Lac Qui Parle Goose Hunt

A Lac Qui Parle Goose Hunt with the Watson Hunting Camp!
by Mike Moen

When it comes to Canada goose hunting, few places hold the mystique of western Minnesota in October. When the migration hits full swing as many as 200,000 Canada geese can be found in the region, with as many as 150,000 calling the Lac Qui Parle Refuge home. Knowing what the hunting can be like in the area, Hunt The North’s Dan Wennerlind and I decided we should pay our friend Chuck Ellingson, of the Watson Hunting Camp, a visit. Now don’t get me wrong, a visit with Chuck and his brother Matt is worth a trip, but the thought of tens of thousands of Canada geese and some of the best pheasant hunting in Minnesota sealed the deal.

Anyone who has been to the Lac Qui Parle area in the fall knows what a big deal goose hunting is. Many of the farmers in the area rent out blinds on their fields for hunters trying to intercept geese coming to and leaving the refuge. There are also quite a few outfitters and guides who lease fields and set up hunts.

What sets the Watson Hunting Camp aside from the other outfits and makes it special, is the fact that Chuck owns the only private land on the entire refuge. It seems that a number of years ago, a group of investors outbid the DNR for a chunk of private land that was on the refuge. The result was a hunting camp that, much to the chagrin of some state officials, offers the only legal hunting on the entire refuge. Chuck’s setup is nothing short of amazing. His heated V.I.P. pit blind sits in a field overlooking one of the largest roosting pools on the refuge. When the geese pick up in the morning, the very first field they pass over is Chuck’s. The sight of thousands of low flying geese headed right over the top of your blind is what every goose hunter dreams about, and from Chuck’s pits, it’s almost an everyday occurrence. I’ve heard rumors that the hunting can be so good at times, that limits of birds have been shot without even using decoys.

The warmer than normal weather and late harvest in Canada, teamed up to make this year’s migration a little screwy. In a normal year the last week or so of October sees the largest concentrations of geese in the region. So a trip like ours, over Halloween weekend, should have been a sure thing. Unfortunately somebody forgot to refresh the geese on their migration schedule, and there were only a fraction of the birds in the area that would normally be there. The fact that 40mph+ winds were blowing Bigfoot decoys across the field like tumbleweed didn’t seem to help matters. But even with the tough conditions there were still geese to be had.

One of the great things about the Watson Camp is it’s diversity.

If the geese aren’t cooperating, or if you limit out early, there are other things to chase around. Matt spends a lot of time guiding duck hunters on Marsh Lake. When the late season mallards roll in, the duck hunting can be as good on Marsh Lake as anywhere in the Midwest and limits of greenheads are common. Chuck also runs a hunting preserve, offering great pheasant shooting through January for game farm birds, and the areas in and around the refuge offer some of the best hunting for wild pheasants in the state. Since the geese were being stubborn, and Dan’s new puppy had yet to retrieve her first bird, we decided to try for some of the pheasants on the camp’s preserve. Unlike many game farms, Chuck’s hunting area has varied terrain, with rolling tree and brush covered hills accompanying the large open fields, all overlooking a beautiful view of the river valley. The dogs got a good workout, and with some lucky shooting, Jada made Dan a proud papa by getting her first official retrieves.

When the Watson Hunting camp was set up, it was done so with the hunter in mind. For folks who haven’t done much hunting and would like to get started, or for hunters who love to goose hunt but don’t have all of the equipment necessary to set up a good field spread, this is the perfect place. Chuck offers everything needed, from a warm pit blind, to decoys, to a place to stay. The loft of the barn has been opened up and makes a great place for meetings for a business/hunting trip or for a family reunion. For a hunter who’s a parent, spending time in the field with your child is one of the greatest things in life. Chuck and Matt are the kind of fellows who will bend over backwards to make a hunt a success. This and the enormous abundance of waterfowl and pheasants in the area, make the Watson Hunting Camp one of the best places I can think of to introduce a young hunter to our great sport.

Overall I was very impressed with the Watson Hunting Camp, and with Chuck’s honest desire to offer hunters the best experience possible. It’s refreshing to see an outfit geared towards giving hunters what they want, not just what’s good for the checkbook. For information on booking a goose, duck, or pheasant hunt, be sure to give Chuck a call. Oh yeah, don’t forget to have him tell you how he survived a water moccasin bite in southern Illinois. I will never go water skiing again!

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