Blue-winged teal are an early-migrating duck, so many of the species leave states before the opening day of duck hunting.
In September 2014, three states — Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan — were allowed to have an early teal duck hunting season. The experimental season will take place for another two years.
The first-year report shows that the early season was successful, with hunters focusing harvest on desired teal ducks.
“We are very pleased we could provide this early teal season opportunity without significant impact on non-target species, as our Michigan waterfowl hunters demonstrated good sportsmanship and judgment in the field,” said Russ Mason, chief of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Division.
Teal (blue-winged and green-winged) are migratory birds managed under the authority of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in cooperation with state wildlife agencies. Decisions are made at a continental or regional level. As a result, the USFWS required the three state wildlife agencies to conduct and report the monitoring of this experimental season as a group.
The USFWS experimented with, and approved, special early teal hunting seasons for some states in the 1960s. Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and Minnesota weren’t included at that time. Officials thought hunters in those states would shoot too many duck that weren’t teal. Record-high duck populations changed the minds of authorities.
Each state wildlife agency established an early teal season based on biological and social factors. Michigan and Wisconsin held early teal seasons Sept. 1-7, while Iowa’s season ran Sept. 6-21.
In each state, observers (88 total) documented flights and behavior of hunters (160 parties) during the experimental teal seasons. Almost 700 non-teal ducks entered range of the hunters, but only 44 were shot at. That attempt rate of 6.3 percent was well below what the USFWS set in order to protect non-season species of duck. Dave Luukkonen, research biologist with Michigan DNR’s Wildlife Division, said about the new teal duck hunting season;
The early teal season provided Michigan hunters with a new opportunity, and our first-year results give us confidence in promoting this opportunity for hunters again next season.