A North Dakota Field Mallard Hunt To Remember With Northern Flight Guide Service By Dan Wennerlind
"Here they come again guys!" shouted outfitter Kyle Blanchfield, "Get ready to Take-Em on this pass!" The flock of 50 Mallards dropped right in the spread- wings set, feet down and the guns went off. Mallards rained from the sky! The dogs sprinted across the cut wheat field in search of the downed birds, now mixed in with a sea of 400 full body Canada goose and Mallard decoys, as we all shared a moment of excitement and high fives. We quickly reloaded in preparation for the next flock. If I ever get tired of seeing that, its time to retire stated Kyle. This is truly what he lives for.
Owner / outfitter Kyle Blanchfield of Northern Flight Guide Service and The Woodland Resort- located on the northern shores of Devils Lake in North Dakota has been guiding duck hunters in the area since 1988.
Kyle grew up in the region as a farm boy, many years ago and thus has many land owner connections and thousands of acres at his disposal in the area. What a long way he has come since then. Kyle and his wife and two boys now own and manage the huge Woodland Resort complex on the north end of Devils Lake. As my partner for the trip- Brandon Crowley and I pulled into the grounds for the first time, it truly had the WOW factor that was for sure. It reminded me more of a high end family vacation destination then it did a hunting and fishing camp. The resort facility itself consists of a full time restaurant, offering a high end food menu, as well as a sports bar facility section for the guys and game room for the kids. The cabins and lodging facility together can hold up to 250 sportsman at a time.
In addition, the resort also has a full time sports / bait shop and boat mechanic on hand to serve and handle any issues that the massive on-site marina may have. This facility has FIVE STAR written all over it and the best part is that it is still has the traditional hunting camp feel to it. Your dogs are always welcome in the cabins and they even have an on-site state of the art, game cleaning facility with heat / ac and freezers for your birds and fish. Although bird cleaning is included in every All Inclusive hunt packages Kyle offers.
After Brandon and I got settled in, the evening before our hunt, we enjoyed a delicious prime rib dinner and a cocktail on the house at the restaurant just steps from our cabin. Also standard on Kyles hunt packages- a hearty bag lunch for the field and your choice of anything on the restaurant menu for dinner after the hunt.
Kyle met us around 8:30pm, later that evening, as he is religious about scouting up until the very last minute every day before a hunt. Kyle shared with us that night when we met, that one thing he feels sets his guide service apart from the crowd, in addition to the first class lodging and meals package, is the fact that he and his guides personally scout each field they will be taking their hunters to the next day, right up to the last minute to ensure the birds have been there the night before.
Now for the jouicy details- What do you have in store for us tomorrow Kyle we both asked. Kyle explained that although the field Mallard hunting is always his bread and butter hunt, since we had asked to get out on a Sandhill crane hunt at some point before we left, he had scouted for over two weeks, looking for a good Crane field for us. Kyle said he found a field with about 300 Sandhill cranes in it that night, that he wanted to try in the morning. He said he liked the fact that they had standing corn up to the edge of the wheat field providing us with a perfect place to hide and it would also be very comfortable to see and shoot from. He also noted that although he loves hunting Cranes, they are one of the toughest birds to hunt as they are smart and are not as patternable as ducks and geese are. Kyle noted that the flock has been going back and forth over the past week between a couple fields but this would be our best chance for a Crane hunt. We were hooked!
The next morning at 5am sharp we had a chance to meet the other two gentleman we would be teamed up with for the day consisting of two of Kyle's long time customers- Tim Hamilton and John Holz (Kyle limits the group sizes to 4) and is happy to match up groups of 2 together for a more personalized experience. We hopped into Kyles big Dodge crew cab pick-up and we were off.
Upon arrival it didnt take long for us to set up the spread of about 50 Crane decoys, spread out across the hill top of a nice cut wheat field, with a couple dozen Canada goose decoys mixed in. There were Crane feathers and poop all over, they had definitely been in there
recently. Kyle then instructed us to spread out for about 75 yards along the field edge, about 3 rows in the corn with the comfortable chair he provided each of us with. He said if you get a crack at one take it and dont be afraid to move if you see the birds following a specific flight pattern.
The sun came up over the North Dakota horizon and it was a perfect day. We had a light breeze at our backs with temps in the low 60s and sunny skies. I couldnt think of better place to be in early October. Fall was finally in the air and it was magical. Right off the bat a 3 pack of Cranes honed in on the decs and sailed over the top of the guys we were hunting with, about 50 yards down from us. They opened up and dropped the first bird of the day, we were on the board!
As the morning progressed, more and more Cranes got up off the sloughs around us but it was evident they were headed to another field today. We had a few flocks get close but most were headed East of our set up. Finally around 9am we had a pair headed our way. Brandon quickly took Kyles advice and ran down the corn rows towards the pair. He dropped one and harvested his first ever Sandhill crane. He was elated as this was an important bird he was seeking to knock off on his North American Waterfowl Grand Slam species list, as was I.
The morning was fast coming to an end when we had a nice flock of 8 little Cackler Canada geese (or as Kyle calls them- the Tall Grass Prairie Canada geese), swing right over the top and we managed to knock down 2 to wrap up the hunt.
Even though it was a slow morning and the birds didnt quite work like we had hoped, it was still a most enjoyable morning and it was evident that Kyle had put a lot of effort and preparation into the hunt. Kyle felt terrible that we hadnt done better but noted that this was the main reason he would much rather hunt Mallards and Pintails instead of Cranes, as again they are known to be so unpredictable.
HuntTheNorth's Dan Wennerlind With 2017 HTN Outfitter Of The Year Kyle Blanchfield
We arrived back at the Woodland Resort around noon and had time for a short nap and a nice hot lunch at the restaurant while we caught one of the college football games on the big screen. From there we split up with the other two gentleman we were hunting with that morning. They elected to head out on the big water for an afternoon of walleye fishing with one of Kyles guides while we decided to take advantage of the option of doing a Do-It- Yourself afternoon pothole duck hunt. Kyles son Landon took us over to a private Secret Slough spot as he referred to it as, where they had a nice above ground blind with a dozen duck decoys and a robo duck all set up. From there we were on our own while Kyle went back out to scout for the next days hunt.
That night back at the resort we met up with Kyle and rallied for the next days hunt. Kyle shared with us, that the other two gentleman had a great afternoon of fishing out on Devils Lake with one of his guides and both took a limit of delicious North Dakota walleyes. We managed to knock down a few puddle ducks on our hunt, while taking in a gorgeous North Dakota sunset.
Kyle told us that we were all set for the next days hunt. He said that the ducks had moved over to a new field that evening, from the one they had been using the previous two days, (it sure pays to scout) and this field was Smokin!
As we pulled into the cut wheat field around the same time as the day before, today we had a few more decoys to put out then the previous day. Kyle opened up his trailer and showed us 200 Canada goose full body decoys and 180 Mallard full body decoys. This was going to be something. After only about ½ hour we had the entire spread set up. Then Kyle pulled out the big guns and deployed around a dozen robo ducks of which 5 set up on a robo duck tree he called it. What a spread!
We set up similar to the day before, seated on chairs in the standing corn. This was very comfortable and provided easy access shooting, especially for the older gentleman. As shooting time rolled around we had Mallards and Pintails landing and taking off left and right- always a good sign!
Shooting time finally came and we were locked and loaded. It didnt take long for the first flock of ducks to sail into the spread. The guys on the end dropped a pair and again we were on the board. The next flock of 5 banked in on our side and Brandon and I each knocked one down. From there it got fast and furious and flock after flock worked down into the spread like clockwork. By 8am we had to take a break and take a count. Unfortunately the down side to the early season hunting is that it is really tough to tell the drakes from the hens, especially in the low light conditions. We were starting to pile em up at that point but were still good to keep on shooting.
Around 8:30 the Honkers started to fly and even though it is known that the robo ducks will flare the Canada geese, today we were targeting the Mallards and left the spinners running. But that didnt seem to bother the Honkers too much. They would slide to one side of the spread or the other but we had 2 pair and a flock of greater Canadas and 2 flocks of Cacklers decoy right in and it wasnt long before we had 10 Canada geese on the ground as well. I guess with a spread of almost 400 full bodies out, it makes up for the spinners going in the spread.
A Little Taste Of The Action With Big Flocks Of Mallards And Pintails Landing In The Decoys During the Hunt!
It was really incredible to see this many ducks coming in over and over again. We literally had flocks of 25 50 Mallards and Pintails working the spread all morning long.
We finally had to stop and make another official count. This time we could only take 2 more Pintails and 5 more drake Mallards. Now EVERYONE had to be very selective on their shots. In fact we decided to take turns to finish it off. Only one or two guys would shoot at each flock and only at the very evident drakes. This actually made the hunt more fun and extended it out as we would let the flocks circle two or 3 times and even land in the decoys and get up without shooting at them, waiting for that perfect shot at a drake. What a blast!!!
I dont think there is a better sight in the world than having a flock of 50 Mallards cupped up and sailing feet down, right into the spread! I dont care what your favorite kind of hunting is
My partner Brandon was even lucky enough to take down another Sandhill crane during the hunt as well.
We were now getting ready to wrap up the hunt. We only needed 2 more Mallards to fill out the 5 man limit. However I still had a monkey on my back. I really wanted to get a Sandhill crane as I too was working on the North American Waterfowl Grand Slam and this was my only chance of the year to get a Crane. Kyle said we have about 20 more minutes before we need to pick up and get out of here. He recommended I run out to a the fence row about 400 yards to the north where a few flocks of Cranes had been moving back and forth earlier, for one last chance at a Crane. I did as I was instructed. From the hillside above the spread I could now see what an amazing set up we had. The hillside we were set up on truly looked alive from my viewpoint. I watched as 5 more flocks of Mallards and Pintails worked the spread and the guys carefully picked out the last couple drakes to fill out. I knew my time was now limited and our hunt was quickly coming to an end.
I saw two guys start to pick up the decoys and the other two head back to get the trucks. I was starting to feel a little sorry for myself that I didnt get a Crane. I was just getting up to head back to the spread when I heard it- the quuuuu quuuuuu of the Sandhill crane. I had a 5 pack headed right for me. I quickly nestled back into the fence row and buried my face in the grass. This was it, I patiently waited for what seemed like forever. I peaked up one last time as the birds were now only about 35 yards away. I jumped up and pulled my trusty 870 to my shoulder. As the birds flared, I pulled up on the last Crane in the flock and pulled the trigger- the bird dropped about 10 feet but wasnt dead yet so I let him have it again and he folded like a ton of bricks!
I could hear the guys cheering me on from the spread. I was excstatic. As I carried my prize back to the trucks, Kyle was the first one to run over and congratulate me. I think he was more excited than I was. It was truly the perfect ending to the perfect hunt.
THE ELUSIVE SANDHILL CRANE IS KNOCKED OFF THE WATERFOWL SPECIES LIST FOR HTN'S DAN WENNERLIND
Every year at HuntTheNorth.com we choose an outfitter of the year. This most prestigious award is not just for the outfitter who can put clients on game consistently, but also for the outfitter who is a true professional in every aspect of the hunt. Someone who is truly passionate about what he does and honestly cares about hunting ethics and his client- treating them as lifelong friends. In the 8 years that I have known Kyle from afar, as well as the two short days we spent in the field with Kyle, it was evident that this is the kind of guy you would want to come back and hunt with just to be around, not to mention the World Class waterfowl hunting and ammenities that they have to offer at Northern Flight Guides Service and The Woodland Resort. It was my pleasure and honor to award Kyle Blanchfield our greatest award- naming Kyle Blanchfield of Northern Flight Guide Service The 2017 HuntTheNorth.com Outfitter Of The Year!
Part 2: THE REVIEW
OUTFITTER KNOWLEDGE / PERSONALITY:
5 / 5
We thoroughly enjoyed our time with Kyle. It is evident that Kyle has a true passion for not only guiding waterfowl hunters, but for overall customer satisfaction. Kyle made it clear throughout the hunt that this was Our hunt and he did his very best to meet and exceed our expectations. Kyle put a lot of hard work in prior to the hunt to give us the very best possible hunt possible. He scouted until dark every night to give us the best chance at success for the following day. 5 / 5!!!
QUALITY OF EQUIPMENT USED:
5 / 5
Kyles equipment was top notch. The first day we hunted over 50 custom Sandhill crane decoys. The second day Kyle used his traditional field spread consisting over close to 400 fully body Canada goose and mallard decoys along with close to a dozen spinner duck decoys. Kyle takes great pride on having the best equipment money can buy. Kyle also likes to utilize standing corn as often as possible which makes concealing hunters and shooting at the incoming birds much more comfortable and successful than the traditional layout blinds, especially for the older hunters. 5 / 5!
OPPORTUNITY TO TAKE GAME:
5 / 5
Although the first day of our hunt was relatively slow, it was not for lack of effort. The Cranes simply did not cooperate, but they were definitely in the area. However the second days hunt was lights out! We had ample opportunity to harvest a full limit of big North Dakota Mallards as well as close to a dozen Canada geese and even took a couple bonus Cranes that day as well. The Devils Lake area has no shortage of waterfowl that is for sure. And with all of Kyles leases and land owner connections the hunting is great all season long! 5 / 5!
QUALITY OF MEALS AND LODGING:
5 / 5
The quality of the meals and lodging at The Woodland Resort is 5 Star!! The cabin we stayed in was perfect. It was clean and comfortable. It had satellite TV and a full kitchen set up. Our dogs were welcome inside as well. The on-site restaurant and sporting goods shop made sure we never had to travel off site for any other reason than to hunt. And the food at the restaurant was excellent. Kyle also ties in a $25 food / drink coupon for each night his hunters are in camp and the bag lunch we ate on the trip back from the field each day really hit the spot. 5 / 5 for sure!!!
HUNT PACKAGES AND ADDITONAL FEES:
4 / 5
Kyle offers an All Inclusive guided field waterfowl hunt in the morning for ducks or geese as well as a do-it-yourself afternoon hunt on private ground to make it an all day hunt. This package includes all guide services, bird cleaning, lodging at The Woodland Resort, a delicious hot dinner at his on-site restaurant after the hunt and a bag lunch for those long days in the field for $475 per hunter. From our experience with the caliber of services provided, this is a great value. 4 / 5!
OVERALL QUALITY OF THE TRIP:
5 / 5
This was truly a field Mallard hunt to remember! Everything about the hunt was first class. Other then the Cranes not cooperating the first day, there is nothing else we would change about the entire trip from start to finish. We were so impressed with Kyles overall operation we named him the outfitter of the year. In addition Kyle offers a combo cast and blast package on Devils Lake for walleyes after the morning hunt and can accommodate waterfowl hunters for the lodging portion only, for those who do not want to pay for a guided hunt. This is a wonderful operation! 5 / 5!
Overall Northern Flight Guide Service Scored A 29 Out Of 30 Giving Them An "A" Rating. We Would Not Hesitate At All To Refer Kyle For His Spectacular North Dakota Guided Waterfowl Hunts and Named Northern Flight G.S. the 2017 HuntTheNorth.com Outfitter Of The Year!
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Part 3: Booking Information
Contact Information For:Northern Flight Guide Service
- On-site Hunters Lodging Ala Cart With Dogs Welcome In The Cabins - Summer And Fall Walleye Fishing Guide Services - Winter Ice Fishing Cabin Rental And Guide Services - Spring Guided Snow Goose Hunts