Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
They say that timing is everything. I think most of us would agree with that statement. I’d also add that rarely has that well known phrase been more dramatically illustrated than during this year’s September 1st opening of Iowa’s 2020 Teal Season.
Reinstated by the feds in 2014, Iowa teal seasons are designed to intercept southbound flocks of blue-winged teal, a duck species that often builds to peak numbers during early September but may migrate out of the state before regular waterfowl seasons begin. So, if the old “timing is everything” adage even applies to setting duck season dates, then the script for this year’s teal opener couldn’t have been written any better.
Setting the Stage: The migration calendar actually began on August 18th when the first significant influx of blue-winged teal arrived on Iowa wetlands. But although the buildup was impressive, most of those birds only lingered for a day or two before continuing their southward journey. A second, though much less impressive, teal migration occurred again on August 27th.
And then it happened. On the night of August 29th, blue-winged teal staged an apparent mass exodus from all points north. A sudden change in weather – clear skies, bright moon, falling temps and gusty northwest winds – had created the perfect storm. The resulting flight can only be described as a migration Main Event. It was the kind of web-foot invasion that duck hunters dream of.
By the time the sun cleared the horizon on August 30, the change had become obvious. Marshes that had harbored few (or no) blue-wings the day before were literally covered with newly arrived birds. On North Iowa’s most desirable wetland habitats, waterfowl counts surged into four-digit inventories. A sight to behold, the event did not go unnoticed by area duck hunters. With less than twenty-four hours remaining until the season’s opener, social media outlets were alive with ‘duck chatter’. Anticipation escalated, and by as early as 8:00 pm, wildlife are parking lots were beginning to fill.
When the September 1st teal opener finally arrived, it was everything waterfowlers had hoped for. For many hunters, the teal “flew like gnats” with some parties bagging their six-duck limits in as little as 5 to 10 minutes. Not everyone enjoyed that level of fast and furious action, of course. But according to DNR Conservation Officers, the vast majority of hunters did manage to take home birds; it’s just that some parties just had to stick with it for an extra hour or two. Officers noted that virtually without exception, hunters were pleased with the numbers of blue-winged teal they encountered, adding that this year’s season opener will go down as one the best ever.
From a purely recreational standpoint, Iowa’s special teal seasons have been a major windfall – the best single change in waterfowl regulations in the past fifty years. The September weather is mild which translates into more hunters of all ages seeing more ducks in more places than at any other time of the year. Offered as a free bonus, the 16-day seasons do not subtract from traditional hunting days.
The message is clear. When it comes to Iowa duck seasons, timing is everything.