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Teal prospects look good for Saturday’s opening day

LITTLE ROCK - Blue-winged teal are riding on the coattails of the cool front that reached Arkansas on Friday, perfect timing for the September season.

"Blue-winged teal are very sensitive to cold weather," said Mike Checkett regional biologist for Duck's Unlimited and former waterfowl biologist for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. "In September, as cold fronts push down from Canada, 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," he said.

Checkett 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 emergent marshes, harvested rice fields, moist-soil impoundments and agricultural reservoirs. Teal love anything with and 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," he added.

Scouting early will help hunters find the best spots to set decoys. "Hunters don't need many decoys. I generally use 12 to 18 teal decoys, but mallard decoys will also work. One important tip: I use all hen decoys. Blue-winged teal have not developed their fall plumage yet, so they all resemble hens. I don't use brightly colored mallard drake decoys either,” he explained.

"I don't call much. A short five-note series will do the trick. Once a flock has been spotted, I'll grab their attention with a quick five-note series. That usually does the trick. A mallard call will work fine, but blue-winged teal calls are available and they will also work," he said.

The special September teal season in Arkansas begins on Sept. 13 and continues through Sept. 28.





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