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BRIAN JOHNSON ON OUTDOORS: Teal season tactics

Teal season is finally here, and from the looks of the Facebook posts that I have seen, there are birds in the area.

Although you will have to manage the hot weather, snakes, alligators, and mosquitoes, teal hunting can be some of the best and most exciting hunting that the Texas Gulf Coast has to offer. Here are a few tips to make your teal hunting more productive.

1. Find the rice
Teal can be found in lakes, rivers, marshes, and ponds all across the state. However, the most consistent teal hunting year in and year out happens in a flooded rice field. It may be necessary to lease a field or to hire a guide in order to gain access to these properties, but it will more than likely be worth it.

A guided hunt can be bought for less than $200 in most cases and the action is fast and furious. It is not uncommon to see groups of 25, 50, or even 100 teal buzzing over the tops of your decoys well within shooting range.

2. Aim small, miss small
This is a saying that I have heard for years when shooting archery. I was taught to pick a tiny spot on a deer and focus on that when shooting.

This same principle certainly applies to teal hunting. The temptation is to simply shoot amongst the group of birds and hope for the best. In some cases, you can get several in one shot with this method.

Let me tell you from experience that in most cases you won’t! In fact, if you aim at nothing, that is probably what you are going to hit. When a large group of teal comes in, focus on one bird just like if you were shooting at a single.

3. Check for gators
Although I have never personally had a gator eat a dog or even known someone who has, I have heard many horror stories.

Before you send your dog on a retrieve, be sure to check the area for gators. A flashlight shined across the water in the dark will quickly reveal a gators glowing eyes.

Although shallow rice fields are less likely to have gators than deeper marsh ponds, the rice field canals can hold some giants. When the weather is hot, gators will be in or near deeper water so be cautious. When in doubt, it is best to just leave your dog at home. This sounds like strange advice coming from a dog trainer, but a few retrieves is not worth losing your faithful K9 companion.

4. Have fun
That’s right. … Have fun!

So many times as hunters, we are so focused on filling our limits or shooting a trophy that we forget to have fun. Remember that in hunting there are no guarantees.

Teal are migratory birds, which means that sometimes they will migrate in and other times they will migrate out. Make up your mind to enjoy the experience and not just the kill.

Use the time in the blind to strengthen your relationships with those you are with. Tell stories, laugh, enjoy a cup of coffee. Pay attention to the beautiful sunrise and remember to thank The Lord for the opportunity to even be able to hunt.

Hunting is a privilege that we are fortunate to have, so always remember to stay positive and be thankful. I always heard that a bad day of hunting is better than a good day at work!

Brian Johnson, originally of Port Neches, is pastor of First Baptist Church of Winnie, owner of DuckDogTrainer.com and outdoors writer for The News.