Finally, Dove Season

Finally, it’s a happening thing!

September is the transition month. Dove season kicks off in the north and central zone on the first. Early teal season begins on the 18th and south zone dove season begins on the 24th, finally. The first cool front usually pushes through around mid-month and begins to break the summer heat. Finally!

If you are fortunate enough to have a place to hunt doves in the north or central zone, you can use that as a warm-up for teal season. At this writing, I can’t tell you what kind of a teal season we are going to have. Regardless of the prospects, go hunting. Teal season is the best time to find out if your waders have a hole in them. You will get a head start on untangling decoy lines and blowing the dust off your duck calls.

Teal season, with its small bag limit, offers some great opportunities to learn and improve your hunting skills. When the stories are told on Monday about the weekend hunts we all too often hear comments like, “we were in and out in 30 minutes.” It seems as though hunters are more interested in how quickly they can “limit out” than learning and improving their skills as a hunter.

I remember a conversation I shared with my good friend Mark Landry from Lafayette, Louisiana a couple of years ago. Mark had a yellow lab named, “OJ” who was getting old. He knew he wouldn’t have many more hunts with OJ, so he decided to share opening day of the early teal season with his lab. Just him and OJ.

As the dawn broke and the birds began to move, Mark was not as anxious to fill his limit early. He talked about how OJ would shake with anticipation as teal began to work his spread. He even let birds light in his spread a few times without even thinking about shooting at them. He remarked to me that he realized that morning that even though teal are really fast-flying birds, when they are coming to decoys they slow down a lot before they land.

As the morning went by, Mark and OJ got their limit of teal. They also got a large limit of time spent together that evolved into memories. Mark took great pains to shoot selectively and at only one bird at a time so he could enjoy each retrieve that OJ made.

After picking up they returned to the camp at the Diamond L. Upon returning, the others there were bragging about how they had limited out and gotten back in less than an hour. When they asked Mark why it took so long for him to limit out and return, Mark just simply said, “Boys, OJ and I really enjoyed the morning."

After you fill your limit, the hunt doesn’t have to be over. Sit tight and call some more birds in. Watch how they react to your calling. You just might find that when calling ducks of any kind that less is better. Try rearranging your decoys. See if you can predict where the birds will land in your spread. This could pay big dividends later in the season when the birds are smarter!

Watch the birds as they come into the decoys. Observe how they seem to slow down and plop onto the water. When they slow down preparing to light, stand up and watch how long it takes them to change directions and get out of there. Try standing up too early and see how much LESS time it takes then to change directions and vanish.

I know teal are fast flyers. I remember late one afternoon while bass fishing with my friend Bill Bacon, the afternoon calm was interrupted by the sound of a rushing mighty wind. Caught off-guard, we looked at each other and then began to look around only to see three large flocks of teal appear over the trees above us, wings locked on a straight line to the other side of the lake. 

We both chuckled at how startled we were. The amazing thing to me was how loud they were and how we had heard them before they had appeared. Even though they came screaming into view, when they got to the other side of the lake, they all put the breaks on at the same time and just plopped into the water.

That is the magic second we talk about when we teach people to shoot ducks. The hardest thing to do, however, is to focus on only one bird at a time. In fact, the most common mistake we see wing shooters make when shooting a bird in a flock is not looking at only one bird.

You can focus on only one thing at a time.  When you look at two objects at the same time you are actually looking at the spot between them. To understand this, stand 10 feet away from a door. Look at the top of the door frame. Focus on the top left corner of the door frame. Now focus on the top right corner of the door frame. Now, look at both the left and right corners at the same time. Once your eyes stop moving back and forth between the two corners, you will be focused in the middle of the two corners. So, when you are looking at two birds at the same time, you are not looking at either of them; you are looking at the space between them. Guess where you will shoot?

When shooting decoying ducks, it is critical that you focus on one bird BEFORE you move and mount your gun. If you can focus on the head prior to moving, you will always make a better shot and a clean kill. If you look at the whole bird, your focus will always go to the wingtips because they are moving fast and your eyes go to the motion. The wingtips are two-thirds of the way back in the kill zone on the bird. When focused here, your chances for wounding the bird or missing behind go way up.  

The best way to practice for teal season is to go and shoot a few rounds of skeet. In a round of skeet, you get incomers, out-goers, and crossers at about 20 yards. These shots are ideal for preparing for early teal season.