Long-time friends Mike Morgan and Ramsey Russell meet across the table to talk teal hunting. Spending a little time to talk about teal worldwide, they quickly transition to blue-winged teal hunting in the Deep South, a favorite of theirs. Mike then remembers an incredible Peru cinnamon teal hunt they filmed together for Mojo. What other teal species are there worldwide? What’s the real relationship among blue-winged teal, cinnamon teal, green-winged teal and shovelers? What’s so special about blue-winged teal, how are they hunted and what habitats do they prefer? Why is cinnamon teal hunting in Peru so incredible, and what did Mike and Ramsey discover while there that ranks foremost on their lists of “craziest thing ever encountered while hunting?!” This recording is from the very last time these two buddies visited and was provided courtesy of Mojo Outdoors.
Ramsey Russell: I’m your host, Ramsey Russell. Join me here to listen to those conversations.
Mike Morgan: Ramsey, I know you’ve had the opportunity to hunt teal all over the world. You’ve hunted in North America, South America. I know you’ve been over to Europe. I don’t even know if they’ve got teal over there, but they’ve got teal in a lot of different places. How many teal have we got here in the United States?
Eurasian Greenwings vs. North American Greenwings
“Come to find out—unlike our teal, which nest in grasslands—those teal nest in tree cavities.”
Ramsey Russell: We’ve got three teal in North America: greenwings, bluewings, and cinnamons. And there’s teal all over the world. On every continent that I’ve been to, all six of them have teal. I’ve never really added up all the different teal species, but I’m going to say there’s two dozen of them, anyway.
Mike Morgan: Oh, really? Which one would you say is the most prolific in North America as opposed to most prolific in South America?
Ramsey Russell: Greenwings are more prolific in the entire Northern Hemisphere. In fact, when we get over into parts of Asia and Europe, I would say 80-90% of our bag is greenwings. Not the North American greenwing, but the Eurasian greenwing. Their coloration is very interesting. They look exactly like our greenwing, but their back has a white stripe instead of their chest. Their chest doesn’t have a white stripe. Their scalps get this bright white. When they sit on the water, they’ve got that white going down the back. But, otherwise, they’re a green-winged teal, but they’re Eurasian. Down in South America, the most prolific, or the most widespread, would absolutely be the speckled teal.
Mike Morgan: Speckled teal. I’ve been down there. You’ve got a spotted teal, you’ve got a Brazilian teal, you’ve got a couple others. That Brazilian teal, to me, is the most beautiful.
Ramsey Russell: It is. It’s a beautiful teal with that iridescent wing. the ring Teal. Maybe the speckled teal is one of my favorites. I really like them. I just remember this one day hunting speckled teal. I was exactly where they wanted to come eat. I had shot plenty of ducks. I was sitting there waiting. All of a sudden, these speckled teal started landing. Just over there about forty or fifty yards away, they started landing. One of them would come over there and bark at me and fly back. They were getting real agitated at each other. I realized what it was. I’m sitting on their food. They want to come in here and eat. Just sitting there for an hour— They were so docile, the way they would come in close to me. Not quite close enough. I really gained a lot of interest in that particular bird. Come to find out—unlike our teal, which nest in grasslands—those teal nest in tree cavities. I’ve seen them perched on estancia roofs. I’ve seen them perched on fence posts. I’ve seen them flying around late in their wintertime down there, flying around the tree, looking for nesting cavities. They’re a tree nester.
Mike Morgan: I know that in the United States, or here in North America, our teal migrate pretty heavily, and they all migrate early. Why do they migrate so much earlier than the rest of them?
Shooting Spoonies…and Their Relatives
“They reclassified them and, actually, shovelers and cinnamons and blue-winged teal are now the same genus, putting greenwings over there by quail.”
Ramsey Russell: That I couldn’t tell you. I would think it’s because they don’t do the wintertime, like a bigger, heavier duck does. It’s got to be something with their timing, too. It’s got to be something about the timing. Greenwings do migrate early. I’ve shot enough of them during our blue-winged teal season, but they’ll come in late. A lot of those flocks will hang back up on the ice line and get pushed out by Mother Winter. But you know what was so interesting in the 2018 duck season? On the North American continent especially—I’m aware, from talking to duck hunters from coast to coast, North to South—it was just a terrible duck season. Mexico is big for us in January and February. I was really thinking, “Gosh, it’s going to be terrible too because the birds didn’t come down.” We showed up—Mexico has greenwings, bluewings, cinnamons, shovelers—and they were all there. Going over to Asia this year— This climate event that was so warm this winter wasn’t just in North America. Russia also didn’t get very cold this year. Over in Azerbaijan, for example, a lot of the big ducks had not come down, or come down in full force. We were there in February and March. But, boy, those greenwings were there hot and heavy.
Mike Morgan: Really? That sounds fun. We—me and you—like shooting those spoonies. Are spoonies—people have told me—related to teal in any way?
Ramsey Russell: Yeah.
Mike Morgan: A distant cousin?
Ramsey Russell: Twenty years ago, I graduated college, and I learned all the Latin names for ducks back then. Well, since then, they’ve reclassified them. I think they reclassified them ten years ago, now, or seven or eight years ago, now. They reclassified them and, actually, shovelers and cinnamons and blue-winged teal are now the same genus, putting greenwings over there by quail.
Mike Morgan: Makes me feel a little bit better about shooting those spoonies.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah.
Mike Morgan: We don’t have any problem with it anyway, do we?
Ramsey Russell: We don’t have problems with it. We don’t have problems.
Mike Morgan: I shoot the heck out of them. Ramsey, I was down at Steve Biggers’s. You know Steve. You’ve hunted down there with him before. He’s got one of the prime places in the Lower 48. He’s got that second growth rice down there. It’s got water in it, plenty of food, lots of acreage, not a lot of hunting pressure. What he told me, that I didn’t really realize, was that the male teal migrate before the females and the young do. Is this true?
North American Teal Migration Habits
“That’s the vanguard of the North American migration: adult male blue-winged teal.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, yeah. They do. I actually banded, up in Canada, back in 2001. We banded 5,800 bluewings that year, and the adult males all of a sudden vanished. Boom. They disappeared overnight. That’s the vanguard of the North American migration: adult male blue-winged teal. So you may open up and shoot a bunch, but I’ve actually been at Biggers’s before where all we shot—five of us, limit—was adult males. What you want is later, as those juvenile birds get hashed out and figure it out to where they can fly— Boom, here they come later. Steve and I have actually talked about excited we both get looking at the wings and figuring out what’s what, because you know where that migration is just by looking at the age and sex of the bluewings coming through.
Mike Morgan: Is that true with all ducks, or just mainly the teal?
Ramsey Russell: That’s a good question. I really don’t know. I noticed it mostly with blue-winged teal, but I would bet that your bigger male birds with good fat reserves, your adult birds—in the case of hens—that did not nest that year— I would think they probably come down earlier.
Mike Morgan: We’ve had a lot of fun down at Biggers’s place, and he had an exceptional year this year. I don’t know why, but we’re going to look at some of the footage that we shot down there and that we’ve shot in subsequent years. Just to show the people what kind of teal hunting is available down in Texas.
Ramsey Russell: I believe he’s got the world’s best blue-winged teal hunt because of where he’s located and how he manages that habitat. He’s right there in a bottleneck. That part of the world he’s located in is where all the Mississippi Flyway bluewings pass through on their way down to Mexico and Central America.
Mike Morgan: You know what? He called me the other day and said he got a new piece of property that he’s been trying to get. It’s better than anything he’s had. So what is it going to be this year?
Ramsey Russell: Oh, it’s going to be incredible. Steve, I’m coming to see you.
Mike Morgan: I heard that. Speaking of Steve Bigger— A couple of years ago, you and Forrest came over and hunted with us. That was a heck of a hunt, wasn’t it?
Ramsey Russell: It was a heck of a hunt. We were there just right because we were shooting all of the age and sex classes. We hit the migration just right. Forrest was playing football his senior year, and the game didn’t end till ten. So we had to get in the truck and put the hammer down just to get there in time to join y’all in the blind.
Mike Morgan: I know you had to be doing 100 to get from Mississippi to El Campo, Texas, in the time before the sun came up and we were out there in the blind. You had to be driving 100 miles an hour.
Ramsey Russell: Louisiana’s finest said 97, at one point. Not quite 100.
Favorite Ways to Cook Teal
“I’m telling you what, it’s slap your mama good when you start breaking out the fried duck—or fried anything—and start dipping it in jezebel sauce.”
Mike Morgan: Let’s take a look at that. Ramsey, I’ve been in a couple of camps with you before. I know your history, and I know that you love to cook. You’re a great cook, on top of that. Tell us a little bit about the favorite ways you have to cook teal?
Ramsey Russell: Oh. There’s no such thing. That’s like asking my favorite duck. My favorite duck is the next one over the decoys. I like to eat duck. I like to cook duck. I think that it is such a tribute to the hunt, the hunters, and the hunted to cook duck properly. For blue-winged teal, my go-to, easily done, anybody can do it recipe is just chicken fried. Breast them out. Macerate it with the back of a knife, get it good and tenderized. Soak it in milk for a few hours. Dredge it in flour, some salt and pepper. Deep fry it. We’ll make a jezebel sauce. Jezebel sauce can be any kind of concoction. I come up with some different concoctions every time, but I really like to have a dipping sauce.
Mike Morgan: Where did you get the phrase “jezebel sauce”?
Ramsey Russell: I don’t know. I was in a duck camp, one time, and that’s what they called it.
Mike Morgan: That’s what they called it?
Ramsey Russell: Here’s how I do it. It’s equal parts apple jelly, orange marmalade, and the best, hottest, good ground horseradish you can find. Melt those jellies up good in the microwave, and just let it kind of do its thing. Then I’ll put a couple of big dollops of coarse ground yellow mustard. It’s better than anything. Put it back in the refrigerator and let it kind of do its thing. I’m telling you what, it’s slap your mama good when you start breaking out the fried duck—or fried anything—and start dipping it in jezebel sauce.
Mike Morgan: That’s crazy. Ramsey, I’m not a big cook like you are. 95% of what I cook is on the grill. Like you said a minute ago, you fry them, you bake them, you cook them, you do this. What’s your best recipe on a grill?
Ramsey Russell: It’s not jalapeños and cream cheese. That’s it. To me, the secret to good grilled duck is to keep it simple, and I like a mixture of savory and sweet. Soy sauce and a little bit of honey. Soy sauce and stuff it with a fig. Worcestershire sauce, Italian dressing, whatever your favorite marinade is. My go-to secret weapon is always—whether I wrap it with bacon or not, because I love to eat bacon—to stuff it with a piece of fruit. Try a piece of fig preserves or some orange marmalade. I’ve even used those little candied cherries like your grandma put in fruitcakes. It’s all good. Just something a little sweet, a little sweet surprise in there to offset it. Then, depending on what part of the world you’re in— Here in the Deep South, we like spices. I will balance that with a little bit of red pepper flakes. Just a little bit. Not hot; just a little heat.
Mike Morgan: There’s nothing better than, like you say, that teal wrapped in a piece of bacon. I’m like you. I could eat bacon brisket. I could eat bacon on bacon; bacon-wrapped bacon.
Ramsey Russell: Man, I could eat bacon wrapped in bacon. But one of the common mistakes, I think— I don’t care how you cook that duck on the grill; don’t overcook it. If it’s over medium rare, it’s done too much. I’ve got a real good friend, Ian Mund, who’s got the simplest, easiest, best recipe for duck I’ve ever had. He uses that old Cavender Seasoning, that Greek seasoning. He soaks the ducks in olive oil—copious amounts, that’s the best way I can describe it—and just a whole lot of Cavender’s, and he cooks them rare. Just unbelievable. It’s tender, flavorful, and delicious. Any kind of duck.
What Does it Take to Have and to Hold Teal?
“They like sheet water. That’s where we shoot heck out of teal, I’d say, almost worldwide.”
Mike Morgan: Cool. Well, that’s the way I’m going to give it a try, next time. I’m going to give it a try. Ramsey, I know you stayed up at Mississippi State for quite a while and got a degree up there. You studied wildlife management and forestry, and you ended up getting your Master’s, didn’t you?
Ramsey Russell: Yes, sir.
Mike Morgan: So you know what it takes to get ducks in a particular place. Our buddies up North don’t do as much teal hunting. They don’t get as serious about it as we do. But down South, what does it take to have and to hold teal?
Ramsey Russell: Shallow water. That’s the number one equation for me, especially if we’re talking bluewings. Shallow water. They like sheet water. That’s where we shoot heck out of teal, I’d say, almost worldwide. Shallower water with a lot of vegetation and submerged or vertical structure coming up. That’s what I think of when I think of blue-winged teal. It’s always been interesting to me. It’s a dry part of the year in the Deep South, and I’m thinking Mississippi Delta, not the Louisiana coastal marsh, Mike. It’s that shallow dadgum water. As water begins to recede during the dry period of the year, we’ve got a plant down here called sprangletop. It comes up very, very late. That and this yellow chufa will come up very late. I’ve always thought to myself, “If I can find some good shallow water backed off into chufa and sprangletop, I’m always going to find bluewings.” That’s what they seem to target. Think about it. The first birds that come down, the first food they encounter is sprangletop and chufa. That’s where I’m looking for them.
Vegetation to Attract Teal
“Just, boom, chow up and get their fuel supply, and they’re gone overnight.”
Mike Morgan: You know, Mojo’s got what we call the Duty Fairy Funny Farm down south of here by fifty or sixty miles. Terry Denmon, who owns the farm and owns Mojo, tries to manipulate those moist soil plants. There’s certain times you need to take the water off, and there’s certain times you need to put the plants in and just break the ground up. This stuff is kind of natural. You don’t go out and plant sprangletop. It’s there, but it’s got to be manipulated to get the maximum growth. Is that correct?
Ramsey Russell: That’s right. Yeah, that’s exactly right. Go out there and disturb the soil and manage the water. Different vegetative communities will come in in the first 45 days, the middle 45 days, and the last 45 days of the growing season. Terry and I actually visited that spot not too long. It’s been years ago, now, and that’s what we keyed in on: that particular grass. He said, “God, this stuff is everywhere.” I said, “Well, the secret is making more of that.” So now he’s had, at times, hundreds of acres of typical stands of that sprangletop.
Mike Morgan: Yep. This year is a super wet year. Everything from our whole duck season was eight feet underwater. It’s been raining here every day, it seems like, for months, and we just can’t get the water off of it. So I don’t know what’s going to happen this year. But, in past years, we go down there and it seems like you’ve got the perfect crop and everything is just right. Two weeks before the season, the teal will start moving in. The day before the season, there’ll be eight thousand teal. Then, you get up the next day, and there’s four.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah.
Mike Morgan: What happens?
Ramsey Russell: They’re going. They’re moving. Those birds are heading to their wintering grounds. They’re ready to get there, and they’ll move in a heartbeat. They’re stopping into these feeding areas, like that, to eat. Just, boom, chow up and get their fuel supply, and they’re gone overnight. That’s part of the great thing I like about them. I know they’re hit or miss. Where I hunt, they’re very hit or miss. That’s just the whole part of it.
Mike Morgan: If you don’t go, you don’t know. When we go down there— Generally, the opening weekend, they’ll be kind of building up, so we’ll have a good hunt. But we’ve been down there to where, like I said, the game wardens came in and said, “Two days ago, we counted four thousand ducks in this field. Today, there’s maybe four hundred.” They just move in and move out. But then, two days later, you may have four thousand in there again. It’s not like they all come at once and all leave at once.
Ramsey Russell: They just come in little pulses.
Mike Morgan: You’ve just got to be there. The season is so short. The season, generally, is what? Fifteen, sixteen days, something like that. At least, about four or five years ago, we went from four teal to six teal. So it makes it a little more—
Ramsey Russell: When you can get them, you can get them good.
Mike Morgan: You can get them good. No doubt about it. It’s so much fun shooting teal. We don’t ever go North to hunt teal. We’ll stay in Mississippi, Louisiana—the coast of Louisiana—and then down over into Texas. That’s where we travel to kill our teal. We end up going over to El Campo, Texas, which is an hour and a half southwest of Houston. That’s rice land, down there. By that time, they’re getting that second growth rice. Like you say, it’s shallow water; a lot of food; huge, open country down there. A lot of those teal, I think, just winter there. I don’t know if they ever go to Mexico. They stay down there quite a bit of the year.
Bluewing Teal Season in South America
“I had some clients from Florida shoot some of the most beautiful bluewings you’ve ever seen, last year in Argentina.”
Ramsey Russell: A lot of them may, as long as the weather is not pushing them out. Those teal will go down into Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua. Some of the biggest bluewings I’ve ever seen were in Belize. There’s no fence in the sky, and there’s weather events and everything else. We’ve actually shot them in northern Argentina. We’ve shot blue-winged teal. I asked the outfitter, “Are these birds migrating? Are they coming down?” He said, “No. They did at one time, and now they’ve set up a little resident population way up around in the Amazon basin.” He believed that, when they get cold weather, it’ll push them down into his marsh there in Santa Fe, Argentina. I had some clients from Florida shoot some of the most beautiful bluewings you’ve ever seen, last year in Argentina.
Mike Morgan: When we first started hunting Argentina— It’s totally different down there. Our summer’s their winter, our winter’s their summer. It’s just back and forth. When their birds migrate—if they do migrate at all, and I don’t know if they do—they wouldn’t be flying South to migrate, because they’d be flying into the cold. If they migrated at all, they’d have to fly North, wouldn’t they?
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, but they don’t have a continental migration in Argentina. They don’t do that. I think of those birds, all the species down in Argentina, as being more nomadic. What they’re doing is exploiting new water and new food resources. If they get a little weather to push them, great, but those birds are just moving. They’re expanding and bouncing from food source to food source. There’s no continental migration. People ask us all the time, coming to Argentina, “Well, is that going to be too late? The season opens in May. Is it going to be too late in August?” And I’m like, “No, sir, it’s not going to be late.” We’ve got this one big marsh we hunt down there—just imagine a 130 square mile marsh—that I’ve hunted in late April, May, June, July, and August. I’ve had clients come in early September. It’s amazing to me because it’s so big and so vast. It has different water depths and vegetative communities that satisfy all the lifecycle requirements of ducks. These different cadres of populations of ducks just move in and move out, filter in and filter out. Some of them will hatch and fly somewhere. Other birds will come in. It’s crazy. They have no continental migration.
Mike Morgan: I know we hunted with you down there, one time, and we went into this marsh. We got in there on what we called an “Argentina Uber,” which is a horse. We rode back in that marsh I don’t know how far, that morning, on horseback. Just classic. Had what they called gauchos, those cowboys on horses. We rode back in there. It was just as cool as it could be. We got back there and hammered the ducks back there. Just had a blast.
Ramsey Russell: We shot a lot of teal. It’s that classic teal habitat. It was shallow water with a lot of vegetation sitting on top of it that bugs could get up into. Migrating birds will eat the seeds. They’ll eat the carbohydrates, but those invertebrates are just so rich in fat and protein for them.
Mike Morgan: I’ll tell you what, that was a good time.
The Joys of Teal Hunting
Mosquitos + Snakes + Alligators
Ramsey Russell: One thing I really like about teal season, and I tell everybody— Forrest, my oldest son, is 22 years old now. I started taking them to the teal blind when they were three or four years old. Because it’s warm. Kids are going to get wet, but if they fall in, big deal. It’s like cooling off. It’s shallow water. They can’t get in trouble. It’s a great time to carry kids. You don’t need many decoys. You don’t have to have a lot of gear. You don’t have to layer up in a bunch of cold weather gear. There’s a lot of plus sides to teal hunting.
Mike Morgan: My standard teal hunting attire is hip boots, shorts, a T-shirt, and then I’ll try to wear some kind of long-sleeved shirt. Not because it’s cold, but to keep the mosquitoes off. And a head net. Like you say, you don’t need anything. When I come home, I’m either wet from falling in, or I’m wet because I’m sweaty. It gets a little hot.
Ramsey Russell: Well, I was just fixing to say that my standard attire includes DEET to keep off the mosquitoes.
Mike Morgan: 100% DEET. There are a few—it’s not a downside to me because it doesn’t bother me, we grew up with them—snakes, alligators, mosquitoes, wasps that you’re just going to have. It’s just going to be hot.
Ramsey Russell: The hit or miss plural of it all— If you’re in a flyway state like Mississippi, you’ve either got them or you don’t. They’re all heading down to that bottleneck around El Campo where Steve is, and then they’re heading on down to Central America and South America.
Mike Morgan: At Duty Ferry, one year, I don’t know if it was snake breeding season or snake fighting season or whatever it was, but every place we went had big old stump-tail water moccasins everywhere all twirled up like this. I thought it was mating, but I found out it’s fighting for territory. It’s the big males fighting for territory, and they were everywhere. Crossing the road, swimming through your decoys. When we’d get in the blind, the first thing we’d do is look for snakes. Thank goodness, we didn’t have snakes, but we’ve had snakes in the decoys. If you’re scared of snakes, you don’t need to be teal hunting because there’s going to be snakes around.
Ramsey Russell: I don’t like cottonmouths. I’m born and raised in the Deep South, and I hate a cottonmouth. I see snakes all the time.
Mike Morgan: Alligators.
Ramsey Russell: Alligators.
Mike Morgan: A lot of these guys won’t take their duck dogs out, especially down in South Louisiana where there’s a lot of alligators. A lot of those guys won’t take their duck dogs out during that teal season just because of the alligators. I don’t think I would either. So you’ve got to watch out for a few things. It’s different, but it’s about as fast as shooting as you can get. The first hour of the day is pretty much your teal hunt. You’re either going to get them or you’re not going to get them, is that correct?
The Perfect Teal Hunt Set Up
“When you go out—and you’ve found a place to hunt, you’ve got your shallow water area—what is your perfect setup?”
Ramsey Russell: That’s it. Denmon said one time—and I’ve found this to be the truth—that when you start seeing the barn swallows and little gnatcatchers buzz around your duck hole, it’s pretty much over.
Mike Morgan: That’s it. It doesn’t take long. You can stay out there the rest of the day and you might pick up one or two, but that first hour is pretty much when you’re going to get your teal.
Ramsey Russell: If it were one of those days when you’ve got a good North wind blowing, I would stay out there. I have. I was down in Texas, over on the east side of Texas by the Louisiana line a few years ago, and we were chipping away. One here, one there. It got to be about nine or ten o’clock, and we were looking at our watches and going, “Well, it was a good day. Near about a limit.” We just hung around because we didn’t have anything else to do but talk. About eleven o’clock, here they come. It was a big flock, big flock, big flock. It was funny because, in the early part of the morning, we had shot all adult drakes. It was all adult drakes. Those big flocks were all hens and juvenile birds. I stuck with those birds. I kept going down towards El Campo and, six days later when I finally made it down to El Campo, all those birds had pushed through. We were just grabbing the leftovers.
Mike Morgan: Yeah. That’s the way it goes. Like you say, it’s hit or miss unless you get to an area far enough South, down there, that they’re going to stay in there. If you’ve got enough land, you can shoot them here and they’re just going to move over there. You just kind of rotate out. In two or three days, you’ll be shooting those same birds again. They just don’t ever leave there. There’s no reason to leave. There’s plenty of food, plenty of water, and plenty of territory. They can get away from any pressure. Ramsey, when you go out—and you’ve found a place to hunt, you’ve got your shallow water area—what is your perfect setup? What’s your perfect blind? What’s your perfect decoys? What’s your perfect setup, wind, this that and the other? How would you set up on teal?
Ramsey Russell: For a guy just getting into it, any decoys will work. You just need decoys out there floating. Truthfully, I do use blue-winged teal decoys. I’m not saying it because I’m sitting on a Mojo set right now, but if I didn’t have but one decoy, it’s a bluewing. Because in a lot of the areas we hunt, the ducks could go different places. There’s not a lot of people out there hunting that time of year. If there’s another little shallow water area a quarter mile away and that’s where the teal want to be, maybe these flashy wings will pull them over. I really just set up a big spread blob. A flock here, a flock here, a flock here, a flock here. There’s several little holes they can hit. That time of year, you really don’t have a lot of wind to work with. Teal aren’t just wind dependent, anyway, so you’ve got to leave some areas that they can hit all which ways in there.
Mike Morgan: That’s one thing I’ve found out about teal. A lot of people want the wind at their back, where the ducks are going to come land into their face, but with teal, I’ve found, it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference. You can have a wind back, front, left, right— They will buzz in this way, they’ll buzz in that way. You’re going to shoot them on the pass most of the time. You’re not going to wait till they land and then jump up and shoot them. Most of those teal— When they buzz through, you light them up and see what you can get. That’s what I’ve found. One thing that we’ve done in the past— Where we hunt, we’ve got the shallow water and we’ve got the moist soil plants, but we’ve also got coffee wheat. That coffee wheat, if you don’t do anything to it, will get ten, twelve, fourteen foot high. A lot of these teal, if they’re on a flight path behind you or something— If you’ve got a spinning wing duck or even just your decoys, and you’ve got teen foot tall coffee wheat behind you, they can’t see them. A lot of times, we’ll put a ten to twelve foot pole up and get at a spinning wing decoy or something up there above that coffee wheat, just to let them know that, “Hey, we’re over here. We’re sitting right here.”
Ramsey Russell: Better visibility. Because you’re right. That’s one big difference in hunting September teal versus hunting later in the season: you’re hunting in green vegetation. Tall, green, living vegetation. The leaves haven’t even started turning yet.
Mike Morgan: That’s right. When y’all are down in Argentina, how do you hunt them down there? The times I’ve been down there, I’ve hunted them a little bit differently than how we hunt them here.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. I would say it’s just a big, long, linear spread with holes in it. Try to work the wind a little bit.
Mike Morgan: Ramsey, I know you hunt Argentina all the time. You spend a lot of time down there. I spend a little bit of time down there, not near anything like you do. What’s the difference between hunting teal here in the US and hunting teal down in Argentina?
Ramsey Russell: Well, they’re different species, but they still behave like teal. They still use similar habitats. One thing is, you can get away with using smaller spreads because they’re all flying around in little family cohorts: two’s, three’s, four’s, five’s. Maybe a dozen, but really not. You can use smaller spreads and mix species, and the birds are just going to hit it differently. They’re going to hit in singles and pairs.
Mike Morgan: Whereas, here, you may see thirty, forty, or fifty in a flock.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, the whole wave will come through at one time of bluewings.
Mike Morgan: Yeah, and down there it’s just smaller flocks. I know, here, a lot of times, we’ll have blinds that hold eight, ten, twelve people. It’s just a blast fest. Down there, where I’ve hunted, you waded out and got little grass patches or little smaller blinds. It’s two or three people in a blind.
Ramsey Russell: One to three to a blind, yep.
Mike Morgan: Yeah. So that’s quite a bit of difference, but it’s still the same thing. They buzz in there, you hammer them, and they buzz out.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. Aim small, miss small.
Mike Morgan: That’s it. Hunting teal is, to me, the first hour of the morning. If you want to stay out there all day— It’s just kind of a comfortable hunt.
Ramsey Russell: Oh, it sure is. It’s a great time to take kids, too. I love that time of year. Forrest is 22 years old. I started taking him when he was three or four years old because they’re going to get wet, they’re going to play in the mud, they’re going to get bored, and the hunt’s over quick. It’s a great time to bring kids or bring wives. You don’t need a lot of equipment. You don’t need a lot of installation. It’s a great time of year to bring kids out there hunting.
Where is the Best Place in the World to Hunt Teal?
“If somebody wants to book a hunt, I know you’ve got places all over the world where you can hunt teal.”
Mike Morgan: It really is. Well, Ramsey, I appreciate you stopping by and going over some of the interesting facts on teal that you’ve given us. If somebody wants to book a hunt, I know you’ve got places all over the world where you can hunt teal. If somebody’s looking for a great teal hunt, you’ve got your US Hunt List, and you’ve got your GetDucks.com. What do they need to do to get in touch with you to book a teal hunt here in the US or in Argentina or wherever you go all over the world? What do they need to do?
Ramsey Russell: If they want to book a hunt on the continent of the United States of America, go to USHuntList.com and contact the outfitter directly. We’ve been there, we’ve scouted them, we know they are what they say they are. They’re going to give forth a great effort. If you’re looking to hunt blue-winged teal, you certainly would want to go down to the Louisiana and Texas coasts. It’d be hard to beat that EL Campo prairie. We’ve talked about Steve Biggers a lot, and, buddy, there’s a good reason for that. He owns the bluewings of the world, as far as I’m concerned. If you want to go outside the US borders, or outside of America and Canada, give me a shout. GetDucks.com. My telephone number’s on there. Give me a shout anytime.
Mike Morgan: You’ll take them down there personally if they’ve got enough money.
Ramsey Russell: I’ll take them down there. I spend a lot of time on the road, myself, and I’ll be happy to take them down there. But I don’t have to be there. If I have to be at an outfit for it to run well, I’ve got the wrong outfit.
Mike Morgan: I know. We had a great time down there with you and had some great hunts. You’ve got some people down there that you’ve associated yourself with. Martha Ciaffoni, one of the finest people I’ve ever met in my life. She’s a great gal. She’s kind of the liaison down there with Get Ducks and with you. She speaks English, so you don’t need any translators. You go down there, you’re comfortable. It’s a great place to go. You feel safe all the time, and you’re going to kill a lot of ducks, one way or the other.
Ramsey Russell: That’s right. In the United States, we’ve got some good hunts, too. It’s a big, beautiful world of duck hunting, Mike. Whether it’s teal or other ducks— Like I tell everybody, the world is a whole lot bigger than your own backyard.
Cinnamon Teal Hunting in Peru
“Now, when you told us that we were going to go hunting in Peru, I thought you were crazy. Who goes duck hunting in Peru? Nobody except Ramsey Russell.”
Mike Morgan: I guarantee you. Ramsey, one of the most interesting hunts that I’ve ever been on, I went on with you. We went down to Peru. Now, when you told us that we were going to go hunting in Peru, I thought you were crazy. Who goes duck hunting in Peru? Nobody except Ramsey Russell. Tell me a little bit about that hunt and what we did and how that came about.
Ramsey Russell: How that came about was I caught wind, many years ago, that coastal Peru—up against the Pacific Ocean—has the largest concentration of cinnamon teal in the world. You’ll shoot brown pintail and white-cheeked pintail and a few blue-winged teal, but it’s the dadgum cinnamon teal. Right there between the Atacama Desert and the Pacific Ocean is this little sliver of rice valley that attracts all these teal.
Mike Morgan: It’s wild. We went down there, landed, drove for three hours through the most arid desert—there wasn’t a blade of grass for three hours, it’s like a high plains desert—and, all of a sudden, you get there to the ocean and you drop off. It’s a freaking thousand feet down to the water. You drive down there, and you’re on a beach. We stayed in a little beach house right there. I said, “Man, there ain’t a duck within ten thousand miles of this place.” We get up the next morning, do a little sightseeing—this, that, and the other—and go out. Like you say, you run into this little fertile valley. It’s just a sliver stuck out there, green and lush. I can see the waves breaking off the ocean, right there, and we’re duck hunting right there. All of a sudden, ducks start coming in, and y’all start hammering them. It’s amazing.
Ramsey Russell: Wasn’t that a great hunt?
What’s the Craziest Thing Ever Encountered While Hunting?
Mike Morgan: It was unbelievable. One day, we decided we were going to go down into town. We’ve got our camouflage on, we go into town, and everybody’s kind of looking at us weird and trying to figure out what we’re doing. Come to find out, the only people who wore camouflage down there were terrorists, at that time. When they finally figured out we were a TV crew and that we were hunting ducks— Man, look, they were the friendliest people. They’d come up and go, “I want to swap my T-shirt for your shirt.” It’s just an absolutely beautiful country. The wildest thing—other than the duck hunt—was our field producer Nate Metcalf. We were stopped and doing interviews with the ocean behind us. A real pretty scene, and it’s just straight up big sand hills behind us. He runs up the top of one of these hills and is looking around, and I see him coming over. He comes over the top of this hill like the Indians are chasing him. Waving, “Come up here! Come up here!” I looked up there, and I said, “Boy, if I come up there and there’s nothing up there good, I’m going to kick your butt.” It’s a long way up there, you know what I’m saying? On that sand hill, you take two steps forward and go three steps back. We trudged our way up there, and we looked over into this valley. It was like the valley of death. There were human bones everywhere out there and dug up places. We go over there, and there’s this skeleton that they had dug up and, I guess, put parts and pieces back together. The scalp was laying over there, and I remember that you were sitting on part of that scalp. I said, “Move that scalp.” You said, “I ain’t touching it.” I said, “Well, you’re sitting on one right there.”
Ramsey Russell: That doesn’t need to be on TV, now. That was bad.
Mike Morgan: Oh, yeah, that’s the greatest part.
Ramsey Russell: That was bad.
Mike Morgan: Anyway, what we come to find out is that these were ancient Inca Indians 2,500 years old, and this was their burial ground. But in that area of desert out there, they didn’t bury them but a foot or so deep. Then they’d put rocks around them, and these other Indians and people would come and try to dig them up to find these shrouds that they were buried in so that they could sell them on the black market.
Ramsey Russell: The chief of those old pre-Inca Indians, the chief of those areas, wore a feather robe.
Mike Morgan: Yeah. And those things were worth a lot, huh?
Ramsey Russell: Our host explained to us that if you were lucky enough to find one and sell it, it’d be like hitting the Powerball jackpot.
Mike Morgan: Yeah, you’d be set for life.
Ramsey Russell: I would have said, “Well, golly, this kind of morbid. Who goes and digs up cemeteries?” But she explained that it could have been hundreds of years ago that those bones were dug up.
Mike Morgan: Oh, yeah. You don’t know. I saw something almost like a purse, that was made out of reeds, that was 2,000 years old. Something that would have been in the Smithsonian Institute, and it’s just laying on the ground right there. I didn’t want to touch it, but you see stuff that no human being in thousands of years has touched or done anything with. It’s just amazing down there. The people were super nice, and our hosts were nice. We had an English-speaking host. We didn’t do the hunt where you go up in the mountains and shoot that one duck. We didn’t do that, but we did the Peru hunt. That was one hunt that I would do again in a heartbeat.
Ramsey Russell: It’s a great destination. To me, it’s one of the most unique destinations we have. You can go up into the mountains—shoot, sixteen thousand feet—and cherry pick certain species now. Andean geese and puna teal, and different birds like that, that you’re not going to find anywhere outside of the Andes Mountains. To me, the cinnamon teal hunt down in coastal Peru is nothing short of amazing.
Mike Morgan: I just got to thinking about when you said, “You know, at that time, we were probably the only duck hunters in Peru. There’s probably not another duck hunter in Peru doing that, at that time, other than us. Very few people.”
Ramsey Russell: Very, very few duck hunters. Even to this day, very few duck hunters.
Mike Morgan: Yeah. That’s crazy. Well, Ramsey, after that 97 mile an hour speeding ticket you got, you did make it there on time to go out to the hunt that morning.
Ramsey Russell: I did, and I did not get a speeding ticket.
Mike Morgan: You didn’t get a ticket? How do you go 97 miles an hour and get pulled over by a highway patrolman and—?
Ramsey Russell: That’s a very good question. When I pulled over, I rolled down all the windows and turned on the lights. We were on I-10 in pitch-black dark, and he came up to the passenger side. The last thing Forrest said was, “Mama’s going to kill you.” The guy came up. I had my registration and my license ready, and I gave it to him. He said, “What the heck are you doing going this fast down my highway for?” I said, “Sir, I’ve got to be in El Campo, Texas, at 6:30 in the morning for shooting time.” He said, “Shooting time for what?” I go, “For ducks.” He spit on the ground and looked at me, made sure I wasn’t lying, and said, ”You need to slow on down until you get out of my county.” them down.
Mike Morgan: I heard that. Well, you made it down there in time, and we went out and had a fantastic hunt. You remember all those teal, that morning, on the horizon?
Ramsey Russell: Unbelievable. Like smoke on the horizon.
Mike Morgan: It was.
Ramsey Russell: I was hoping it was ducks, not mosquitoes.
Mike Morgan: I heard that.