Fast and Fabulous Fare: Bagging September Teal

Hunting teal is as fun as it gets in the world of waterfowl hunting—they migrate early, fly fast and are great table fare. These five tips can help you bag your birds come opening day.

Scout before the hunt: Scouting ahead of time should be a given for any type of hunting, but it’s often neglected. Teal are attracted to shallow-water areas with plentiful food supplies including sedges, duckweeds and invertebrates. Search out these areas early.

Shoot your shotgun: Unbelievably, failure to shoot before the season opener is a key factor in poor performance on opening day. Teal are fast, and unused skills fade away with time. Individuals who do not take the time to burn some shells a month or two before the season are destined for disappointment. Harboring an attitude that you can “get onto it” after firing a few shots at fleeing teal is a sure-fire recipe for failure. Tossing a few clays in the backyard will sharpen your skills. But for optimum results, visit a sporting clays range offering a number of stations that present a different angle or flight pattern of the clay targets.

Pattern your gun: Shooting to condition your muscles and reflexes is far more 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 one 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.

Shoot 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. Choose the best load with the best choke and you have the combination most likely to put teal down.

Wear the right clothing: Being prepared for any type of hunt is key. Teal season occurs this month, and the weather in September can be hot and steamy or unseasonably cold at night or early in the morning. On humid days, wear clothing that wicks moisture away from your body so that you are not drenched in sweat and your body temperature stays stable. Carry along an additional light jacket in case it is cool or will be later.

Carry the extras: Warmer weather may mean insects will be on the prowl, especially late in the afternoon. Swatting at mosquitoes is a good way to alert the teal of your presence. Be sure to pack mosquito repellent.

Decoying the teal: The large loads of decoys can be left at home. Teal decoy easily, and a dozen decoys are more than enough to attract the attention of passing birds. Ducks don’t recognize size, either. I utilize my regular mallard decoys. The bigger the dekes, the sooner passing birds will spot them. If you are a beginning teal hunter with little equipment, consider using some type of empty bottle as a decoy. Anything from a 16-ounce soda bottle up to 1 liter in size will make terrific teal decoys once that have been spray-painted. A rough combination of black, brown, green and white will work. Early decoys were solid white bleach bottles. They worked miracles on teal and produced mallards and gadwalls during the regular season. Teal are the most non-discriminate ducks out there. If they see decoys, they will most likely land in them. This scenario is great for youngsters and first-time hunters. Flushing the birds give young hunters straight away-angled shots. Increasing their success rate is one way to help ensure youngsters will be interested in trying their hand once again and with other types of hunting.

Calling all teal: Calling is not a requirement for teal hunting, but it does add a new dimension. A simple teal whistle works fine, but don’t disregard your mallard call. Short, guttural “tuk, tuk, tuks” will work. Teal fly early, so remain vigilant or you may miss seeing them on the first flyby. But check your watch for shooting hours. In most states, shooting hours for teal start at sunrise, and not 30 minutes before as it does for regular duck season. That is because teal are the only ducks in season in September and identification must be perfect.