Here today, gone tomorrow, that’s almost always the tune of early season teal hunters across Texomaland.
And that’s why a couple of years ago I almost didn’t go on a September hunt as thoughts of low water conditions, unseasonably warm weather and a lack of positive hunting reports all conspired to make me think about punching the alarm clock’s snooze button.
But since the early teal campaign only lasts two weeks each September, I dutifully got up, filled the thermos with hot coffee, grabbed the hunting gear and loaded up my late, great chocolate Labrador retriever Buddy Boudreaux into the truck.
A short while later, after swatting a handful of mosquitoes as the sun rose high into the sky, I was regretting my decision with not one single teal spotted.
Until, that is, I heard the gathering sound of dozens of small waterfowl wings tearing a hole in the sky, a sound that grew louder and louder until it finally crescendoed over the two dozen decoys that were bobbing on the water in front of me.
As the Lab whined, I sat in amazement watching the giant flock of 75 or so birds sweeping their way over my spread a couple of times, alternating between losing altitude and gaining it as they tried to figure out en masse what to do.
Finally, I remembered what I was supposed to do and shouldered my shotgun to let loose with a couple of volleys of non-toxic shot, knocking down a couple of teal with those powder blue wings.
And with that, I got to watch my dog Buddy crash into the water, finally getting an opportunity to unleash the retriever DNA coursing through his quivering form.
In short, it was one of the most epic waterfowl flybys that I can ever recall. And all on a day when I almost didn’t get up out of bed to go hunting.
And that story is exactly why you should go hunting this weekend over the final couple of days of the 2016 early teal season despite the fact that current hunting reports are hit-or-miss.
Why? Because you never know what might happen in front of your duck blind this weekend, especially since the strongest cool front of the season is on the way along with a chance of rain and storms.
What will all of this mean for local teal hunters as the early season closes out across Oklahoma this Sunday, Sept. 25? Maybe not much of anything. But maybe, just maybe, one final push of birds that will give hunters a few great memories of a big flock of teal buzzing on by.
How can you take advantage of any last gasp bluewings that might arrive in Texomaland over the next few days?
First, you’ve simply got to be out there punching the clock if you want some wingshooting success. If you can get out and scout the day before, do so. If not, grab the decoys, load up the dog and head out to the blind to see what might arrive at first shooting light.
Second, be sure that you’re there on that marsh — or on that stock tank, small lake, reservoir flat or river – well before the crack of dawn.
“The main thing with teal here in (this area) is that it’s typically over about the same time it starts,” says my friend J.J. Kent, the head man at Kent Outdoors in Pottsboro, Texas (www.kentoutdoors.com, 903-271-5524).
“You’ve got to be there and be set up well before shooting light because the first 30 minutes is pretty much when it all happens. If you’re late, you’ve probably missed the boat.”
Third, take a chance with your final weekend decoy spread. Normally, I preach using hen decoys during the early teal season given the drab plumage of early migrating teal in September. But in this case, any chance of bagging a few last weekend bluewings might hinge on them actually seeing the spread and coming by just close enough for a shot.
So throw a few higher visibility bluewing, mallard or even pintail drake blocks into the decoy bag to give your spread a little more curb appeal. And for the same reason, don’t forget to add one or two spinning wing decoys to help draw attention to your final weekend decoy rig.
Fourth, be sure that you are properly concealed. Early teal aren’t as wary as late season mallards are, but by the time they arrive in Texomaland in late September, they’ve already been shot at by more than a few hunters on their journey down through the Central Flyway.
Using a good camouflage pattern with a mixture of brown, green and tan colors — Realtree’s Max 5, Mossy Oak’s Shadow Grass Blades or the Sitka Gear Optifade Waterfowl pattern all come to mind – will help keep you concealed in the marsh this weekend.
Ditto for using plenty of native vegetation to spruce up your duck hunting blind as you hope for a few high-speed fly-bys and corkscrew maneuvers that blue-winged teal are infamous for.
Finally, don’t overcall this weekend: “A few subtle quacks can get them to turn around and dump into the decoys,” said Kent, an Avian X Decoys and Zink Game Calls pro-staffer. “And like calling any waterfowl, you want to call at their tail feathers when they’re going away but when they’re coming in, leave them alone.”
The bottom line here is that the current migration of early teal is a hit-or-miss trickle kind of an event right now as the 2016 season prepares to take its final bow this upcoming weekend.
But there are bound to be a few flocks of the blue-winged teal early birds pushing south as the strong cool front arrives from the north.
So why not get out there early in the morning, toss the decoy spread out, turn the spinners on, load up the shotgun and grab a Sure-Shot Yentzen teal call to see what might happen?
Because you never know – you might be there on the one morning when the early season’s biggest and best flock of teal roars on by.
“The sound of them buzzing over the decoys, it does wonder for the heart,” said Kent.
And I’ll add a hearty amen to that, as long as you get out of bed, that is.
Lynn Burkhead is Senior Writer for the Outdoor Channel, World Fishing Network and Sportsman Channel and lives in Denison, Texas