Alberta’s migratory birds travel North America’s central flyway each spring to nest in northern wetlands. By late summer, skies are thick with mallards, pintails, geese and other waterfowl headed south for winter. This is when I prepare my blind, decoys, and shotguns for bird hunting season, a time to be in nature and forge deep respect for the land’s generosity.
Whenever I’m on a big game trip, I’ll keep a watchful eye for upland game birds like ruffed and spruce grouse. Their mottled colours keep them camouflaged in plain view along forested trails and back roads. Grouse can be found in the northern boreal region, the foothills and the Canadian Rockies. Favourite spots include the Athabasca/Calling Lake area and the foothills around the Brazeau Reservoir.
I’ll hunt for Hungarian partridge and ring-necked pheasants west and north of Edmonton in tall grass and in farmers’ fields of straw and wheat where they search for food and nest. My faithful hunting dog and I flush these birds from their cover and they burst into flight, exposing the beautiful colouring of their plumage.
Each species of upland game bird lives in Alberta year round, foraging insects, cultivated grains and natural vegetation such as clover. Given their diet, these birds have a deliciously mild taste, making them prized table fare.
Thanks to conservation efforts in recent decades, these are experiences I get to share with my children, our next generation of hunters. We use a much of the birds’ bounty as possible, with many a feather pillow and down comforter keeping us cozy over the years.
Outfitters and Guides
Alberta outfitters and guides will add tremendous value to your bird hunting trip. Whether you’re in a blind waiting for geese to land near your decoys, duck hunting under the cover of bulrushes at a marsh’s edge, or hiking a forest trail in search of grouse, their extensive knowledge of the varied habitat ensures an unforgettable experience.
If you are visiting from another province or outside of Canada, you are not required to hunt with a host and you do not have to contract your hunt through an outfitter or guide; however, if you do wish to contract your hunt, you must ensure your outfitter or guide is a holder of a valid Bird Game Outfitter-Guide Permit.
Before your Hunt
In Alberta, fall days hunting birds from the blind or on the trail can often be balmy and warm. Still, you should prepare for cold, wet weather. I always bring proper insulated waterproof clothing and footwear. With the right gear, you will stay warm and happy.
Rules regarding hunting regulations, licences and firearms permits prior to hunts are strictly enforced, so it is good to do a bit of research in advance to get familiar with them. The Alberta Professional Outfitters Society (APOS) is happy to help you. Check with the RCMP about bringing firearms into Canada.