Two weeks of teal season good for Mississippi hunters

By Brian Broom/The Clarion-Ledger

SATARTIA, Miss. — No matter what day of the year it is, it’s duck season somewhere.

That’s Ramsey Russell’s motto.

Russell, of Brandon, owns the duck hunt booking business GetDucks.com and has hunted waterfowl around the globe.

In the spring, he might be in Russia.

In the summer, he could be in South America or Africa.

But when September rolls around, there’s only one place you can find Russell.

“Boy, come September, I’m here hunting teal unless it’s a life-or-death matter,” said Russell.

This year was no exception as he and hunting buddy Jim Crews of Canton tossed out decoys before daylight in a pond near Satartia.

Only on her fourth hunt, Russell’s 10-month-old Labrador retriever, Cooper, splashed and played in the water nearby.

The spread set, Russell and Crews talked excitedly as they sat with their dogs at the edge of the pond.

Cooper and Crews’ Lab, Congo, seemed excited, too, as they watched the sky and wagged their tails.

The rain ahead of this week’s cold front had just passed minutes earlier, and Russell and Crews hoped more northern birds came with it.

Cooler air helps A breeze came through with noticeably cooler air.

“Feel that?” asked Russell. “That’s fall.”

Minutes later, their suspicion was validated as a group of bluewing teal glided in unison over the spread.

While the birds made several passes, neither Russell nor Crews fired a shot because cloudy conditions made it too dark to see the low-flying ducks against the tall shoreline vegetation.

Shots in the distance kept the two attentive as they watched for more birds.

As the sky got brighter, the sound of wings rushing through air was heard again and a flock of bluewings dipped down over the decoys.

Russell and Crews began calling.

“This is it,” said Russell.

A volley of shots was fired, and several teal fell into the spread.

Congo and Cooper went to work, fetching birds and bringing them back.

“These bluewings are a gift,” said Crews as he looked over the small ducks with blue patches on their wings.

Settled back on their stools, Crews and Russell watched bright pink roseate spoonbills feed along the water’s edge. A wading bird, roseate spoonbills live up to their name and look like a flamingo with a wooden spoon for a bill.

Crews and Russell talked about Cooper’s performance and how well the season was going when the conversation was cut short.

Wings cupped, another group of teal twisted and turned over the decoys.

Several shots later, Russell and Crews had their limit.

Back at the camp house with steaming cups of coffee, Russell and Crews talked about the early teal season.

Passionate about waterfowl, Russell said when he felt that cool breeze earlier in the morning, he knew summer was over.

“The whole hunting season is ahead of you, and the bluewings are leading the charge,” said Russell.

A veteran duck hunter with 40 seasons under his belt and a lanyard of duck bands to prove it, Crews grinned and said, “then the magic begins.”

Russell said that while bluewing teal are the second-largest population of ducks in America, relatively few hunters take advantage of their early migration through Mississippi.

“Hunters only get 60 days to hunt in Mississippi if they are lucky,” said Russell.

He feels the two weeks of teal season stretch out the opportunity for waterfowlers.

Crews agreed: “It’s definitely a warm up for duck season. It’s kind of like an appetizer.”

As the conversation continued about how teal work over the decoys, how they mysteriously come and go and how the warmer weather hunting is a different experience, it became obvious these two are addicted to the little birds and their little season.

“They are only here a few weeks of the year,” said Crews. “They are special.”

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Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com