Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
This year’s Special [Teal Only] Duck Season began Saturday, September 5. The second in a three year experiment, the early-16 day hunt is timed to coincide with the peak migration of blue-winged teal – one of the continent’s most abundant but least utilized waterfowl.
According to Iowa Conservation Officers and DNR Wildlife Biologists, hunters encountered good teal numbers statewide as the season began Labor Day Weekend. Hunter success ranged from good, to excellent, to what some waterfowl enthusiasts are describing as an “all out fantasy”. Teal numbers were greatest in the north central and northwestern regions of the state where Opening Day blue-wings “flew like gnats”. Hunter success remained high through the Monday [Labor Day] holiday as migrating teal continued to arrive in the state.
The only downside to this year’s early hunt say hunters, was the extreme heat that occurred during the early part of the weekend as temperatures soared into the ‘80s.But early season, warm weather teal hunts are nothing new, of course. A news brief posted in an August, 1896 edition of the Clear Lake Mirror Reporter stated that a local hunter named John Berkley had gotten his fall season off to a roaring start by shooting 73 of the tasty ducks. The columnist also noted that during the previous week “a great many hunters” had visited Clear Lake and that the fowlers had been fairly successful.
Here today, gone tomorrow; blue-winged teal are the first waterfowl species to depart the northern breeding grounds each fall. Moving hard and fast down the flyways, most blue-wings will have passed to the south of Iowa by mid-September; well in advance of regular duck season openers. An abundant and popular inhabitant of 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 needed for success; a pair of rubber waders, bag of decoys, and pocket full of shotgun shells are all you need. Although teal are low level fliers and will readily come to decoys; they generally do so at break neck speed. Getting flocks to come close is easy. Putting teal in the bag is an entirely different matter. Although most hunters will miss far more blue-wings than they hit, those birds that are brought to bag provide quality dining of the highest order.
Although September Teal Seasons were extremely popular with Iowa hunters during the1960s, the special hunts [while continuing in the South] have been denied to northern waterfowl production states during recent decades. Re-authorized in 2014 by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the teal season is currently being offered to Iowans as a free bonus and does not subtract days from the state’s regular 60-day duck season. For Iowa waterfowl enthusiasts, the early teal season offers the best of all worlds.