Daughrity uses a half-dozen hen mallard decoys. "It's been my experience that hen mallard decoys work just as well as teal decoys," he says. "The birds are still in eclipse plumage in September, so the drakes more closely resemble a hen mallard decoy than they do breeding-plumage teal decoys. Plus, we pay a premium for magnum and super-magnum decoys for late season. Why wouldn't you want the same effect in the early season?"
Daughrity likes to add a wing-spinner as well. "Teal respond well to decoys, especially spinning-wing decoys," he says. "You don't need an elaborate spread to have them kamikaze at your feet."
Teal flights are often early, short and sweet. If you find yourself watching but not shooting teal shortly after daybreak, it may be time for a quick move. This is one reason Haydel favors a mobile approach in the early season.
"After a few flights in the morning, you can usually predict what's going to happen," he says. "That magic window of opportunity may last an hour and a half, and it may last half an hour. If you're hunting one of those short days, moving quickly can be critical. If you're hunting light, you can always move, and if it doesn't pay off, you can move back."
"I always like to be on the X at first light, but I've had some great teal hunting later in the morning," Daughrity adds. "Some mornings, teal don't seem to really start flying well until nearly 8 o'clock. If you are not on the X from prior scouting, all is not lost. Of course, if the birds are piling into a spot 200 yards away, you need to relocate immediately, because the flight can fall off at any time."
Many duck hunters are Weather Channel addicts, and teal hunters in particular can benefit from recognizing a promising forecast. Blue-winged teal are influenced by subtle weather changes in early fall, and often a temperature swing of just a few degrees can send them packing.
"I like to have a cold front way up north of us, while our weather remains the same," Haydel says. "This will move birds down to us. On the Louisiana coast, slight weather changes can move the birds around. A wind change can move them from one part of a marsh to another, or scoop them out of the rice fields and into the marshes. I've even seen days when a 10-degree difference after a cold front moved our birds out."
"Ideally, I like to see a couple of weak fronts come through in the two weeks before the opener followed by stable weather during the season," Daughrity says. "A drop in temperatures or a good storm front will move every bird in the area south. A weak front during the season can bring feast or famine, filling the sky with new birds or moving everything out."
Calling can be very effective on teal, and it's no surprise Haydel has some specific advice on the subject. "Given the opportunity, I think it's handy to sound like the bird you're hunting," he says. "You should use your call after birds have passed by. When they're 20 yards beyond your spread and still going, you can really see a call work."
Haydel sticks to the decrescendo blue-winged hen call most of the time, but because the birds hear this call quite a bit from hunters during teal season, he sometimes mixes in drake whistles as well.
Not too long ago, insect repellent spray was a must-have item for September teal hunting. While it's still effective on mosquitoes, Daughrity says a ThermaCell appliance (mosquitorepellent.com) may be an even better choice for keeping flying bugs away. These small devices will easily fit in a blind bag, along with a few refill packs.
Lightweight camouflage clothing and hip boots make the hunt a little more comfortable in the heat, and a bottle of water should always be in the blind bag. Because vegetation is still green and leafy in September, wearing camouflage and sitting still will often suffice, but a folding saw or hatchet for building makeshift blinds can be handy. Bringing along a dove seat or five-gallon bucket to sit on is also helpful for this type of hunting.
If your state offers an early teal season and you're not taking advantage of it, you could be missing out on some great hunting. Chances are you already have all the necessary equipment. With the right weather forecast and a little scouting, getting in on a fast-action teal hunt can be easy.