Kicking off this season’s North American Tour, Ramsey goes Iowa goose hunting with Trent Sinclair. While the two hunters are rolling Canada goose poppers and snacking on andouille and cheese, they discuss hunting in Iowa and some favorite recipes. About mid-way through the recording, Sinclair makes a move that Ramsey later wishes he’d photographed!
In My Happy Place: South Central Iowa
I got three ducks in one go and after that I was hooked.
Ramsey Russell: I’m your host Ramsey Russell, join me here to listen to those conversations. Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere. I’m your host Ramsey Russell, and I’m in South Central Iowa. I’m on a road trip of epic proportions, and, man, and I am in my happy place. Don’t throw me in that briar patch because I’m here. I left the house bright and early, like three o’clock, and only because I couldn’t get a good night’s sleep. I couldn’t sleep a wink, because I’m fixin’ to go on a road trip, drove 13 hours and got here just in time with today’s guest, Trent Sinclair, to go and scout some geese. How are you this morning, Trent? This afternoon. Beer time, andouille time.
Trent Sinclair: I’m doing good.
Ramsey Russell: What a great day! I got here last night and you showed me some of the countryside in Iowa, it’s nice! All these little bodies of water everywhere and a lot of them had ducks or geese or both sitting on them.
Trent Sinclair: Yeah, we’re pretty much known for deer, but there’s some hidden gems.
Ramsey Russell: Well, I know why you’re known for deer because everywhere you look there are herds of deer running across the fields.
Trent Sinclair: Yes sir.
Ramsey Russell: Well, if y’all are known for deer, how did you get into duck and goose hunting?
Trent Sinclair: My stepdad. He always hunted ducks, and at the age of seven he took me to a youth waterfowl hunt. We just hunted at a little pond and some blue winged teal came in and, of course, I shot them on the water, and it wasn’t big enough. 12 gauge.
Ramsey Russell: You don’t have to lead them this far.
Trent Sinclair: That’s right. I got three ducks in one go and after that I was hooked. It’s been fun. It’s been a roller coaster ride in a flyover state, though.
Ramsey Russell: Sure, but you also deer hunt. You were showing me some pictures. You’ve already filled up the freighter with venison and archery this year.
Trent Sinclair: Yep, I took out three deer in two days.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, you’ve got some nice bucks up here. Your walls are proof.
Trent Sinclair: Yeah. I’m pretty proud of them. It took a lot of years, a lot of hunting to get there. I’m always looking for a bigger one, though.
Where are the Ducks & Geese in Iowa?
You’ll shoot them here one day, let those sit, go scout different sets of geese, bounce back and forth.
Ramsey Russell: Always, man, always, I’m always looking for that next duck or next goose over the decoys, myself. What happened this morning? Because we drove some miles, y’all cover some miles out here in this part of the world, and we drove some miles north, south, east, and west and saw a bunch of deer and saw a bunch of agriculture that just started to cut the corn good. We were scouting, but that last one we looked at was an acre and a half of ducks and geese, mostly geese. We couldn’t see, we got out over the hill, we couldn’t really look down and see what was on our side of that pond. I was expecting just a wholesale massacre this morning. It’s going to be stupid. of course the limit ain’t but two geese. I thought they were all going to come in like Mexicans crawling over the Alamo Wall. We zigged and they zagged. What did they do, go to find another feeding area this morning?
Trent Sinclair: Yeah, I’m assuming. When we pulled up to the pond, we didn’t see a goose, so we thought it was going to be a massacre, going to be a nice loaf pond, shoot four geese, get out, do it again the next morning. When I hopped out and heard them and then saw them take off, I was pretty skeptical about bumping a roost but we’re there. “When in Rome,” we’re going to hunt it anyway.
Ramsey Russell: From what I’ve seen of the 20-30 mile radius we’ve covered in the last couple of days, that’s where the geese are loafing. That’s where they’re roosting. That’s where they’re doing it. But that’s how y’all hunt them all the time, isn’t it? Every pond you’ve shown me was very similar to that.
Trent Sinclair: Early season October hunting in Iowa can be really good or it can be so-so, like it is now. Later in the year when everything starts freezing up and the geese all are pretty much together on three big lakes around here, then you just focus on their feeds so then you just start picking off the feed. You’ll shoot them here one day, let those sit, go scout different sets of geese, bounce back and forth. You’re not burning the same geese for seven days.
Ramsey Russell: Y’all would rather go out and shoot those feeds, shoot those corn fields? Is that what y’all normally do?
Trent Sinclair: Absolutely.
Ramsey Russell: We didn’t find but, really, just a few feeds yesterday. That one good one we hadn’t got permission on yet, but still has a heck of a feed.
Trent Sinclair: Right now, it’s going from warm to cold to back to warm. They’re bouncing. They’re hitting alfalfa fields and they’re going in the corn and when it’s wet, you’ll see them in the beans. Unless you’re seeing them every day at the same time they can change it up.
Ramsey Russell: The combines are running. Every dirt road we’ve been on how to combine or two on it. Everybody’s cutting crops. They’re just bouncing around the new fields every day. They’ve got choices. It was pretty warm by Iowa standards. It was not warm by Mississippi standard this morning. It was 55°, which is beautiful weather, but when you throw that 25 mile an hour wind on it, I was glad I brought a jacket. I might have been a little chilly out there without a jacket this morning. We had a great wind. I’m not complaining at all because I love to see new country and somehow in the fog of COVID-19, sitting at home not traveling and all that mess, I counted it up and I had hunted 36 states. I said, “Well, that’s kind of close to the finish line, why not hunt all 50?” I started looking. “I’m going to Utah. If I’m going to Utah, I’m going right through North Dakota, well if I’m going there…,” so I just started plotting and thinking, “What states have I not yet hunted in?” Then, you and I got to talk. I told you, “Look man, I’m the easiest guy you’ve ever hunted with. I’m not bloodthirsty. I don’t need piles of nothing. I just want to say check. Yeah, I shot.” Like that one four-pack, all those birds were feeding a half-mile away or sitting up on something because all the little packs of geese were floating into them. That four-pack messed up.
Trent Sinclair: They did pretty.
Ramsey Russell: They just messed up, and “boom, boom,” you’re done with the limit. High-five, I’m ready to go, man. That’s why I poured a cup of coffee and sat back. I don’t know what all the ducks did this morning. I would say there were 50-60 ducks on that stock tank, four or six shovelers. None of the mallards, none of the teals.
Trent Sinclair: It’s hard to say. They can bounce so easily around here. I mean there’s ponds and middle sections that you can’t ever see. You’ve seen how the timber is, how thick it can be, birds could just go suck down the middle of a section. No one will ever know they’re there, definitely out of this wind.
Ramsey Russell: Some of the listeners and some of the guys that have been inboxing me on Instagram are from Iowa. Several of them told me today “Welcome to Iowa in October” because they asked how’d it go and I said “We zigged, they zagged.” We got to shoot, we were there. That’s great, but it wasn’t the waves of birds I’d have expected to come in from what we saw yesterday. They were there, man. “Boom,” there they are. We heard those birds get up. They were on the far side of the pond where we ended up setting up and when we drove up, but that wasn’t all the geese we saw there yesterday. There’s no way. I would say that there were two dozen geese that got up and I would say we saw 70-100. That’s what I would say.
Trent Sinclair: Yeah, in that section, there’s those three ponds. It’s hard saying what didn’t leave when they went out to feed that night and what didn’t go to those other ponds.
Best Species & Places to Hunt in Iowa
We’ll shoot about everything. It just depends on where you want to hunt.
Ramsey Russell: That’s right. These little ponds are everywhere. You were saying in the past there was a state program to establish stock tanks for goose habitat. Is that right?
Trent Sinclair: The DNR would pay for the pond if you built it. I think that was a program. It was in the early 2000’s. There were a lot of ponds built.
Ramsey Russell: It accomplished a goal they were trying to do. Y’all got some habitat. You got plenty of places to go scout.
Trent Sinclair: Yeah, and if the grass is low, it really makes it easy for those geese to use it. Nice loaf ponds.
Ramsey Russell: This front cannot be hurting. As I was packing to start this road trip, I was hearing from folks in Montana and North Dakota and Utah and Wisconsin and Minnesota and Michigan and everybody and yourself. Everybody talked about how it’s warm. This morning I started getting pictures of snow and freezing weather and snow forecast. I think the temperature is going to drop here to 25° in the next couple of days. If that doesn’t get birds moving, I don’t know what will.
Trent Sinclair: I think the low of tonight’s 38 degrees, with the winds supposed to change out north.
Ramsey Russell: What species do y’all normally shoot when things are hot and heavy here in Iowa?
Ramsey Russell: Y’all shoot some gadwalls?
Trent Sinclair: We shoot a lot of gadwalls. It depends on where you’re hunting, what you want to hunt. If you want the big water reservoirs, you can get into divers, a lot of green winged teal. We’ll shoot about everything. It just depends on where you want to hunt.
Ramsey Russell: We saw that flock of mallards this afternoon, a pretty sizable flock of mallards, 3-4 dozen. I saw those little ducks behind it. Of course, they were out there a ways, even looking through binoculars. I just assumed they were green wings. As we were driving, they got up and I don’t know why it surprised me to see that it was a pretty sizable flock of blue wings. I just assumed they’d be past here by now.
Trent Sinclair: As cold as it got, you would have thought that they would blow through because they don’t stick around very long and we shot green wings in snow.
Iowa Waterfowl, Deer, and Predator Hunting
There’s a lot of waterfowl hunters. It can get tough on the public. Deer hunting is huge. Coyote hunting comes after deer hunting because when there’s nothing else to do, that’s when the guys start coyote hunting.
Ramsey Russell: That’s crazy, that’s great. I’ve learned a little bit more about you since I’ve been up here. You like to waterfowl hunt. You’re mad at those ducks and geese, but, man, you got a thing for coyotes.
Trent Sinclair: Oh man, I love shooting coyotes.
Ramsey Russell: You got kind of excited when we drove by and Wily Coyote sitting out there on the side of the road trying to catch a mouse today. Tell me about your predator hunting. I have shot coyotes, I’ve shot a few foxes, but I’m not a predator hunter. Tell me about that. Tell me, what’s involved with predator hunting?
Trent Sinclair: Hunt the wind, hunt the wind, hunt the wind. I just needed a new challenge. I loved it. I feel like they’re the most witty animal in Iowa that I can hunt. One day I was like, “I’m going to go buy a mouth call before I step up to the electronic calls.” I didn’t know anything. I just figured I’d be all set up on the frozen river. After two minutes, I shot a coyote. I was like, “This is easy, anybody can do this.” I didn’t shoot coyotes for two years after that. My brother-in-law got it. We’re going to go hard, hunt another year. Didn’t shoot coyotes. Then, we started putting it all together. That year, in about every set, we at least saw a coyote. After that, I’ve kind of got it figured out. Now, I’m not a professional, but I figured out you cannot hunt the same spots and if you have an opportunity you’d better make count because you’ll never see that coyote again, or the guys that run dogs will get them.
Ramsey Russell: How do they hunt them with dogs?
Trent Sinclair: They’ll see one of them while they’re driving around a section on gravel road and they’ll let the dogs out.
Ramsey Russell: What kind of dogs?
Trent Sinclair: Walker dogs.
Ramsey Russell: Really?
Trent Sinclair: Yeah, and some guys run walkers and greyhounds. They’ll just drop them in a section and they have GPS on them, they’ll just follow them on the screen in their pickups.
Ramsey Russell: They just try to cut them off, to intercept the coyotes as they’re running?
Trent Sinclair: A lot of times walkers will just catch them and kill them.
Ramsey Russell: Really? Finally just wear them down?
Trent Sinclair: Yeah, and then they’ll just kill them.
Ramsey Russell: Is it sport or a sense of conservation that everybody is so mad at coyotes up here?
Trent Sinclair: Some of it is sport and a lot of it is conservation. Like I said, we’re a deer state, everybody wants their fawns to live. There’s so many coyotes you can never kill enough of them.
Ramsey Russell: I noticed, Trent, that you’ve got a pretty good network of friends and associates and landowners. Your neighbor, the one down here [is] about three miles [away]. It blows my mind. My neighbors are within talking distance. I live in a little subdivision and your neighbor is three miles down the road. You really know a lot of folks, a lot of farmers, a lot of stuff getting access. A lot of the loop we’re doing, you’re not just going looking at ponds randomly and knocking on doors. You’re going to scout in a whole big geography of people you know, people that got places, places you’ve hunted in the past. You said that some of the folks will let you hunt. If you see a pond that you don’t know, you knock on the door and ask them to let you hunt, unless they’re deer hunters.
Trent Sinclair: Yeah.
Ramsey Russell: But almost everybody will let you come shoot them coyotes.
Trent Sinclair: Oh yeah. They don’t care about coyotes. They just want them dead. I guess that’s just the way it is. I guess it’s just the way I was raised, but you never miss an opportunity to try to kill coyotes.
Ramsey Russell: How serious is waterfowl hunting in Iowa, how serious is deer hunting, and how serious is predator hunting?
Trent Sinclair: Waterfowl hunting, there’s a lot of guys that do it. If you go up by Des Moines, the marsh is up there, there will always be a ton of boats, a bunch of rigs. There’s a lot of waterfowl hunters. It can get tough on the public. Deer hunting is huge. Coyote hunting comes after deer hunting because when there’s nothing else to do, that’s when the guys start coyote hunting.
Ramsey Russell: Is it mostly locals that do the deer hunting or do you have a lot of out of state? You were saying today that some of these hotels absolutely fill up.
Trent Sinclair: We have a ton of out of state guys that draw tags here. Of course, being in Southern Iowa, it’s known for bigger deer. Anybody can draw the zone. I don’t know what out-of-state zone we are in. Come November, you’ll see a ton of trucks and ATVs hooked up to them with out-of-state plates all over town. It brings a lot of money to the town.
Hunting Regulations in Iowa
Ramsey Russell: Sure, a lot of revenue for these rural communities is hunting. Hunting is conservation for that reason.
Trent Sinclair: Yeah. There’s a lot of out-of-state guys that own ground just to be able to hunt it once every 3-5 years.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, but it’s one of those funny states where you can’t shoot a high powered rifle. We’re on the prairie and there’s these big fields and the houses are sometimes miles apart, but you can’t shoot a scoped rifle. That’s interesting to me.
Trent Sinclair: Well, you can shoot a scoped rifle.
Ramsey Russell: I’m thinking of center fire 300 Mag or 270.
Trent Sinclair: We have regulations where it has to be straight wall 45-70, 45 long cold 357. I believe. Now we have that 450 Bushmaster and 350 Legend, which are all straight wall rifle bolts and it’s a lot better at shooting.
Ramsey Russell: How long have you been able to shoot that? Because I know like in Mississippi we used to have a black powder season. I’m talking: pour the powder, sink the ball padded in, “boom,” and then they come with the in line cartridges, and now for our primitive weapon season you can shoot archery or you can shoot them old black powder or you can shoot a straight walled cartridge. Is that about the same era that y’all came up and started doing that?
Trent Sinclair: Yeah, we’ve had a muzzleloader season. We have an early muzzleloader season which started today.
Ramsey Russell: Can you shoot a straight wall cartridge at that?
Trent Sinclair: Just black powder. During the shotgun seasons, I think we’ve had the straight wall rule for two years now. It was strictly shotguns with deer slugs. With the Hornady bullet, you could probably get a 200 yard shot. Most of the time, you are lucky to have an accurate shot at 100 yards with older slugs. You wounded more deer than you killed. It’s not good. Then, they opened up the straight wall and they say that 350 Legend can reach out and poke them. I don’t know why we don’t have a regular, neck-down 243-270.
Favorite Duck Recipes
Oh, they’re going to be delicious.
Ramsey Russell: I don’t know. I just find it interesting. Do you want to stop and resume this? Because, listen guys, today’s guest is kind of choking up. We’ve been wrapping jalapeno poppers and apparently he rubbed his eye right up in the middle of our interview. He’s sitting there with his eyes squinted. He’s got tears rolling down his cheeks.
Trent Sinclair: No, the show must go on.
Ramsey Russell: He’s drinking a Nat Light, but I know he wants to put it on that hot eyeball!
Trent Sinclair: Oh boy. I’ll tell you what.
Ramsey Russell: This is a first. I like it.
Trent Sinclair: I’m glad you like it because it hurts like a son of a gun.
Ramsey Russell: Oh my God. But those poppers are going to be good!
Trent Sinclair: Oh, they’re going to be delicious. I can’t wait to try your style popper.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, everybody’s got a style popper. How do you normally cook bird? Because you’ve got this nice smoke right here.
Trent Sinclair: Yeah,I just got it at the end of May, so this will be the first time smoking waterfowl on it. We do a lot of poppers with duck, but it would always be on the grill. Hawkers, you can put them in a crock pot. Everybody kind of does that. But I do a lot of jerky out of geese. I’ve had guys who try to buy it. No, I’ll just make you some. We shoot enough geese that you don’t have to pay me for it!
Ramsey Russell: Do you put a special marinade on that jerky? I’ve never made goose jerky. Walk me through the process.
Trent Sinclair: I just go to the grocery store and I get that High Mountain seasoning. You can kind of add some cayenne or however you want it for extra spice. Let it sit for 24 hours and then smoke it for six.
Ramsey Russell: Smoke for six hours? On 100°? I
Trent Sinclair: My smoker has just a setting that says smoke-only, so it will be 200 degrees.
Ramsey Russell: Okay.
Trent Sinclair: I use that setting most of the time. Then, towards the end, I’ll put a glaze on it, kind of like Jack Link’s shiny glaze.
Ramsey Russell: With apple jelly?
Trent Sinclair: I’ll use that sweet chili, spicy chili you’ve seen in the fridge. Brush that on there. Let that set.
Ramsey Russell: That’s a good way to eat lots of geese.
Trent Sinclair: Everybody eats it. Some people are like,”We don’t like to eat geese.” I’ll give them a piece of jerky, they’ll eat it up. That’s one way that we do a lot of geese.
Ramsey Russell: Do you have a favorite duck recipe?
Trent Sinclair: Yeah, I’m going to say that my favorite way to do duck is either teal or wood duck poppers.
Ramsey Russell: Teal or wood duck poppers.
Trent Sinclair: Absolutely. Like I said, you can’t go wrong with poppers.
Ramsey Russell: I don’t think you can. Do you have a certain popper recipe?
Trent Sinclair: Yeah, we take a cream cheese, cut up bacon, fry the bacon, and put that in the cream cheese along with hot Italian sausage, mix all that together, put that in the jalapeno, then sprinkle on whatever you want for cheese. Then all your bacon, so you don’t have to wrap the bacon, it’s all right there.
Ramsey Russell: Wow. Now that’s new. DO you bake that in the oven or put it on the smoker?
Trent Sinclair: I put it on the smoker.
Ramsey Russell: Wow, that’s different. I’m taking notes, I’m fixin’ to add that in my repertoire. I did kind of the standard, we’re doing the standard tonight, which is jalapeno cream cheese. I’m going to put a dollop of raspberry jelly on top of that, then put the goose, seasoned goose, wrap it up, and bake it, cooking it until it’s done. I think it’s going to be good. Back home, we use fig preserves or orange marmalade, but I think I have used some jalapeno raspberry jelly. I’ve used that to make a glaze for the way I like to saute ducks when they’re cooking three minutes down, three minutes over, three minutes in the oven, seasoned up, just kind of cooking them like that in either some duck fat or bacon fat. As I pull it out, it should be rare to medium rare. If they’re resting, I’ll make a reduction in that hot skillet of bourbon and butter and some form of jelly, and then pour it on top and it just kind of caramelizes and it’s pretty dang good. The fun thing about that recipe is it isn’t like I travel to Argentina or some foreign country with that recipe, I just kind of go with it, open up the cabinet and see how that’s going to work. Most times it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
Trent Sinclair: Most of the time when I figured something out it’s all an experiment. “What have we got here? Here’s what we’re going to use.” Most of the time it turns out good.
Iowa Goose Hunting
I feel with the cover and that pond, that is our best bet to be successful.
Ramsey Russell: Tell me how it’s going to work tomorrow. We’re going to get up and go goose hunt tomorrow. we’re not going to have a south wind, we’re going to have a 10 mile an hour north wind. We know the birds are there, three dozen hawkers are waiting on us. What are we going to do? How’s that going to work?
Trent Sinclair: I’m going to go check them here after a bit, make sure they’re not roosting on it this time. This is a different pond, by the way. Then, we’re just going to set a pretty basic spread where it looks like a transition from the water up to the pasture, where they feed a lot. With the layout of the pond, I think with the cover, it’s going to be a lot easier to finish them in the front crossing, rather than having to cross shoot them.
Ramsey Russell: I like that better because usually when you’re shooting them head on it increases your chance for mistakes because they’re looking in your direction. When they come in from the side, left or right, they’re looking straight ahead normally.
Trent Sinclair: I feel with the cover and that pond, that is our best bet to be successful.
Ramsey Russell: We’re on the X, they are waiting on us. We got to have cover. Something else happened this morning. That was Char dog’s first big Canada goose and I was wondering how that little 50 some odd pound lab was going to handle the big geese when they hit, but she did all right.
Trent Sinclair: Oh yeah, I was very impressed. She’s kind of small but she’s a firecracker. She is a good dog. I was very impressed.
Ramsey Russell: She hit the water and went and swam back with the one and then, one fell off to the left, dead, two fell on the water. By the time she got back with the first big one in it, she swam out to it, picked it up, and hit the bank running back. It looked like more goose than dog coming back. Then I looked out at that second goose, I guess it swam off because I got up and walked around, got up a little high, and I could see him running and set her on the line and she went and grabbed it up. I was wondering myself, because you don’t know about a new dog, you don’t know what to expect. If that goose turned around and wrapped her with a billy club-like wing on the nose, I wonder what she would have done, but she hit him pretty hard and brought him back. I wrung his neck and then sent her on the lines, she picked up that third bird. I was proud. I will say this, I think she’s showing a lot of promise.
Trent Sinclair: Oh, I think she’s going to be a good dog. I was very impressed and she’s a sweetheart.
Ramsey Russell: She’s a sweetheart. She sure is. Well, I’m ready to stick a knife and a fork into that pork loin that’s been smoking for a little bit and finish up this andouille and cheese and get those duck poppers wrapped up and going.
Trent Sinclair: Heck yeah.
Ramsey Russell: Folks, thank y’all for listening to Duck Season Somewhere from Central Iowa. You’ve been listening to Trent Sinclair, my host. We’re going to keep these episodes rolling. It ain’t near every day we’re hitting a new location. Look forward to seeing you next time. Thanks.