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Louisiana Teal Season Opens

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MEMPHIS, Tenn., Sept. 11, 2006—The early teal season opens Friday, September 15. Duck hunters get a chance for an early start on their duck hunting as they head to coastal marshes, bayou backwaters and shallow water haunts in search of migrating blue-winged teal. These fast-flying ducks are among the earliest birds to migrate south and provide fast action for sportsmen.

The spring population survey of blue-winged teal was up 28 percent this year to 5.8 million birds (30 percent above the long-term average). This high number allowed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to increase the teal season from nine to 16 days. This increase may occur when the breeding population is more than 4.7 million birds. The season in Louisiana runs from September 15-30, with a bag limit of four teal per day. Shooting hours are one-half hour before official sunrise to sunset.

2006 Breeding Teal (in millions)

Species

2005

2006

% Change from

2005

% Change from

Long-term Avg.

Green-winged teal

2.157

2.587

+20

+39

Blue-winged teal

4.586

5.860

+28

+30

“The increased numbers seen in 2006 are a direct result of improved habitat conditions on the U.S. and Canadian prairies,” said DU Louisiana Regional Biologist Chad Courville.

Significant winter and spring moisture across the U.S. and southern Canadian prairies improved wetland conditions by 13 percent from last year, and pond numbers are 26 percent above the long-term. Above average nesting success is expected for ducks in the heart of the Prairie Pothole Region, the famous "Duck Factory" of North America.

“Reports from our biologists in the field indicated above-average precipitation in some key breeding areas for blue-winged teal and a strong late nesting effort by this diminutive bird,” Courville said.

In August and September, as cold fronts push down from Canada, large concentrations of blue-wings are migrating south to warmer climates. Their primary wintering grounds include the coastal marshes of Louisiana and Texas, and Central and South America. Early reports here in Louisiana indicate teal migration is well underway with teal arriving in good numbers since mid-August.

“Teal prefer coastal marshes, harvested rice fields and moist-soil impoundments. They love anything with shallow mud flats. Ideal water depth is less than 6 inches,” said DU Louisiana Director of Conservation Jerry Holden. “Inland reservoirs and oxbow lakes also provide good teal habitat in their upper reaches. Shallow water is the key.”

Scouting early helps hunters find places to set decoys.

“Hunters don't need many decoys,” Holden said. “I generally use 18-24 teal decoys, but mallard decoys also work. One important tip: I use all hen decoys. Blue-winged teal have not developed their fall plumage yet, so they all resemble the darker hens.

“I don't call much,” Holden added. “Once a flock is spotted, a short five-note series and short peeps with a teal whistle usually does the trick. A mallard call works fine, but blue-winged teal calls are available, and they also work.”

Habitat programs delivered by DU and its partners on the Prairie Pothole Region are among the most aggressive on the continent. Programs include perpetual protection of native habitats through easements or ownership and conversion of land use to functions more beneficial for teal and other waterfowl species. DU continues to promote agricultural programs that assist farmers and ranchers in using the best of their acreage for farming and conserving the rest. This provides added benefits of improved soil, water quality and wildlife.

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