On one hand, its not fair to start out this way. Seems like there ought to be an easier ramp-up, and a more gradual reentry after the long lazy summer. A couple of fat, happy puddle ducks, say, hanging over the decoys at 25 yards with their gear down. Easy shots to start with would be nice, but thats not how it works.

The ducks are like bees. Or bats. Or leaves in a hard wind. Teal come in giant, swirling, chaotic balls, defying the laws of physics, it seems, with all their whirling, diving, pitch-and-roll antics. Or they come from behind, like a bunch of cheaters, in a rush of wind and feathers that seems to lift your hat off your head. Theyre not interested in giving you a warm-up. Shoot em, shoot em, and shoot at em. At that point, all you can do is point and pull the trigger. Focus on one bird? Sure.

Hunting such an unforgiving breed of ducks typically brings out the best of excuses. You should have spent more time at the range. You should have worked the dog over the summer. You should have changed chokes. You definitely should have brought some bug dope.

Except you knew it would be like this. Exactly like this. You knew how they would comefrom nowhere and from everywhere all at once. So trot out all your best excuses if that makes you feel better. Because teal season is also the most honest season. It exposes your weaknesses. It makes you take a good hard look at your duck-hunting self.

Thankfully, teal season is followed, in most places, by a nice little break before the main event. Which means theres still time to do something about all those should-haves in the blind. But not a lot of time. Pretty soon it will be real-time and live-action, for the next five months, or better. Its time to get on the stick, as the old saying goes. Hit the range. Tune up the dog. Youve had your practice round so to speak. No excuses from here on out.