OUTDOORS: Teal season is underway

BILL WEHRLE, C-T/LCL Outdoors Sports Editor

By BILL WEHRLE, C-T/LCL Outdoors Sports Editor

Missouri’s early teal hunting season is underway, as of today, and will run through Sept. 26, giving the state’s hunters the maximum 16 days allowed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife agency for this season.

Teal are the earliest waterfowl to migrate each fall, arriving hereabouts beginning in mid-August, with many of them – especially the blue-wings – heading south before the “regular” duck season opens in late October or early November.

Being allowed this special early season gives Missouri waterfowlers a chance to hunt blue-winged teal they otherwise might never see in a regular season.

To legally hunt teal (and other waterfowl), you’ll need a Missouri migratory bird hunting permit and a federal waterfowl stamp in addition to a state small-game hunting license, which is necessary unless you’re excepted due to age (over 65 years old) or another reason.

All waterfowl hunting, including teal, also require you to shoot non-toxic (not lead) shotshells, and your shotgun must be “plugged” to hold no more than three shells.

Unlike the regular waterfowl season, which opens each day a half-hour before sunrise, the early teal season daily start time is at sunrise, so don’t get ahead of yourself.

I’ve heard several reports of teal sightings at Fountain Grove and up and down the Grand River in the last couple of weeks, so teal hunting this year might be pretty good. We have plenty of wetland water, due to summer’s rainfall, and teal really like to hang out and feed in shallow wetlands and on mud flats.

Teal are the smallest ducks and fly pretty darn fast, so non-toxic loads of small shot (more in each shell) is probably the best teal load, although heavier loads of bigger shot will certainly bring them down, if you can hit them.

Dove season is still open also, but I don’t have much to say about it.

Despite driving a lot of miles checking for dove locations, I really didn’t find many. I couldn’t find the usual concentrations of doves anywhere I looked and this year’s failure of the sunflower crop planted to attract them didn’t help this effort. I’ve still got lots of dove shells left over; too bad I can’t use them on teal.

The Missouri Department of Conservation has announced the pre-season reservation period for duck hunting on MDC areas opened at the first of the month and will be open through Sept. 18 (about another week). They also will offer in-season weekly reservation drawings that will take place on Monday afternoons with a 7–day application period that opens the Tuesday before and closes the Monday of the draw at 3 p.m.

Only part of the blind reservations are given out through these drawings, the rest will be available to hunters who arrive at the area in early morning and wait in line for a hunting spot.

With dove and teal seasons both open, a Missouri hunter could have a “combo” day afield; just don’t get your lead shells and your non-toxic shells mixed up or you could be ticketed for using the wrong shotshells.

You can hunt doves with non-toxic shotshells, and you must use them for doves on many MDC areas, but you sure can’t use lead shot while teal hunting.

With archery deer season opening this coming week (Wednesday, Sept. 15), there’s lots of hunting available now.

Good hunting and be safe!

(Bill Wehrle’s “Outdoors” column now appears in the C-T every Saturday and LCL every Monday)