to hunt, so you can get your hunter safety at 12 years old and then you can buy a license, before that I would go out with him but never with a gun.
Ramsey Russell: And when you got 12, 13, you started hunting with him, you were saying the other day you all didn’t really do the decoys and stuff.
Troy Bennet: No, it was more a lot of like we would kind of go near the marsh edge crown line, you could kind of sit in there and you would pass shoot a little bit.
Ramsey Russell: Like that place, we saw the other day wrapping up through the field with duck around every corner.
Troy Bennet: Exactly.
Ramsey Russell: Turn me loose in that patch, buddy, I’d enjoy that.
Troy Bennet: So we would kind of just drive down to the marsh somewhere and we kind of find a spot where it looks like you can walk in a little bit, we kind of just walk into some tall grass and kind of get as close to the water as we could and we just kind of hunker down, blow some calls here and there and see what came near us and a lot of days we would only shoot a couple of ducks, but it was still some of the best times of my life hunting.
Ramsey Russell: When you went to middle school, were all of your classmates hunters?
Troy Bennet: So I had a couple, one friend who’s a hunter and he’s now moved out of Manitoba for a little bit, but it was pretty much me and him where we would go before school, we would pick a small feed two of us, we could shoot at 7, we would shoot our geese.
Ramsey Russell: What’s a small feed?
Troy Bennet: A small feed is kind of 200 Canadas, 300 Canadas.
Ramsey Russell: Would you purposely avoid the large feeds?
Troy Bennet: I would purposely avoid the large feeds because with two guys, you don’t really need a large feed to shoot your geese. Get in, get out, don’t burn the big feeds, kind of do it right, control them and you can make the feeds last a lot longer.
Ramsey Russell: How old were you when you started goose calling?
Troy Bennet: When I started goose calling, I was probably 14. Bob gave me a goose call and it was when the short reed kind of started really getting popular and he said, you learn how to blow this, you’re going to know how to kill geese.
Ramsey Russell: But he blows a flute.
Troy Bennet: He blows a flute, he did not want to learn, he tried it a few times and he couldn’t get the hang of it and he just gave up, he said this isn’t my style.
Ramsey Russell: He cultivated his future hunting buddy, get you on the cutting edge of a real goose call.
Troy Bennet: He was and he knew I was hooked and we were going to be lifelong friends and –
Ramsey Russell: You all still are. When you talk on the phone to Bob, could you work for him some?
Troy Bennet: I work for him a little bit.
Ramsey Russell: It doesn’t sound like an employee, an employer, it sounds like you’re talking to your dad or your uncle.
Troy Bennet: He is pretty much me and him are such great friends, he’s almost like an uncle to me and he’s done so much for me over the years and we get along so well, we both see things the same.
A Background in Waterfowl Hunting
Did your dad teach you the goose call?
Ramsey Russell: Dustin, how did you grow up? What was your background in all this?
Dustin Dola: My background, when it came to waterfowl hunting, the same thing, my dad, he got me into it but it was a little bit different because I came from a farming background, so we always had fields and agriculture fields that, they were feeding on. So it wasn’t as much, when it came to pass shooting, it was more decoys. But like I said, dad got me into it and some of my first hunts were actually with some of his friends that were from Des Moines, Iowa. And we was all shell decoys though and the old goose blinds, it was like a chair and a big shell decoy came over and I actually started on a piece of plywood and like a blanket and then I graduated when I got old enough to actually shoot. But same thing going out when I was 10, 11 years old and basically a winter park because you’re small and cold and missing school and showing up late. And yeah, it was the same kind of start. And I actually kind of got away from it for a little bit too when I got older in school and then, I guess in my late teens, early 20s, I came flying back into it and made a little bit of money at that point too and started buying decoys and you can see in the yard you’ve seen it in this past couple of days, it’s evolved to a 14 by 7 trailer and full of decoys and yeah, now it’s a couple of dogs and it just builds and it’s hard to beat too when you get friends that you get out in the field with and meeting people like yourself and you build new relationships and it’s one of the only, hunting that you can do with the group and it’s fun and talk and joke around and laugh in between flocks and yeah, like I said, it’s just kind of evolved into everything and now it’s just part of who I am.
Ramsey Russell: Did your dad teach you the goose call?
Dustin Dola: My dad actually, he did kind of. So he’s like Bob, he started with a flute call and he can’t blow a short reed if his life depends.
Ramsey Russell: Man, I’m not knocking, it’s really no telling how many geese have been killed with a flute, it’s easy to blow, the geese like it.
Troy Bennet: The geese like it, it sounds goosey.
Dustin Dola: And he still blows a flute. Like the last time I hunted with him was a couple of years ago and he still has his old $20 flute and they’ll kill his geese.
Ramsey Russell: You all blow short reed, if somebody reinvented a goose call, would you swap? Probably not. You got so many miles on the calls you’re blowing, someone invented a new duck call, I doubt I’d go out with it, I’m going to stick with what I got.
Troy Bennet: I think the versatility of short reeds, the amount of sounds you can make that you couldn’t make on a flute.
Ramsey Russell: I was going to ask you, like this morning, I can call a goose in, I mean, if I had to, I ain’t going to be like to play you all game, but I can call a goose in sometimes. But when you all are calling because you all both getting after, are you all playing off of each other or you doing your own thing and hoping it goes good, how does that work?
Troy Bennet: When me and Dusty call together we’re kind of always in the same mindset, like we’ll notice all of a sudden, we’re like all of a sudden both pull the same note out of nowhere and it’s like, okay, we’re both stay on the same page here and I think these big Canada geese that we shoot up here, they don’t need to be squawked at like those cacklers that a lot of guys shoot, a lot of times the quieter you are the better. A guy told me who shoots big geese once that you really want to listen to the birds, if they’re not making much sound, they don’t want to hear much sound. If they’re being real loud and they want to be talked to.
Goose Hunting Strategies
When you see them all bunched up, heads up, that’s a goose you might not want to hunt.
Ramsey Russell: Old Red Bone used to make speck call before he sold his company, best speck call I’ve ever sat in a blind with and speck hunted with, I was going to tell you, we were hunting when I hunted with him, we were in Arkansas and it was just cloud high specks flying at that, no compunction whatsoever to come to where we were. Duck decoy spinners, they’re flying from one area to the next and he sit there and look at them and his lead off note would always be different sometimes. But the minute those birds that sound reached across all that space and hit them birds, they start maple leaf. And I asked one time I said, how do you decide what to start with? He said, well, son, you got to listen to the conversation before you go and interrupt it. There’s a lot of truth to that and I think you got to kind of be in that culture goose hunt, you got to be around a lot of geese and hear what they’re saying.
Troy Bennet: They’ll tell you what they want to hear.
Dustin Dola: You can feed a lot off each other and like Troy said, and like when he starts blowing a call and we’re watching the geese, I don’t really ever call when they get over top of us because they can look down at you and like, I think we both have the same mindset when it comes this up, when they kind of start pushing off to the side of the decoys, you hit them a little harder and if they’re going to do it by themselves, all means let them do it by themselves too, you don’t need to call them, check them if they’re going to do it by themselves.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. We cover a big area, we go out every afternoon you pick me up, we drive, we talk, we’re looking at all these different fields and I see fields, and I say fields, I go, oh, boy, that looks good. What are you looking for?
Troy Bennet: So, when I’m hunting a feed, I kind of look for – I want to see the birds a little bit spaced out, the more spaced out they go, the more comfortable they seem. When you see them all bunched up, heads up, that’s a goose you might not want to hunt.
Ramsey Russell: Like we drove by that square field the other day and they were all just tight down the center.
Troy Bennet: Tied down the center heads up, they’re not feeling that comfortable when they start to get comfortable, they’ll start to spread out, you’ll look at them 90% of their heads are down.
Ramsey Russell: Do you want them to be on that fade for a period of time?
Troy Bennet: I do. I want, I like them to hit it for a day, let them feed for a full day and then I’ll kind of hunt it. I want to see them in there one day, I want to see them in there in the morning and the evening feeding twice. Because sometimes they’ll do the few different things in the morning and the evening, especially in the late season here, they’ll be feeding somewhere in the morning, feeding it somewhere else in the evening.
Ramsey Russell: Well, the first afternoon, Troy, you and I went out scouted and Dustin and you all other side kick Cole, who we met, had dinner with, I guess, up there had to go shoot dinner, pulled pork by the way, that was a shocker and I mean, good pulled pork. And if you haven’t figured out, I feel immediately at home. Pulled pork was a start, but just being among like minded people, I love it up here. And we go out and if we’re pulling into the field, Cole and Dustin are leading the way and you tell me, you say those are the only two people on earth I’ll follow into a field that I hadn’t laid eyes on.
Troy Bennet: And it’s true. There isn’t many people – I really like to scout the field, I hunt myself, I like to watch the birds go in it, I like to see what times the first flocks are coming in it, see what times they’re leaving the field. And there’s not many people I trust, but I definitely trust those two. If they scout a field and they tell me it’s a huntable field, I will tag along and let them run the show.
Ramsey Russell: Let’s talk about the Interlake region. We’re bounded by Lake Winnipeg 12th biggest lake in the world right over here to the East Manitoba, to the west, they’re big lakes, tremendous amount of smaller lake, a lot of water out in between them but it’s basically just a fertile agriculture corridor that really kind of goes up to Hudson Bay.
The Ideal Goose Hunting Habitat
Now, we have a bean, a soy product that the geese eat, that they’ll put in that field, which really helps us. So we always have fields to hunt usually now.
Troy Bennet: It kind of goes up that far, kind of gets caught more foresty up there, less agriculture, but down here where we are is a lot of agriculture.
Ramsey Russell: A lot of agriculture. Barley, a lot of soybeans all of a sudden wheat.
Troy Bennet: Yeah, soybeans, which has got really big in the last maybe 5 years here and which really helps us a lot with the crop rotation because now we have, one year we would have a wheat field or a barley field to hunt next year, 10 years ago, it would be a canola field. Now, we have a bean, a soy product that the geese eat, that they’ll put in that field, which really helps us. So we always have fields to hunt usually now.
Ramsey Russell: And canola is kind of playing out a little bit, I haven’t seen near as much canola out here as I’ve seen out west.
Troy Bennet: No, now that soy is popular here, canola is really going down.
Dustin Dola: Soy beans really took over in the last handful of years.
Ramsey Russell: When they finally cut those sunflower fields, you all get up in sunflowers? They’re not going to hit it?
Troy Bennet: Geese will never hit it.
Ramsey Russell: Really? Very interesting.
Troy Bennet: I’ve killed ducks in a sunflower seed in a field one time and it was because they were eating in a pea field right next to it and there was a low spot, dead spot in the sunflower seed and we couldn’t get into the field to feed, so we hunted the field next to it with about 10 mojos and everything that came near us would just come to us and we ended up shooting a big limit and it was just shooting traffic on the side of the field sucking small flocks, not burning the big field.
Goose Populations in Manitoba
Well over 100,000 geese, that’s just mind boggling.
Ramsey Russell: Lake Winnipeg to the East, Manitoba over here and not too far away Oak Hammock marsh to the south. What is Oak Hammock marsh?
Troy Bennet: So Oak Hammock Marsh is, it’s a refuge there that was –
Ramsey Russell: Back in the 70s or something, we learned, 60s.
Troy Bennet: Yeah. So the refuge was, it used to be a bog out there and as they slowly started draining it all for agriculture, started getting less and less water and they started thinking we better protect some of this water for wetlands before it all turns into agriculture. So they protected, I think they said, it’s 30 square miles right now. They got four cells, four different cells of water and it’s all no hunting around the marsh there’s a lot of fields that are included in the refuge that you cannot hunt either. So it really helps us keep birds in the area for quite a long time.
Ramsey Russell: And boy, there’s a lot of birds in there. It’s incredible. What I’m nibbling around, this a question for both of you all is like, what blows my mind countless, I wish I knew what government agency counted geese, dark geese in this geography right now, could tell me that right now, preceding the big balloon that you all say it’s coming. How many geese there are? I couldn’t venture a guess if I did, it would be wrong. Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands.
Troy Bennet: It’s well over the peak, at the peak here in Oak Hammock, it’s well over 100,000.
Ramsey Russell: Well over 100,000 geese, that’s just mind boggling. But what blows my mind is, we’ve been leaving our hotel in the morning, going about 15, 20 minutes away. And this morning we could see, boy, you all knew like a laser beam within 10° where the fly line was going to be coming off Lake Winnipeg. But tomorrow we’re going 90°, 15, 20 miles the other way, so if you connect those two points and 20 minutes and it’s completely different population of geese.
Troy Bennet: Completely different population of geese.
Ramsey Russell: How did you figure that out. How long did it take you to figure that out?
Dustin Dola: The field we hunted this morning is, like I mentioned you before, it’s one that we’ve farmed for years and years, it’s a family farm. So, I had hunted at a younger age, Troy had hunted at a younger age, not even together and then later years we started hunting it together and it’s just knowing where they’re roosting on the lake and where they’re coming to the field and doing it again and again and it’s one of our go to fields, we hunted it 3 or 4 times last year, we’ve hunted it a couple of times this week already and we’ll probably get another hunt out of it and just being smart about it and just knowing the traffic and where they’re coming from and where they’re going and just planning your set up around it. And for me, this is kind of my home ground when it goes to tomorrow like Oak Hammock marsh, that’s something Troy is going to lead the way in because it’s something that I haven’t really hunted that much that way and it’s completely different. There’s more birds, it’s a different strategy altogether and that’s something Troy can probably touch on a little bit more.
Ramsey Russell: How did you two meet? How long have you all been hunting together?
Dustin Dola: We’re actually family. He’s my cousin, so we’ve known each other from a young age, he went to school in Winnipeg Beach and went to school in Toulon, so we used to play hockey at a younger age against each other and as we got older –
Ramsey Russell: Who is a better hockey player?
Dustin Dola: I was a goalie so he could definitely score on me. We’ll go with that. But yeah, and then it’s just as you get older and people get driver’s license, we started going to each other’s towns at a younger age and then just as you get older and the hunting community isn’t giant, right? And, yeah, you start hunting with your family and your friends and then it helps too when you’re on the same page and you put the same amount of effort in and your game plans the same and then it just works out and now we find to the last few years together and we’ve done quite well.
Ramsey Russell: Birds of feather flock together, I really think, you can hunt with a million people but you find very few that just like you say, hit the same note, they already know what you’re thinking, that set up right, that do right. I mean, you two guys are just on autopilot when you get out of the tree, it’s like you’ve been hunting together since you were 5 years old.
Troy Bennet: But we are definitely on the same page quite a bit and have pretty much the same views on what the proper way to do it.
Ramsey Russell: And Cole is right there with you, man. He’s the same way, isn’t he?
Troy Bennet: Cole is definitely right there with us.
Dustin Dola: Yeah, and makes it easier.
Ramsey Russell: Dusting, you said about your home ground, have you hunted other parts of Canada or other parts of North America besides the Interlake?
Dustin Dola: I’ve done, bird wise mostly the Interlake. I actually a few years ago went with a couple of buddies down Nebraska and hunted the Missouri River in December and that’s the farthest I’ve gone for waterfowl.
Ramsey Russell: What was that like compared to here. What was the experience like?
Dustin Dola: It was on the water, which we don’t do a lot of. So that was way different to me. And the time of the year we went, it was after your guys Thanksgiving, but we were talking to the locals that were taking us and I guess they’re not really locals, they’re from Iowa, so we both had drives but just the amount of boats that even that body of water could hold and they were showing us like where the lineup was Thanksgiving weekend and how many was going. And we’re up at 3 o’clock, 4 o’clock in the morning sometimes to get out before they come to the feed and we were getting up at 5 and 6 and letting the birds leave the water and then going out and setting up in the daylight, not under head lamps and it’s completely different, it was awesome. I enjoyed every moment of it.
Ramsey Russell: I think getting into unfamiliar – kind of the same game, different playing field is I think a fair analogy, I think it makes you a better ballplayer, don’t you? You can add stuff to your bag of tricks.
Dustin Dola: You can learn something from everybody and if you’re one of those persons that can keep expanding it, it just makes you a better hunter or whatever you’re doing,
Ramsey Russell: It’s kind of cool hunting something different like that. Have you got to hunt outside your backyard any, Troy?
Troy Bennet: No, I’ve just pretty much hunted in this area. Pretty much Interlake, Oak Hammock, yeah, pretty much stuck around here, my whole life hunting.
Ramsey Russell: You’ve been hunting over half your life and you’re still a young man, both of you in your 30s, when was it that you just realized, holy shit, what I’ve got in my backyard. I mean, doesn’t everybody have in their backyard, which you all got in your backyard if you’re a goose hunter.
Dustin Dola: I think for myself sometimes I still forget it. Like, hunting with you kind of brings you back to reality that this doesn’t happen everywhere else in the world, like you can’t drive 3 minutes from your house and shoot multiple person limit and shoot a 40 bird morning in like an hour, not a whole day, 2 hours of set up 30 minutes to an hour of hunting and 2 hours to tear it down and then when it doesn’t work, it’s kind of frustrating sometimes, but it kind of brings you back to reality. And yeah, it was definitely in my later 20s when I realized like, yeah, this is actually really good, but you should definitely still forget it from time to time.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. How about you, Troy? Did you ever have one of the moments you like, man?
Troy Bennet: Yeah, I think it kind of came more in when my guiding career kind of maybe start a little bit and I realized that, most of the clients coming down are just like, do you guys don’t realize what you have here? He’s like, I can’t kill a goose anywhere within 50 miles of my house, he says, and I’m like, well, I can kill geese every direction in 7 miles of my house.
What are Churchill Geese?
Yeah, they’re kind of interior and yeah, they move their way down and they end up in Minnesota and then they end up in Missouri.
Ramsey Russell: You told me, when we talked on the phone, I don’t know, a month, 6 weeks ago you said that it’s the land of giants, but they’re not all – we’ve seen some giant Canadas, boy, I saw some today, look twice as big as anything else out there in that big feed, we’re going to hunt tomorrow. But it’s another species, subspecies of Canada goose, what are we hunting here? What are Churchill geese?
Troy Bennet: Churchill geese are kind of, they’re the eastern Prairie population, they kind of start in Churchill, they move their way down to Oak Hammock –
Ramsey Russell: That’s the same thing as interiors.
Troy Bennet: Yeah, they’re kind of interior and yeah, they move their way down and they end up in Minnesota and then they end up in Missouri.
Ramsey Russell: They do. Same geese that they go down that – probably the same geese that used to fly down to Mississippi and Illinois, Tennessee, Kentucky.
Troy Bennet: They go to Mississippi too as well, down that Mississippi Flyway.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, I wish they did. Get back to a little bit of how to, I want to go back to your family farm where we hunted this morning. There was a half mile length of geese, relax, spread out a little more denser area when they found a little something to eat. But you all been hunting it forever, probably your whole life there, Dustin. And we sat on the side of the road and I mean, if you’d asked me, Ramsey, where do you think we should set up? I would have said right in the middle of that big quarter mile reach in right there, right there where we set up, that’s what I said. That aint where we hunted. Where did we hunt and why?
Troy Bennet: We hunted, a little bit more to the east in their flight line –
Ramsey Russell: Downwind to where they had been feeding.
Troy Bennet: Yes. And the reason is because when there’s so much field in front of them and we don’t know maybe that hasn’t been where we’ve seen them in the last few days, maybe something pushed them in that corner, maybe they don’t even want to be there. So we want to get in their line on the edge of the field through their flight line, so we kind of set up to the east of them and yeah, they came out right on the line we wanted to and looking at that same spot, but we were in their flight path and they just set up and came right to us.
Ramsey Russell: We didn’t have to shoot 21 and there must have been 500, you can pull that off, can’t you? You ain’t got to be on the X, when you’re trying to kill 21 out of 500?
Troy Bennet: No, you don’t. And I find it’s almost better that way because we didn’t shoot into many big flocks, all those geese were back in that field today –
Ramsey Russell: Well, we didn’t shoot at any big flock now, if you think of it, it’s like, ones and twos and threes, it peeled off, low on the deck and dumb.
Troy Bennet: And dumb. And we didn’t shoot into the big flocks, we don’t want to educate that many birds and now Dustin drove by the field tonight and every goose is back in it.
Dustin Dola: Yeah, I was going to say I drove by tonight when you guys were up at Oak Hammock and they were actually right back on that south end again, they were pushed a little bit further to the south, this afternoon. But like you said, there’s 300, 400 or 500 birds in there again and we’ll probably hunt in another couple of days.
Ramsey Russell: But these aren’t small birds still because like in that contest the other day, you all were number 4, had 20 geese, that weighed over 10lbs a piece.
Troy Bennet: Over 10lbs of piece.
Dustin Dola: It was like, I think I did the math, it was like 10.4 or 5lbs we averaged per bird.
Ramsey Russell: Wow. That’s a big bird.
Troy Bennet: That’s a big goose.
Ramsey Russell: That’s a big goose. How far do you want those birds when you kill them? What’s the game? What’s you all’s game? What do you want like this morning, that’s what I want?
Dustin Dola: Yeah. Feet down right in front of you.
Ramsey Russell: Heck yeah, that’s what I want.
Troy Bennet: Yeah, you don’t get many cripples, you get a lot of clean kills at 15 yards, you’re not shooting at anything 35, like, what do we say today, Ramsey, we had one goose that was wounded, 20 geese dead in the decoys, didn’t even move.
Dustin Dola: And when you do it at 10 yards, you win, you just did everything right. And I mean, you could let them fly away, you could do whatever you want and shoot them, but at that point you won.
Ramsey Russell: Be honest, did you think I was batshit crazy showing up with a 28 gauge?
Troy Bennet: I didn’t because I’ve seen clients that, I’ve seen it with a 20 gauge Boss Shotshell 35 yards stoning geese dead at 35 yards with a 20 gauge.
Ramsey Russell: Ian thought I was crazy.
Troy Bennet: I knew you weren’t crazy, Ramsey.
Ramsey Russell: Ian showed up with a – he’s a little older than me and he showed up with a gun, he’d been shooting since he was 15, 16 years old, big 12 gauge, Lord knows how many geese have died over that gun, he said, he’d never seen a shoot a 28 gauge before. Boss Shotshell changed it all that. Was anybody shooting 20 gauge back in the steel era?
Troy Bennet: I think we had a few guys who would shoot ducks with 20 gauge.
Dustin Dola: I started with a 16 gauge but not 20.
Hunting Ducks in Goose Country
Ramsey Russell: You bring up a good point because you mentioned ducks and I want to go there. We were sitting there watching the killing field today and Bob came up and Cary came up, they brought a couple of cold beers, we had a nice little tailgate party watching a zillion geese out there just get comfortable. And they brought up a real good point that we alluded to earlier, a lot of the clients that you’re talking about and a lot of the yank that come up here are after ducks.
Troy Bennet: And we’re in a goose country.
Ramsey Russell: We’re in goose country. The first thing they want to know is where is the duck? How the ducks doing? It’s goose country, man. And for the first time a day, if I didn’t say it, I already, I’ll say it again, man. I mean, you all started blowing that duck call, I didn’t even look up from my phone, I’m here for one reason, that’s a great big B52 migrator B52.
Troy Bennet: That 15 yards feet down.
Ramsey Russell: A lot of bands up here. How many bands have you killed this season, Troy?
Troy Bennet: This season, I’ve killed 6 so far.
Ramsey Russell: Time out. I know better than Dustin, he snake bit. So I’m going to talk to you.
Dustin Dola: Don’t bring this conversation up with me.
Ramsey Russell: How in the world are you snake bit up here?
Dustin Dola: I don’t know, I have 4 bands since I’ve been 12 years old.
Ramsey Russell: How many bands have you killed Troy and how many do you average on a season up here?
Troy Bennet: We usually average as a group probably about 15, 16, maybe 20. So we shoot quite a few bands actually.
Ramsey Russell: You shot one day from Indiana. I guessed it was probably a moat migrator, but it was a female.
Troy Bennet: It was a female, a 5 year old female, so she’s breeding already for sure.
Ramsey Russell: But a lot of your birds are Churchill.
Troy Bennet: Churchill. Yes, a lot of them are. And Oak Hammock actually, Churchill and Oak Hammock.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. Is the Oak Hammock where the cramp bands come from?
Troy Bennet: Yeah, the rivet bands. Yeah. So we shoot a lot of rivet bands here and they’ll be double banded geese with a regular band on one side and a rivet band on the other leg, which are the only band around our area. They do them locally in Oak Hammock. I’ve heard on a few forums, a couple of guys call it, the land of giants and double bands.
Ramsey Russell: Are a lot of them double banded?
Troy Bennet: A lot of them are double banded around Oak Hammock, yeah.
Ramsey Russell: It was wet up here this year was so wet, a lot of what we’re hearing on the internet, a lot of what I’m seeing out west, once you get out of the south east corner, Saskatchewan, it gets pretty damn dry, but you all wet down here this year. I mean, I’m seeing bear spots out in the middle of these bean fields that it was too wet to plant, I’m seeing fields that you all say, man, that’s usually a really good spot, but they didn’t plant crops this year. You all had some real precipitation that probably produced a lot of duck.
Dustin Dola: Yeah, it was really wet this year. Like coming from the farming background, like you said, like, my father and my uncle, they didn’t plant a bunch of fields and neighbors didn’t plant a lot of fields and even up like a little bit further in the Interlake, there was a couple of rainstorms, where like your standard fence posts and a pasture were underwater. So you’re talking 4ft of water, 5ft however tall those are. And yeah, field just didn’t get planted and thank God for not every year like that, but it can be hard and stressful at some times. I get to see it from the agricultural side of things and over the years, I’m sure there’s been some stressful times where dad’s been, that’s the source of income, right? And you can’t control the weather, man. But yeah, for waterfowl wise, I’m sure this spring was great.
Ramsey Russell: I tell you a big surprise up here, this truly surprised me white geese. In the land of giants and double bands, I did not expect to see white geese. Bob said it’s the most he’s seen in 20 years.
Troy Bennet: And we barely see white geese up here.
Ramsey Russell: I wonder why they’re here this year? Maybe something to do with the agricultural crops or what about the little, the cacklers, the cackling size geese, the lessers you all call them? Are they usually that many here? We shot 3 this morning.
Dustin Dola: You can get them in waves. For me and hunting closer to the lake and stuff like that, I don’t see them as much. Troy down by Oak Hammock, he’s probably, I know I’ve talked to him in the past where they’ve shot like limits of cacklers kind of thing, but for myself, I don’t see them as much this little ways up here in the bigger body of water and I don’t personally know, maybe it’s the fact that it is the bigger body of water, but I know Troy sees them more down by Oak Hammock than I do at more on the lakes here.
Ramsey Russell: Can you spot the difference in a true giant and an interior?
Dustin Dola: It’s pretty hard not to be able to spot the giants.
Ramsey Russell: Do they behave differently? Do you call to them differently?
Dustin Dola: I find the big Canadas decoy way better. They seem like they’re committed, they’re almost like lazier, they don’t get that high off the water. Like this morning you could see like those 5 pack, they’re barely over the trees, we’re close to the water too this morning, you’re only about a mile away but they barely get up, they’re barely even flapping, they’re kind of just like that gliding jet coming in from 100 yards away and sometimes you don’t even need to put a call to your mouth.
Ramsey Russell: We’re within an hour of Winnipeg and we probably without all the turns and red lights and everything else 20 minutes, 25 minutes as a goose flies with a tailwind, maybe and we were driving in today to look at Oak Hammock and you were talking about lure fields and I’m like what the hell is lure field? What is a lure field, Troy.
Troy Bennet: So, lure crop is something they did up here in Oak Hammock for years and it was a thing to keep more birds around, keep the birds staying in the area. And what they would do is they would take a few fields right around the marsh and the government would own the fields and they would pay a farmer to plant a crop in there, usually some kind of cereal and what he would do is, he would swath it or straight combine it, but when he went to combine it, instead of shooting all that seed into a trailer or a truck, he would throw it all over the ground on the field.
Ramsey Russell: He just let it blow out back.
Troy Bennet: He let it blow out at back, all the seeds.
Ramsey Russell: What were those fields look like?
Troy Bennet: Those fields look like the one we’ve seen today. But like sometimes 5 times as many geese.
Ramsey Russell: How long do you think they did that?
Troy Bennet: They were doing that for, I think, 15, 20 years.
Ramsey Russell: Wow. And they quit?
Troy Bennet: And they quit doing it, yeah. And all the geese now that used to stay there are lots of them are staying in Winnipeg now.
Ramsey Russell: And they really can’t be accessed in Winnipeg.
Troy Bennet: They can’t at all.
Ramsey Russell: Well, they must be becoming a problem because Manitoba just opened up a spring Canada goose season.
Troy Bennet: They definitely are becoming a problem. And yes, we do have a spring conservation season now.
Spring Conservation Season
It’s a learning curve and we’re learning it still.
Ramsey Russell: What’s the difference in the spring conservation season for Canada geese in Manitoba versus now?
Dustin Dola: This spring season is, for one, like we’ve ran into the problems. I haven’t actually hunted this spring season, Troy has, but when you get a text from him, yeah, we’re going spring goose hunting, excited to try out the season and then get to the field and all the geese are still roost in the water because there’s no open big water for them and he blows all the birds out of the field and goes, well, I guess we’re not hunting today. So, for that, that’s kind of one of the biggest things right off the bat. And the first time that we had it, there wasn’t even any geese here, they’re kind of, what I’m guessing is testing out the dates when it’s going to be good for the spring season and it was -20 °C the first time they had that season.
Ramsey Russell: Between the weather and the habitat conditions, it’s almost as different as going to Nebraska and hunting Missouri River.
Dustin Dola: Yeah, it’s completely different.
Troy Bennet: It’s a learning curve and we’re learning it still.
Ramsey Russell: Don’t you feel that you’re still learning fog geese too?
Troy Bennet: Every time you hunt, if you didn’t learn something, you ain’t doing it right. You’re not paying enough attention because there’s always something to learn out there.
Dustin Dola: Even like us last year with A frames and soybean field, you look at a soybean field, there’s no cover.
Ramsey Russell: What do you do? How do you hunt it?
Troy Bennet: I think last year was your first year doing it too, right? You can correct me if I’m wrong. But we used an, A frame and just drove into one of the bushes and cut a bunch of willow branches down and stuffed it full of willow branches and made it look like a chunk of bush and we killed a ton of geese like that.
Dustin Dola: The thing I like about the A frame is the comfortable of the hunting and the camaraderie that comes with it because you’re not laying in a layout blind, 5ft away from someone you’re sitting on a chair right next to each other.
Ramsey Russell: Shoulder to shoulder, like a baseball dugout. Batter up here they come. One of the biggest surprises, man, I mean, they were sitting there foggy, day before foggy, beautiful, but just foggy and I didn’t hear a duck call, I didn’t hear a goose call, I didn’t hear wing beats, you’re sitting there to my left, you said shoot them, I look up and flashback Mississippi, there’s a wad of wood ducks landing, didn’t expect it. Is that common and see a wood duck out in these dry field?
Troy Bennet: So the thing with, we were hunting kind of near like a little pond in like a little bit of wooded area.
Ramsey Russell: It’s kind of mile close to it.
Troy Bennet: Yeah. So those ducks are, they’re kind of, they’re using the fields and if you have the wood duck stopping near the field, they will use the fields and we have shot like a few years ago, we did shoot quite a few limits of wood ducks in a field.
Ramsey Russell: But mallards are your big duck?
Troy Bennet: Mallards are big ducks. A lot of pintail at the start of the year too.
Ramsey Russell: And you told me that, you’ll shoot duck, you’ll set up on a Canada feed that’s got ducks, you’ll shoot ducks if they’re on the Canada feed, but you’re not targeting ducks right now?
Troy Bennet: Not right now. No, I prefer to wait till they get pretty because we’re shooting brown ducks here right now still.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. That mean that if you go out, are you going to select drake?
Troy Bennet: When they’re seeable? Yes. 100%.
From Honkers to Quackers: The Hunter’s Seasonal Transformation
Ramsey Russell: What transitions between now and late October when you might start looking at those green head ducks, it was so weird because last year I was out in Canada, the green duck, the adult drakes with a lot of green in them right off the bat, they just had an earlier moat for some reason this year, they’re all brown, I haven’t seen any green heads. But what transitions and what’s going on with the goose hunting which is your heart beat between now and then the time that the mallards, you say, hey, I’m going after them green head. Something must change?
Troy Bennet: It gets hard and once those big wads of ducks start coming from up north, so that’s when we get our ducks kind of coming from Thompson area and we’ll get a lot of nice green heads coming down from north and they’ll be real fat, very good eating and that’s what kind of makes me want to get into them.
Dustin Dola: Kind of run into some stale Canadas too that are educated, they’re the last little bit of wave pushing through and like last year we hunted a field that had 2000, 3000 Canadas in it and there wasn’t a single bird that even looked at us, they knew the drill already at that point and it’s kind of a nice transition when you can switch into ducks, when something breath of fresh air –
Ramsey Russell: Sooner or later, they’re going to get stale. And how often when you hunt some of these fields, like the field we hunt today, that’s one of you all go to, they’re already back in there where they were yesterday. We were out before the main push even got off Lake Winnipeg and came in. How big of a past life, what we saw yesterday came into the field before we were already motoring out, 10% maybe?
Troy Bennet: I think. Yeah, maybe like 25% by the time we were done.
Ramsey Russell: So, 3 quarters of them never even knew we were there.
Dustin Dola: No, we hunted it Saturday and today’s Monday and we shot limits on Saturday.
Ramsey Russell: 204 lbs worth. How often can you hot those fields doing like you do and not put too much pressure on? How do you manage that? That’s what I’m trying to say because the birds are going to eventually get stale until new birds come in, new birds are dumb birds. How do you manage that?
Troy Bennet: I think one of the things that helps us is around the area where we hunt kind of Winnipeg is we get a lot of small groups that come off the lake like they’re filtering in pretty slowly and so you’re getting 3 come in and all 3 die, you’re getting 5 come in, all 5 die, so those aren’t 5 geese, those aren’t educated geese, they’re all dead. So when they come in small flocks, you shoot good, you can shoot your birds and you get out of there for any of them even see a gun and those other 400 they don’t even know what the show is yet.
Ramsey Russell: Sooner or later, you kind of run through them all, they get a little wary.
Troy Bennet: For sure, after a while they will.
Dustin Dola: A couple of years ago, I had the American friends up and we actually hunted across the road from where we were this morning, one morning, then we hunted our field the 2nd morning and then I couldn’t get permission and ran out of options, so we hunted a 3rd morning and then we actually ended up hunting at a 4th morning and it was on the 4th morning where they were, no, I’m not doing anything, but we did really well, okay.
Ramsey Russell: Can you change your spread? Can you change something on the field strategy to kind of throw a little curveball to them?
Dustin Dola: We were moving around the field, obviously not going back to the exact same spot and on the 4th day, it just seemed like he kind of ran out of options a little bit.
Ramsey Russell: They recognize that call.
Dustin Dola: Yeah, they can get pretty call shy sometimes too. You lay one note in them and they’re gone the other way.
How to Get Hunting Permissions in Canada
Troy Bennet: I think, they can really start to pick out hides too. Well, that hide maybe looked a little bit funny and then they get shot at and then the next time they’re like, oh, yeah, there’s that funny looking hide again, let’s not go near that.
Dustin Dola: That’s probably also the advantage to have A frames now because you can switch back and forth.
Ramsey Russell: That is a curveball, isn’t it?
Dustin Dola: It’s a great –
Ramsey Russell: Do you try to set them up? Are there any advantage to setting those things up a day or two in advance to where they get used to it?
Dustin Dola: We’ve just cut willows an hour before and walked straight in and put it on the ground.
Ramsey Russell: There’s so much stuff like that around here.
Troy Bennet: We do it right in the middle of the field and they still do it right in the pocket, right in front of us.
Ramsey Russell: What’s the difference in Manitoba versus somewhere further out west? And one of the western provinces in terms of the number of, out of state white trailers I see around, is it land ownership? Is it farmers relationships? Is it private property laws change somehow, I haven’t seen any freelancers.
Troy Bennet: Yeah, we haven’t seen many freelancers, I think maybe like next week is when it gets busy for freelancers.
Ramsey Russell: Do you all normally have bunch of freelancers?
Troy Bennet: I think in our area, like, I have so many good relationships with so many farmers that it’s – born and raised, it’s kind of, there’s quite a bit that if somebody calls the farmer for permission, he’ll call me and he’ll say, are you guys hunting today? Do you want to hunt tomorrow? I got a guy calling me, are you using the field? And I said, yeah, we’re going. But there’s a lot of times there’s a lot of times where I’ll say, who is it? And he’ll say, oh, it’s, so and so a local guy and his kid and I say, yes, let them go, send them in there.
Ramsey Russell: Trespasser does happen up here though, doesn’t it?
Troy Bennet: It does.
Ramsey Russell: Do you ever had any run ins with trespassers?
Troy Bennet: I have for sure.
Ramsey Russell: What’s that? Go into that, talk about that.
Troy Bennet: So I’ve kind of got to a couple of times where I’ve had permission in the field and I’ve had written permission in a text, so we were totally illegal and we get out there and there’s a guy sitting up in the field and I tell him no, it’s like we have permission and he just says, no, I have permission too. And I say, okay, I’m not going to start an argument over it because when you start starting arguments with other people in fields, that’s how you ruin, if the farmer getting calls about arguments, nobody’s hunting. So, I kind of just gave him a little text like, hey, just curious if there’s anybody else who has permission out here, just wondering because there’s another truck out here and he sent me a message back about an hour later and he said, no, Troy, you’re the only one, please send pictures of the license plate. So I went over and I took pictures of the license plate and I sent it to him and I don’t know what happened after that, but I just did what the farmer asked me to do and –
Ramsey Russell: We had a conversation the other day and I’m just trying to tip toe around this, I’m into it this way. I was out in Saskatchewan this year and I went out there in 2019 and hunted with my newbie buddies, they’re from Nova Scotia, everybody out there called them newbie. They’re Canadian, they got a Canadian accent and we knocked on doors and they had long term relationships, we got to hunt, all last week, we hunted a big long stretch, we got pretty much to ourselves, if the geese were in there, it’s okay. But I predicted in 2019, like, in 2019, I was in the truck, we’re out scouting in the afternoons, Brian walked up, knocked on the door and he’s talking to a landowner, he’s known forever and as he’s there, another truck pulls in behind, never mind the conversation, he walks up and ask for permission. Another truck slowed down to stop all two people talking landowner kept going. One of the ladies told us last week that, the first week of September, her door bell got rang 60 times one week, 60 times, she’s got to get up from the TV or walk away from the oven to go talk to somebody about hunting permission. Can I hunt your property for free? And I predicted back in 2019 that sooner or later this year it is coming to an end. Because you’ve got a most people that hunt somebody else’s property for free and take that day ownership in it don’t really treat it like it’s theirs. And this year, I saw that door coming firmly to a shut, when the lady says and it broke my heart because it was a hunt I wanted, it wasn’t a big hunt, a lot of ducks up next to a slew, put out a few white birds just enough to hide in it, there were snows, there were snows in Canada and ducks staging and she said, no, sir, we don’t allow Americans and my buddy goes, well, I’m Nova Scotian, she says we don’t want anybody and we got the truck and it hurt my feelings for 3 days, she didn’t want Americans. And they told me that, I’m judged by the cover of the book, that tells me somebody’s been misbehaving. What would be some of the ways they would misbehave, rut the field?
Troy Bennet: Rut the field up, not clean up after themselves.
Dustin Dola: Leave their shotgun shells on the ground. farmers really are against it and it takes, what, 5 minutes to clean your shells up?
Ramsey Russell: But you are all drilling this grain, it doesn’t take much to break something and it’s lost productivity. Do you run into, because I know you were telling me some of the ways, you’ve had a few run ins with Americans?
Troy Bennet: We kind of have a group of freelancers that kind of freelances around us a little bit north of us and the way this hunting permission works on these fields is the guy gives permission to everyone, he tells you once you have permission for this year, he’s like, but everybody has permission that’s asked me and I don’t want any fights out there, it’s first come first serve and these guys were hunting and we’re letting them, yeah, they’re here and I’m finally sitting in front of this one feed an evening and nobody’s around and I’m thinking, okay, I’m finally going to hunt this one up here, call up a couple buddies and an hour later I’m sitting at this feed and these guys drive up and I say, yeah, and he asked me and he’s talking, he pulls up and I’m like, oh, yeah, you’re hunting here tomorrow and I’m like, yeah, I’m hunting, it’s like, I got permission, he’s like, yeah, we got permission too, we’ll be here at 1 in the morning.
Ramsey Russell: Are you with him? Were you with him?
Dustin Dola: I wasn’t this time, no.
Troy Bennet: And I said, well, I don’t know, you guys have been hunting all these fields all week, it’s like we’d like to hunt this one tomorrow and he said, well, if you can be there before 1 AM you can hunt it.
Dustin Dola: I had the same group not knowing this story of Troy actually, but the same group in the same area, I had those same American friends up, scout the field and showed up, a couple of hours before legal light and they were pretty much set up already at that point. And now I got these friends that just drove 12 hours plus to come up and hunt and luckily we put something together, but I’ve had the exact same run with them.
Ramsey Russell: And I hate to ask, where are they from?
Dustin Dola: I don’t know, to be honest.
Troy Bennet: I think, Illinois.
Ramsey Russell: Man, talking over the tailgate, Bob was saying, it’s like guys will come up here from anywhere. The average freelancer is going to come up here for a week, you all are hunting until when December 1st this year, your season starts when? September 1st?
Troy Bennet: 1st September, yeah, 90 days season.
Ramsey Russell: September 1st, December 1st. And you all tiptoe around stuff in and out, you don’t shoot roost.
Troy Bennet: We will not, I will not shoot a roost, it is something I do not believe in and I feel like you shoot roost up, you can really chase the birds out of your area a lot quicker.
Ramsey Russell: But I hear it all the time, I hear it all from here to Saskatchewan here all the time, a freelancer shows up, he ain’t from around here, he’s got a week vacation, they kind of sort of do like, it’s the last day, screw it, we ain’t coming back bam, bam, who cares? I mean, it’s like come on, man, we got to get on the same team. There’s enough for everybody, isn’t it to work to get along?
Troy Bennet: If you manage it right and everybody does it a little bit of bird management, you can definitely, there is enough for everyone.
Dustin Dola: That’s probably where we are a little bit fortunate with the Lake Winnipeg and Oak Hammock Marsh, right? It’s pretty much unhuntable, it is unhuntable area. So you can’t blow it completely out, but you can definitely do damage to it.
Ramsey Russell: And just more pressure. But let’s talk about tomorrow, I’m going to go to sleep tonight, I’m going to fall asleep sometime at night thinking about the killing field. Now, you didn’t name it that, there was somebody else named that. And they said, oh, you’re hunting the killing field? You go, what’s killing field? That’s a place we call where you’re hunting because what we’ve been calling for years, it’s like it’s in a flyway coming from sanctuary out to agriculture, it just got harvested two or three days ago?
Troy Bennet: Yesterday, actually that was the first time the whole field –
Ramsey Russell: And the geese already found it.
Troy Bennet: Well, so there was a couple of strips down in it and they were kind of using it a little bit and they were flying over it to go to another feed and I just knew as soon as that field came down they were just going to short pass, shortstop everything else and just be right there.
Ramsey Russell: How long does it take geese to feed out a field that size?
Troy Bennet: With that many in it, probably a week, 5 days they could eat the whole thing.
Ramsey Russell: You showed me one of you all pit blinds, this afternoon and there wasn’t a goose on, I goes, it ain’t good, you go, yeah, we beat the brakes off of them, but eventually they fade it out and go somewhere else.
Troy Bennet: Yeah, they feed it out and the south area there is right now in, Bristol Aerospace, it’s a bunch of land that nobody can hunt because they do some missile testing and stuff like that. And it is quite a few birds in that area right now and it’s fields they can go in that nobody can hunt and they get in there and they stay in there till they eat it out.
Ramsey Russell: How many geese did we see tonight? I’m just going to say three quarters of a mile long by 100 yards, 200 yard wide feet, that’s what I’d guess. Because we didn’t get within about 800 yards of it.
Troy Bennet: I didn’t want to get any closer, we want to let them come to us.
Ramsey Russell: Because that be a fair estimate of how long that feed is.
Troy Bennet: That’s what I was thinking.
Ramsey Russell: And how do you decide where to hunt there and tell me what tomorrow’s set up is going to be like and how many hunters are going? We’ve been hunting 3 to 5 folks, tell me about tomorrow.
Troy Bennet: Yeah, we’re going to have 7 of us maybe 8 tomorrow and we got a really good win for the field, they’re kind of coming off the Oak Hammock marsh and we got a north wind, so it’s going to put them right in the field right, right away right up the alley where they want to be. And we kind of watched them feed today and they kind of started, everything kind of moving a little bit north as they eat it out, so we’re kind of going to go right as far north as they were feeding with a north wind and kind of give them all that spot that they ate out and they should give it up right to us, I hope. So there’s a refuge geese and there was probably 5000 geese in there and probably with a left feed kind of to the northeast of that, there was probably another 2000 or 3000. So when they start jumping around and landing other spots, we want to be able to compete with them still. So we’re going to run a big spread.
Ramsey Russell: How do you manage the chaos? Because like the last two hunts we’ve been on, this morning, we shot a limit, we had resident shoot 8, non-resident, shoot five, it’s 21 geese, we made our own little pace, very relaxed pace. And how do you manage chaos? I mean, you ain’t expecting 1500 birds coming in at one time, it’ll be a little family group, cohorts little waves of them.
Troy Bennet: So, I think the main thing is to – when the hunt starts to let everybody know that it might get chaotic and we need to really, if we shoot 9 or 10 geese out of a flock, everybody needs to get out and pick a goose up because the faster you can get back in your blinds and get set up, the faster you can decoy more geese.
Dustin Dola: I think one good way too is have a designated person calling shots and organizing the thing and that’s one thing that I find Troy does really well, I don’t personally like to do it as much, but when you get one guy that’s good and vocal and everyone listens to it can run it a lot smoother also.
Ramsey Russell: I like that. I mean, you got to get it done and get out because you all be in there for a while? I mean, you all be hunting that thing for a while now the geese are in there. But the same time it just, there’s a fine balance between fast pace and fun and just absolute chaos how many birds do I got? Oh, my God, that ain’t no fun.
Troy Bennet: Well, we’ll definitely give up birds to –
Ramsey Russell: Who shot what, I can’t stand who shot what.
Troy Bennet: Yeah. We’ll definitely be shooting and another thing is make sure you’re shooting your lane, there’s another thing I tell people it’s like, just because the geese aren’t right in front of you doesn’t mean that you just shoot the one to the farthest left, you got to think of that as if the geese are 10 yards over, everybody’s shooting 10 yards over.
Where Goose Hunting is a Religion
Every time those geese beat you up, you learn something.
Ramsey Russell: Grab your phone, steady shotgun and I just see -that’s something else I like about the non-chaotic. I enjoy it. Like today you ended on a pair, I enjoyed just sitting there and watching, I mean, it’s a spectator sport, if you let it, it was fun.
Dustin Dola: Absolutely. And it’s way more enjoyable like that, like you said. And like yourself and well, when Remington’s healthy, it’s also a lot funner running a dog when you can work them and you’re not worried about picking up 12 birds because there’s another string coming in and then the dogs going and everything kind of escalates into chaos, like you said and it’s a lot more enjoyable when you can do it at a funner pace.
Ramsey Russell: This morning, it just reminds me, I don’t know, something about what you just said, we were relaxing, we’re watching, doing what we’re doing and a single breaks off of a bigger flock, not a giant flock but a 10, 12 birds and look like he’s going to probably pull the whole thing in land right in front of Troy, he’s about 20 yards down in front of me and they peter out and go somewhere else. And I said, I’m thinking something on that goose is lead and I convinced myself, no, it’s some white, sometimes it’ll shine or maybe some piece of white behind a decoy back there and sure enough, here comes my goose sets up right in front of me, my limit goose bam, he dies, that goose gets up, sure enough, it’s banded, the dog comes up, it’s banded. I go, yeah, it’s your asshole. Oh, man. What a great way to end the hunt though. You said just a minute ago, I don’t want to touch you on this Dustin, I think it’s interesting, you said Troy is a lot better at being the pit boss, but a lot of times you don’t have a shotgun in your hands except when it’s your turn, you’re busy filming.
Dustin Dola: Yeah, that is correct.
Ramsey Russell: How did you get into that? Look, man, the footage is great, what’s the name of your YouTube channel?
Dustin Dola: It’s a YouTube handle is Interlake Outdoors and you can literally type that straight into the YouTube search and we’ll come up and it started, actually with another friend named Troy and then Cole, like you had mentioned earlier and it was just a dream is really what it was, it was to get footage and hopefully be able to start something and get recognized in the outdoor world. And then, as soon as we started doing it, it just kind of snowballed into something that I realized that I actually really liked doing too. Not that I don’t want to be famous, yeah, everybody wants to be famous. There’s a true passion to it, I find too that, I have just as much fun with a camera in my hand like today being out there with the camaraderie and filming the dog and filming you guys shoot or miss or whatever it is. And yeah, it started from nothing and not saying that it’s giant or huge, but it’s something I definitely enjoy just as much as shooting.
Ramsey Russell: You do enjoy it and you were telling me tonight at dinner, you do a lot of the filming, Cole will do some of the filming but does most of the editing.
Dustin Dola: Correct. Yeah, everything that we’ve done, we’ve basically self-taught ourselves whether it’s watching some YouTube channels or just figuring it out by yourself. But I’ll film, my other buddy Troy films, Cole Films and then Cole basically does all the editing. Sometimes I’ll break clips up, so he’s not going through 3 hours of footage to get a 10 second clip or something, if I know it.
Ramsey Russell: Waterfowl footage is a dime or a dozen on YouTube, it’s just everybody’s doing it. I do it with an iPhone, just my own but I like it. I mean, to me, you all are perfectly capturing the Interlake experience. Yeah, it’s just the nuances, the dogs, the weather, the clouds, the fall foliage, it’s just perfect. And I don’t watch a ton of hunting video like that, but I’ve really enjoyed seeing yours.
Dustin Dola: Thank you. And I appreciate that someone coming for yourself too, hopefully we can keep the ball rolling and hopefully we get a pretty good video with you in it and you can share it and enjoy it.
Ramsey Russell: I’ll be glad to, just no misses. Edit those 3 misses for sure, that was terrible. Guys, I have really enjoyed it and I tell you from the very minute I met you all, I felt at home and it’s very hard to do, I’m a long way from home and you all got a terribly funny accent, I know. But I felt immediately at home, thank you all for welcome me into this unbelievable goose hunting culture.
Troy Bennet: We’ve really enjoyed having you, Ramsey.
Dustin Dola: It’s amazing. It’s been a great time.
Ramsey Russell: And anybody can check out, my post from the Interlake Manitoba and connect with these guys online on Instagram, go check out the YouTube page, Interlake Outdoors. And if you do come up here to hunt, behave. Man, there’s some good folk and they got some great hunting and they got some really good culture and ready to get along with, just go to the water and hole, buy somebody a beer, right? I mean, it’s easier to fit in. It ain’t America but it ain’t got to be and I love America, I’m just saying, it’s so freaking competitive and the one thing I know is, I got to share this because I’m going to talk about it in the future podcast with Ian. Ian has been hunting since way back to hear that old guy, he’s a little bit older than me to hear him talk about hunting this region 40 years ago when all the fields looked like the killing field and everybody was out there with pump shotguns and blue jeans and hidden in bushes or however they did it. And he spoke about all 3 of you all, you all walked off to go get the truck and he and I were chatting, he was showing me his gun, he spoke about all 3 of you all like his own sons. And I said, man, some good guys, he goes, they’re good hunters, he said all 3 of those boys are really good hunters, but most importantly, they get it. What do you think he meant when he said, they get it?
Dustin Dola: I guess it could mean a bunch of different things, but I think you just understand what it’s all about, not necessarily killing but what it’s all about getting everybody together and just enjoying the experience and taking it all in.
Ramsey Russell: I think that’s it. I think, that’s it. It’s like, we all want to win the lottery, the Powerball, but in a game of poker, we say win, lose or draw. Well, I think when you really approach waterfowl hunting like this, like I’ve enjoyed with you all the last little bit, like I think of duck hunting, it’s really never win, lose or draw, it’s just that sometimes you drag a bigger hand than others but it’s all that goes into it from a time you jump in the truck, drink coffee on the ride out, to getting the field set up, to BS before sunlight, to taking turns and watching the birds and watching the dogs, I mean, it’s just the whole freaking experience, man, to be able to connect with new and old friends with new food, new culture, new people, I think that’s really what it means to get it, let it turn off fog in a wind, good luck. That’s all we’re going to have left. If it’s all about the pile, it’s just some days just the goose gods ain’t going to do it for you.
Troy Bennet: They don’t, if they wasn’t like it was, we didn’t have days like that, they call killing, not hunting.
Dustin Dola: You always have a good day. Sometimes you have a great day, but they’re always good.
Ramsey Russell: It seems to me that when it is tough when, like today, I wouldn’t call it, I would not call it tough at all, but there were a few shots we could have taken, we didn’t, played a clean game like you said, might have tilted one, but the rest of them were just dead when they thumped the ground, there’s a lot of satisfaction in that. I’m ended on this note, you said, I believe this, I believe that a lot of young people don’t understand the importance of learning something. It’s not the top of the mountain that you’re really going for, it’s the climb, it’s the learning, it’s the figuring out, I don’t care who you play baseball for, you all going to lose a game, you’re going to lose, doesn’t make you a bad ball player, you just got to shine up the bat and grease up the club and go back at it, man.
Troy Bennet: Every time those geese beat you up, you learn something.
Ramsey Russell: You learn something.
Dustin Dola: You learn a lot in the bad days too.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, thank you all very much, I’m looking forward to hunt with you all in the morning. Folks, thank you all for this episode of Duck Season Somewhere where goose hunting is a religion in the Interlake part of Manitoba. See you next time.