As Texas waterfowlers prepare for the start of the 2021−2022 early teal season, there are whispers that the habitat is good and bluewings are thick. While duck production was likely below average this year due to drought on the prairies, blue-winged teal numbers remain strong overall, which should lead to a strong migration and, with luck, a successful teal season.
Kevin Kraai, waterfowl program leader for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, is optimistic based on the reports he is hearing.
“It’s been positive across the board. The Gulf Coast is in really great shape,” he says. “Above-average rainfall has kept the bays fresh, which promotes good growth of submerged aquatics that are important for blue-winged teal and helps keep them around.”
Kraai notes that large concentrations of staging bluewings have been present along the Gulf Coast since the middle of August, and he only expects those numbers to grow.
“While we expect breeding success to be down, millions of bluewings remain in the fall migration following two to three years of excellent production, and we are seeing early indications of that,” he says. “There are a lot of hunters who invest time, money, and effort into their habitat, and it looks like that will pay off for those hunters.”
Kraai notes that habitat conditions have improved dramatically across the state, which should provide expanded opportunities for hunters looking to bag early teal.
“I’ve heard reports of improved habitat and growing concentrations of bluewings in East Texas, including on Toledo Bend Reservoir,” he says. “Several of those reservoirs are at high levels due to recent rainfall, which can create some new habitat for bluewings.”
Kraai adds that the Panhandle appears to have an abundance of excellent habitat as well, including recharged playa basins, which will host not only bluewings but an abundance of other waterfowl species as the season progresses.
“This time last year, out of 28,000 playa basins, only about 15,000 had water. Right now, a lot of those playas are full,” Kraai explains. “Last year, we didn’t even really have a teal season up here. This year, we will definitely have birds.”
In short, the outlook is promising for a strong start to teal season in Texas. The next step for hunters is to find your way to a blind.