By Jonathan Olivier
The long wait is almost over – the early teal season commences Saturday morning, and it couldn’t come soon enough.
After a grueling Louisiana summer, September means football, cooler weather and, of course, hunting season. Teal season opens Sept. 13 and runs for two weeks before closing. The daily bag limit per hunter is six, a recent bump from four because of an abundance of blue-winged teal, and the occasional green-winged teal, calling Louisiana home in the early season.
Despite the heat, mosquitos and snakes, hardcore duck hunters wouldn’t dare miss teal season. And they’re wise not to do so, especially with good news from Larry Reynolds, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries waterfowl study leader.
“Everything looks great [in Louisiana] and looked great on the breeding grounds [in Saskatchewan],” he said. “The habitat is in good shape, especially after the late summer rain we’ve been getting. There are a lot of water in the ag fields and good ag habitat.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released its 2014 Trends in Duck Breeding Populations report in July, which noted an eight percent increase in waterfowl population figures nationwide from last year, totaling 49.152 million. Blue-winged teal rose 10 percent, up from 7.732 million to 8.542 million, and green-winged teal numbers are up 13 percent from last year totaling 3.44 million.
This week, Reynolds has been conducting aerial observations to count teal along the coast and the duck Mecca Catahoula Lake, and population estimates of teal just in Louisiana should be available sometime later this week.
The long term average for teal populations in Louisiana in September are 238,000, Reynolds said. But that wasn’t the case last year.
“Everything looked good last year, too,” Reynolds said. “And last year the blue-winged migration was extremely late. Our September survey was the lowest on record by a large margin.”
Reynolds and his crew counted around 50,000 teal early in September 2013, and that caused a dismal season for teal hunters around the state; though this year does seem to be more promising.
Reynolds said a few reports from duck banding crews around the state have reported some sightings of blue-winged teal as early as late August and earlier this month.
Things can change quickly, Reynolds said, and teal can flood the state in just a matter of days if cool fronts push them here.
With a cool front predicted to push through the state this weekend, dropping temperatures into the 60s, it seems as if everything is falling into place to make for a great opening weekend.