In close to two decades of chasing blue-winged teal across the Red River Valley during the month of September, my success has been…well, it has been modest at best.
Each season has produced one or two teal here. And every so often, two or three teal there.
But never a four-bird limit of blue-winged teal.
A hunt years ago with Sherman, Texas attorney Craig Watson and former Austin College assistant football coach Vance Morris was simply a day late and a dollar short.
Watson had discovered a sizable number of teal on Lake Texoma a few days before our hunt. But an overnight cold front and the here-today, gone-tomorrow flighty nature of bluewings left us with only a bird or two in the bag.
A hunt with my old high school pal Mike Bardwell several years back produced a really good shoot when a couple of good flocks screamed into the decoys. With four hunters in the blind, our bag of 11 teal wasn’t bad.
But it wasn’t a limit.
A year or two, a jump shooting effort on a North Texas stock tank brought me as close as I’ve ever been to a limit of blue-winged teal.
When the shooting was done, a surprising triple had been scored by yours truly.
But it was still one bird shy of a limit.
All of which might help explain my skepticism a week ago when pal J.J. Kent of Kent Outdoors (www.kentoutdoors.com ; (903) 271-5524) messaged me with the following: “Lynn, please call me! I have permission to hunt THE SPOT!”
Now it wasn’t that I doubted J.J.’s ability to find the little ducks.
Hardly – the Buck Gardner Calls, Mossy Oak, and Tanglefree Decoys pro-staffer is one of the top waterfowlers and guides in the southern Great Plains.
But given my past history, I’ll admit that I did doubt that the stars would align the next morning and that bluewings would swarm around our decoy spread as Kent promised.
To hear him tell of his scouting find, our hunt would be on the proverbial “X” and the swarms of migrating teal would be buzzing around our heads like a scene out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.
In essence, Kent told me to get ready for something like an outdoors television show on the Texas Gulf Coast where bluewings buzz around like mosquitoes and limits are all but a foregone conclusion.
So the next morning at O’Dark Thirty I found myself pulling up to a field with a good amount of sheet-water left over from Tropical Storm Hermine’s wet remnants as they passed through the region.
After covering up with Realtree Max-1 camo to match the green surroundings, I sprayed down with mosquito repellent, put on waders, and marched to the blind sitting in several inches of water.
Despite my protests, Kent insisted that I shoot first and bag my limit before he did.
So as shooting time arrived, I loaded up.
For all of 30 seconds before the first blue-winged teal buzzed by, circled hard and fast, put on the brakes and dumped into the decoys.
So quickly that I missed.
As I grumbled to myself “Here we go again,” a roaring sound filled my ears as a flock of 30 bluewings screamed by at Mach 1.
This time I straightened my barrel out a bit and knocked down the first teal of the day, a bird promptly fetched up by Kent’s young black Lab Bo.
This action was followed by an even bigger flock of teal roaring in as daylight gathered.
And while they were buzzing the decoy spread, even more teal joined the aerial circus. Followed by even more teal.
Soon, a swirling hurricane of wings – all tinged powder blue – were roaring by as I watched in amazement. In flocks of twos and threes, 10 to 15, and 20 to 30, the sky was soon a chaotic mass of one of the most beautiful duck species that there is.
Perhaps 200 teal were in the air at one time, so many that I was reluctant to shoot, afraid that I would knock down too many.
I should have known better.
But one by one, I began to make progress towards my four bird limit.
Finally, as a lone blue-winged rocketed over from left to right, my weathered Remington 870 pump gun followed the streaking form as I drove the bead ahead of the small duck and squeezed the trigger.
And just like that, all was calm – at least in my hunter’s heart and soul – as I sat in the eye of a bona fide Category 5 blue-winged storm.
With my first ever limit of blue-winged teal.
A limit that would be followed up shortly by Kent as he knocked down one, then another, and then a brace of bluewings to score his own four bird limit.
Less than an hour into the day, we were high-fiving, laughing, shooting digital photographs, and enjoying the glory of a Gulf Coast style teal hunt.
In a patch of tropical storm produced sheet-water right here in Texomaland.
As we packed up the decoys and left, I couldn’t help but think: “After all of these years, finally, I’ve got a limit of bluewings.”
Hopefully the next limit will not take another 20 years to come by.