IN FOND MEMORY OF DAVE BEAM A TRUE WATERFOWL LEGEND
A Spring Fling With Beams On the Prairie
By Mike Moen
A cold North Dakota wind accompanied by fluffy snowflakes greeted us as we stepped out of the truck. As I walked across the field towards the massive spread of decoys, I could feel the excitement building inside of me. Dave Beam from Beams on the Prairie had invited HuntTheNorth’s Dan Wennerlind and Dustin Butler up for a shot at the tail end of the spring snow goose migration in north central North Dakota. When Dan called to ask if I’d like to tag along for the two day hunt, I jumped at the chance. After helping to put together Hunt the North’s weekly spring snow goose reports, and hearing about all the great shooting the hunters were having with our outfitters, I couldn’t wait for a chance to down a few birds myself.
Meeting us at the field were our guides Jason Randolph and Robert Schlagel. They told us the first thing we needed to do was forget everything we knew about hunting geese in the fall, because spring birds act differently. Apparently the cold snowy weather that pushes birds to migrate in the fall has the opposite effect on the same birds in the spring. With the weather conditions we were facing, we were going to have to work to get our birds.
When we reached the decoys Jason and Robert had to make a few adjustments to the blind, and set up the electronic call. This gave us a chance to visit with the other hunters that would be joining us for the day. Mike was a carpenter from Colorado, and Luke was the landowners son who had been invited along for the morning shoot. No sooner had we started chatting when the sky above us suddenly filled with birds. I don’t know where they learn it, but it seems that ducks and geese are experts at busting hunters at the wrong times. With the blind not yet ready, and all guns unloaded and cased, all we could do was watch the birds circle once, spot us, and hightail it out of the area. The sight and sounds of those birds dropping from the sky really got my blood flowing, and I had a feeling that despite the cold and windy weather, we were going to get some birds that morning.
When the blinds were ready, we all crawled inside, found our seats and got ready for the next flock. We didn’t have to wait long. No sooner had we loaded our guns, when Jason spotted a large flock of snows coming at us from behind. Everyone got down and the caller was turned on. Robert told us to get ready while Jason adjusted the volume on the caller as the birds drew closer. Having chased these birds for many years and after hunting them almost every day for the last two months from Nebraska through North Dakota, Jason and Robert are as close to snow goose experts as you’re going to find.
Sometimes it almost seems like they can read their minds. Something about this flock told Jason they were not interested in our field, and even though they had started circling us, he didn’t think they were coming down. Sure enough, after one more pass, the main body of the flock started to head out and was quickly followed by the rest. Even though we didn’t get any shooting at the first couple flocks, it was quite a rush watching hundreds f birds slowly circle overhead. Robert likes to think of it as Mother Nature’s fireworks and laser light show.
More groups of birds started to show up on the horizon and it wasn’t long before the next flock was on top of us. These birds seemed to be a little more interested and began flip flopping and dropping altitude fast. Slowly they started circling lower and lower. Finally Robert told us that the next pass was about as close as they would get, and when Jason shouted “Take ’em” we started launching the artillery. Dan and Mike both connected and we had our first two birds on the ground as the flock headed north.
The large spread of over 400 full body decoys and some 150 floaters was working great on the birds. Most of the flocks that braved the weather and flew within earshot came by to at least give us a look. By noon we had five or six on the ground, and it was obvious that my shotgun hadn’t left the gun safe since last fall, as I had yet to connect with a bird. This was Dan’s third hunt this spring and he still had his shooting eye, so fortunately he was able to pick up the slack and add a few birds to the pile.
Jason had told us that things pretty well shut down in the afternoon, so we decided to take a break. We headed out for a bite to eat, and then hit the hotel for a short power nap. It felt good to get out of the cold and wind for awhile, but since the guys had said that the evenings were usually a lot better than the mornings, it wasn’t long before we were ready to hit the field again. By 4:00 we were all tucked into the blind and ready for action.
As soon as the light began to fade from the sky, the action really started to heat up. Suddenly all of the flocks that had so slowly and carefully circled us during the day began bombing straight into the decoys. After a flock would leave, there would be just enough time for high fives and reloading before the next group would appear on the horizon. By the time the dust settled and we ran out of shooting light, we had added another ten birds to the pile. Not a bad day considering the weather.
The next morning as we left the hotel, we noticed the stars in the cloudless sky, and when we reached the field we were greeted by a huge smile on Jason’s face. The sun was going to be out and he predicted a much better day. It didn’t take long to find out he was right. The geese were definitely decoying better, and there were more birds in the air than the day before. With a day of practice under our belts, Dustin and I were able to take some of the pressure off Dan and knock down a few birds of our own. By the time things slowed down around 11:00, we had brought down about a dozen snow geese. With a little better shooting we probably could have doubled that, but we weren’t complaining. It had been a great morning.
Based on the shooting we had had the night before, we decided to change our plans to return home and stick around for the evening hunt. After a short nap in the truck and some sightseeing on the prairie, we were back in the blind by 5:00. Since the birds had been flying better in the morning, we figured the evening should be even better than the day before. Unfortunately, when you’re hunting, things don’t always turn out like they should. About one hour before sunset, an enormous flock of snow geese lifted off of the lake to the southwest of us and started heading north. The massive size of the flock seemed to have it’s own gravitational pull, and sucked most of the birds in the area towards it. With the flight path a couple of miles to our west, we didn’t get many more chances that evening. We were able to scrap out a few more birds before dark, and the sight of all those geese migrating north in front of the beautiful North Dakota sunset is something I wont soon forget.
The final tally for the two days was about 35 geese, more spent shells than I would care to admit to, and one really great time. I’d like to thank Dave Beam for inviting us up for the last few days of the season, and Jason and Robert for an outstanding job of pulling down some really smart birds and providing plenty of entertainment between flocks. I can hardly wait for next spring to do it all again!
For a truly outstanding waterfowling experience, whether it’s ducks and geese in the fall or snow geese in the spring, be sure to check out The Beams on the Prairie website located on the HuntTheNorth.com’s “North Dakota Waterfowl Hunting Page”.
For additional articles please review
- “Magnumitis” by Mike Moen
- “Decoying Canada Geese” by B.C. Maxima
- “The Perfect Rifle” by Mike Moen
- “Planning For Next Season” by Mike Moen
- “Pheasant Hunting 101” by B.C. Maxima
- “Hunting Canadas Over Water” by B.C. Maxima
- “A Guide Tipping Guide” by Mike Moen
- “Tips For Taking Tom Turkey” by Jim Bennett