Successful September teal hunt

Two years ago when I took part in Wisconsin’s first early teal season I put 550 miles on my truck in 24 hours, hunted in three parts of Wisconsin and did not shoot a teal.

Last year I started out the teal season by sleeping in my canoe in the marsh where I planned on hunting the next morning for the 9 a.m. opener. I did not see a teal and had a brainstorm to head to the backwaters of the Wisconsin River in Columbia County.

My golden retriever Fire and had a very positive hunt as she retrieved all three teal I shot that afternoon and this year that same backwaters are where my teal hunt would take place.

Thursday, Sept. 1 High 83, Low 58

I was up at 2 a.m. and paddling my canoe in the dark at 5:00. My golden retriever, Fire, and her 16-week-old pup, Ruby, would be my potential teal retrievers.

I think I should add that in my entire life my favorite outdoor sport is waterfowl hunting and I like the old school method of wearing chest waders and paddling a canoe.

So it is 5:30 a.m., the season does not open until 9:00 and it stays open until 7 p.m.

Next, I am going to write about Ruby. Ruby is nuts. She is pure animal. She loves our cattle, chickens and pigeons. Ruby eats every egg a hen lays if it is in her range.

One of her favorite pastimes is to get in her swimming pool (Ruby has a kiddy pool) put her head under water and try to catch tadpoles. I honestly believe that she can at least slightly see under water.

This may hurt Ruby but she has never had any fear of our steers and has walked right among them since she was 7 weeks old. One of the downsides to that is that she almost always smells like a barn.

So 9 a.m. strikes and the sky is literally loaded with teal, mallards and woodies. As often happens, I started out my waterfowl season really sucking in the hitting department.

Ruby is busy in the canoe wrestling with Fire and attacking wild rice stalks. Fire can see that I am missing a lot and then I realized that my body had sunk waist deep in muck and I blamed that on my poor shooting.

So I get in my canoe, miss some more and then an unfortunate teal has the misfortune of getting pounded by a load of my steel shot. Fire was fast asleep and had no idea where my trophy fell.

My lifelong memory of Fire will be the following. She is as cool as a cucumber when it comes to fetching ducks. I point her in the right direction, tell her to fetch and very casually she steps out of the canoe and begins swimming.

This first duck was a tough retrieve as it was blowing away in the wind and Fire had to go through some wild rice to see it. Like she always does, Fire lived by her nose and listened to her daddy and 25 minutes after she started her retrieve she was coming back with her quarry.

Thirty yards from the canoe, Ruby swam up to her mama who dropped the teal. Ruby grabbed it and swam right to me and that was a pretty cool experience.

At 10 a.m., the ducks quit flying for almost six hours and I had very little to do but watch the sky and hang out with the pups. Ruby, whom I said earlier loves putting her head under the water, would retrieve the teal I had shot even if I put it in the mud and under the canoe.

In my perfect world there is one potential problem and that is, given the chance, Ruby would eat a duck in a New York minute (potentially hard-mouthed).

At 4 p.m., the teal started flying. My stepson, Travis Dushek, motored out for a late-afternoon hunt with his friend Hannah Lindemann in his newest rig which is mud motor on a flat-bottom boat. Travis would also have Ruby’s sister, Ash, along for her first duck hunt.

My shooting improved dramatically and by 7 p.m. Fire and Ruby had retrieved four teal for the day without a lost bird and three of the teal were blind retrieves.

Three days later I returned with my daughter, Selina, and Fire made one of the most incredible double-blind retrieves that I have ever witnessed.

I enjoy the challenge of paddling my canoe, decoys on the water, ducks in the air and hopefully a duck down after firing my shotgun. The best of everything is watching your friend/dog do a blind retrieve.


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