by Bill Cooper
Hunting teal is as fun as it gets in the world of waterfowl hunting.
Teal migrate early, they fly beyond fast, and this diminutive duck makes for great table fare.
If you’re a teal hunter, it’s time to head to that special spot and get ready for mayhem from the skies to buzz your spread. If you’ve never hunted teal, here are some tips to help you bag some birds during the early September teal season.
Since teal are early migrators, most have flown south to Mexico are farther by the time regular duck seasons open. Many states have a special short season for teal in September.
Check your local regulations before any type of hunting, but particularly with federally regulated waterfowl.
Scout Before The Hunt
Scouting ahead of time should be a given for any type of hunting, but often this is one of the most neglected aspects of the hunt. Scouting is particularly important for teal hunting. Hunt where the teal want to be.
Teal are attracted to shallow-water areas with plentiful food supplies in the way of sedges, duck weeds and invertebrates. Search out such areas beginning in early to mid August. Locate several hotspots, and hunt the area on opening day that held the most bird traffic on your last scouting trip. Have a backup location in case the teal have moved on from your primary spot.
Teal are notorious for flying right at first shooting light—or right before legal time. If you don’t score early, don’t waste your morning, especially if you didn’t even see or hear any teal flying early.
Here’s a tip for potentially finding a teal hotspot. Ask around at rural feed & seed stores. Bluewing teal in particular have been known to bunch up in impressive numbers on the most average, unlikely farm ponds. The right farmer might be happy to have some hunters take advantage of the teal loaded up on his small, private lake.
Shoot And Pattern Your Shotgun
Unbelievably, failure to shoot before the season opener is a key factor in poor performance on opening day of teal season. Teal are fast. Unused skills fade away with time. Individuals who do not take the time to burn some shells a month or two before teal season arrives are destined for disappointment.
Harboring the attitude that you can “get onto it” after firing a few shots at fleeing teal is a sure-fire recipe for failure and disappointment. More hunters than one have burned their morning trying to get in the shooting groove, while their buddies who have practiced connect consistently. Take the time to prepare properly. You will have more teal for the dinner table and far fewer barbs to dodge from your hunting buddies.
Any type of shooting will help shape up your performance for opening day. Tossing a few clays in the back yard will sharpen your skills, but for optimum results, visit a sporting clays range. Such ranges over a number of stations, all of which present a different angle or flight pattern of the clay targets. Teal are unpredictable and may come in high over head or swing around a turn burning over your decoy set at 60 mph. A good sporting clays range will duplicate many of the scenarios you will face when teal season arrives. Besides sharpening your shooting skills, working through a sporting clays course is just plain fun. Go with a buddy or two and the fun is magnified.
Shooting to condition your muscles and reflexes is far different than shooting for accuracy. To perform at the top of your abilities, give your shotgun a good workout with a variety of chokes and loads to see exactly how your gun shoots with each. Guns are machined devices, and every gun will fire differently. Loads and chokes that worked in last year’s gun will not work the same in a new, or different gun, even if it is the same make and model.
Pattern your shotgun by shooting from a sturdy position, such as a shooting bench. Place targets at various distances and draw an 18-inch circle on them with an 8-inch circle inside. Shoot all of the targets with one choke and one load, then change targets and repeat the process with a different load and choke. Make notes on the target so you know which choke and loads you used each time. Then count the holes in each target inside both the 18-inch and 8-inch circles.
The 8-inch circle is about the size of a teal. Pellets falling inside the 8-inch circe are potential lethal shots. Pellets inside the 18-inch circle give you a good idea of how much of your shot is missing the intended target. This exercise will give you a good notion about how ducks slip through your pattern. Choose the best load with the best choke and you have the combination, which is most likely to put teal down.
Wear the Right Clothing
Being prepared for any type of hunting situation is key to the enjoyment of the trip. The early teal season occurs in September. The weather can be anything from hot and steamy to a bit cool early in the morning. Check your weather channel a week before the season opener and again the night before your hunting trip. And to make sure you are covered, check the weather again before going out the door. It is easy to do and only takes a minute. That minute might save your trip from being an uncomfortable disaster.
During most early teal seasons, the weather will be mild to warm. Shorts and short-sleeved shirts may not be out of the question. Wear clothing that wicks moisture away from your body, so that you are not drenched in sweat. Carry along an additional light jacket, just in case it is a little cool.
Carry the Extras
Warm weather may mean insects will be on the prowl. Swatting mosquitoes is not fun, and waving hands are a good way to alert teal to your presence. Pack mosquito repellent as well as sun screen and plenty of cool refreshments. A stool or camp chair adds to the ease of the hunt as well.
One thing that you can leave at home is the big bags of heavy decoys. Teal decoy easily. A dozen decoys are more than enough to attract the attention of passing birds. Shoot straight and be safe.
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