Named HuntTheNorth.com's 2010 Outfitter Of The Year!
OUTFITTER REVIEW ON:
|Pacific Wings Prairie Outfitters|
Part 1:THE HUNT
Specks and Snows On The Saskatchewan Prairie
with Pacific Wings Prairie Outfitters
By dan wennerlind
“Take Em!” outfitter Mike Franklin called out as another flock of Specklebellys dropped into our spread of over 650 full body decoys. The flaps sprung open from our lay out blinds and a barrage of shots went off. Another 6 geese hit the ground! This became a common theme for the day as flock after flock of specs and snows continued to be fooled over and over again by our incredible set up.
This was a hunt that I had been looking forward to for months, ever since outfitter Mike Franklin of Pacific Wings Prairie Outfitters gave me an open invitation to join him on one of his “World Class” Saskatchewan goose hunts. After an in depth conversation with Mike on the phone the previous summer, HTN field rep Kyle Hamilton and myself penciled in a two day waterfowl adventure with Mike set for October 15th and 16th. The day was finally here and the hunt lived up to everything Mike had promised so many months ago and more.
The morning started out at 3:45 am sharp. Kyle and I arose from a much needed sleep after a 17 hour drive from Minneapolis to a small town that I am quite sure most hunters have never heard of, in south western Saskatchewan. I had to think that a short plane ride into Saskatoon might have been a smarter choice of traveling but regardless we were there and ready to go. As we left the cozy lodge at 4:30 am sharp, there was not a lot of time for small talk since we had a considerable task in front of us. Mike does not run what I would consider to be a standard decoy spread by any means.
We followed Mike’s 20’ x 7’ cargo trailer into a recently harvested wheat field and I could only imagine how many decoys Mike had jam packed into that trailer. When he opened the trailer door, the decoys literally jumped out of the back end and I now realized why we had a small army following us out into the
field that day. Mike definitely had a system down pat for getting a spread of 650+ full body decoys out of a trailer, set up and ready hunt over, in less then 2 hours. Now this may seem like a lot of work for the average waterfowl hunter but with Mike’s direction the process went smooth as can be. Twelve of us, including two of Mike’s hired hands and nine hunters, took specific directions on what was expected of each of us and the set up was fast and easy.
While I continued to feed Mike decoys that morning from the guys who were unloading them from the trailer, I had a chance to quiz Mike on exactly what he had in store for us this day. I found out that Franklin was definitely not your typical outfitter that was for sure. In fact Mike himself, had over 19 years of hunting experience in this region of the country. Five years ago Mike decided to expand his guide service from Pasco, Washington- up into Saskatchewan. Mike and his son Justin then proceeded to purchase two outfitter licenses which gave them over 20,000 consecutive square miles in west central Saskatchewan to guide in. Mike then explained to me that one of the main reasons that he wanted to start his own guide service was so that he could offer the avid hunter an opportunity to hunt over the best equipment on the market, giving them the edge over their wary feathered adversaries. Mike’s first big investment after getting started in his new endeavor was to buy not one but TWO semi trucks full of brand new Hardcore brand snow goose, blue goose, Canada goose and speckle belly decoys.
|I found out that was just the beginning. Mike then took these 5,000+ decoys that he had just purchased and proceeded to sand blast all the paint off of the decoys. He then custom painted every single decoy to his own specs. I found that Mike is very, very detail orientated and takes great pride in his mass customized decoy spread.|
The sun finally came up over the horizon and the anticipation started to grow. We lay patiently in our blinds, overlooking an extraordinary goose spread by anyone’s standards. As the first flocks of snows hit the horizon Mike turned up the E-caller and the geese responded accordingly. The first flock came in so close you could actually feel the rush of their wings as they banked over the top of the blinds. Throughout the morning everyone had more then enough shooting as they dropped right into our laps, over and over again. The guns kept sounding off and the geese kept coming. It was very evident that Mike’s spread made a huge difference in how well the geese decoyed. With our fearless leader sitting in the center blind calling the shots we did our best to fight off the incoming birds. Mike explained that this season he was averaging 77 birds per day for each hunt. Mike said that his best hunt this season so far was a 250 bird morning. Even more impressive was the fact that with a poor spring hatch over 85% of the geese harvested were adults so far this year.
One of the things I personally enjoyed best about this hunt was the opportunity to take a limit of Specklebelly geese. After many seasons of hunting snow geese in the spring conservation season and having hundreds of flocks of Specklebellys work the spread 20 yards high and having to let them go, it was time for a little pay back! Although I knew that this area was considered to be the White Front goose capital of the world, I could not truly appreciate the uniqueness of this hunt until I actually experienced it for myself.
Throughout the morning my chessy Jada had a chance to make some incredible retrieves. In fact when the morning’s hunt was finally over, we had 79 light geese and a limit of 27 specklebelly geese on the ground with a ½ dozen mallards to boot. I thought what a perfect place to introduce a young, well trained retriever to goose hunting.
After the hunt was officially over we took some great photos and rounded up what was left of any crippled birds. Then the process of picking up the spread ensued. I was happy to see Mike’s two scouters return to help us. They had been out all morning scouting for the evening’s duck hunt and our next morning’s goose hunt. The pick up process was just as fast and efficient as the set up had been. Before I knew it, we were back at the lodge where a hot lunch was waiting for us prepared by Mike’s full time chef Dave.
After lunch we had a chance to take a 2 hour nap before we needed to get ready for our afternoon duck hunt. This time Mike split us up into a smaller group size of 4 and 5 hunters so that we would have a chance to have a more personable experience. That evening we set up a considerably smaller spread consisting of about 3 dozen Canada goose decoys and a couple spinner mallard decoys. Mike explained that the previous night’s storm had wreaked a little havoc on the ducks in the area and they had lost some of the large flocks, so even though there were ducks in this field the night before this hunt was not going to be a gimmie by any means. Normally Mike’s hunters have excellent success in the evening duck hunts, but this evening we were not able to harvest a full limit of mallards. This was ok with me as my shoulder was getting a little sore anyway.
As soon as we walked through the door of the lodge that night, I was immediately hit with the smell of a hot steak dinner with all the fixings. One can only imagine how good that tasted after a long day in a cold field. Mike joined us for dinner and we were able to recap the day’s events while getting a chance to get to know everyone in camp a little better. After all of the off season effort that he put into his operation I deemed Mike more of a goose hunting entrepreneur then a hunting guide.
Mike went on to tell me that his main goal was to take away every single aspect of the hunt that was a challenge for the hunter. Therefore he has all of his hunters email their personal information prior to their arrival so that he can pre-purchase their hunting licenses and have them ready when the hunters get to camp. Mike also hires a couple of full time scouters whose job is to make sure that his hunters are always in a fresh field full of birds from the night before and help with the set up each morning.
Franklin also knows that taking care of the game is always a challenge, especially when harvesting the kind of numbers of waterfowl that his hunters take. Therefore he has hired a bird cleaner to take care of that aspect as well. At our departure we had a cooler full of frozen birds that were legally cleaned and ready for travel. The fact Mike was able to offer such a high quality lodge in a town of this size, was also amazing. I was very impressed with Mike’s overall operation and the fact that he is able to offer this incredible “All Inclusive” 3 Day Hunt for less then $1,500 is almost unbelievable. It was clear that Franklin had truly done his home work. I was very pleased in honoring Mike with our highest award naming Pacific Wings Prairie Outfitters as HuntTheNorth.com’s 2010 Outfitter Of The Year!
more photos from the hunt...
Part 2: THE REVIEW
|OUTFITTER KNOWLEDGE / PERSONALITY: ||Score||5 / 5 |
With over 19 years of experience hunting this region of the country as well as the type A personality that Mike has, I would definitely qualify Mike as a goose hunting expert. His personality was very laid back throughout the hunt but when it comes time to pull the trigger there was no screwing around. Mike wants the birds at your feet and the barrels facing straight ahead. Mike gets a 5 out of 5 in this area.
|QUALITY OF |
|Score||5 / 5|
I do not believe I have ever seen a decoy spread quite like Mike’s. As explained in the article we hunted over 650+ full body, hand painted decoys. Not to mention that Mike has designed and invested close to $20,000 into his custom layout blind set up. This was no run of the mill operation. We were all comfortable, safe and warm throughout the exiting goose hunt we experienced.
|Score||5 / 5|
The opportunity to take game on Mike’s hunts goes without saying. On our trip we hunted what I would consider to be the toughest conditions that you can find in the field with an 80% light snow cover over a very short cut wheat field and Mike pulled it off without a hitch. We harvested close to 200 birds on our 2 day trip and Mike averaged over 77 birds per snow goose hunt in the 2009 season.
|QUALITY OF MEALS |
Mike has put together a very comfortable and modernized lodge where most people would be happy with a 3 star motel. Mike also hires a full time chef to make sure that there is always a hot meal waiting as soon as his hunters walk through the door. The meals and lodging were high quality, especially for the rural area we were hunting in.
HUNT PACKAGES AND
|Score||5 / 5|
Mike offers a 3 day “All Inclusive” hunt package for $1,495 per hunter. This includes 3- ½ day morning field hunts. For an additional $400.00 you can add on two afternoon duck hunts. When I say “All Inclusive” I mean everything from your hunting license delivered in hand upon arrival to the meals and lodging, guide fee as well as all of your birds cleaned, packaged and ready to take home. For that price this hunt is a steal!
|OVERALL QUALITY |
OF THE TRIP:
|Score||5 / 5 |
The overall quality of the trip was most memorable. In looking back at the experience long after the hunt, this was one trip that will be logged in as a complete success. Mike took care of every detail throughout the hunt and made sure all of his hunters in camp were taken care of.
Overall Pacific Wings Prairie Outfitters scored a 30 / 30. Although all of the reviews posted on the HTN website are 25 or above, it is rare for an outfitter to receive a perfect score. Thus we have given Mike the title of the 2010 Outfitter Of The Year!
30 / 30
Part 3: Booking Information
|Additional Services Offered|
In addition to Mike Franklins fall Saskatchewan waterfowl hunts, he also offers fall Canada goose and mallard hunts in West Richland, Washington. Mike runs a full spread of stuffer Canada goose decoys only on his Washington Canada goose hunts and also has several private leased lakes and ponds managed specifically for big greenheads and honkers. Mike also offers spring snow goose hunts in Saskatchewan as well. Mikes spring hunts are very similar to his fall snow goose hunts and he states that they have very similar results.