2020 September Teal Season ‘Pretty Epic’-More Ducks Over Your Decoys

Steve Biggers hunting teal ducks. Hunter standing in wetlands with blue teal ducks displayed on the bow of the boat

Steve Biggers has never experienced an early teal season quite like 2020 during his 35 years as a waterfowl outfitter.

“This was the best teal season I’ve ever seen,” said Biggers, who runs Rocky Creek Retrievers Team Waterfowl in Brenham, Texas. “It was pretty epic. Solid limits. It was crazy. We had so many bluewings here. I’ve never seen anything like this year.”

Exceptional water and habitat conditions in the eastern Dakotas this spring set up an excellent hatch, boosting the fall flight of blue-winged teal for hunters throughout the Mississippi, Central and Atlantic flyways. Bluewings were estimated at 1.1 million in North Dakota’s spring survey, which is 58 percent above the long-term average. Further, the state’s spring wetland index was the sixth best on record.

Blue-winged teal duck harvested by hunters. Duck is laying on the water surrounded by vegetation.“Bluewings were off the charts in the Dakotas, and should in turn, provide an outstanding fall flight,” Dr. Frank Rohwer, Delta Waterfowl’s president and chief scientist, predicted in early August.

A lot of hunters are happy that Rohwer’s assessment was spot on, and also that Delta Waterfowl works hard to conserve small wetlands and produce ducks in the prairie pothole region that feeds all four flyways.

An August banding operation at Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge in South Dakota provides a snapshot of the breeding success for teal this year. Crews banded 3,430 blue-winged teal, of which 2,716, or 79 percent, were juveniles. That’s strong production.

Aaron Yetter retrieving teal ducks from the water.Aaron Yetter, who conducts aerial waterfowl counts for the Illinois Natural History Survey, estimated 45,240 bluewings along the Illinois River Valley on Sept. 2. That figure is 139 percent about the 10-year average, and the fifth-highest peak bluewing count since 1948.

Not surprisingly, many Illinois hunters had an outstanding teal season. One small Illinois River hunting club that shoots about 100 teal during a good September took more than 400 this year, easily their best season ever.

“Two things came together,” Yetter said. “Illinois had good moist-soil conditions and the weather pushed birds south right before the season. Hunters here had a really good teal season.”

— Paul Wait

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