The trouble with teal

photo-10Hunters who want to target the small, speedy blue and green wings have to wake up just as early as duck hunters in the normal season, all in hopes of filling a bag limit of two birds less than normal.
 
Not to mention that certain ducks are off limits, though their plumage looks strikingly similar to an impatient hunter in the early morning light.
 
Additionally, the duck hunting areas that contain dead plants and brush during the winter are fully green and thriving during teal season — in all their allergy-inducing glory. Couple these factors with mosquitos that rival the size of teal, heat and poisonous snakes that are still very much active, and you have normal teal season conditions.
 
These were the circumstances I encountered on my first Texas teal hunt Friday, as I headed with friend Jesse Auer of Denton, to a public lake north of Dallas. The moment I stepped out of the truck, the smell of the pollen smacked me like the recoil of a shotgun. The reason for the strong odor was made apparent as we turned a corner and had to walk through a field of chest-high ragweed.
 
A little ways into our trek, Jesse jumped back with a startled “woah!”
 
At the top of a ragweed plant directly in our path was either a banded water snake or cottonmouth, curled around one of the branches at face level. We stood for a moment on the path, discussing the exact species and came to a conclusion — it was indeed a snake, and that was enough information to persuade us to veer off the beaten path.
 
We made it to the hunting spot free of fang marks and set up with time to spare.
 
photo-11After a slow morning with no ducks killed, we started packing up to head back home. I kept my gun on my shoulder, because I was all too experienced with ducks coming into the decoys as you’re picking them up. And sure enough, two blue-winged teal tried to light on the mojo as I was turned around straightening up a bag. As soon as I saw them, they were already gone.
 
“I could have spit on those,” Jesse said.
 
So after all the critters, bugs and sweating that goes into a teal hunt, why do hunters do it?
 
Because next time, those two teal might fly in five minutes sooner.

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