by Bret “T-Bone” Amundson
What’s a duck hunter’s favorite color?
According to Wikipedia, the Blue-winged Teal is 16 inches long, has a wingspan of 23 inches and weighs 13 ounces.
What it doesn’t say, however, is how to hit them when they’re dropping out of the sky like a falling oak leaf in a tornado.
Ben Brettingen and I were greeted with 80 degree temperatures as we unloaded at Watson Hunting Camp (WHC) near Lac Qui Parle Monday afternoon. An afternoon pheasant hunt on the WHC preserve disappeared as quickly as the water my dog spilled on the cement.
We set up the mobile recording equipment and began to create radio magic for the upcoming Minnesota Sporting Journal Radio show. We recorded the history of the Lac Qui Parle area and a few tips on decoy spreads, which will get played back on a station near you this weekend.
The talk turned to the morning’s waterfowl hunt and centered on the abundance in the area. Early season teal hunts can be a good tune up if you haven’t shouldered the scattergun much since last season. However, it comes at a price. The small bird darts through the air like a 95 mile-an-hour knuckleball. If R.A. Dickey and Glen Perkins had a kid, he’d throw like a teal.
I’ve been known to enjoy pulling the trigger, and when the suggestion of five stand came up, I was first in line. It’s fun and a good way to knock the rust off before a morning of buzzing blue wings.
A quick scouting trip resulted in a location for the next day, and we were later fueled by a quick pizza in the WHC bar. A quick night in the WHC hotel had us rested for the torrential teal downpour.
It did not disappoint. 10 minutes before my watch gave us the go ahead, the slough was alive with whistling wings. Finally, the all clear sounded, and the battle had begun.
Kamikaze teal were dropping out of the sky like 13 ounce hail stones in a summer storm. We were often standing at the water’s edge with one of the two retrievers swimming through decoys, and another wave would approach.
By 8:00 o’clock a.m., we were within two birds of our five-man limit. We shot 28 ducks in just over an hour, and the majority of them teal.
My Labrador Mika even got in on the action and had her biggest day retrieving ducks. Of course, that was partly because she was stealing retrieves from Chuck Ellingson’s chocolate Morgan. For some reason, I think she enjoys bringing a 13 ounce teal back in her mouth more than a 13 pound goose.
The Blue-winged Teal population is estimated at 9.2 million . . . minus 28.
by Bret “T-Bone” Amundson