By Paul Wait, Delta Waterfowl Editor
Special September hunt kicks off duck season
Bluewing hunting should be a blast this month. Multiple blasts, if you are lucky.
The special 16-day early teal season is already underway in Ohio and Indiana, and begins in mid-tier states such as Illinois and Arkansas on Saturday. Duck hunters in southern states such as Louisiana and Texas get their first cracks at the early migrants on Sept. 15.
And given the 2012 Waterfowl and Breeding Habitat Survey estimate of 9.24 million blue-winged teal — an all-time high — hunters along typical teal migration routes should be in business.
"The blue-winged teal breeding numbers are not a surprise," said Frank Rohwer, scientific director for Delta Waterfowl. "It all stems from great production last year. We'll get a good fall flight this year because we have so darn many ducks from last year."
Even though duck production was lower than last year because of drier conditions in prairie Canada and the Dakotas, the fall teal flight should be strong.
"It bodes really well for us in the south," said Rohwer, who enjoys hunting teal in Louisiana's coastal marshes. "I'm licking my chops. My teal season is going to be fabulous."
Blue-winged teal are the first ducks to migrate, with some beginning the flight south in mid-August, despite the sweltering heat of summer. The major push of bluewings, however, occurs in September.
Drought conditions might affect the migration, although recent rains from Hurricane Isaac have raised water levels in Illinois, Missouri and most states in the lower Mississippi Flyway.
Green-winged teal are also legal quarry during the September season, although they tend to migrate a bit later. Greenwings, too, were estimated to be at all-time high numbers on the breeding grounds this spring, tallying 3.47 million ducks. Certainly, most of the teal taken during the special teal season will be bluewings, but some greenwings will fall to shotguns.
In general, hunters have the most success for teal in shallow-water wetland complexes where preferred foods such as millet and duckweed are growing. The best period of the day is often first light, when the diminutive ducks leave roost waters in search of breakfast.
Bluewings are attracted to decoys, and motion in the spread can pull passing teal into easy range. Excited quacks on a teal or mallard call can also increase the odds of a blurred-wing visit.
Of course, the best feature of the early duck campaign might just be the sporting shots at twisting teal, followed closely thereafter by the taste on the dinner table should your swinging shotgun barrel catch up to the birds.