Anyone who has pursued early-season teal has certainly had their share of misses at a flock of fast-flying aerial acrobatic teal. You fire off three rounds and can’t believe you missed all three times! You start taking inventory of the boxes of shells you brought, hoping you have brought enough. I would like to lay out five helpful yet disciplined tips to put into use to consistently kill more teal per box of shells.
Teal Hunting Is Fast and Furious
In the world of waterfowl hunting, blue-winged teal are one of the most acrobatic of all waterfowl. As the season goes on, their acrobatics only seems to improve. Even seasoned duck hunters are left in awe at the aerial display. There are ways to improve your odds this duck season. This brings us to our first tip to put more teal on the table.
1. Smooth is fast. This is a saying we use all the time in tactical applications and is very true for wing shooting as well. Make a smooth and deliberate mount of your shotgun and move your barrel smoothly through the bird to its head and pull the trigger. Try not to play catch-up with the bird and stay behind with the hopes of snatching rapidly ahead and making a miracle shot. Keep it smooth and follow through and you will be shocked at how many more teal you will kill.
It’s opening day, your decoys are set and everything seems perfect. Experienced teal hunters know that even with everything just right, timing is everything. From Texas to Missouri and from Louisiana to Mississippi, all duck hunters know that a little teamwork goes a long way. Timing and teamwork bring us to point number two.
2. Stand ’um up. On many, many occasions, people let teal get waaay too close before they shoot. I like to try and shoot my first shot at 20-30 yards or so and teal will usually stand straight up like a skyscraper and present you much easier shots. If you wait to shoot when they are 10 yards or so, your pattern is very tight and not very forgiving. Have someone shoot first and stand up the flock and then start picking them off one at a time.
You can improve the odds of taking blue-winged teal, green-winged teal and cinnamon teal before duck season begins. Improve your odds by knowing your shotgun and how it patterns. Knowing your shotgun, its pattern at different ranges and its performance with different ammo simply cannot be taken for granted. This brings us to tip number three.
3. Change your choke/load combination. Blue/Green wing teal are the smallest dabbling ducks in the country and require much less terminal velocity to bring them down than a mallard. This is a good time for 4s, 5s or 6s to reign supreme. If you shoot an aftermarket choke tube like a Patternmaster or JEBs, take out your full or modified and opt for a “decoy” or short-range tube. Most of your shots will be less than 35 yards, and you will have a dense and gap-free pattern with a good wad stripping choke rather than a constriction-style choke.
All duck hunters have been there — it’s opening day and you sit freezing in a duck blind before the sun comes up. You're shooting the breeze with the other hunters in the blind and sipping coffee. All at once, the sun is up and suddenly you have more blue-winged teal than you ever dreamed of bearing down on you. What do you do next? That brings us to tip number four.
4. Keep your head down and focus. It is very easy to want to look at the whole show when 50 bluewings are twisting and dive-bombing the dekes at daylight. However, this will usually lead to three spent hulls and your retriever looking at you with disgust. Pick a single bird and kill him FIRST. Don’t worry about the others that are zig-zagging like they are possessed by a devil. When your cheek meets your stock, keep it there and maintain that focus and I guarantee you will kill more birds.
If teamwork is a key factor to bagging more teal, then you don’t want to be the weak link in the duck blind. Being organized from opening day, knowing your gear, where your gear is in the blind and how to get to it quickly is key. It is common for young duck hunters to have teal buzz through and only manage one shot. That brings us to tip number five.
5. Keep other shells handy. Teal are notorious for flying the first 30-45 minutes of legal shooting time and then almost disappearing. As soon as you are done shooting, IMMEDIATELY reload. I have certainly been guilty of looking and seeing more birds approaching and raising up only to hear a “click” and realize I never reloaded my gun. Try and keep the shells in a wader pouch, bench or somewhere that is very easy and convenient to reach. I will often attempt to put shells in a loaded gun to make sure I am ready for the next bunch that falls into the blocks. Just as fast as the action can start, it can certainly end, so be sitting on go with a reloaded weapon.
This Teal Season Can Be Different
No one wants to be a weak link. The duck hunter who can only manage a few shots despite the fact that the teal were plentiful and conditions perfect. Thinking back to the last teal season, you vowed to shoot more teal. That’s why you took the time to read these tips. Try and apply these tips this year when teal season rolls around and you don’t have to be a weak link. I know some of this may seem like common sense and other parts may be new to you, but give them a shot and see if they don’t help you this teal season. Maybe this year, you can be the hunter who tagged out.