HUNTINGsmart! USA Knowledge Base
Module 10 - WILDLIFE
Snapping your shotgun at teals is one of the sportiest shooting opportunities for waterfowlers.
Male blue-wings have a greyish-colored head and neck with a white crescent shape in front of their eyes that’s edged in black. The upper part of their wings is always a blue-grey color. They also have black bills, a green speculum, yellow or orange feet, a whitish color under their wings, tan-colored sides and a white patch on their bottoms. Lady teals are mostly brownish-grey in color, with brown heads, dark crowns and a white crescent shape in front of their eyes. They also have a blue upper wing color although it’s not as bright as the males.
Like mallards, blue-winged teals like to ‘dabble’ headfirst, in shallow, freshwater with their butts in the air. They’ll eat aquatic vegetation, insects, crustaceans and grains. In colder weather, they will eat rice, millet and water lilies.
Habitat & Migration Habits
Blue-wings make their homestead in grassland areas that border freshwater wetlands. Same as the mallard, blue-wings breed up north during the spring and fly south when things start to cool down. Unlike mallards, Mrs. Blue-Wing flies solo to look for the nest while the male hangs out nearby and waits for her to choose. However, like mallards, they like to hunker down in a spot that has protective overhanging branches, tall grasses and a nearby location to the water.
Teals are much less vocal than mallards. So a well-hidden blind is actually much more important than making perfect duck calls. However, although not as much, some teals will be drawn to the same calls as the mallard. There are a couple tricks to making a call right. Get started by learning the following basic call types:
The ‘Basic Quack’: It’s easy—you simply say a number of sounds or words into the duck call to create the ‘quack’ sound. Try it out and see what sounds or words work best for you but, ‘hoot, quack, hut or quit’ will end up sounding like, “quack, quack, quack, quack”.
The ‘Greeting Call’: This will bring the ducks your way if they’re in flight at a fair distance but just within earshot. For this one, you simply make 5 to 7 quacking sounds in quick succession. Keep a good rhythm, with the first quack being the loudest and the last ones dwindling off.
The ‘Lonesome Hen Call’: This is a low-pitched, nasally sounding call. You simply space the ‘quack’ sounds out in the beginning and then quicken them up at the end.
Firearms & Ammo
Waterfowl hunting calls for a shotgun. Pump or semi-auto shotguns are the favorites because they don’t require frequent reloading like break action shotguns do. Pumps will also have the least recoil. For gauge, a 10, 12 or 16-gauge will do the trick, but a 12-gauge is a really versatile option and will pack the punch you need to bring down the bird. Common shot sizes for waterfowl hunting are No, 4, 3, 2, 1, BB, BBB and T. For shotshell length, waterfowlers usually use 3 or 3½ inch loads with heavy shot charges.
Duck hunters hit their game while they’re in flight. You’ll want to aim your shotgun at the area just in front of the bird and hit the bird’s body at the line where their chest and belly meet. Their heads are too small to hit and you’ll only injure them if you hit their body anywhere outside of the vital zone area.
Hunting Tip: Blue-winged teals molt in the late summer and during this time, they’re completely flightless. If you’re looking for them in the sky, don’t be surprised to find them grounded. Remember, we never shoot at sitting ducks.