Well, I’ve had some really good teal hunts in the past two weeks. One of them was eyes-rolling-back-in-your-head good. It was so good that I limited in less than an hour. In the middle of the day. That’s when ducks usually sit on their fluffy butts and don’t fly around where hunters can shoot them.
When it was over, I began sending giddy text messages and photos to my friends. And then I came to my senses and captured some video of how the teal were flying.
A bit of context because it’s hard to gauge distance in video: The first birds you see aren’t in shooting range (and they’re hard to see on mobile). Around 0:19, you’ll see a group come through in the lane I shot exclusively, all 20 yards out. At the end, when I go all Minnesota (if you’re listening to the audio), those birds flew about ten feet over my head.
Yep, that’s how they were flying the whole time I was there.
Needless to say, that experience was pretty much the opposite, in one short hour, of the first two months of my season. It is the kind of outlier event that makes duck hunters like me trudge to hell and back, hunt day after hunt day, because you never know when this might be the day that something extraordinary happens.
In short, we’re gamblers. But instead of gambling with money, we gamble with shells, miles and time. Who needs casinos?
There are a couple wonderful things about getting a limit of green-winged teal.
They’re very small, so they don’t add a lot of weight for the walk back to the car.
They’re ridiculously easy to pluck, so that post-hunt chore goes nice and fast.
They’re delicious little birds. Like miniature pintail.
For a long time, teal were one of the few species Hank and I frequently roasted whole. Mostly we break ducks down for appropriate cooking: hot, fast, and medium-rare for the breasts, and slow and low for legs and wings.
But even though you can roast teal whole and have them come out fine, I was never really satisfied with the results. There was no way to get uniformly crispy golden-brown skin, and they weren’t particularly easy to eat.
So I came up with something else: split teal. This is now my go-to for small birds: teal, snipe and dove. It’s simple, it’s easy, it’s crispy. If you, too, find yourself awash in teal or other small birds, I highly recommend it.
And if you try this technique on doves or snipe, add a little smoked paprika at the end along with the pepper. Doesn’t work well with duck, but it’s fantastic for little upland birds.
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Yummy! Doesn't get easier than that.
The hunt was your lucky day. The easy was your recipe. Here in Souteast Michigan, we rarely see teal anymore, and this year, duck season was almost non-existent.