This Year's Teal Season Looks Promising
Blue-Winged teal numbers are through the roof for the 2022 hunting season!
By Matthew Waguespack, Sportsman's Outreach Coordinator
Courtesy of Avery Outdoors.
As the start of Louisiana’s teal season quickly approaches on September 10, duck hunters around the state are starting to mentally prepare themselves for those hot and humid September mornings spent swatting mosquitos and hopefully bagging a few Blue-Winged Teal.
We have some data and details for you to prepare for teal season in Sportsman’s Paradise.
The Data: USFWS survey is back
After a 2-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was finally able to once again conduct their annual Waterfowl Population Survey. This report has been much anticipated by both duck hunters and conservationists. The Waterfowl Population Survey foreshadows the upcoming season for hunters and also directly correlates with future bag limits. This survey gives us a clue to how well the overall population of waterfowl are doing compared to the Long-Term Average.
Courtesy of Ducks Unlimited.
First, the bad news: overall, the duck population is down. I will be informally comparing numbers to what I’m seeing from the blind as I hunt this season.
But the good news is: our Blue-Winged teal numbers are through the roof!
Hopefully Louisiana can continue to avoid extreme weather from the Gulf this hurricane season as we start duck season. Last year, Hurricane Ida left our coastal marshes, habitat, and vegetation that ducks rely on in shambles. So far, conditions across the state seem to be ideal. A heavy influx of rainfall in late August might have the teal scattered among shallow marsh and flooded agricultural fields.
The Details: How to prep for a good Teal Season
After you review the latest data, keep some of these tips in mind as you prep for your season.
1. Check your equipment.
• Make a check list of equipment that needs to be: maintained, replaced, fixed or purchased. Start this list early in the year.
• Run your boat, check all lights and make sure kill switch is operational.
• Check your personal flotation devices and other safety equipment.
• After duck season, demand on hunting equipment falls dramatically. Big sales and deals can be found from online retailers, box stores, and even Facebook Marketplace. Facebook can become flooded with hunting equipment as people upgrade, clean out storage, take up golf, etc. While typing this article I did a quick search on FB and found: pre-rigged fully flocked decoys, new and used mojos and even an entire spread of 5+ dozen decoys! Not to mention the GoDevil’s, ProDrive’s, and Gatortail’s galore.
2. Start scouting.
Instead of sitting in the blind with fingers crossed on opening morning, hoping you’ve set-up on the right spot, be proactive and have a Plan B. Scouting also gives you an opportunity to run your boat before opening morning. Nobody wants to be “that guy” who holds up the ramp on opening day.
• Find areas with shallow water and food sources.
• Look for ducks in the area: Wood Ducks, Mottled Ducks, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Fulvous Whistling Ducks, and especially Teal!
• Knowing what kind of ducks are in the area can give you a good clue as to what species you may encounter on opening morning. This can greatly improve your chances of being successful and prevent misidentification of a “closed season” species.
• If you do see ducks; make sure to pay attention to what they are doing: feeding, resting, etc.
• If you don’t see ducks; don’t panic. Large flocks of teal tend to move early and sporadically upon their arrival in Louisiana.
• Also keep an eye out for rails and gallinules that are feeding. They tend to congregate around the best available food sources.
Photo credit Jacques Hebert.
3. Be smart with your set up.
• Look for an ideal spot where you can set up quickly and be hidden.
• Utilize your surroundings. This time of year the cutgrass, cattails, and roseau cane can provide great cover. When used in combination with a small pop-up blind, a hunter can become virtually invisible to a fast-flying teal.
Photo credit Sam Carter.
Early teal season can make for some unbelievable hunts! Young teal that are unpressured can easily be fooled into landing at close range giving many young hunters the opportunity to bag their first bird.
• Put together a stringer of 1-2 dozen decoys. Remember what kind of ducks you saw while scouting. Personally, I have success with using a mixture of different species: One dozen teal decoys, two pairs of wood ducks, a pair of mottled ducks, and a pair of black bellied whistling ducks. I tend to use all female teal decoys because they best represent the eclipse plumage found during teal season.
• Don’t be afraid to use that teal call. Teal are very vocal ducks that tend to respond really well to a few quick quacks.
• Don’t jump the gun and shoot on their first pass. Give the birds a chance to work the decoys. Be it an itchy trigger finger or inexperience, many hunters shoot prematurely at a buzzing flock of teal, that if given the chance, would swing around and come land at the hunter’s feet.
• Beware of critters that are still very active during September like wasp, snakes and alligators.
• If you hunt with a dog, be mindful of alligators! Alligators can easily ambush a swimming dog.
Photo credit Matthew Waguespack.
Last year’s teal harvest was pretty decent around the state. I recall many of my own hunts beginning and ending with a hot and heavy teal swat. With numbers approaching nearly 6.5 million blue-winged teal, a 19% increase from 2019 and a 27% increase on the Long-Term Average, this upcoming teal season looks very promising thus far. Like many of you, I can’t wait to get out there!
Photo credit Matthew Waguespack.