Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
There’s a big change for this year’s duck season. For the first time since the 1960s, Iowa waterfowlers will have an opportunity to participate in a Special Teal Only Hunting Season. The statewide 16-day season begins Saturday, September 6 and runs through September 21. Authorized by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the hunt is being offered as a free bonus and does not subtract days from Iowa’s regular duck season. Shooting hours are sunrise to sunset: the daily bag limit is six teal. Hunting will remain closed for all other waterfowl species.
Although all species of teal will be open to hunting, the special season is timed to coincide with the peak migration of blue-winged teal. Teal populations have been showing steady gains during recent years. During this year’s waterfowl survey, blue-wings showed a 10 percent increase over 2013; and are 42 percent above the long term [1955 – 2013] average. Blue-winged teal are the very first waterfowl species to migrate south each fall, and most blue-wings will have passed through Iowa by mid-September.
All things considered, blue-winged teal represent the perfect species to kick off the fall waterfowl seasons. An abundant inhabitant of shallow ponds and marshes, early season blue-wings are accessible to hunters of all ages. No expensive blind boats or specialized equipment needed here. A pair of rubber hip boots, bag of decoys, and pocket full of shotgun shells are all you need for success. On second thought, make that two pocketfuls of shells. Although teal are low level fliers and will readily buzz a set of decoys; they generally do so at warp speeds. Getting teal to come close is easy. Putting them in the bag is an entirely different matter. Although most hunters will miss far more teal than they hit, those birds that are brought to bag provide quality dining of the highest order.
Those are just a few of the reasons why Iowa duck hunters – myself included — are so understandably excited over the prospects of this year’s bonus hunt. Although Iowa Teal Seasons were extremely popular with 1960s’ duck hunters, the special seasons [while continuing in the South] have been denied to northern production states during recent decades. Waterfowl enthusiasts were pleasantly surprised when the DNR announced last week that the special season would be reinstated during 2014.
As a teen-aged duck hunter, I participated in the original Special Teal Seasons of the 1960s. The daily limit was four teal, and you had to apply to the feds for a special Teal Hunting Permit. The permit resembled an oversized postcard and had to be in your possession while hunting. There were a lot more duck hunters back then; during the week leading up to the event, our high school cafeteria literally buzzed with excitement as groups of outdoor minded students discussed the upcoming season. Enthusiasm ran so high, in fact, that one of my classmate hunting buddies actually dyed his hair “bulrush green” in preparation for Opening Day. You need to realize, of course, that this was about 40 years before guys dying their hair green became socially acceptable. As I recall, my friend’s mother didn’t exactly appreciate the attempt at ‘natural camouflage’. Instead, she went into orbit.
Back then, private lands still contained an abundance of natural wetland habitat. Most North Iowa farmsteads had a shallow cattail marsh or Back Forty pasture pond. Obtaining permission to hunt was easy; the teal were thick. And in spite of the fact that only one member of our boyhood hunting party sported authentic camouflaged hair, we had no difficulty in each bagging our four-duck daily limit.
Speaking of hair, mine was jet black when I hunted Iowa’s original teal seasons. Today – well, it’s not jet black. But although a lot of time has passed since those early boyhood hunts, I remain no less excited over the prospects for this year’s season as I was then. I’m just wondering what my friends will think if, on September 6, I show up with green hair.