The Province of Alberta is in Western Canada on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains. Called the “Sunshine Province” by some and “Texas of the North” by others, Alberta features mountains, foothills, prairies, desert badlands and sweeping evergreen forests. As the country’s fourth largest province, Alberta covers 255,500 square miles (411,187 sq km). It is bordered on the west by British Columbia, Saskatchewan on the east and Northwest Territories to the north. The US State of Montana creates the southern boundary. The northern half of the province is boreal forest, transitioning to aspen parklands in the center and giving way to prairies in the south. On the west are the foothills that climb up to the Canadian Rockies. There the Red Deer River springs and flows first northeast then to the southeast flanked by the deep canyons of the badlands, as it crosses over to the prairies and farmlands.
The boreal region to the north features great forests of mixed coniferous and deciduous woods, including spruce, pine, larch, poplar and birch. The forests are broken up by many lakes, rivers and muskegs. In the far northeast, holes in the exposed Canadian Shield of Precambrian rock create numerous clear lakes.
The parkland area morphs from the mixed boreal forests of the north to a combination of grasslands and meadows between stands of poplar. As the name implies, the region has the look and feel of a park. Good rainfall and rich black soils also make it a great agricultural region.
Moving south and east, the prairie country is a ranching and farming region characterized by treeless grasslands, sagebrush plains and croplands. Only the river valleys and coulees have sufficient water to support cottonwoods and other deciduous trees.
The foothill country to the west features forests of spruce, pine and poplar. Patches of grasslands create a combination of habitat. The foothills progress in elevation until they come to the Canadian Rocky Mountains, which stretch along the western border of Alberta. The mountain region is home to coniferous forests of spruce, fir and pine. Scree slopes and rocky ledges provide challenging hunting. From the area’s alpine meadows, year-round snow fields and glaciers are visible. Jasper, Banff and Waterton Lakes national parks are located in this area.
These five ecosystems offer more than a dozen big game species (not all open to nonresident aliens) and as many upland birds and waterfowl species. Alberta provides hunting opportunities in spring, fall and winter. Sportsmen can enjoy pack-in mountain adventures on horseback or on foot, waterfowling from popup blinds, spotting and stalking, or waiting in elevated blinds overlooking a bait. Hunters may use rifles or bows. Conditions can range from the brutal cold associated with snow mobiles and snowshoes to cool breezes requiring windbreaking jackets and leather gloves. Alberta’s diversity of hunting opportunities has something for every hunter.
Largest City: Calgary
Conservation Department: Alberta Environment and Parks
Licenses and Regulations: My Wild Alberta
Outfitter Association: All hunting operators and guides in Alberta are legally required to be members of the Alberta Professional Outfitters Society (APOS). When booking a hunt in Alberta, first check with APOS to ensure the operator you are considering is a legally registered hunting outfitter and guide.
Big Game Species
Alberta is covered by the Central Flyway and partially by the Pacific Flyway, and thus sees large numbers of migrating ducks and geese. Central Alberta’s Peace Country, named for the river that flows through the area, is famous for its fine waterfowl hunting. But duck and goose hunting is available from the northern parklands down through the southern prairie potholes. More than a dozen varieties of ducks and geese stage or fly through Alberta on their way south.
- Parklands Region: Peace Country is the first staging area for Canada geese and numerous species of ducks migrating south for the winter. This area is a large swath of parkland bordered by mixed forest, but also containing lakes and wetlands as well as the Peace River. Waterfowl fly in by the thousands from September through October. Fields of barley, peas and wheat provide the food sources these birds need before continuing south. When the season opens, the migration is already in full swing with tremendous flights of mallards between flights of Canada geese, snow and white-fronted (speckle-belly) geese. Hunters can take all three species of geese on one hunt here. Mallards stage in the potholes, flying to and from the fields to feed each day. A dozen other species of ducks eventually join them. The wetlands provide early season teal hunting, and the many lakes and ponds offer opportunities for diver ducks, such as canvas backs, redheads and scaup (bluebills). The season runs into December. Spring hunts for snow geese are also available here.
- Prairie Region: For waterfowl hunting later in the season, the prairies of southern Alberta are the perfect option. Southwest Alberta attracts millions of wintering waterfowl. Thousands of acres of staging water and warm water springs bring continuous waves of mallards and pintails in addition to Canada geese. Hunting for divers and dabblers is available from early September until freeze up, which typically happens by early November. Field shooting for Canada geese continues, with the migrations coming until late December, even after many shallow wetlands have frozen over.
- Foothill and Mountain Regions: The foothills and mountain regions along the western border have some excellent but very localized duck and goose shooting along their eastern boundaries near the farmlands. Late in the season, the rivers, reservoirs and warm springs of southwest provide refuge for tens of thousands wintering mallards.