This video was shot in 2014. It will give you an idea of how we setup for an afternoon duck hunt over water.
The above slide show has select photos from a threeday hunt in 2014. They portray the sights, setup and hunters over a period of a three day hunt in Spetember.
This second slide show shows the same group on their 2015 hunt in October 2015. Many thanks to Roger Riecardi for the pictures.
1. Where in Alberta are we hunting?
Boss Guiding operates out of Nighthaven Lodge in South Central Alberta. We are located two kilometers west of the town of Stettler on a dead end country road. We are about two and one half hours NE of Calgary (ALL our clientele fly in and out of the Calgary International Airport), two hours SE of Edmonton and an hour straight east of Red Deer. Stettler is a small town of five thousand people and we have many of the amenities of the larger centers. You will have cell phone service and Wi-Fi access at our lodge. You will also have satellite TV on which you can access the weather channel, college football games and a variety of national and international News channels.
2. Where do we stay while we are hunting?
Your will stay at Nighthaven Lodge for the duration of your trip. Built in 1995, Nighthaven is the home of Bob & Norma Byers and Boss Guiding. Designed by Bob, it is the perfect blend of "home" and waterfowl hunting lodge. Further developed in 2016, it has facilities to house up to eight visiting hunters with all the amenities of being in your own home. A "mini" kitchen provides guests with everything they need to make their own continental breakfast, snacks and refreshments throughout the day and bar facilities for those who choose to have a "sundowner" after a long day in the field. An attractive great room, complete with fireplace and TV, is a great place to "warm up in" and watch your favorite college football game.
3. What is the area we hunt in like?
Stettler is surrounded by what is best described as prairie parkland. Cultivated fields go on for miles. Groves of aspen poplar dot the landscape and a multitude of prairie potholes cover the area. The prairie pothole region covers large areas of the mid continental plains in both Canada and the US.The prairie pothole region spans Southern Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. It also extends into North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota and Montana. The number of potholes fluctuates from two million to eight million depending upon seasonal moisture levels. These are some of the best waterfowl breeding grounds on the planet. The picture below was taken from above Nighthaven Lodge in 2013 after a huge spring rain. The picture should answer any questions you have about the prairie pothole region and the area we hunt!
4. How will we hunt?
The biggest challenge for Boss Guiding out of Nighthaven Lodge is getting hunters to come and experience what we have to offer. It is sometimes easier to explain with pictures rather than words so we put together the following video. It was shot in 2014 and will give you an idea of how we set up for an afternoon duck hunt over water:
5. What will we hunt out of?
You will hunt out of the Boss "Willow" Blind! Being a guide and outfitter for over 30 some years has given me the opportunity to see a fantastic number of improvements in the equipment used to hunt waterfowl. I have some firsthand experience in watching the development of today's most popular blinds. In the mid 90's, the original design of the "Final Approach" line of lay down blinds was field tested at Nighthaven Lodge. They were a great idea and went on to be the "bread and butter" blind for a lot of hunters and outfitters.
For the next ten years we used the lay down blinds with great success. However, the nature of our business is that we have to adjust to what works in the field and what is best for our clients. For as good as the lay down blinds were, there was still a downside. No wind made them awkward to shoot out of and our clientele was not getting any younger. As a result we found ourselves hunting out of our original willow blinds about half the time.
For the past five years at Nighthaven Lodge we have been booked solid. Waterfowl populations have rebounded and our success rates have been excellent. You wonder why I would bother writing all of this. It is because of one single fact - During the 2016 waterfowl season, our lay down blinds never came off the shelf. For over 80 hunts we exclusively used our willow blinds. Again in 2017 willow blinds only!
Another interesting fact. Most of the willow blinds we use in our operation have been around for 20 to 25 years. Each year we clean them up, fix any imperfections and use them again. They are serviceable over a long period of time with little upkeep. Every year I experiment with new materials, new sizes, some have worked and some have not. In essence, our willow blind is very close to what it was 34 years ago when I built the traveling swamp.
While this was happening I kept track of all kinds of other blinds being produced and have read countless comments in chat rooms and in websites regarding "willow blinds". The general perception of willow blinds is that they don't work. Question: Why should a blind made of all natural materials from in and around the field you are hunting in not work?
Our/your willow blinds should be like the canvas a painter paints on. They need to be constructed to hold willows, cattails, saw grass, stubble, poplars - any natural material you think will work in the situation you hunt in. Willow blinds, (natural blinds), work well in any situation where one can take advantage of the surrounding vegetation.
One final piece of advice in using a willow blind. The key to any blind you use is to make it look like a natural part of the landscape. Blinds that have a "boxy" shape, whether low profile or stand up will not work to their full potential. I you can create a "bushy" effect by putting willows around the outside of your blind. We use a "Boss Step Stake" for the final set up and it makes a huge difference in the way birds react to our blinds.
Our willow blinds go out of the trailer twice a day, every day for the entire season. We use them for groups as large as eight and our daily success speaks for itself. If you are interested as an outfitter or recreational hunter in a great design for a willow blind, contact Bob. You will be glad you did!
6. What birds can we shoot and what are the daily limits?
We target ducks and geese. We have a very healthy population of ducks. Mallards, Pintails and widgeon are shot most often and teal and gadwalls may make up your daily limit of eight. A three day possession limit of twenty four gives you the opportunity for plenty of shooting. Burgeoning populations of geese, most recently, exploding populations of white fronts and snow geese that have moved into the area in the past five years make up our target goose population. Limits on Grey geese are eight per day. We are restricted to five white fronts. A three day possession limit of twenty four will help you fill your cooler for the way home.
7. What can I expect on a daily basis at Boss Guiding?
To give you some idea what a three day hunt would look like we had one of our regular groups put together a slide show of their three day trip on back to back years. Take a look at the slide shows and many thanks to Roger for supplying the pictures.
8. Is Nighthaven Lodge available for functions outside of the hunting season?
Nighthaven lodge is available for weekend quilting or scrap booking retreats.
A large games room, complete with pool table, is perfect for doubling as a cutting table or organizing table for those of you who are into crafts. In the "Off" season, November thru August, Nighthaven Lodge is available to interested groups for activities that require accommodation for small groups and facilities for special activities. Contact Bob or Norma for open dates.
9. Is a trip to Nighthaven Lodge something we can enjoy year after year with family and friends?
Nighthaven Lodge can accommodate groups of up to eight hunters during each three day trip. Most of our clientele are family, friends and business associates. Our repeat business is in the neighborhood of 95% annually and booking for the next season usually takes place at the end of your hunt. A verbal confirmation that you will be returning is good until February first when your deposit is due for the next years hunt. New clients will be placed after the February first deadline
10. Please relate the story of your Christmas Card program!
Sending a Christmas Card to all of our past clients containing our "Best wishes for the season" doubles as our invitation for you to return to our lodge at anytime in the future. It is a story that has developed over the years and is one of the trademarks to our success. It allows us to display our appreciation for the wonderful clientele we have met over the years. Our Christmas Card to you is now on line and to quote a famous person, "you will know before you leave if you are not getting a Christmas Card". All our best to you and yours as we exit 2017 and embark on the New Year!