As blue-winged teal make their annual journey south from the plains, they bring good hunting weather with them. Teal are the harbingers of autumn, of campfires and hunt camps, of the spirit of adventure so vital in the life of every sportsman.
With them come visions of leather game straps loaded with birds, of game trails and wallows, of crisp mornings looking out at still water with the sun winking behind the shoulder of the world.
After a long and brutal Louisiana summer, news of their arrival — and everything it symbolizes — is quite welcome. In fact, there are as many reasons to celebrate the coming of these birds as there are hunters to welcome them. Teal are quick, challenging birds to shoot, and they are good eating. Teal hunts are often short and action-packed. It’s not uncommon for a teal hunt to last 15 or 20 minutes; the birds are fast and furious and a heck of a good time.
Quick limits last year in central Louisiana
Last season, teal hunting was especially good in central Louisiana. Tropical storms kept the birds from their usual September haunts in the coastal marshes, resulting in fantastic hunting for those who’d prepared for the season.
“We did great last year in LaSalle Parish,” said Tibby Figueiredo of Ville Platte, who hunted with his 11-year-old son, Brecken. “We scouted during the two weeks leading up to the hunt and figured out where they were going to be.”
Hunting success is always a combination of preparation and luck.
“But last year was phenomenal,” Figueiredo said. “We have never seen so many teal; it was unreal.
“I think the hurricanes pushed them out of the coastal marshes into central Louisiana,” Figueiredo said. “Sometimes they’ll fly down south and stay there for a while, but the weather brought them to us.”
Soon, the teal will once again swoop into Louisiana in waves, traveling together in shapes that morph and tumble through the warm, September air. And like a thousand chestnuts cast from heaven, they’ll scatter and fall. They’ll alight on stumps and swamp-ruin in the shallows to mingle with native water birds; they’ll feed on seeds and tiny crustaceans; they’ll dive and play and shake beads of water from their heads with muted quacks.
Then, they’ll rise and disappear into the distance. Teal come and go like ghosts; make the most of the time they offer you.
Fast and furious birds
“Teal hunting is a challenge; it’s fast shooting, and a lot of fun when there are a lot of birds,” Figueiredo said. “Everyone is excited about hunting season, and teal hunting is a great way to start things off.
“I’ve done everything from hunting elk in Colorado to limiting out on squirrels; I’ve had some fun,” he said. “But bringing Brecken up is a new chapter; it’s mostly about him now.”
But a father’s role as teacher and guide is as rewarding as it is difficult.
“It’s fun for me, too,” Figueiredo said. “When (Brecken harvests an animal), I enjoy it like I’d (harvested) it myself.”
But Figueiredo knows not everyone is fortunate enough to have what his son has.
“That’s why I try so hard,” he said. “It takes a lot of patience, but I made a point … to share this when I became a father.
“Before we start each hunt, we say a prayer, thanking God for this day, this moment that we get together,” Figueiredo said. “(Brecken will say), ‘Hey Dad, we’ve got to say the prayer,’ or I will (remind him), but we always say a prayer before our hunt; it’s very important; you’ve got to keep God first.”
One thing is certain: the time for teal is once again upon us. The 2021 early teal season lasts 16 days. This year, it runs September 11-26.
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