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Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Hunt reports coming into WON from afield

Canada geese pour in Cibola Valley
Timing is everything when either hunting or fishing, and now would be an excellent time to book a hunt at the Cibola Sportsman’s Club South Ranch or put in for drawing a goose pit blind at the Farm Fields of the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge. Severe winter weather across the Great Basin and below-freezing temps in the Columbia Basin to the east of Washington at the end of the month pushed thousands of Canada geese and white geese on a southerly migration.

Western Outdoor News had planned on hunting the South Ranch just after the last full moon in November, but a call from Cibola Sportsman’s Club co-owner Bob Corbett asked if I could hold off a week. Seems there were less than 1,000 honkers in Cibola Valley and very few ducks, said Corbett a week before coming over. It would be solo hunt this time around for this shooter, but there would be other goose hunters in hunt camp to hopefully make for a successful winter goose hunt.

HONKER SUCCESS AT SOUTH RANCH — David Barnes and Rich Overton, both of Phoenix were in the right blind at the South Ranch and bagged these nice big Canada geese. Guiding the hunters was expert caller “Budda” Fields. The geese were shot over decoys set around pit blinds. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

Prior to heading down the road to South Ranch, a stop at the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge was in my plans. The Goose Loop holding pond was loaded with honkers and fully feathered pintail. That pond was a mix of black and white and it looked like you could have walked across that pond on the backs of geese and ducks. The refuge was loaded with honkers and sprig and the sand hill crane population had to be well in excess of 600 birds.

The Wednesday shoot at the Farm Fields of the national wildlife refuge had produced 27 Canada geese, as newly arrived flocks of birds were hungry and eager to cup into decoys and rewarding those in pit blinds with excellent shooting over decoys. The weather outlook called for a massive storm front to move through the valley on Thursday, bringing heavy rain to the desert floor and strong winds when the front passed through. Unfortunately, day one of the hunt was on Thursday, a typical Cibola blue bird day and a bust for 7 shooters, even though some 5,000 Canada Geese, 3-4,000 white geese and some 500 cranes winged over the decoys during the morning hunt. One flock of some 30 honkers locked up with wings cupped, but passed over the decoy spread just out of shotgun range and headed north to the corn fields of the refuge, some 5 miles up the Lower Colorado River.

That evening hunters sat around a camp fire and watched flock after flock of Canada geese head to the Cibola Lake, where they would spend the night. Just prior to sunset, as we watched birds fly about 150 yards overhead, a long black cloud appeared off to the west and very high. It was a late evening migration of some 1,000 Canada geese that had just arrived in the valley and were also headed to Cibola Lake to rest up and then head out early the next morning to feed.

Newly arriving Canada geese are the key to the success of hunting at the Cibola Sportsman’s Club’s South Ranch or setting up in a refuge blind. Once geese become educated they are much harder to decoy, often flying up the river before dropping in on the corn and alfalfa fields of the federal refuge. Bob “Budda” Fields is master guide at the South Ranch and lets hunters know what they can expect on either a morning or afternoon shoot.

Most of the south ranch is planted in alfalfa, but there is also an abundance of Bermuda grass that offers up another native food source for hungry geese. All hunting is done out of big pit blinds with a huge decoy spread surrounding each blind site. One field to the south is all alfalfa, while the northern field is a mix of alfalfa and grass with three big duck ponds facing right into the traditional goose flyways. In addition to attracting geese to the pond pit blinds the fresh water is also ideal for attracting flights of sprig, widgeon, teal and some divers as they wing along the river.

SHOT HIS FIRST EVER CANADA GOOSE IN CIBOLA — Darr Colburn of Phoenix was mighty proud to show off his first Canada goose shot last week at the Cibola Sportsman’s Club. WON PHOTO BY JIM NIEMIEC

That night the storm hit the valley with fury. Knocking out electricity and filling the parking lot with a couple of inches of rain water and creating a gooey-muddy mess…but hey that’s good waterfowl hunting weather.

Eight hunters would set with Budda, while this shooter opted for the pond blinds along with my yellow Lab Sierra. Geese on Hart Mine Marsh and down at Cibola lake must have also spent a restless night, with all that wind and rain, and were eager to head to green fields early that morning. Geese few close enough to hear the calling and see the flags waving like wings of a goose setting into a decoy spread. This shooter bagged two 12-pound honkers before 7 a.m. shooting Federal Premium Black Cloud BBB ammo and left the blind so as not to burn it out as other flocks looked over the spread well within shotgun range. The field blinds to the south then got into action as large Canada geese decoyed well and fell hard to blasts of 3-inch BB’s.

After the morning hunt WON had sat down with Budda to talk over what the rest of the season looks like based on his many years of guiding Canada goose hunters at South Ranch.

“I think the rest of the season will produce good Canada goose hunting over decoys. There are more birds in the valley right now that there has been in a number of years and we can still look to the last migration of big honkers to take place during the full moon phase later this month. I don’t think we will have much trouble in getting geese to decoy into our fields and it’s just about time for big puddle ducks to show up,” said Fields.

It would be the recommendation of this WON hunting editor to book at least two days of hunting at Cibola Sportsman’s Club’s South Ranch (702-355-8784, or info@ The reason to book back-to-back days is to up your odds of enjoying a successful Canada goose hunt. Hunters can rent a fully equipped cabin, rent a bed in the bunk house or bring an RV onto ranch property. Coffee and sweet rolls are served every morning and there are barbeques in the patio area to prepare lunches or tri-tip or carne asada evening meals. Non-resident waterfowl daily licenses, yearly licenses and Arizona waterfowl stamps are available on line or at the South Ranch club house.

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