Kyle Wintersteen, Managing Editor
SHOTSHELL MANUFACTURERS have no greater allies than blue-winged and green-winged teal. The diminutive ducks destroy shooting averages, confounding us with their unpredictable aerobatics. Yet on paper, teal shouldn’t present the challenge we know them to be. They are in fact slower than many ducks, including mallards. Why do we miss them? Their uniquely erratic flight — which results in the perception of high velocity — causes shooting form to falter. But don’t worry. These tips to hitting teal will help you get on target this season.
Teal present the illusion of incredible speed, and the effect is exacerbated when hunters rush the shot. Slow down — you likely have more time to shoot than you think. Smoothly and deliberately mount your shotgun and ease it ahead of a drake. You’ll be astonished by how much the teal themselves appear to slow down.
Never Play Catch Up
There are some great swing-through style shooters, but for most of us, if a teal gets ahead of our swing, he’s going to win. So avoid playing catch up. Start your swing as you mount the gun, and match your barrel’s velocity to the teal’s. You are now prepared to insert the barrel ahead of the teal for a sustained lead or directly upon it for a pull-away shot.
Maintain Extreme Focus
Pick out a single drake and focus intently on its head. Thus you are more likely to hit the front half of the bird and avoid being distracted by his comrades. As importantly, if the drake darts as only teal can, your eyes and in turn your gun barrel will follow. This instinctive shooting method is far more effective than aiming the gun barrel and attempting to track it with the teal. The latter almost always leaves you a step behind.
Pattern Density Kills
Given that greenwings are the smallest dabbling ducks in North America, a dense, gap-free pattern is essential. Loads of No. 5 or No. 6 shot are ideal. Whereas a 1 1/8-ounce load of No. 2 steel contains about 140 pellets, 1 1/8-ounces of No. 6 steel comprises roughly 350 pellets — 2.5 times the density. No. 5 or No. 6 shot might not adequately penetrate a mallard at 35 yards, but today’s high-velocity offerings, especially, retain plenty of energy to drop teal.