There are few things as amazing as watching a Nebraska marsh wake-up in September – teal season is the perfect excuse to do just that.
With some free time this morning that’s exactly what I set out to do. The hope was yesterday’s cool down pushed more teal into central Nebraska – which already held a few. I knew of some public areas that held shallow water and decent amounts of “duck-food”. However, I was not able to do any recon yesterday so I packed light so I could move quickly.
An hour before sunrise I was sloshing my way to an area that held some birds earlier in the season, kicking out a few ducks in the process. Having found an opening in the middle of shin-deep water that was choked with a diverse mix of vegetation I set the few decoys I had brought & planted the mojo-dove.
Yes, the mojo-dove. It’s lighter than the other spinning-wing decoys I have and the ducks don’t seem to mind it’s a dove rather than a duck – at least not until it’s too late. As I have mentioned before, when hunting the teal season I like brown decoys as all the ducks are brown during this time of year. But the decoys themselves can be hard to see when the vegetation is as thick and tall as it can be during this time of year – that’s when the motion of the spinning-wing decoy really stands out.
In the ‘hawking-hour‘ just before shooting time you could hear the marsh beginning to stir: The wing beats of birds leaving their roosts; Feathers cutting the air as they cruised about; The quacks, squeals & whistles of ducks, grebes & other water-birds that had yet to take to wing. This makes the early morning work all worthwhile. Had a single come visit the decoys in the pre-dawn shuffle – then a pair had to check things out. But most of the other birds had better places to be.
It was just before sunrise that my first shot was fired. By that time I realized that I was not where the birds really wanted to be this morning. However, 40 yards away was another small opening in the smartweed & arrowhead that a few more teal were visiting. The choice was simple – grab my few decoys and make the hop or stay put and watch duck after small duck land in this more attractive area.
The move paid off and pretty soon a young male wood duck was interested in what I was offering. Not sure there is anything more colorful than a drake wood duck with the early morning light bouncing off his feathers. That young bird swam from decoy to decoy trying to make friends. A twisting teal, also intrigued by the fake ducks, brought an end to show – the woodie winging away to look for new. less-noisy friends. Not a minute later a northern harrier (hawk) was on the scene intrigued by my blue-winged prize, but unsure of how to pluck it from the water – so he flew over to study the mojo-dove.
My move was rewarded and from seemingly nowhere ducks of all sorts were on the move – mallards, spoonies, wood ducks and teal. Too soon all I could do was watch the spectacle and count the number of web-footed birds that slid into the open spot I was watching. Once they all decided to leave I quickly grabbed the decoys and headed out. While walking out I was making plans to return – with teal season open through this Sunday (9/18) so should you.