They're small birds that buzz the spinners tight, sometimes swinging wide and landing close (if you're lucky.) You need wide, even patterns of smaller shot for these little ducks.
A couple years back Kent introduced TealSteel, a 3-inch shell in 1¼ ounces in No. 5s and 6s with a muzzle velocity of 1,350 fps. With smaller steel shot, there is a much faster loss of downrange energy. But this isn't a big issue for teal as shots tend to be at close range.
I recall hunting years ago at the Hackberry Rod & Gun Club south of Lake Charles, Louisiana, when our group shot three or four teal after a big bunch came in feet down. Our farthest shot was 25 yards. At that range, there was sufficient pellet energy.
Assuming we need to hit a duck with at least six pounds of energy delivered by four pellets, each pellet's downrange energy needs to equal 1.5 pounds. No. 5 TealSteel hits the barrier at about 35 yards at 1.68 foot/lbs of energy, and 6s run out of steam at about 25 yards. The 5s drop below the 1.5 ft/lbs threshold at 40 yards with 1.41 ft/lbs, and 6s at 30 yards.
But on a September trip to Texas with Terry Denmon and the Mojo guys, WILDFOWL staff crushed several blue-wings past 40 yards and many more in the decoys with TealSteel 5s, so it can dial long distance on occasion.
At the range, I shot both 5s and 6s through Trulock Skeet 1, MÃ¼ller Decoy, and Patternmaster Classic chokes. The Trulock provided .0055 inches of constriction, the MÃ¼ller .0065 and the Patternmaster .0195. I included the tighter PM to illustrate why more open chokes are valuable when shooting this particular load.
The Trulock 35-yard patterns proved to be quite even with 37 percent of the 304 (No. 5) pellets striking within the center 22-inch circle and 24 percent in the outer 30-inch.
MÃ¼ller's choke with No. 5s at 35 yards, resulted in a 35 percent hit within the 22-inch center and 26 percent on the outer ring.
With No. 6 shot at 25 yards (nearing the end of its range), I started with the Trulock that threw a 53 percent average within the center 22-inch ring and 28 percent on the outer.
The MÃ¼ller turned in a higher density with 72 percent of the 394 pellets in the center circle and 19 percent in the outer.
Using the PM for comparison, I counted an average of 86 percent of the 6s in the inner circle and 12 percent in the outer.
Even though the pattern percentages were good for those ranges, all, save for the PM, had patches large enough for a teal to slip through, though less likely if you're shooting well.
However, for those of you who take pride in a Patternmaster being rusted into your barrel, note that virtually all the pattern was concentrated in the center portion, and anything hit with it would be teal burger! But many of us depend on the entire 30-inch circle of pattern.
Teal fly really fast and we need every bit of coverage to account for less-than-perfect marksmanship. Tight centers are necessary for turkey, but for blue and green rockets, we need all the help we can get.
I have a couple yellowed photos of my father with two buddies and a string of teal they shot around 1936 along the Ohio River. They are dressed like dandies, but more important are the teal they bagged. I can't hold up a string of teal like my dad's, but from testing TealSteel, it's well-designed for its purpose. The recoil is mild (on gas guns), and I'll have some in my bag whenever the teal fly.