The blue-winged teal migration is under way across the Great Lakes region, just in time for early teal season in several states. Recent cool weather in the prairie provinces of Canada and northern tier of the Great Lakes has pushed good numbers of bluewings into parts of the region. As always, regular scouting is essential as these fickle birds can be here today gone tomorrow in many locations.
Teal seasons in Wisconsin and Michigan opened on September 1. The marshes and back bays of the Upper Mississippi River often hold huge flocks of teal as they blitz their way south. “We were running banding operations last week and during our afternoon scouting we encountered good numbers of teal,” reports Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) biologist Brenda Kelly, who is based in La Crosse.
Other parts of the Badger State are also holding good numbers of birds. “I’m comfortable saying there are considerable numbers of teal throughout the state,” says Wisconsin DNR biologist Taylor Finger. “But reports have been variable. Some areas did extremely well opening weekend, while others, not so much. The bottom line is that wetland and weather conditions have been great so far. Hunters who fail to scout may experience poor hunting, but those who put in the extra work will likely see birds and have the opportunity to shoot some teal.”
Blue-winged teal numbers appear to be spottier in neighboring Michigan. “I’ve heard of a small push of birds in the north,” says DU volunteer Dean Noble. “The bay is definitely slow, with very low numbers of birds in the Saginaw Bay region overall.”
In contrast, Michigan DNR Field Operations Manager Joe Robison and his hunting companions had a good teal hunt on Wednesday morning on the Lake Erie marshes in the southeast corner of the state. Robinson notes that teal numbers are likely to increase as the season progresses and more birds arrive from the north.
Farther east, in Ohio, good numbers of teal have been present on the Lake Erie marshes over the past few weeks, reports Jimmy Wren, regional director of sales for Zink Calls and Avian-X. “Hopefully with all the boat traffic in the marshes, the birds will be moving around for the opener,” he says.
The Illinois and Mississippi Rivers are important migration corridors for blue-winged teal and other waterfowl. Along the Illinois, Forbes Biological Station ecologist Aaron Yetter reports that “average numbers of teal were present in the usual spots as of Wednesday, September 4. Goose Lake (Putnam County), Douglas Lake, Clear Lake, Chautauqua, Emiquon, and Cuba Island had the biggest concentrations.”
In contrast, Yetter says the Mississippi River was holding very few teal and habitat conditions are poor, especially below Quincy, due to widespread flooding earlier this year. Check the Forbes station website for the latest aerial inventory reports.
Indiana’s teal season will open on September 14 and continue through the last weekend of the month. Reports from northern Indiana indicate that fair numbers of teal are present on state fish and wildlife areas and other high-quality habitats. Smaller numbers of bluewings have pushed into central and southern portions of the Hoosier State.
Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area, located in southwest Indiana, is a notable waterfowl hotspot. “We are seeing good teal numbers already,” reports property manager Travis Stoelting, with the Indiana DNR. “On August 26, we counted 400 blue-winged teal, and this week we counted just over 1,000. The teal and geese are primarily using areas with shallow water and mudflats.”
“We’ve started our weekly waterfowl surveys, and hunters can find survey information for several properties, including Goose Pond, on the Indiana DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife website,” Stoelting adds.