The Boreal and Peace Country in northern Alberta is widely known for its waterfowling. Thousands of local and migrating Canada geese stage in northwest Alberta’s Peace Country throughout September and October. The Peace Country is a large block of parkland habitat surrounded by forests of poplar and mixed coniferous trees. It is here, near the mighty Peace River, that geese fuel up on protein in the surrounding fields of barley, peas and wheat for the long migration south. Several large lakes and wetlands provide additional staging habitat for migrating wildfowl. Abundant mallards share the same food sources as the geese and are often shot prior to and in between goose flights.
The large wetlands and lakes of the Peace parklands and the boreal forests also offer some of the best diver hunts on the continent. There are literally countless water-bodies throughout the north that have never seen a duck boat. Late September and early October is the ideal time to witness the migration of most divers. Canvasbacks, redheads and bluebills are the most popular and abundant species. The ruffed grouse is the most abundant upland game bird and certain pockets of the boreal fringe offer the best “ruffy” hunting in the province. In peak cycles, limits of 10 birds are the norm on any given outing. Ruffed grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, spruce grouse and ptarmigan occur frequently in the boreal forests of northern Alberta. Bag limits are liberal.
Parkland Alberta provides a further array of opportunities for the wing shooter. The aspen parkland is home to the highest densities of breeding mallards on the continent, as well as several species of geese including White-fronted, Canada’s, and Snow geese . The migration is in full swing by the beginning of the season in early September, and lasts until the end of October. Many of the best mallard hunts occur on small wetlands, locally known as “potholes”. The mallards stage on large bodies of water and at least once a day fly out to feed in nearby fields. The birds will virtually always fly into a small body of water near the field, where wing shooters may seek opportunity. The parklands contain several large bodies of water, and Ducks Unlimited Canada has a number of flagship projects in the area that offer excellent access to the migrating fowl. These wetlands also offer good early season teal hunting. Upland game birds are also present: Ruffed grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, and Hungarian partridge are common and abundant in the Parkland region.
The Foothills and Mountains region also offers good opportunities for waterfowl and upland game hunting. Duck and goose hunting in this region is fairly localized and the majority of opportunities occur along the eastern boundary near to farming country. The region is best known for late season shooting especially in the south. Rivers, reservoirs and warm water springs throughout southwest Alberta provide refuge for tens of thousands of wintering mallards. Opportunities for ducks and geese exist from early September in the north through to late December in the south. Upland bird hunting opportunities are present throughout the region for ruffed grouse, blue grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, spruce grouse and Hungarian partridge. The high alpine spine of the Rockies also offers opportunity for Ptarmigan.
The Prairies of southern Alberta are blessed with millions of migrating ducks and geese. Host to the Pacific and Central Flyways, the prairies have thousands of acres of staging water with very low hunting pressure. Field shooting of large Canada geese is particularly attractive to visiting sportsmen. The migration seasons begin in early September and continue through to the end of the season in late December, although most shallow wetlands are frozen by the first of November. Southern Alberta is Canada’s pheasant capital and the province’s rugged pheasant habitat proves to be a worthy challenge to the wingshooter. The Hungarian partridge is the most successful upland game bird in terms of relative abundance, and is the choice target for the upland gunner. Populations have been extraordinary in the last few seasons, and pressure remains low. A number of outfitters have now offer opportunities to hunt these birds in the farmland with the assistance of good sporting dogs. The sharp-tailed grouse population is in great shape in recent years and limit or near limit shoots are now common.