Bernie Revering column: Waterfowling in Saskatchewan
Memories are made when the hunter is young, and the hunting is spectacular. It was a time when you were eager, vibrant, and the game and birds were there. When we drove to Saskatchewan for ducks and geese, we had it all!
All of the trips that I made to Saskatchewan with Dr. John Arouni were indeed memorable. Often Bob Putnam was with us. Advertised as "The land of the living sky," it was all of that. It was a waterfowler's Eden, and it continues that way today, but with more restraints and restrictions.
On our trek along U.S. Highway 2 across North Dakota, we proceeded westward, exiting on the International border at the town of Portal. The border crossing was no ordeal, taking only minutes, visiting with the Canadian authorities, who were genuinely happy to see is. There were no gun permits, and a driver's license was sufficient identification as a U.S. citizen. Guns were seldom looked at. Ditto with the eight boxes of U.S. made shotgun shells that we were bringing in. We'd buy our Canadian license and stamps at the city of Estevan and then proceed to the farm of Ray Allen near the town of Stoughton.
Activity in the darkness
At supper we enjoyed roast pork and dressing, a specialty in the town's Chinese restaurant. We cemented an agreement by which the Chinese chef would prepare an authentic Asian meal of duck for us. We were to bring in the waterfowl, ready for the kitchen. We were to bring in a quantity of breast meat, and other meats cut from the bones, butchering in the field.
In the darkness of 5 a.m. in a stubble field, we set out goose decoys. We brought with us several forms made of lumber and painted gray and black. These were fashioned together in the middle of the goose decoy layout. These forms accepted the willow and birch boughs that we cut from trees along a nearby stream. They made an effective blind, indeed. They concealed three or four hunters completely, and brought the geese in close.
Before dawn, the drake mallards appeared; an hour before the first geese came off the lakes. We took the generous limits allowed by the Province in little time, usually trying for drake birds only. By mid-morning, we had limits of mallards and Canada geese, and we retreated to the Ray Allen farm, after dropping off the duck breast and stripped meat at the Chinese restaurant. When we arrived at the farm, here was Johnny Putnam, the adult son of Bob Putnam. He had flown in from St. Paul in his personal Cessna l82, on the Allen landing strip. Now we were a party of four hunters. In the evening, after a noisy happy hour at the cafe, we sat down to a sumptuous Chinese meal featuring our fresh waterfowl. Their legendary cooking methods, using spices, flavorings and gravy sauces were a real treat. A memorable feast,
Ducks at the stream in the woods
Ray Allen's neighbor has a pasture, through which a small stream and a lake are present, bordered by large trees, with numerous openings. At these openings in the trees, we placed mallard decoys and the shooting was fast and furious. Again on this day we hunted well, lost no birds, and stopped short of the legal limit. It was timber shooting similar to the fabled shooting that is practiced as Stuttgart, Ark. Later on, Johnny Putnam was using a movie camera, shooting 35mm film, recording the entire outing with action photography, including a sound track. The ducks cooperated and we recalled the advertiser's "land of the living skies."
A memorable adventure
The Province is the breeding place for millions of waterfowl. The mallards, canvasback, widgeon, and Canada geese filter down from the Arctic regions and provide hunting for many visitors, but those days are gone.
In the 21st century, the border crossing is not pleasant. Homeland Security measures are rigidly enforced. A background check is made by the Canadian authority, using data provided to them on the personal conduct of the U.S. citizen who seeks to hunt waterfowl in Canada. If you've had the slightest brush with the law, including driving offenses, you'll not be permitted to enter. Firearms permits require a substantial fee, and no ammunition can be brought in. You must purchase the limited amount using a permit system. Few resident Canadian hunters are in the fields. The ownership of firearms for sporting purposes in regimented, so obtaining a hunting gun is, indeed, difficult nowadays. But the waterfowl is still there if a hunter from Minnesota wants to come. Personally, Canadian citizens continue to be friendly, and most will permit American hunters to come onto their farmlands in pursuit of game birds and big game as well.
The great hunts that Dr. Arouni, the Putnams and I made to Saskatchewan are now memories. They are the past and we shall not return. The hunts we enjoyed three decades ago make up those memories.
Whatever happened to?
Tim Kjos? The popular reporter for the Detroit Lakes Tribune has moved to his family's former home place near Kulm, ND. Tim sold his eighty head of cattle on the local market and is beginning the establishment of a familiar operation near Kulm. Tim bought a mobile home from a Pelican Rapids dealer, and this is in place at the Kulm property, with all of the power, roads, water and sanitation needs already in. Tim is back to becoming a cowboy again, a life he loved and enjoyed, including working for the Jokela operations at Park Rapids in his spare time.
He has returned to south central North Dakota where he grew up, before earning a business-journalism degree at North Dakota State at Fargo. He's a careful student of agricultural trends, and realizes that it will take some careful planning to get reestablished in the business of ranching.
Keith Jacobson? This well-known sportsman from this area left the plains six years ago, to become principal at the high school in New Salem, ND. He has resigned this position to take up the assignment of Superintendent of Public Education on the Double Ditch Indian Schools north of Bismarck, ND. Keith intends to retain ownership of a small ranch near New Salem, keeping a small herd of bovines there. The cost of commuting every day is a problem, of course. He states that a large number of ringneck pheasants are prominent in the area, which he keeps in check with his l6 gauge Model 12 Winchester
Mark Dobrenski? The Detroit Lakes big game hunter and guide moved to the Big Sky country of Montana 25 years ago. Mark was always a sought-after big game guide, an accurate shot with a rifle, and an authority on new gear. He has become involved in the sale of mountain lands, and is now in the financial investment industry. But he continues to guide hunters in search of elk, sheep, mule deer, and bear. Mark limits his guiding to about six hunts per year, and has taken a large number of trophy heads.
The Memorial weekend trap shoot
Sunny, but windy and chilly weather plagued our 29th annual invitational trap shooting. It was a disappointment, but we went ahead as programmed. We have learned that other statewide shoots have fared little better. The cost of gasoline needed to get to the destinations is apparently a big factor.
League trapshooting, locally, however has been better than it has been in several seasons, with ten adult and three juvenile teams on the line every Thursday. Mike Eidenschink's B&M Electric squad is a narrow leader, but several other teams are in the money also.