Bluewing teal hunting
Fine Formation: Bluewing teal fly over a marsh in South Dakota in early September.. Dean Pearson

So I wake, hypothetically speaking, to find I’ve passed from this life, for any number of reasons. Due to a clerical error on Saint Peter’s part, I don’t go to Hell but rather find myself on the edge of what appears to be the finest teal marsh in the universe. It’s opening day, mid September, on a public wetland, and I’m alone.

To my right is a new over/under. Next to that, a blind bag filled with everything I’m going to need for the morning, including white powder doughnuts, sunflower seeds, and a Thermos of hot coffee. Black, no sugar. To my left sits my old girl dog, Jet, just 3 years old, and ready to go. The weather’s perfect. From the northwest I hear a roar like a thousand small fighters—the first bluewings of the season on their way. Here’s exactly what I need to make this a perfect hunt.

The Weather

A 15-mph north or northwest wind helps move the birds along. Skies are cloudy to partly cloudy, with a ­legal-​shooting-time temperature of 65 degrees falling to 55 through morning.

The Place

It’s a shallow—1 to 2 feet—cattail-rimmed marsh with plenty of duckweed, insects, and invertebrates. Firm bottom makes wading easy. (Now I’m fairly certain that Saint Peter made a mistake.)

My Blind

A seat on an old muskrat house with sparse cattail cover and good visibility. Otherwise I’d be in an aluminum lawn chair covered with a ripped-up piece of green antiaircraft netting.

My Clothing

I’m wearing lightweight camouflage bibs and T-shirt, a ball cap, and waist-high breathable waders.

The Decoy Spread

There are a dozen mixed bluewing and greenwing decoys bunched tightly in front of the blind at 10 to 15 yards. Beyond them are 12 mallard dekes in a loose line, north-to-south, for visibility. Between the two are a pair of Mojo Teal staked a foot above the surface.

My Shotgun

A Mossberg Silver Reserve 12-gauge o/u. It is light and swings fast.

My Ammunition

The Mossberg is loaded up with 23⁄4-inch hulls containing 11⁄8 ounces of steel No. 7 shot. Shooting at teal requires a high ­pellet count and good pattern density, and these little loads are deadly on these small, fast flyers.

My Calls

I have two with me. One is Buck Gardner’s 6N1 whistle for peeping to greenwings. The other is a high-pitched BT-85 teal call from Haydel’s Game Calls.

My Blind Bag

Inside it are a ThermaCell repeller in case the bugs get bad, toilet paper, extra calls, ammunition, a compact of camo face paint, extra batteries for the Mojo Teal, snacks and water, and small first-aid kits for both human and canine.

My Retriever

She’s essential for finding birds that fell in over-my-head cattails. I have extra doughnuts for her and will make sure that she doesn’t get overheated.

After the Hunt

I’ll pluck each bird whole; remove head, wings, and feet; and singe with a propane torch. Then I’ll split the birds up the back with tin snips, remove the innards, and wash well.

I will sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and garlic inside and out; stuff with finely diced apples, onions, and oranges with peel; rub the outside with olive oil; and wrap the birds in fatty bacon held in place with toothpick ends.

I’ll drop the bird into 375-degree lard for 4 minutes. My fish fryer is on hand—it works perfectly. I open an ice-cold Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Now I am positive I’m in the wrong place.