Flight of teal promised that it’d be a good day

Waterfowl biologists have claimed that bluebird days are the best flight days for migrating waterfowl. That claim held true during our recent annual teal season here in Missouri, which ended last Sunday.

I skipped the opening weekend of teal season, because a lot of fair weather hunters crowd the lakes and streams for the opener. Being retired from my day job allows me the luxury of hunting during the week.

Blue-winged teal are early migrators, passing through the Mid-west from mid-August to late September.

I readied all of my teal hunting equipment a week ahead of time. Teal hunting is one of my favorite outdoor pursuits. The tiny 6-ounce ducks are the first migrators each fall. They begin showing up in Missouri in mid-August. The Missouri season usually begins around the fifth of September and runs two weeks.

I traveled a short distance from home to a 10-acre lake for my first teal hunt of the 2016 season. The lake is often covered with waterfowl during the regular duck season, so I reasoned that teal would be numerous there as well.

The morning air had a chill, a first hint that fall approached. Heavy cloud cover and a slight drizzle welcomed me as I stepped out the front door of my rural home. Thoughts of returning to the comforts of home and another cup of coffee crossed my mind.

However, this would be my first outing of the new hunting season. I would not miss it, rain or shine.

I paddled my olive drab kayak across the lake to the north end, where the water depth went from shallow to non-existent quickly. A watery jungle of mosses and smart weeds created the perfect habitat for teal. The minute birds love to loaf and feed in such areas.

I felt confident that I would connect with teal in this perfect location. Just as it became light enough to see well, I spotted a pair of birds flying straight at my decoys, perhaps two feet off of the water.

My watch indicated that 20 more minutes needed to tick away before legal shooting hours.

The pair of ducks turned to be wood ducks. A novice hunter could have easily mistaken the wood duck hen for a blue-winged teal. They look very similar. It is for that very reason that the Missouri Department of Conservation sets teal season shooting hours at sunrise, rather than 30 minutes prior, like regular duck season.

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