Teal season opens to mixed reviews
Results for early teal season can best be described as a classic case of “have or have not”. For many hunters it was one end of the spectrum or the other and no in between. Rarely will you see birds as concentrated as they are right now and that pattern doesn’t look it will change any time soon. If you were one of the fortunate ones who were able to hunt on or near any type of flooded agriculture, especially rice, you probably had some fantastic shooting. A little farther down the coast in counties where rice production is more prevalent the reports were fantastic as many hunters knocked out limits in just minutes.
The conditions for hunting along the coastal prairies have been much less than desirable due to historic drought that has gripped most of Texas for the past months. Many of the best areas that under normal conditions held the perfect amounts of water were bone dry and cracked. Little or no substantial rainfall left many farmers and hunters alike in desperate need of water for both crops and ducks. Normally this problem was solved with a checkbook as it’s customary to buy water from local agencies during drought years. This year was different, the drought was so bad that no water was being sold for duck hunting and in some cases rice farmers were denied water to flood their fields for second crop production. The forecast for the early teal season that looked bad turned out as bad as expected for many.
Now the folks who were able to get water either through captured rainwater or private wells just absolutely had more birds than they could have ever hoped for. The combination of a record numbers of birds and fewer places for them to go translated into some ridiculously good hunting for some and empty skies for others. I got a few phone calls with reports Sunday evening that were mind boggling. Quick limits from large groups of hunters were enough to make just about any hunter jealous, especially those who struggled.
Public land hunters were also in the same boat as far numbers of birds and conditions go. Many refuge areas that offer public hunting have also been affected by the drought and that means fewer places for folks to hunt. Several Wildlife Management Areas have issued statements letting hunters know that due to the lack of water the amount of hunting areas available have been greatly reduced. Locally we have not had that problem as of yet and it shouldn’t be a factor thanks to some recent timely rains. As a matter of fact several local areas have been holding good numbers of teal and that should also continue as we get more birds coming into the area each day.
As this column is being written the big moon is still in the sky and most certainly ushering in new populations of teal each night. I wouldn’t be surprised if the current trend holds true for the final week where those folks with plenty of water continue to take the lion’s share of the birds. I do however look for those birds to start spreading out into other areas like saltwater marshes as hunting pressure on rice fields increases and forces some of those teal out. As the final weekend approaches many hunters will be looking to finish strong while others may trade in their shotguns for fishing rods.
Some local water fowl hunters have enjoyed outstanding action during the early teal season. RECORD PHOTO: Chuck Uzzle