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Early Teal Season Kicks Off Waterfowling
The opening morning usually arrives with more anticipation than results. But it takes very little to have a great time, and what gets you hopeful is that there may be a rumor going around that someone somewhere saw a flock of teal one morning as they were driving to work. More than likely it may have been nothing more than a large scourge of mosquitoes. Waterfowlers are always full of hope, or at least I have always heard we are “full of it” and I assumed “it” was hope!
So I get to my blind well before shooting hours. I have around 30 teal decoys and a couple mojo decoys as well. As I’m putting the decoys out I will ask whoever in my group are brave enough to walk through the jaws of terror armed only with a can of Raid wasp spray. I have no doubt that there will be a lot of spraying and stomping reminiscent of some bluegrass clogging group. Once in the blind our eyes will be peeled scanning the predawn light for teal. There is no sure thing when it comes to waterfowl hunting and this is especially true when it comes to teal. You never know about teal as some years they are not pushed to begin their migration due to a lack of cooler temperatures. It’s that push to head south when cold weather begins up north that allows waterfowlers to enjoy an early season on them. The season normally last two weeks.
I’m also not putting any species of duck over another, but if I were, teal might be at the bottom rung of the intellectual ladder. As further proof for those of you who have traveled a lot, have you ever seen the TSA using teal to sniff out luggage for contraband at the airports? Teal hunting is pretty simple – especially if you’re already a waterfowler. It begins with a way to stay dry which means either a boat or boots. I would recommend that you leave your 3 1/2 magnum BBs that you use for Canada geese at home and instead buy a box of Steel #4s and they can be either 2 3/4 or 3 inch, whatever your preference may be. This year I am still planning on using my old Browning A-5 and I think I have traded a couple boxes of 3 in for 2 3/4 to make that possible. I sometimes think that those in power are not trying to take our guns, but instead have chosen not to make our ammo. Those smaller sized BBs can sometimes do a better job of delivering the coup de grace on wounded birds. For teal, I would use modified or full choke. That choice is not because they are hard to kill, it’s just that a more open choke, such as improved, can cut a swath through a flock of birds and with four hunters in the blind it can be devastating on a tightly packed flock. If you do not have teal decoys, do not feel as though you cannot hunt them because teal don’t care. Those mallard decoys will work just fine, but I would ask you not to tell my wife I said so, as over the years I have obtained about 2 1/2 dozen teal decoys. Besides the teal decoys I also toss out five or six of some old hen mallard decoys just for numbers. I use hen decoys because in September most of our ducks are not wearing their winter plumage yet so they are just brown ducks. Sometimes (or most of the time) the winds can be very light so your decoys are sitting pretty motionless, so I toss out that Mojo teal decoy or even my Higdon floating flasher decoy. Last year I also used 3 or 4 flock a flicker decoys made by Mojo, which are just smaller floating flashing machines. I have been known to use a dove mojo as well in the past and never got any complaints because by the time a teal gets close enough to see it’s a dove, it’s too late. Your regular mallard duck call will also serve you well for teal, although their call is higher pitched and raspier as well as at a faster cadence. If you want to go ahead and put a teal call on your lanyard I would recommend either the Haydel teal call, the Buck Gardener model, or even the Duck Commander teal call. Then practice, practice, practice. If you want to know what a teal sounds like exactly go to the Ducks Unlimited website and they have the calls made by all the ducks including teal.
Unfortunately, for an enjoyable hunt you may also need some insect repellant or a Therma-cell to keep from being carried off by the mosquitoes. Of course, lastly, but certainly most important is that you have your license and stamps. For Missouri, this means a small game hunting permit, a state migratory bird hunting permit, and a federal duck stamp. This year the season runs in Missouri September 11 through September 26. Shooting hours are from sunrise to sunset. The daily bag limit is six teal, which can be blue-winged, green-winged, and cinnamon teal. As always, check the Missouri Department of Conservation Digest to ensure that you know what is permitted. I would also toss in a cooler of water or soft drinks as by the time you leave the water it can be downright hot.
If you’re the least interested in teal hunting I would encourage you to give it a try. It is also great for young hunters as it is a lot more comfortable hunting teal in September than sitting as close to the propane heater as possible to keep from freezing in December. So purchase them some steel shot ammo for their 20 gauge or even 410 and bring them along. If you want to have a change of pace leave your 12 gauge at home and toss your 20 gauge in as well. I have done it a number of times with my Mossberg Silver Reserved II and it was a lot of fun. It is also a great time to take out a new retriever for their first waterfowl hunt and serves as a great prequel to the regular seasons to follow. I will be rotating dogs this year and the female lab, Bailey may start out the season and then my springer, Winkle will be going every other trip. It should be interesting as whether it’s young hunters or young dogs, patience is the key to an enjoyable hunt. For old dogs and old waterfowl hunters, it requires a different type of patience as they don’t judge success by numbers, they just need someone to hear the stories. Winkle hits the water as if he is trying to part it like the Red Sea, while Bailey walks out into it like she is testing the water temperature before going out too deep. This may have been something she learned from me as I still haven’t found out where my waders are leaking.