On the opening Saturday of early teal season, Charles and Charity hustled the kids to the babysitter as soon as she would take them and headed to a friend’s pond to make their first attempt at sitting over decoys for the little ducks. Sporting their hip boots and limited camouflage, they hauled their “dove buckets” (the camo-covered insulated 5 gallon buckets with the butt pad on the lid) over into a patch of sunflowers.
The pond sits on the south shore of the Platte River, just a couple of miles west of the confluence with the mighty Missouri. Their spot was on the southern end of the pond, with a little peninsula jutting northward out into the water, where Charles set up about five decoys on the point. They sat on the western side of the peninsula, with their backs to the rising sun and another 5-10 decoys out in front of them.
They watched the big ducks and geese move along the Platte as the air grew warmer. Canadian geese flew overhead. Shots rang out along the river to the west of them, but they didn’t see any teal flush away from the sound of the reports. A couple of mature bald eagles flew from the river and an immature perched in the tree above their heads, eyeing the decoys for awhile before moving on. Charles worked his teal call every now and again, while his trusty retriever Sam laid next to the bucket, as still as he could be but nervous with excitement and attentive to his master’s every move.
The doves teased them, moving around in nearby trees and shrubs, but they sat patiently for the ducks. A flock of turkeys came out of the woods on the north side of the pond to pick grit off of the beach, while a pair of wood ducks sat lazily in the pond nearby. Herons and cormorants took their time moving from shore to shore, picking at little fish.
Then, like the Air Force Thunderbirds working an air show, a flock of 15 blue-winged teal flew fast and high over their heads. ”There they are,” whispered Charles, “don’t look at them!” But it was too late, as Charity’s face and glasses were already pointed at the sky, watching the teal zoom out of range. Charles worked the teal call a little as they watched the flock disappear into the distance, paying no mind to their feeble attempts at fooling them to land. And as fast as it had begun, it had ended. That was the action for the day, without a shot being fired.
They tried changing spots, moving into a tall patch of ragweed that made them both sneeze their heads off, but nothing made the little ducks appear again.
Charles has been back nearly every weekend day since, with no luck. He was able to bring home a handful of doves and get Sam to tree a couple of coons, but no little ducks. Recently, he’s been spending some time scouting the southern bank of the Platte river for an easy access point to get on to the sandbars, but it is a bit challenging since the southern side of the river typically has the main channel. Pack up the canoe with layout blinds and head into the river to set up on some well established sandbars?
With snipe to be chased and big duck season coming on in a few weeks, time is running out on solving the early teal problem this fall, but you can bet it is something that they’ll think about and study for the next year and try some new tactics in 2013.