Last week's torrential rains may have put a damper on dove season for some hunters, but it may be a welcome sight for Arkansas' teal hunters.
The special September teal season in Arkansas opened Sept. 13 and continues through Sept. 28.
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission waterfowl biologist Luke Naylor said the recent cold front likely pushed some bluewings down from the north. "We've got a ton of water in the state. That should make for some pretty good conditions for teal hunters," Naylor said. "All we need is a nice cold front to push some teal into the state," he added.
Scouting is important, but teal are often here today and gone tomorrow, so even if teal appear to have left an area you still may have a quality hunt due to birds jumping from one place to another or new birds arriving, Naylor explained. "In other words, do some preseason scouting to find an area with some teal and give it a try or just head out to a spot that has water where you've had success in the past," he said.
"Blue-winged teal are very sensitive to cold weather," Naylor explained. "In September, as cold fronts push down from Canada and the northern U.S., large concentrations of blue-wings will migrate southward to warmer climates. Their primary wintering grounds include the coastal marshes of Louisiana and Texas as well as Central and South America."
Naylor said blue wings make up 95 percent of the September migration (the other teal species being green-winged teal) and will seek out a variety of habitat during their stopovers in Arkansas.
"They prefer marshes, harvested rice fields, moist-soil impoundments and agricultural reservoirs. Teal prefer shallow mud flats. Ideal water depth is less than six inches," he said. "Having said that though, inland reservoirs and oxbow lakes also provide good teal habitat in their upper reaches. Shallow water is the key."
Scouting early will help hunters find the best spots to set decoys. "Hunters don't need many decoys. I generally use 12 to 18 decoys, teal if possible, but mallard decoys will also work," he explained.