Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Early Teal
By Bob Humphrey
The forecast is in and the news is good for waterfowlers this fall. With a total duck population estimated at almost 50 million birds - 43 percent higher than the long term average - the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed liberal hunting season lengths and bag limits for the upcoming 2014-15 waterfowl seasons. States can select their individual seasons from within the federal frameworks, and several have the option of instituting early teal seasons.
Early seasons give many northern hunters what might be their only opportunity to pursue these early migrants. The weather is typically mild, providing the potential for a more pleasant experience. But don’t underestimate these diminutive ducks.
Teal are the fighter jets of the waterfowl world. Unlike the neat formations of their larger cousins, they fly in tight groups, darting erratically this way and that like a ball of bait being attacked by a barracuda, presenting an unrivaled wingshooting challenge. Sporting clays, particularly the springing teal station, can help to hone your shooting skills.
Teal often use the same areas annually, but you’ve got to be precise. Set up just a few hundred yards off the mark and you may see plenty of birds but never fire a shot.
These dainty ducks can also be particular about the company they keep. Standard mallard decoys might work, but you’re far better off using smaller teal decoys. Fortunately, you don’t need many. A dozen will suffice, though more certainly won’t hurt.
Calling is much the same for teal as for larger ducks. In fact, you don’t need to be quite as fancy, but it’s helpful if you can match their higher-pitched squeaks and whistles. Do this with a teal-specific call, or by ratcheting up the band on your standard mallard call to achieve a higher pitch.
GUNS AND LOADS
Think light. The closest thing to teal are doves, which call for lighter loads and guns. You don’t need the big 12s for this fast action. A 20 gauge is more than enough, and more maneuverable. And because you don’t need the heavy knockdown power, smaller shot sizes - 4, 6, or even 7-1/2 - are a better option, providing more pellets in your pattern.
Watch the weather. The birds often head south ahead of fast moving cold fronts. When you see one in the forecast, load up the ATV and head for your favorite early-season blind.