Hunting Specklebelly Geese in the Heart of the Duck World with Top of the Flyway Outfitters
By Brandon Crowley, Co-Founder, Ultimate Waterfowlers Challenge
When you think of waterfowl hunting in Arkansas what’s the first thing that comes to mind? If you’re like most hunters, you think of hunting mallards in flooded timber and rice fields. You probably wouldn’t think of hunting geese in the duck hunting capital of the world, but that’s what I decided to do.
Arriving in Arkansas (from Minnesota), I knew it would be good hunting when I laid eyes upon the many flooded fields filled with birds. Besides ducks, I spotted white-fronted geese, better known as Specklebelly geese, aka “Specks.” They’re the birds I was after, and just seeing them upon arrival made me wonder how many I’d get during my time there.
I met Trevor and Nick from Top of the Flyway Outfitters at a local hotel in Arkansas and told them I was excited to spend two days chasing Specks with them. We walked to a nearby restaurant to enjoy a tasty BBQ and catfish dinner. Then it was back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep in anticipation of an early morning hunt the next day.
It had been raining in the area for three straight days, which ended up flooding many of the area fields, making for not so perfect field hunting conditions. However this weather wouldn’t last.
The first day of our hunt brought with it clear skies, and temperatures in the upper 30s with a light breeze. Trevor, Nick and I loaded up the truck and set out for the fields. During the ride, Nick informed me that we’d be hunting a feed field that had somewhere in the ballpark of 2,000 Specks in it, feeding regularly in the morning and afternoon.
After entering the field and emptying the trailer, Trevor and Nick set up a mixture of full body and silhouette Specklebelly decoys. They also mixed in 300-400 snow goose windsock decoys for visibility.
For me, the hide is what made the hunt. Trevor and Nick knew how to find the best hide possible, making sure the birds had no idea hunters were in the field. They emphasize concealment and they won’t put out any decoys until the blinds have been brushed with a truckload of fresh cover to ensure quality decoying birds. We finished setting up the blinds and brushed them accordingly to match our surroundings.
It wasn’t 10 minutes after shooting time that we had our first flock of Specks working the decoys. Trevor had informed me that they had shot 14 days straight of Specklebelly limits so I knew we had to keep the streak alive and seeing this first flock work the decoys was a sure sign that this hunt was going to be day number 15 to add to the total.
The first flock did it perfectly, feet down, 10 yards into the decoys, and all 6 birds’ flights were canceled. Two of the birds were what the guys called “Tar Bellies,” without a spot of grey on them. Well, they were completely “blacked out,” and, without hesitation, headed to the taxidermist!
The next flock came around just 5 minutes after the first, and this flock truly made the hunt unforgettable. With somewhere between 40-60 birds, we were hand picking trophy Specks at 10 yards. It was a “feet down in your face, pick out the adults, and let the gun barrels ring” experience. We managed to take 10 birds out of this flock and it looked like the sky was falling.
Well trained retrievers picked them up one by one. We gave each other high fives and let out shouts of joy. It was truly a sight to see!
As the sun rose that morning, the skies became even more visible and there were birds in every direction you could see! We were just a few birds shy of our limit of Specklebelly geese, so we let a few flocks pass to extend the hunt. We let a couple pairs finish. The hunt consisted of 35 awesome minutes and by then we had our limits of Specklebelly geese.
It was 9:00 o’clock in the morning and we were already done hunting for the day. Since I’m from Minnesota and we were hunting the grounds where birds winter, it made sense to spend the rest of the day exploring the migration.
We soon discovered a spectacular flooded rice field with thousands of different duck species including American Wigeon, Gadwalls, Wood Ducks, Pintails, and Redheads. Needless to say, I took tons of pictures.
After a couple hours of sightseeing and a quick nap, it was time for dinner at the nearby restaurant for some true Arkansas cooking.
At dinner, I learned about my fellow hunters. Since they were from Mississippi, it was fun to learn about their hunting techniques, which were different than what I knew being from “up north.” These guys swore by hunting flooded timber. Hearing about their hunts gave me quite an appetite, as I enjoyed some tasty ribs and BBQ Brisket and great conversation.
Soon it was time for bed, so we all headed back to our hotel rooms. I set my alarm for 4:30 and got a good night’s sleep.
The next morning we woke up to absolutely beautiful conditions. The temperature was 45 degrees with clear skies and a light breeze. It was time to hunt, and we soon heard that first scout goose coming to investigate. Trevor and Nick had no problem calling him down from the ozone layers. I had the pleasure to shoot this bird and it was absolutely gorgeous.
This morning’s hunt went even quicker than the first day as the birds came off the roost and continued right into our decoys. We had our limits in 18 minutes and it was literally like the saying “shooting fish in a barrel.” The birds were feet down at 5-10 yards. You couldn’t miss!
Trevor and Nick from Top of the Flyway Outfitters were not only great scouts, putting me on the birds, but they also focused on the hide better than any other outfitter I’ve ever hunted with. Their choice of concealment meant you could enjoy decoying birds at 5-10 yards.
I also appreciated that these guys knew how to shoot limits. Being on day 15 and 16 of their impressive shooting streak, I’m happy to report they ended the white-fronted goose season in Arkansas with limits on 28 of 28 hunts– absolutely incredible.
If you want to harvest trophy adult Specklebelly geese, Top of the Flyway Outfitters can take you on the hunt of a lifetime. Visit www.topoftheflyway.com for more information, or, better yet, visit their Facebook page to see evidence of their amazing hunts: https://www.facebook.com/TopOfTheFlywayOutfitters
TREVOR MANTEUFEL-TOP OF THE FLYWAY OUTFITTERSS
PHONE: CALL 780-625-6736
EMAIL: CLICK HERE
WEBSITE: CLICK HERE
SPECIES HARVESTED ON THIS HUNT: WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE (SPECKLEBELLY GEESE)