Michael Furtman_BluewingedTeal.jpg

Michael Furtman


Early teal and Canada goose seasons opened over the Labor Day weekend in several Midwestern states, and these seasons will open in other states this coming weekend. Over the past 10 days, a series of cold fronts coupled with a full moon kicked the waterfowl migration into high gear. These conditions benefited teal hunters in some places as bluewings arrived from the north. Other hunters, however, reported losing birds right before the opener. 

Ideal migration conditions will return this week as nighttime lows dip into the upper 40s along with clear skies in upper portions of the region. This should push another wave of blue-winged teal south from their breeding grounds. Increasing numbers of molt-migrant Canada geese will also likely arrive from the north this week.

"It’s been hot, but bird movements picked up slightly with the shortening days, and dove hunters on public land bounced ducks around," says Minnesota waterfowler and Sporting Journal Radio host Bret Amundson.

Amundson reports that water levels remain low across much of Minnesota. While not as dry as last season, wetland conditions will continue to deteriorate if substantial rainfall isn't received soon.

Dry conditions also prevail in neighboring Wisconsin. However, good numbers of teal are being reported in areas where managers can provide suitable habitat. "With the extremely dry conditions across the state all summer long, our marshes have had excellent production of moist-soil plants, and there is a ton of duck food in them," says Migratory Bird Ecologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Taylor Finger. "However, the areas that don’t have the ability to pump or move water remain dry and are not holding many birds."

Finger has heard that teal hunters on the upper Mississippi River and the Winnebago chain of lakes had a solid teal opener.

While Michigan hunters had been reporting fair teal numbers, the consensus is that many birds pushed through or left key migration areas before the opener. On the upside, Canada goose numbers are fantastic.

"We've had slim pickings on teal but lots of geese," says Joe Robison, Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife biological supervisor. "Strong north winds and cooler temperatures pushed a lot of teal out before the season began in southeast Michigan. A handful of teal remained for the opener, which led to some hunter success."

Nearby Lake Erie is famous for its vast marshes and managed wetlands along the coast. The same sentiments are being expressed by many teal hunters in this areathe birds left prior to Saturday’s opener.

Dry conditions also plague much of Illinois and Indiana, but water levels can be managed on many hunting areas in these states, including public and private tracts. Indiana hunters are often dependent on two or three key migration days during the early teal season, and this year does not appear to have happened yet, with very few properties reporting notable teal numbers thus far.

One bright spot is Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area in southwest Indiana, where pockets of water in marsh units are currently holding good numbers of blue-winged teal, albeit surrounded by a lot of mud.

Forbes Biological Station staff conducted an aerial survey last week that indicated teal numbers were slightly below the long-term average in the Illinois and Mississippi River valleys. “The Illinois, especially, is at or near its lowest water level of the summer, so there is still a lot of mud out there. Ducks are very concentrated as expected with the low water,” says Josh Osborn, wetland bird ecologist at the Forbes station. “It’s also possible that cooler temps this week have pushed more of our bluewings south.”

Located smack dab in north-central Missouri’s waterfowl superhighway, Tony Vandemore of Habitat Flats anxiously awaits the roar of big flocks of bluewings at sunrise. "After a very dry summer, we started catching some rain at the end of July and had a small flood in early August," explains Vandemore. "The habitat has exploded and looks fantastic! I haven’t seen a lot of teal yet but expect to start seeing more this week with the cooler weather up north."

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