The Last Days of the Illinois Early Teal
Season - Sept 13-15 2010
Thursday night the trip to "duck camp" was in time to unload and get setup
for the next morning. Daisy and I
left about 4:00 am. The fog was just nearly dense enough to shut most down (if they depended on spotlights).
However, I've been to the same spot a couple miles down river many times. We moved down the shoreline
of Big Slough and made a right turn about where the Cable Crossing was supposed to be. In a few minutes
the top outlines of "barrier islands" became semi-visible. Moving on down a bit more the familiar outline of
the twin islands (one small and the other larger) had us shooting through a small cut and out into the main
channel. The fog was too thick to spot the red or green channel makers, but the tops of the two main islands
marking the way were visible above the fog. The main channel hooks left here so I stayed close to the
first island which has a large flashing light marking the east side of the channel. After following the
shoreline of this island, our island was next up on the left. It took awhile for the top of the tree line to jump
out of the fog.
I was moving at about a third of the speed I would normally run if the red and green channels markers could
be lit up with the spotlight. The second island has a distinctive terrain and horizon. First there is a.....well it
is easy to remember if you've been there several times. The temporary blind is right in line with......a land
mark......which I recognize. Turning in toward shore, the motor has to be tilted up and finally the weeds
and shallow water make it impossible to motor any further. Using my trusty ski pole, the bottom is probed
other side of the boat. When it is about knee deep, I step out and walk the boat in the last 50-75 yards.
Right on target we came to the narrow opening in the purple loosestrife which leads into the blind. It was still
very dark and no other hunters were around. Isolation is a rush!
The first job was to unload the boat. Next, the dog hide had to be setup. The "dog of the day" will stay put
while I go about business. After everything is unloaded, the decoys are "planted". Friday was to be only three
mallards and about eight teal. We went small. Then I set up two MOJO's (a baby teal and hen mallard). A
"camo" cover was placed over the boat which was then pushed and walked up the shoreline 50 yards where
it was tucked into the shore cover.
Today's hunt with Daisy was mostly a dry run for Saturday. The Illinois side of the river had been hunted hard
since the 4th of September. We did not see a single teal all morning. However, the next day was Saturday's
regular opening day on the Iowa side of the river. My prediction was that a lot of secure teal were going to be
moving and confused.
The next morning Gunny and I left earlier. The good news was two fold......no fog and we were first to the
area again. This time I added goose decoys to the spread and moved the MOJO's out further from the
shoreline. Rain was in the forecast, but my blind was designed to be easily covered. Good thing! We beat the
storm by getting setup early. It wasn't long before thunder and lightning moved in from the north. But first the
ducks were put on the move at a half an hour before sunrise on the Iowa side. There was almost continuous
shooting for about an hour. The Iowa season started at a half an hour before sunrise, whereas the Illinois teal
shooting time started at sunrise. That first half hour I had to wait. The reason being the need to identify teal
from other ducks. Gunny and I had teal in our decoys way before legal shooting time, but they didn't stay
When shooting time arrived, I missed on three straight opportunities. AAarrgghhh!!. Then finally we got
a couple. One Gunny marked and the other I had to handle him to. Then the rain and lightning started up.
I stayed low and waited. During the height of the storm (which was quite spectacular) there were shots
ringing out from the Iowa side. Nothing was going to stop them on opening day..........I guess.
As the rain let up, three teal came from out of nowhere....in a way only teal can duplicate. I shot three
times and was just beginning to think there was no way I could have missed with all three. However, out
of the corner of my eye I saw one drop down about hundred yards out. Gunny was handled to that one
and we were almost finished. Soon another teal came in. The results ended up a limit shot, but only three
retrieved. This one landed about 200 yards out on the other side of the American Lotus and lily bed. It was
swimming, but not well. I got Gunny to within about 15 yards of it when it dove under......and never came
up. Gunny hunted the area for about ten minutes. It was lunging water which made handling more difficult.
The wind in my face didn't help matters. He searched the shoreline and finally I could see that he was
getting tired. I called him off.
If you look in the last photo behind Gunny and beyond the American Lotus bed there are three logs
sticking up. The teal we lost was last seen diving by the one on the left. After loading everything up, Gunny
and I took the long walk out to this area and made another search with no luck.
Another early teal season is over. It was not as productive as others, but hunting is not about limits....it's the
ritual of going and doing that is the joy. What a great day for an old man and his youngest dog!
By Saturday night all the gear was dried and put away. My gun was totally stripped down and clean. So
with a little fishing, some fillets were added to the teal tenders. The decision to not hunt Sunday morning
was easy. A steady drizzle was the final nail in that brief thought. We arrived home about noon to watch
the Bears demoralize the hapless Cowboys. Life just doesn't get much better than this weekend.
"Thursday - unloading at duck camp"
"just after sunrise"
"Iowa side pelicans"
"camo" covered (and the trusty ski pole)
"tucked out of sight"
"Gunny gets in his last lick"
"the perfect ending"
"a few days later - grilled teal rolls & fresh garden tomatoes"