The last five lessons included basic waterfowl tips and techniques that I have used in the past and found to be successful. Many of you use other methods that have worked well for you. I believe that if all of us 'fowlers share our knowledge with each other, our hunting experiences can only get better and better. This final lesson includes just a few things not previously mentioned.
Teal are legal to take, but you will see very few of them. Teal like very shallow water and many times, when flushed or even shot at, they will buzz you again. I found it doesn't take very many decoys (1-3 dozen works great). A Blue Wing Teal Call will work ... if you have time to use it. These birds may zip into your decoys before you have a chance.
Check out your local Conservation Areas. Many of these hold large concentrations of Blue Wings and the action can be hot and heavy. If a blind isn't handy, just dress in camo and hide in the weeds or trees near your decoys. Teal are like doves, new migrations of 1000's of birds can change the numbers from one day to the next. From sunrise to 10am seems to be the best time to hunt. An improved cylinder choke and #4 steel shot is a good choice when hunting over decoys.
There are many local Wood Ducks around, so be sure to positively identify before you shoot. On a Blue Wing teal, the blue patch shows up very well on the top side of the wing. They are the only duck with this marking. If you are not sure, don't shoot!
I've been very fortunate to have had two good water dogs in my life. The first was Jake, a faithful black lab that I lost this past spring at the ripe old age of 17 (or 119 in people years). Now there's Fred, a 2 year old, yellow Lab-Chesapeake cross that is smarter than some people I know. (I won't mention any names.) This is a popular breed in Louisiana where it is known as the "Cajun-Cross". It is becoming more common in the midwest and in northern icy-water states. The idea is to get the finer points of both retrievers in one dog.
What ever breed you choose, spend some time every day leading your pup on a leash, teaching him simple commands and hand signals. Take him with you everywhere you can. The more time you spend with your pup the sooner you both will understand what to expect from each other. Given a chance, dogs are usually as hunting-smart as their owner.
Aside from the priceless work they perform during hunts, a dog can be a heck of a companion and your best year-round friend. Fred will never make the field trials, but he does what I need in a duck dog by recovering many dead and crippled birds. He gets his own hard-headed ideas occasionally, but I don't come down on him too hard. He overlooks my bad points and forgives me for those easy shots I miss that he thought even he could have hit. And that's what it's all about.
There are some very good videos out on how to train your retriever by Mike Mathoit worth renting. He has lots of good tips on how to pick a pup and demonstrates training through several months of age.
DRESSING & COOKING DUCKS
I could write a whole story on dressing ducks. On a formal occasions, I prefer a Dux Tux, but for informal Quakis ... I mean Khakis, would look nice. Seriously, to dry pick a duck: hold by the head over a trash barrel, pull the feathers down in quick pinching jerks (save the ones on the underside for pillows), keep your picking hand damp, rub off all the fuzz you can and singe off the rest. Cut off the head, wings and feet. Gut the duck and wash thoroughly.
Cook at least one mallard per person. Wrap each duck with bacon strips and roast, slow cook or smoke. The skin will help hold the juices in.
Lots of people avoid picking and simply skin back the breast and fillet. There are a dozen different ways you can go from there. Leave the breast whole or slice into steaks or strips. Soak in Midwest Mex or coat with milk, egg, soy sauce, or a combination of any of these. Roll in strips or steaks in flour and pan fry, or slow cook whole breasts in a crock pot. Cut into chunks for duck stew or cook with your favorite gravy. My favorite is to wrap bacon around whole breast fillets, using toothpicks to hold them together and hickory smoke. Oooh La La!
There's also duck burger, duck jerky, duck stir-fry, duck stroganoff ... And that's all I've got to say about that. LET'S EAT!