There’s nothing graceful about me when I hunt teal. In fact, my last teal hunt was a comedy of errors; between tripping and filling my waders with marsh water and getting my shotgun caught in weeds mid-mount, I’m sure I kept my fellow hunters entertained. I’ve even become such a professional at thrusting my gun in the air in anticipation of a dunking, that I could probably get a second job as a stuntwoman. My only redeeming quality as a duck hunter is that when I play my cards right and focus, I can usually hit my target, and with one shot at that. I might have a sore shoulder from an improper gun mount, but you can bet there will be a dead bird in the marsh.
Like with most types of hunting, duck hunting has a learning curve, and there are definitely some areas I still struggle with. My Achilles heel has been learning to wade in sticky marsh mud. Teal are fast, fast ducks and the last thing you want coming between you and that quacker when it’s shooting time is immobility. If your feet are planted, nay, cemented, in mud and you can’t easily swing your shotgun along the bird’s flight path, the probability of you hitting your target goes down exponentially. Teal don’t stick around for you to free your trunks and catch up.
|My first ever Teal limit: five blue-winged, one green-winged.|
Although I won’t disclose how many boxes of shells I went through as I rounded the learning curve, I got my first-ever limit of teal this year, and with the daily possession limit now six birds, it couldn’t have happened during a better season. Once I got over the excitement of being able to fill every loop on my duck tote for the first time, I sat back and reflected on all of the events that led up to that amazing moment and what I would remember most. This is what came to mind:
- Waders filled with water, but a gun held in the air staying bone-dry
- A sore shoulder from a hurried gun mount, but a dead bird in the distance
- An onset of A.D.D. as “wads” and “jags” of teal appear every where you look, but it’s the most relaxed you’ve been in months
- A mouthful of mosquitoes and midges for breakfast, but the prettiest sunrise you’ve ever seen
- Cursing missed opportunities and praying for another group of ducks to come in
- The passing on of old traditions and appreciating new technology
- Friendly competition, but teamwork first
- One dream fulfilled, and a new standard set
- Teal hunting at its best, and a huntress who’s getting better
By hunt’s end I was tired, wet, muddy and bloody, but I couldn’t have been more proud. And although limiting on teal won’t make me more graceful, I would like to think there is a lot to be said for someone who “falls down seven times, and stands up eight,” especially in mud.