Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
The first of this year’s fall waterfowl seasons begins with a special, 16-day teal hunt opening September 1. The purpose of the statewide early season is to provide Iowa duck hunters with an opportunity to pursue flocks of early migrating blue-winged teal. Although blue-wings occur as an abundant nester across the Dakotas and prairie Canada, the bulk of their population typically passes through the state well in advance of traditional duck season openers. Authorized by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in 2014, the Iowa teal season is offered as a 16-day bonus and does not subtract days from the state’s regular 60-day duck season. The daily bag limit is six; and may include a combination of blue-winged, green-winged, or cinnamon teal. All other waterfowl species remain closed. Shooting hours are from sunrise to sunset.
Here today, gone tomorrow: Moving hard and fast down the flyways, blue-winged teal are the very first waterfowl to depart the northern breeding grounds. Here today, Gone tomorrow is the blue-wing’s credo. During most years, the migration’s peak will have passed to the south of Iowa by mid-September. Always eager to explore new wetlands, teal that nested in Canada may begin arriving in coastal Louisiana by Labor Day weekend. Teal banded in northern Iowa have been recovered within the month by hunters from as far away as the West Indies, Central America, and South America. Some blue-wings will even venture beyond the equator to winter in Brazil and Peru — an incredible distance of 4,000 miles from their summer breeding grounds.
For Iowa waterfowl enthusiasts, teal seasons provide a recreational windfall. As plentiful inhabitants of small ponds and shallow marshlands, early season blue-wings are readily accessible to hunters of all ages and all levels of expertise. No expensive blind boats or specialized equipment are required for teal hunting success. A pair of waterproof waders, a few decoys, and a pocket full of shotgun shells are all you need. Although teal are low level fliers and readily lured to decoys; they generally do so at breakneck speeds. Getting flocks to come close is easy. Putting teal in the bag is a different matter. Although most hunters will miss far more blue-wings than they hit, those birds that are brought to bag provide superb table fare. Only the famed canvasback offers superior flavor.