THE TEAL ZONE

SHOOT MORE EARLY-SEA­SON TEAL BY ZE­RO­ING IN ON THEIR FA­VORITE HAUNTS

Outdoor Life - - WATERFOWL INSIDER - BY TOM CAR­PEN­TER

AAT ITS BEST, teal hunt­ing can be down­right easy. Find some wa­ter in teal coun­try, throw out a few de­coys, and en­joy fast shoot­ing and great fun, right?

Yes, early-sea­son teal hunt­ing is all about good times. But a laid-back ap­proach only works for so long on bluew­ings, cin­na­mons, and green­wings. Real teal hunt­ing suc­cess comes down to un­der­stand­ing the birds bet­ter and mi­cro­manag­ing your setup site.

You need to find the zone within the teal zone.

MAK­ING SENSE OF TEAL

▶Once hunt­ing sea­son starts, pud­dle-lov­ing bluew­ings and cin­na­mons shift to smaller and smaller wa­ter, where hun­ters rarely go. Once, in a hard-hunted western Min­nesota pot­hole com­plex, one of my sons and I set up on a 20-foot-wide ditch hold­ing maybe 6 inches of wa­ter, and we shot a nice strap of bluew­ings.

Even green­wings, which are smaller in stature than bluew­ings but pre­fer big­ger wa­ter, turn to smaller wa­ters when they’ve been buzzed by steel.

An­other son and I once spent a morn­ing watch­ing groups of green­wings drop into a maze of pud­dles that flanked a large marsh where sev­eral groups of other hun­ters waited un­der empty skies. Com­bined, they shot only two vol­leys at first light. The boy and I skipped our evening hunt to scout that af­ter­noon, and we shot lim­its of teal back at one of those pot­hole hide­outs the next morn­ing.

MA­JOR ZONE: RIVERS

The beauty of hunt­ing teal on small- to medium-size rivers and streams is that no­body else thinks to hunt there. The key to suc­cess is ze­ro­ing in on the still-wa­ter mi­cro zones that teal pre­fer.

BENDS Any bend in a flow­ing wa­ter­way will pro­duce a back­wash of calm wa­ter out of the main cur­rent. Set up here, on the pool that forms down­stream and in­side of the bend. POINTS The eddy be­hind a point also of­fers calm-wa­ter seclu­sion. Set up on the point to shoot at fly-by teal as well as those de­coy­ing in to your setup.

MA­JOR ZONE: BACKWATERS

The key to hunt­ing teal near a large river is get­ting off the main flow al­to­gether and set­ting up on back­wa­ter mi­cro zones that of­fer seclu­sion and still wa­ter.

OXBOWS To find a good oxbow lake or slough, sim­ply study a stretch of river us­ing the satel­lite photo fea­ture on Google Maps. Boat, kayak, or ca­noe to a spot where you can land the boat, then hike in and pot­hole-it. SPILLOVERS A sum­mer or au­tumn with am­ple rain pro­duces over­flow ponds, pools, sloughs, and bays. Teal flock to these shal­low, food-filled flood zones.

MA­JOR ZONE: MARSHES

Teal love marshes. It’s tempt­ing to set up where the view is big and wide. But to shoot a lot of ducks, head back to where the birds re­ally want to be. Sac­ri­fice 10 min­utes of dawn shoot­ing for a cou­ple hours of small flocks, dou­bles, and sin­gles back in these mi­cro zones: POT­HOLES Get up ex­tra early and work your way back to an out-ofthe-way hole, pool, pond, pud­dle, or open­ing off the big wa­ter.

DITCHES Most marshes fea­ture some man-made ditches in or around them. Hunt these smaller wa­ters. POCK­ETS If you’re go­ing to hunt big wa­ter, tuck your setup back in bays, coves, and pock­ets off the main ex­panse.

A bluew­ing teal drake flushes for more se­cluded wa­ter.

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