Southeast Alaska is a temperate rainforest receiving between 50 to 200 inches of rain a year depending on location. My hometown of Juneau, Alaska averages around 50 inches a year. Most early season duck hunts are not the caliber of the Duck Commander brand. No 200 flock pile ins, breakfast breaks in the blind, or birds moving in blue skies. It means Gore-Tex gear and chest waders. Sitting under a long pine or lying flat and still in the mud flat. There is no other option. This is what its like to hunt Rainforest Teal in Southeast Alaska.
Opening day this year was in the middle of the week with the first two days being youth hunts in our local wetland, Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge. I took the boat out for the opener and sat just off the boundary hoping to catch some birds leaving the flats, but it was to no avail. The tides were not right for me once the weekend rolled around so I waited it out a week to let things settle down and for a good tide to hit. All coastal Alaska duck hunting revolves around tides which is a control factor in timing and location of hunts.
I finally got out on a Sunday two weeks after opening. It was raining sideways and 25 to 35 knot winds told me it was time to hunt. Ducks were jumping around on my walk out to my hide. Honestly, I do not remember having seen so many teal and widgeon around there. It was around 11AM when I got set up on the high tide, bracketing it an hour before for optimal water. Two teal flocks landed on me as I was setting up the decoys and mojo. A sign of the fun to come.
I had just sat in my blind when I heard my dog, Gracie, give a slight whimper. I immediately tuned in on the direction she was looking. A 10 pack of teal were on deck and already locked up about 60 yards to my left. They dropped in on top of me, setting up perfectly 15 yards directly in front of me. I pulled up and after a click, pump, and one more trigger pull came out with one teal in that group. A reminder to always make sure you have racked one in the chamber once you are settled in. I had a few smaller groups come in and decoy for me over the next 30 minutes bringing me up to 4 teal.
As I was walking out to retrieve a downed teal in the tall grass with my dog, I heard the whistling of wings so loud you could confuse it for Tinnitus. I instantly froze knowing they were most likely just behind me and moving over my head to the decoys. A second later a flock of 100 teal skimmed by me 5 yards overhead dropping in on my decoys 15 yards to my left.
I pulled up, picked a bird, and shot. Two teal instantly fell over the decoys. I locked on to another bird, swinging out to my right, and pulled the trigger. Click. I had gotten out of the blind so quickly after the last volley of birds that I forgot to reload and did not have any shells on me at that time. Another wasted opportunity due to what I call, “Feather Fever”. I had to wait about another 10 minutes before a pair of widgeons came in locked up and I was able to bag my final bird of the day. We have a 7-bird limit for puddle ducks here in Southeast Alaska. An hour into my hunt I was limited out, a little wet, a little cold, but once again reminded of why I love duck hunting.
Although, not every hunt can be a quick limit in prime duck weather, but you can always expect to have some fun with friends, family, and/or the dog though. Early season teal can be hit or miss here in Juneau, Alaska, but this year they seem to be around in healthy numbers. With historic level rains we are looking at ducky weather this season. Hopefully, that converts to breast in the freezer and pepperoni sticks this winter. Teal hunting in Southeast Alaska’s rainforest make for a challenging hunt. When successful out hunting in this manner, that grind in the mud and rain is so much sweeter. Cheers to a new waterfowl season and best of luck to all my fellow waterfowlers.