OUTFITTER REVIEW ON:
|First Flight Finishers|
Part 1:THE HUNT
|Late November Honkers With Snows In the Forecast! |
by dan johnson
“There’s geese everywhere! Here comes another group coming from the west, get ready- shoot these geese!” shouted our guide Adam Johnson as we took our last shots of the day at another low flying flock of giant Canada geese. It was one of those moments that will be cherished for the rest of the year. Having several flocks of Canada geese still locked up on our decoys from all directions and several geese already on the ground, along with the sun setting in the background on a warm November afternoon. I thought to myself- what a perfect end to a late season fall day!
We were hunting in Woodbury, Minnesota, in a permanent pit blind that outfitter Adam Johnson of First Flight Finishers had been using for several seasons now. He told us that since he started using this field a couple years back, he has had very good success on each hunt, but he shared the secret was to not overhunt the spot. Adam said he likes to wait until the numbers of geese and mallards feeding in the field build up into the hundreds and they are very comfortable before he will hunt this field. And then said, he will most likely only hunt this spot several times during the entire season but it is one of his personal favorites. With over 50 different locations around the metro area Adam has put a lot of hard work and effort into scouting and meeting many of the area farmers and landowners and now has more hunting spots that he can handle to offer his clients each falll. All within a half hour of down town Minneapolis. Thus he never has to overhunt a spot or put his clients in a position where they are staring at empty skies all day.
As we started the hunt this day, while peering out of our concrete pit blind across the harvested corn field I could see restaurants, shopping locations and hotels. Admitingly making me wonder how many birds we would really see being relatively close to that many people and buildings. Adam however, never had a doubt that we would see plenty of birds and that it would be like clockwork, as he had been scouting this field for the past two weeks. It was around 3:15 in the afternoon when we finally got settled in and Adam stated that we would see our first flock with about 45 minutes left in the day as the birds were now on a late afternoon feeding schedule.
While we were sitting in the pit waiting for the geese to begin flying, somehow we got on the topic of spring snow goose hunting, one of Adam’s true passions in life. It didn’t take long until we were having an in depth conversation with Adam regarding the spring snow goose hunts that he offers each year in Missouri and South Dakota. With all the hype these days around that specific hunt I wanted to hear first hand from someone who dedicates several months out of each year chasing the massive concentrations of snow geese migrating north each spring about what makes it so darn exciting.
The first question I had for Adam was what drives him to run such an operation. I mean come on now, setting spreads of 1,500 – 2,000 decoys in the pitch dark, day in and day out for 2+ months a year and then sitting in a cold, muddy, wet field for hours upon hours every day… I needed to know what the big deal was. Adam said that what makes the spring season such a rewarding experience for him is watching flocks of up to 100,000 geese in the air at one time and actually having flock sizes all the way from 25
geese to 5,000+ locked up and circling overhead multiple times a day. He also stated that having the ability to share that experience with new hunters who have never seen the spectacle of the spring migration is what really makes all the work worth the effort.
After I heard that I had a better understanding as to why Adam has such a great passion for the spring season. I then wanted to know exactly what the spring season entails, as I had yet to participate on a spring conservation season hunt. Adam was very excited to keep going on this topic. He said that he usually starts his spring hunts around the middle of February each year and runs his hunts full time until around the middle of April, but with the spring weather conditions so different every year, those dates are only a rule of thumb.
Adam also added that he is basically preparing for his spring hunts year round as he typically likes to make trips to visit his farmers every month of the year, to keep in good standing and to see what conditions are going to be like for the upcoming spring. Adam said that he also enjoys being the first to field test any new equipment that is coming out on the market and has relationships with many of the waterfowl equipment manufacturers to be on that list. But I could tell by the emphasis that Adam puts on landowner relations that, that is a big reason he is so successful. In fact Adam said going on his 10th season, he now has permission on over 10,000 acres of private property in Missouri and well over 10,000 acres in South Dakota available for him to hunt when the geese migrate through each of those areas in the spring.
Since so many of the stories I have heard have been so over exaggerated over the years, I also wanted to know from this outfitter’s perspective what can a hunter expect on a typical days hunt in the spring. This was an area that I could tell Adam was a little more careful with. He started by stating that one of the worst feelings he gets from a perspective customer when this topic comes up is the guy who has heard all the stories of the 100 bird days, the unplugged shotguns, the electronic callers etc and is expecting an “Argentina Duck Hunt” type experience.
Adam said that although they do have those kinds of days once or twice a year it is definitely not the norm and on average throughout the 2011 spring snow goose season Adam said his fields produced 34 birds per field, per day. Adam said his typical group size is 5 – 7 hunters. He also went on to say that they did have many days last spring where his fields were producing 60 – 90 birds per day in the 2011 season but they also had several single digit bird days- that’s hunting. In addition the spring of 2010 produced an exceptional spring hatch making way for a large population of juvenile geese, which in Adam’s estimation is one of the most important ingredients for a successful season. Adam said one of the most rewarding things about the spring season for him is watching a big flock of 250+ snow geese circle and circle overhead while he can hear his clients rustling around in their blinds next to him, eager to take the shot. Then just for kicks Adam says he will let the flock circle one last time and he knows he has won when the first few geese are actually touching down on the ground in the spread when he calls the shot. He then ended by stating that with another exceptional spring hatch recorded in 2011 this upcoming season should be excellent again.
Now that Adam had my blood pumping, picturing the scenario in my head, I wanted to know more of the specific details on his spring hunts. Adam said that one thing he likes to point out to his new customers is that for those hunters who want to see the massive migration of birds from 100,000 – 1 million geese a day, they should book their hunt during the early part of the season as these are the “Leading Edge Birds’. Adam says these are all the adult birds driving to get to the Tundra first to get a prime nesting location. However these are also older birds they do not decoy as well. So for the “bird watchers” Adam tells them to book between the end of February to the beginning of March.
Adam went on to say that for those hunters who are more interested in seeing smaller flocks of truly decoying birds, which consist of the later arriving juvenile geese, he advises to book your hunt during the tail end of the season in each state. On a typical spring this would be around the second week of March in Missouri and from the beginning of April through the end of the season in SD. After listening to Adam in just a short conversation I could tell that he really had this down pat.
I finished with the big question – what does a hunt like this cost. I was expecting to hear $1,200 - $1,500 for a 2 or 3 day hunt as that is what a hunt like this would typically run for in the fall. I was utterly amazed when Adam said that his normal rates are $175.00 per day and that being this was his 10th season he was offering a special for anyone who books a hunt through the end of January this year at $125.00 per day! I thought to myself I can barely fill up my truck these days for $125.00.
He then mentioned that with the crazy spring weather he highly recommends his hunters book a 2 or 3 day hunt to ensure one or two days or prime hunting with one day that might not be as productive. And just as he finished saying that he gave the command “Get Down” as the first flock of Canada’s were headed our way from across the field. I couldn’t help but look down at my watch and sure enough it was 3:45 on the nose which was exactly 45 minutes before sundown, just as Adam had predicted when we started the hunt.
As we hunkered down in the pit and the first group of geese got closer and started to make their landing approach we could hear the first honks of the day. The flock circled once, twice, and then slid off to the side of the spread and eventually landed about 300 yards away. Immediately Adam checked to see if there were any other birds flying in the distance and jumped out to spook the birds up so the next flock would not land with them, a veteran move.
Almost as soon as Adam was back in the pit we could see more birds in the sky coming from the same direction as the first flock. With a few quick notes on the calls, the birds turned our way and locked in. As they got closer we could see that there was no doubt where they wanted to land, right in the middle of the decoys with us! When the geese made their final decent into the spread we threw open the top of the blind and filled the air with steel. As the first few geese hit the ground, we could see more flocks in the distance already getting closer.
We quickly closed up the top of the blind and hit the calls again while trying to reload for the next two groups. At that point we realized that there were more birds coming than what we had initially thought. We had multiple groups almost on top of us already and there were more geese starting to come from every direction. Birds were not just coming in front of us, but to our left, to our right, and from behind us. There were geese everywhere! What a great place to be. Our guide had definitely set us up for a fantastic evening of hunting!
Over the next half hour there was hardly a minute where we couldn’t see geese flying in the distance, and having them come right toward us from multiple directions. If you have ever been in a blind or a pit with geese headed your way from every angle, you know how thrilling and hard it is to sit still from all the excitement! I thought to myself this must be similar to what a successful day in the spring is like on one of Adam’s snow goose hunts.
As the sun finally descended behind the horizon we had a chance to get out of the pit, gather the downed birds up and share a few laughs as the remaining flocks of birds circled the field, now well after shooting time. After a few final handshakes and goodbyes, we made our way back to the vehicles with birds in hand.
This was one of the “Good Days!”
A Few Pictures From Adam's 2011 Spring Snow Goose Season
Part 2: THE REVIEW
|OUTFITTER KNOWLEDGE / PERSONALITY: ||Score||5 / 5 |
|Adam is an extremely personable guide and goes to every effort making sure that everyone in the hunting party is comfortable and prepared for the hunt. His knowledge of when the birds would fly as well as his pre hunt preparation to make sure there were many birds using the field prior to us arriving showed he has great knowledge of the game. |
|QUALITY OF |
|Score||5 / 5 |
|The equipment used during the hunt was top of the line. We hunted over 10 dozen brand new fully flocked, fully body and shell decoys. Adam puts the same emphisis on his high quality snow goose spread for his spring hunts. In addition the pit was very comfortable and made for an exceptional hide from the imcoming birds.|
5 / 5
|During the hunt we had multiple opportunities to harvest Canada geese within close range. We also had several groups that landed in our decoys no more than 10 yards away from our blind! The large numbers of geese that we constantly saw in the air around us kept the hunt exciting and fast paced.|
|QUALITY OF MEALS |
3 / 5
|With all of First Flight Finishers hunts, lodging and meals are provided by local restaurants and hotels and are not included in the daily hunt fee. Recommendations and special pricing are available for hunts, please inquire with Adam for the best options when booking. |
HUNT PACKAGES AND
|Score||5 / 5|
|The daily hunting fee is $125 for the Early & Late MN Gosoe season (5 Honkers/Day). During the Regular Fall Season: $75 Weekday and $90 Weekend Days, Duck & Goose combo hunts are: $125 (6 Ducks & 2 Honkers/Day). For the spring snow goose season daily rates are $175.00 per hunter. Adam is currently running a special for any spring hunts booked in January of 2012 and mentioning HuntTheNorth.com for a rate of $125.00 per day!|
|OVERALL QUALITY |
OF THE TRIP:
|Score||5 / 5 |
|Overall the hunt was successful for each hunter. Everyone had the opportunity to take shots at geese within close range, multiple times. While also getting to see birds flying around the field throughout the entire hunt. Adam’s effort to make sure that each hunter had the best experience possible was evident from beginning to end. |
|Overall First Flight Finishers Scored 28 Out Of 30 Giving Them An "A" Rating. We Would Not Hesitate To Refer Them For Any Of Their Goose Hunts!|
28 / 30
Part 3: Booking Information
|Contact Information For First Flight Finishers|
Outfitter Adam Johnson
Email Address: FirstFlightFinishers@gmail.com
Address: 4824 Sharon Lane White Bear Lake, MN 55110
Additional Services Offered
- Early Season Canada Goose Hunts (September - Minnesota)
- Late Season Canada Goose Hunts (December - Minnesota)
- Missouri Spring Snow Goose Hunts (February - March)
- South Dakota Spring Snow Goose Hunts (March - April)
For more information on any of these hunts be sure to give Adam a call for specific deyails and be sure to mention that you found his services through HuntTheNorth.com!
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