Anyone who has hunted the early teal season knows that hunts can be over in a flash. This is possible on any given day, but your slow days will probably outnumber your quick ones. Teal can be totally absent from an area one day and everywhere in that location on the next. Blue-winged teal will winter far to the south of the rest of the US duck population while the green-wing stays in the southern US. Blue-wings will be found in Mexico, Cuba, and South America while we are chasing mallards and other species up here. Teal can move with the slightest weather change so hunters in the early season must be ready to go when they arrive so scouting is a critical element to hunter success.
Bottom line, weather moves these early migrating birds quickly. If you aren’t there to hunt them you may miss them entirely. Watching the weather patterns is a must, if there is a front moving the winds from the north the teal will be moving with it. Once they find an area they like, teal tend to return to those same areas every season. Find those preferred areas; keep an eye on them regularly throughout the years.
Teal love shallow waters, as little as six inches (essentially a mud flat) can be very attractive to them. They also love harvested rice fields that are holding water, shallow backwaters of large lakes, small ponds, and just plain low areas. They are on the move, so they need to feed as much as possible on every stop along the way.
Don’t plan on sleeping in. Most of the action is going to take place in the 30 minutes before sunrise, once the sun tops the trees it is generally over. There can be a few stragglers after that but don’t wait on that mid-morning flight as you would with big ducks.
Elaborate blinds are hardly necessary, standing in some tall grass or on a tree line is usually sufficient cover to hide you from these speedsters. Being alert is critical. Teal will bomb in on your location from any direction and can be gone and out of range in a heartbeat.
Teal are highly attracted to spinning wing decoys so it is always a good idea to have one or two going in your decoy spread. Large spreads of decoys might be needed if there is competition on public grounds but most hunts can be run with two dozen decoys or less. Teal will decoy to just about any species but we like to use their own kind to lure them into range. It is a solid idea to go as far as using all hens to replicate the lack of bright plumage of the September teal. Shallow water rigging is a must, the Texas style is perfect for a teal spread. You can put them out in a flash and have them up quickly once the hunt is over.
Small gauges suit themselves well to teal hunting. A 20 or 28 gauge loaded with steel 6 shot is a great combination for fast flyers at short range. Open choke or chokes are a good choice, try skeet or improved cylinder for impressive results. What you need is a combination of speed and pellet count in a teal load. The smaller gauges are fun but your regular duck gun in 12 gauge will do a great job as well.