Sunday, February 5th, 2023
Sunday, February 5th, 2023

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Teal hunters’ success to depend on weather

Springfield – A 16-day season doesn’t seem all that expansive,
but teal hunters are aware what two weeks of an Illinois September
can bring.

“It could be 90 degrees with sweat or it could be 50 degrees
with chills,” waterfowler Randy Gilbert, of Edwardsville, said.
“You can’t really do too much planning for teal. Just show up and
hunt.”

Such strategy has worked well the past two seasons. The state’s
hunters harvested 29,800 teal last September, slightly more than
the 28,016 they took during the short season in 2006.

In general, biologists are predicting a good teal flight during
the 2008 season, which runs Sept. 6-21.

Green-winged teal, the third-most-harvested duck in Illinois
after mallards and gadwalls, again experienced a population
increase this year – to the second-highest level since 1955 and 57
percent above the long-term average.

Also, blue-winged teal populations were at their fourth-highest
level ever recorded.

This year’s blue-winged teal breeding population estimate of
6.64 million is similar to last year’s estimate of 6.71 million,
which was the second-highest population estimate ever recorded.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rules allow for a 16-day teal
season when blue-winged teal breeding populations exceed 4.7
million.

Although blue-winged teal populations did not change
significantly from 2007, they remain well above the long-term
average.

Even with a string of positive numbers to chew on heading into
the season, experienced duck hunters know that success is much more
dependent on the weather than anything else.

“For the most part, blue-winged teal are attracted to very
shallow water and mud flats,” Ray Marshalla, the state’s top
waterfowl biologist, said. “Areas that have shallow flooded fields
and mud flats should have good numbers of blue-winged teal.”

Spring and early summer flooding up and down the state may play
a part in hunters’ success, too.

Northeast and north-central Illinois and areas flooded by the
Illinois and Mississippi River – along with Carlyle, Shelbyville
and Rend lakes – may be the best bets for teal this year.

Waterfowl areas near the three Corps of Engineers lakes
experienced high summer water levels, which could cause poor food
production for waterfowl.

Marshalla said that could hurt hunting success on these
areas.

Also, some of the habitats favorable to teal along the rivers
were wiped out by flooding.

Teal hunters this year are limited to a bag limit of four teal
per day. The legal hunting hours are sunrise to sunset – different
from the regular duck season, which allows for shooting a half-hour
before sunrise.

Speaking of regular duck season, conditions for ducks in
northern states and Canada is causing Illinois hunters a little bit
of stress as the regular fall seasons approach.

“The decline in breeding habitat conditions is consistent with
what Ducks Unlimited’s field biologists have reported across much
of the U.S. and Canadian breeding grounds this spring,” Ducks
Unlimited’s Chief Biologist, Dale Humburg, said. “While late rains
may have improved habitat for late nesting species, and for
renesting and brood rearing, poor production will likely occur over
key productions areas, particularly the prairie grasslands of the
U.S. and Canada.”

While not overly optimistic, other waterfowl experts say things
could be worse for ducks this year.

“Overall, the duck numbers aren’t as bad as they might have
been, but don’t look for much production this year,” Frank Rohwer
of Louisiana State University, Delta Waterfowl’s scientific
director, said earlier this summer. “Those areas across the
breeding grounds that are wet are not the productive areas, and the
most productive areas are dry.”

According to USFWS reports, the combined May pond count for the
United States and Canada was 4.4 million, a drop of 37 percent from
a year ago and 10 percent below the long-term average. The mallard
population was surprisingly strong, down just 7 percent to 7.7
million breeding birds. Total ducks dropped 9 percent from 41.1
million to 37.3 million.

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