Could hardly take the anticipation of the 700 miles I'd be driving after work as I sat patiently at work avoiding line of sight tasking's like the plague until the clock struck 12:00pm and I could take the remainder of the day as a "flex day". As 12:00pm came and I carefully approached my boss's office, I read his every expression as I approached the threshold of his office and he had made it clear that what I was about to ask was already approved, see I had been telling him about my trip for sometime now and he was well aware that the time had come. I have been researching this trip and preparing for over a year now and nothing was going to stand in the way of me and 4 cases of shells, two shotguns and the hopes of shooting at lots of birds.
Me "...sssssssssoooooooooo I got those TPS reports done like you asked, no problems and was kinda thinking, maybe if you didn't need me here so much for the afternoon, I might just take a "flex day" and get on the road to Canada a little earlier?"
Boss "We don't do TPS reports and I'm surprised you are even still here".
That was all the reassurance I needed to have to ensure the hounds wouldn't come looking for me a hour after I departed. Most of the morning I kept replaying the strategic dance I performed while packing the trailer, making sure everything had it's place and nothing was left behind...air compressor-check, tool box-check, layout blinds-check, passport-check, boat/decoys/dog/dog food/clothing/guns/gun paperwork/ect-check check check check..... I grabbed my phone as I departed the office and see that the wife has texted me and called to remind me that I forgot to take her sunglasses out of the truck and I was to meet her before I left for Canada as those where the only sunglasses on the face of the earth that could possibly block the sun from her eyes
: The idea of fulfilling a lifelong dream hunt in Canada kept my spirits strong and my anxiety for random sunglass exchanges at a all time low.
After kissing the baby and wife one last time in the mall parking lot and checking on the dog, it was finally just Daisy and I on the open road to south central Alberta where I had made arrangements to meet up with Daniel a native of Alberta and a heck of a good guy.
A little background on what I have done to prepare myself for the trip. Since my return from my deployment in November of 2011, I have been researching where to go and what to expect via the internet. Because I knew I wanted to go to Alberta for ease of driving it was just a matter of narrowing down what part of Alberta to go to. The province of Alberta is roughly the size of Texas and has the population of Rhode Island so picking one town in a land so vast wasn't going to be a easy task. The first thing I did was printed a picture of the province and did a internet search for every duck and goose outfitter in the province. I would cross reference the locations of those outfitters with my map and indicate a small dot on the map showing there was a source of ducks and geese in there area.
Realizing that outfitters will normally be located in areas that have ease of access to a from there business, (airports, major metropolitan areas ect.) I knew the next step was scouring the forums for tid bits of information.
I spent countless hours scouring the internet reading about every outfitter imaginable before it came time to use the "search" feature on multiple hunting forums to narrow the search further. Reading hundreds of threads, downloading every picture ever posted from Canada and running it through a program that exploits Exif data I now have a great idea of where to start my journey north. The only thing left was purchasing landowner maps and acquiring phonebooks for the areas in Alberta I wanted to target. A quick $500.00 from http://www.maptown.com/albertacounties.html
to acquire landowner maps and have them laminated before I got to Alberta and I was starting to feel confident that time wouldn't be wasted on tracking down county offices for these priceless tools. The phone book turned out to be the biggest hassle of them all as Telus is there main phonebook company in the province and trying to reach someone with the authority to send one to me in Washington proved taxing and EXPENSIVE
. I decided that I'd up my cell phone plan to include data and use whitepages.ca and cross reference the plat maps with my cell phone to retrieve landowner address's and phone numbers. (more on this later).
With the clock approaching 3pm and I-90 not in sight I knew the weekend was fastly approaching based upon the amount of traffic building on I5.
Once Daisy and I made it to I90, I was relieved by the fact that I had again escaped traffic and was making for a early entry into Canada but not before I coordinated to meet up with Tool-Man and Vikingfan to borrow their 12 dozen snow goose decoys and their bird hitch.
If you haven't picked up on it yet, I'm doing the first portion of this trip (9 days) by myself as my dad couldn't orchestrate a passport in time to fly out from Calgary half way through the trip and all the others I had asked last minute had prior commitments.
: As much as the company, conversation and financial burden would have been nice to split, I'm greatly appreciative of my alone time and there was no better place to spend it than in the countryside of Alberta Canada!
Armed with $800 Canadian and $300 American dollars in cash and with strict orders not to use the debit card I knew that making my buck go far on this trip was paramount. Planning ahead I had already purchased my WIN card, 6-day Waterfowl Tag, and wildlife certificate but the one thing that I still needed to buy was my Federal Migratory bird stamp, Canada's version of the one we can buy at the same place that sell hunting license. The wife had packed the ice chest full of pepsi's and cold cut meats so that I didn't have the option to eat out and man was I happy she did. Armed with all the essentials and a few survivor cans of tuna, chicken noodle soup and some type of beef medially I knew that surviving a week on what was already in the truck was possible. While I continued the drive east bound I made contact with Tool-Man to see what their location was. Tool-Man and his crew of elite goose hunting veterans, think of a elite fighting force of 4 men with hall passes at college homecoming, have been making this homage north for some time now and being able to pick his experienced brain for the week prior helped to ease the anticipation that Canada still had birds and that seeing them would be no problem. Aside from his wealth of experience, Tool-Man and crew also offered up a portion of their snow goose decoys and man was that a blessing!! (more on this later) and their bird hitch. Thinking to myself on the drive along I90 through Spokane and into Idaho it dawned on me that I have never cleaned a bird and had to leave the wing on it. Still not overly convinced that Canada would offer me any shooting, I ignored the idea of keeping a wing as if I needed to I would do a experimental surgery to teach myself how to clean the bird with the wing on or worse case I would unhook the trailer and attach the bird hitch. After all, Tool-Man and his crew assured me it was the easiest way they had cleaned 4 birds the whole trip .
After pinpointing a general area of where we would make the exchange of decoys and bird hitch, it became apparent as I approached the rendezvous that neither my cell phone or IPad had any type of service. Knowing that Tool-Man uses the same network I do, it was a recipe for no snow goose decoys and bird hitch as both rigs circumnavigated the winding back bending roads of Idaho as I approached the border and they continued back home to their wives and children. As I approached the top of this hill it stuck out to me that the skunk I smelled on the road was the first road kill I had acknowledged since departing from the west side. As I continued on up the road using what little oxygen was left in my lungs from the balloon sized breath of air I took to combat the skunk smell, my phone rang. "TOOL-Man" is calling...."Tool-Man" is calling..."Tool-ma"......
Tool Man: "how'd that skunk smell?"
Tool Man: "that skunk you just passed, how did it smell?"
Ah now it made sense! While holding my breath I must have momentarily blacked out at which point Tool-Man and the hall pass crew drove by me. After flipping around, no easy task backing a trailer up a logging road in the pitch black alone, I was greeted by the fighting force of 4 where we discussed the border crossing and exchanged decoys. No sooner did we exchange decoys when a US Border Patrol Tahoe pulled up at a screeching stop. Acknowledging that this elite fighting squad of 4 was suffering from a mild form of PTCD, post traumatic canada disorder, I knew I needed to act fast for the fight that may ensue could be ugly. After reassuring the agent that we were merely exchanging decoys and that we would be on our way momentarily he wished us all a due and drove off. Crisis averted.
.....day 2 to be continued until tonight.