There are several species of teal, with the most common being the blue winged teal, green winged teal, and cinnamon teal. They are one of the smallest species of ducks, rarely weighing more than a pound, with blocky bodies and large heads. Drake blue-winged teal are slightly larger than green-winged teal, with a dark colored head, a white stripe in front of the eye, and a light blue patch and green patch separated by a white stripe on their wings.
Drake green winged teal have a brown head with a green streak behind their eye and a white stripe on their side, as well as the blue and green coloration. Females are a mottled brown color, with green-wing teal having a darker eye-line. Cinnamon teal are an obvious cinnamon color, with a similar wing coloring to the other teal. All species of teal prefer shallow marsh areas where they feed on a variety of insects and crustaceans, as well as vegetation and some grains.
Where To Hunt Teal
Green-winged teal are the most widespread of the teal, covering almost all of North America. Like most waterfowl, these ducks migrate from breeding grounds in Canada and the Northern United States to the south, sometimes all the way to northern South America, where they spend the winter. Blue-winged teal are only slightly less widespread, covering the same areas as the green-winged teal minus California and parts of the southwestern United States. Cinnamon teal are the least widespread, as they are only found in the western half of the United States, Mexico, and South America.
Great teal hunting can be found throughout the United States, but some hotspots include the Louisiana Delta, the Texas Gulf Coast, and the Delmarva Peninsula Marshes around Virginia and Delaware.
Teal Hunting Techniques
Teal are typically hunted over water with the use of decoys. While they can be hunted throughout the general duck season, teal are predominantly targeted during the early teal season. This season takes place during September, with start and end dates being state specific. Teal do not do well in cold weather, causing them to make their migration much earlier than other species of ducks, and creating the early hunting season. They thrive in very shallow water, with shallow marsh flats and sheet water over agricultural fields being prime areas for an early teal hunt. Southern hunters often target these agricultural areas holding milo or rice during this time.
A successful teal hunt does not hinge on the amount of decoys in your spread, as usually a dozen or two does the job. These ducks are often in large groups and are well known for their fighter jet-like ability to zoom overhead before you can even raise your gun. However, teal will often give you two or three looks before they either decide to land or bug out, and calling can be extremely effective. Using either a hen call, (raspy mallard style call), or a drake whistle, teal can be convinced to take a closer look and give hunters a shot.
Because teal are so small, large shot loads are not needed, with #6 steel shot being more than adequate to knock down the birds. However, their speed and habit of offering crossing shots suggests the need for a wider style choke, like an improved cylinder, to throw a wider pattern and up your chances of making contact.
Teal Hunting Regulations
Those looking to hunt teal must purchase both a base license, a state waterfowl permit, and a federal duck stamp. Seasons vary depending on the state, but the early season typically begins in September and lasts a few weeks. After this, teal can again be hunted with the start of the general duck season that begins in October or November and continues through January.
Why Target Teal?
Teal offer duck hunters the opportunity to chase birds before the start of regular season in weather that is often much more comfortable. In addition to the early start, teal are often cooperative and, if the flight is good, offer a lot of opportunities throughout the morning.