By Bink Grimes, WF360 Texas Migration Editor
There should be no shortage of three things during the Texas
teal season this year: water, mosquitoes, and bluewings.
Still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and the 1,000-year floods it wrought, Texas waterfowlers are looking forward to taking a break from cleaning up after the storm and doing a little teal hunting.
The good news is that waves of teal arrived on the heels of a refreshing cool front, and that coupled with a bright full moon should make for a good opening day on September 9.
"Early in the week there were not many birds, and we were sweating it, literally," says Andrew Armour of Karankawa Plains Outfitters in Pierce. "Wednesday night, the cool front blew through and teal appeared like magic."
Less than a week ago, Armour reports that the Pierce Ranch had three to four feet of water flowing across it. The nearby Colorado River spilled over its banks and flooded most of Wharton. Concerned Texans showed up with a flotilla of small boats and rescued stranded citizens into the wee hours of the night.
"I have never seen anything like that," Armour says.
Drive through Wharton or any other town along the coastal prairie now and most of the water has disappeared. Lots of sunlight has begun drying fields enough for some farmers to begin disking row crops.
"There were teal in every fallow field for days," Armour says. "Most of the water has drained off now, which is good for hunting. Too much water is not good for teal hunting."
The marshes east of Houston in Chambers and Jefferson counties received 40 to 60 inches of rain from Harvey. Tides are receding and water levels are returning to normal, according to guide Brian Davenport of Fin and Fowl Outfitters near Anahuac, in the East Galveston Bay marsh.
"Lots of teal showed up ahead of the cold front," Davenport says. "We cleaned up, brushed blinds and are really looking forward to the opener. We were a little worried about cancellations from people dealing with the storm, but to our surprise most people are ready to hunt."
Ponds around Garwood, Eagle Lake, El Campo and East Bernard look good. Again, there is plenty of "free" water on the ground this year, which makes scouting even more important.
"There are a lot of wet ponds that are normally dry in September," says guide Harlan Boettcher of Prairie Waterfowl in Eagle Lake-East Bernard. "Teal love rice, so if you have rice, you have a chance to hold good numbers of birds throughout the season."
Hunters should be aware of other ducks like pintails, shovelers, black-bellied whistling ducks and mottled ducks that may show up at sunrise. All of the above species have a distinct wingbeat and generally fly at a higher altitude than blue-winged teal, so be sure you clearly identify your target before you squeeze the trigger.
Waterfowlers can often determine the progress of the teal migration by the sex and age composition of the birds in the bag. The first significant migration consists mostly of adult drakes and hens that did not raise a brood, followed later by post-breeding hens and juvenile birds. Adult drakes can be easily identified by the solid white stripe above the green speculum on each wing. Hens and juveniles lack these white markings on their wings.
Teal season runs through September 24.
Find migration reports in your area.
Bink Grimes is a freelance writer, waterfowler, and licensed captain. A waterfowl guide in his 27th season, Grimes resides in Bay City, Texas. He will provide detailed migration and hunting reports for Waterfowl360 throughout the 2017-2018 Texas waterfowl season.