Teal 0005

Hot, humid weather and biting insects of late summer and early fall tend to deter most waterfowlers from pursuing early season small ducks.  They can provide a fast introduction to waterfowl season and a great deal of fun.  Most of them tend to be rather thin-skinned when it comes to cold weather.  As soon as cooler temperatures appear on the scene, they head south.

Because the early season small ducks appear in early September, a time when dove season is open, all but dyed in the wool waterfowlers, tend to hunt doves.  The conditions seem to be more comfortable, and you do not have to get up so early.

Small ducks are dabbling ducks.  The most popular one is the teal.  They frequent fresh water marshes and rivers, feeding by dipping or tipping.  They will feed on the surface or only as far underwater as they can reach without submerging.  They eat primarily vegetable matter.

In Illinois, the menu includes water hemp, nutgrass, millet, smart weed, insects and small mollusks.  It is illegal to hunt waterfowl over planted millet but one can hunt over millet that is growing naturally.

Although many teal hunters use a call, they are smarter to leave the call at home.  Decoys and decoy placement are the important factor in teal hunting.  These birds are “social idiots.”  More than anything else, they need to be with other ducks.

If a duck of any kind lands in the decoy placement before you can shoot, then let it alone.  Teal will come to join them.  If you shoot into your decoy set-up, it tends to destroy decoys.

A good decoy set is to place both blue‑ and green‑winged decoys out in small groups of three to five.  Spread out some five dozen decoys, in the groups, as far out as a maximum kill zone.  An open area is the kill zone and it needs a clear definition.  This is good for other small ducks as well.

If the decoys are properly placed teal will drop low and fast right onto the water.  Teal seem to work very quietly and so keep the calling to a minimum if you must.

Teal calls emit a high pitch single reed sound.  They are not unlike a mallard hen call.  A few soft feeding chuckles and a few short hen quacks is all it takes. Spooked for any reason, birds on water will rise straight up in a tight group and will be out or range at what seems the speed of light.

In preparation for the small duck season, it is a good idea to go to a clay target range.  Ask that they throw you some “midis” (90 mm) and some “minis” (60 mm) targets.  Learn to shoot fast, crossing targets ‑ the kind that if you think about the shot, they will be gone.

Most small duck hunters are over-gunned.  A 20‑gauge with a modified or improved cylinder works.  Since pattern density is important, the shot size should be #6.  The average size of a picked teal is about the same as a bar of soap.  It does not take a lot of shocking power to down them.  Remember to practice with non-toxic shot.  You cannot use lead when hunting waterfowl and the shot pattern between lead and non-toxic shot can vary.

Pre‑season scouting is a good idea but not essential.  Teal hunting hot spots are predictable from year to year, if the habitat does not change.  One can make a quick check of each spot a few days prior to the opening of the season just to see if their in the area yet.

Because of the lack of meat on a teal and other small ducks, many hunters do not feel that they are worth the trouble.  Teal hunting is a ball and despite their size, they are great eating.  You just have to same them in the freezer until you get enough for a meal.  This year why not try it?



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  1. Pingback: HUNTING THE SMALL DUCKS | Don Gasaway's Blog

  2. Totally agree about saving teal up for a fine feed. Using a strip of bacon for a little seasoning just makes for a mouth watering supper, add some wild rice (who could ask for more – unless it’s homemade ice cream for dessert). And a fast pace hunt is just plain fun! Changing up the spread and finally getting that duck call just right is also a feeling accomplishment.

    Since the beginning of the production of duck decoys in 1873 by George Peterson, there have been countless variations and improvements in construction and appearance. Historically carved from wood or cork, modern duck decoys are typically made of canvas or plastic, are elaborately and very accurately painted to resemble various kinds of water fowl, and most recently have included remote control to simulate characteristics and movement habits.

    Lucky Duck is a great example of the Motorized Rotating Wing Drake Decoy. From the air it looks like the real thing and is a great way of getting ducks’ attention from far away. The Intermittent Timer shuts off the wing movement periodically, giving the decoy a more life like action. It will attract the flock to land right along side of it. The Intermittent Timer is plug and play compatible with Edge by Expedite’s Remote Control Kit. The heavy duty direct drive motor and new light weight wing design create a very quiet running system making this duck decoy a great addition to any decoy spread.

    Lucky Duck by Expedite is shipped complete with 6-volt rechargeable battery, battery charger, intermittent timer, adjustable stake, and 3-way switch for remote option.

    While it’s clear that hunters who use spinning-wing duck decoys shoot more ducks, it doesn’t mean they’ll always shoot their limit. And it isn’t entirely clear whether it actually adds ducks to the overall bag, or simply redistributes the harvest. Success with teal and wood ducks aren’t as great, but Lucky Duck Drake Decoys seem to be especially effective at drawing mallards closer, which, in turn, can help hunters determine what’s a drake and what’s a hen.

    A study could be taken to determine if hunters using duck decoys harvest more ducks than those who pass shoot or jump shoot; people who use boats harvest more ducks than those who hunt from land or with waders; or if blowing on a duck call is more successful than mimicking ducks with your own larynx. The use of motorized duck decoys’ enhances other hunting equipment indicating the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.

    And remember: Always keep in mind that your decoys need to be clean and well painted, it can make the difference between success and losing the flock; always work with the wind, ducks and geese will land into the wind, so set the decoys accordingly; waterfowl find safety in numbers, so the more decoys the better, ducks and geese are attracted to movement because it’s an indication to them that the birds are real and the area is safe.
    Enjoy the day and good hunting.

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