I am entering into my 30th year of operating this outfitting business and at the start of each season the same doubts are there. Will the flyway still be as good, will the hunting weather be good overall and decent the first several weeks of October. Early October weather has become iffy due to warmer temperatures than say a decade ago. Will the cropping in my leases work well and will the bird numbers sitting in our area of Malpeque Bay and in Summerside harbour stay at the level they have in recent years (fortunately it turned out they did and than some in 2015). Your hunting and our outfitting for hunting are the same in that you are hopeful every day you go out but have seen both sides of it and are prepared to take what comes (only thing is that as an outfitter we have to really work to limit the down days). Hope you enjoy this 2015 season summary and of course many of you reading this helped make it fun and I (we) look forward to seeing you next fall.
I readily admit I have a complex about the first few weeks of the season, as it is too warm (God I hate mosquitoes), the birds are just starting their migration and not all my sites are harvested. I offset this by only booking a limited number of groups and in 2015 I only booked seven groups totalling 18 hunters in the first two weeks of the season, well down from our normal target number of six groups per week. This strategy worked well again and in spite of my usual early season agonizing, every group went home with birds and a total of 97 geese were harvested, a good number for early in the game. Thank you to Tony Mee and Bob Corkum (24 years) from Halifax, N.S.; Rod Cole and his dad Mike from Labrador and Alberta; Matt Balcombe and his dad Gordon from Stillwater Lake, N.S.; Paul Warren and his son Nathan from Dildo, NL; Peter Sturge and his brother Paul from Mt. Pearl, NL and the Leo and Neil LeBlanc group from Wedgeport, N.S., returning for the 28th consecutive year.
We enjoyed the arrival of better hunting weather the last two weeks in October and much better than during the same period in 2014 and it was great to see. The week of October 19th, we averaged nine geese per hunter, which is well above average (we consider 5-6 good, 7 excellent and 8 or over exceptional). Since some groups shoot well and some not so much so (depending on how much waterfowl hunting they do), our best indicator of how productive we are is how may pulls on geese our clients get (we call them “rips”). During the week of October 19 we averaged ten rips for each group over our 3-day hunt and in our world that is over the moon (we do not “sky-bust” and in most of our rips the birds are within forty yards and often much less when the shot is called). A stat that really shocks hunter’s is that only 2.5 to 3.5 birds are killed per rip (mostly three or under) and it has been that way from the start. It simply shows how difficult it is to keep one’s wits and not “flock shoot” when you have fifty wildly honking Canada geese coming hard on your rig and than you have to hit them solid enough to bring them down (approximately 80% of our groups do not hunt geese on any sort of regular basis, so you can see the dilemma but a fun exciting dilemma none the less). During this period we enjoyed hosting the Bert Fowler group from French Village, N.B., Rod Bixby and son Nicholas from Springdale, NL, Chris and George Richardson from Lunenburg, MA and the Tim Young group from Springdale, NL.
The week of October 26th we averaged seven geese per hunter and overall the hunting weather was good once again, although there was a day the rain was so heavy the birds did not move much (just like you they hate driving rain hitting them in the beak). We also averaged 8 rips per group, which was excellent. We were pleased to host the Henry Simon group from Labrador City (5 hunter’s), Les Murray and Al Chase (8 years) from ME, and Brad Watkins and Joy Barker from Cottlesville, NL (Joy Barker was the life of the place and one of the funniest people we ever hosted).
I always love when we get to November because we have cooler windier days and the migration is holding peak numbers of geese by then. We came off an October that produced excellent hunting, with good hunting weather especially the last few weeks of the month and the bird numbers as good or better than in 2014. While we knew there would be more birds coming, we were shocked to see the number of new birds that came into our area the first week of November. I always have a lot of chatter with a number of local hunters and we all agreed the numbers in our area more than doubled the week of November 01. I spend a lot of my time “seeding” fields with some of my “more experienced” decoys as the more “tending” fields we have the better the results are. Once the week of November 02nd rolled around I could put most of my seed decoys back in the building, as birds were all over the place and we had tending fields every day. It was especially fun to watch, as most of our hunting is done within a mile or so of where we sleep at the Slemon Park Hotel on the Summerside air base and after returning from their hunt, our hunter’s could watch the birds going in and out of fields all around the base (ours and the fields within the base boundaries where no hunting is allowed). To say the high numbers of birds made for easy scouting was an understatement. Yes, this was an especially big hit of birds but I have seen both sides of the coin in my 29 years as an outfitter. I never take what happened either negatively or positively one year to be an indicator of the next. Just take them as they come, make the best of them and of course as one ages one appreciates them more.
During the week of November 01 we had our most productive hunting to that point in the season. Our groups shot 120 geese and had a total of 45 rips. Great hunting weather and lots of birds and it’s funny how much smarter the outfitter looks in those conditions. It was great to welcome back Ken Cashin, Chris Cabot and their group of six from Goose Bay, Labrador, as well as Brian and Dermit Harte from Witless Bay, NL and their friend Rodney McCarthy from Bay Bulls. We also had big game outfitter Trevor Pilgram from Roddicton, NL and his son Shelby, now living in Labrador City (a killer shot). We had another group from NL that had to cancel late in the game, which was unfortunate for both of us but that does happen sometimes.
During the week of November 08 we did not have any hunters booked the first three days of the week, so my two most senior guides Clinton Arsenault and Jerald Peters were allowed to do a little personal shooting, going out for a few hours and not leaving any “foot print”. They shot 41 birds over the three days and I was pleased they got it out of their system (sort of). I normally do not allow personal hunting until after the hunters are gone but there were so many birds around our sites I knew it would not make a a dent and they are very “efficient”. We were very happy to welcome first time hunters, the Guy Hunt group of ten from Wareham-Centreville, NL. Actually there were four “Hunts” in the group, and a total of seven hunters from NL and three more living in Ontario. They could not have been easier to deal with and were fun to be around and enjoyed their first P.E.I. hunting trip to the fullest. It also helped that hunting continued to be excellent and they had 39 rips at geese (not a misprint) and shot 103 birds over the three days. A special shout out to Guy’s wife Daphne who started talking with me about putting this together in January last year and was the driving force in making it happen. Thank you Daphne.
For the week of November 15 we had repeat client Ken Bennett, son Justin, brother Steve and three friends from St. John’s coming in the end of the week to end our season and it was my plan all along to leave the front of the week open, as you can never be sure of the bird numbers until you actually get to that point and I wanted to be sure we ended the season with a “bang”. I received a call from Everett Kinden, a big game outfitter from Lewisporte, NL (when you live on P.E.I., anything bigger than a fox is big game). Everett wanted to get over when his moose season ended with his two daughters Carla and Chelsea who both hunted and he was not very flexible with dates. I gambled and booked him into November 16-18 hoping the goose Gods would be in our favour….and they were! For Everett this trip was really about getting his daughters shooting and he hardly raised his shotgun the whole trip. Carla and Chelsea were lovely ladies and good hunters and Clinton Arsenault was so happy about this assignment that I thought he might not even want to get paid afterwards (wrong). The girls had 11 rips and shot 19 geese over the three days and there is a great picture of them in our photo gallery. Many of our hunters are shown in the 2015 section of the gallery and if you were with us in 2015 and are not in the gallery, please forward some photos of your trip and we will get at least one in.
It was great to see Ken and Justin Bennett once again, as well as his brother Steve who was over last year with one of our all time favourites, the Dieter Staubitizer group from St. John’s. Dieter has been with us often over the years but did not make it in 2015 and was most certainly missed. As for Ken Bennett, no one has more fun on these trips than Ken and he goes out of his way to make sure everyone in his group has a great time. Ken and I were hoping his group would do as well as 2014 or at least come close but the late fall hunting this past season ranks up there with the best we ever had and they made out like bandits. Over the period November 19-21 Ken’s group of six had 18 rips and shot 44 geese, compared to 14 rips and 33 birds the same week in 2014. Like most of our groups, the guys would have had just as much enjoyment from their trip if they shot half that amount, as they had a lot of fun together and really enjoyed the evening meals and the ribbing and kidding that goes on. We have our own private dining room which our hunter’s appreciate and there are times I especially appreciate it.
November 21st was our final day of guiding clients, and while the season goes to December 31st, we shut it down by the end of the third week of November to minimize the risk of an early season freeze up and losing most of our birds in a day or two. In retrospect, I wish I had put more faith in this whole El Nino weather pattern thing, as while we closed to hunters, the birds never saw even a threat of freeze up and our staff and friends were shooting birds almost every day they went out, right to December 31st.
The 2015 season was one of the most successful in our twenty nine years of outfitting. Every group went home with geese and every group went home happy. We guided groups for forty days from October 05th to November 21st and shot birds on every one of those days and had only two occasions all season where a group went out on a hunt and did not shoot birds that day. All the stats for 2015 were well above average and now we will see what 2016 brings. We have an excellent reputation for everything we have control over and we will hope for good fortune on the things we don’t. We are praying the spring hatch in Labrador goes well again and that P.E.I. gets a healthy dose of good hunting weather once the fall of 2016 rolls around.
In closing I want to thank my guiding staff consisting of Jerald Peters, Clinton Arsenault, Josh Lea, Logan Bryanton and Jonathan Buckley for their efforts and results and for their patience with their boss. Also thanks to Randy Mahar, Big Steve Barlow and Lopez MacKinnon for their help in getting ready for the season and special thanks to Jason Poirier and his son Karter for leading the way in helping get our blind tops to the sites and especially for doing most of the work in retrieving them. Finally, thank you to you our valued clients from all of us in the Wild Goose Outfitters family and we look forward to seeing you again soon and to also making new friends.