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Iowa Duck Season Opens Saturday
by Lowell Washburn

CLEAR LAKE - The first segment of this year's split duck season begins Saturday. And although all duck species will become legal game, a primary objective of the September duck hunt is to allow Iowans an opportunity to bag migrating blue-winged teal.

From a hunter's perspective, the blue-winged teal is just about as perfect as a duck can get. Teal are abundant, accessible, challenging, and make excellent table fare.

But you'll need to get there early if you want to sample teal hunting for yourself. Blue-wings are notoriously restless. They are here today and gone tomorrow. So what if today's weather is a balmy 65 degrees and freeze-up is still a good month and a half away? From the teals' point of view it is time to head south. And south they go.

No other species of North American waterfowl embarks on an earlier - or longer - migration. Most blue-wings migrate as far south as Central America or northern South America. Significant numbers will even journey to below the equator, ending up in Brazil or Peru -- an incredible 4,000 miles from the summer nesting grounds.

Most long distance movements begin on clear days at sunset and continue through the night. Many of the teal that invaded Iowa earlier this month, have already arrived on the coastal wetlands of southern Louisiana. Some are as far south as Yucatan.

Although this year's teal migration has already reached its peak across northern Iowa, new flocks will continue to arrive in our state through early October.

BLUE-WINGED TEAL SHOW A MARKED PREFERENCE for shallow, duckweed laden potholes, marsh edges, and shallow backwaters -- a habit which makes them extremely accessible to hunters of all ages and at all levels of expertise. No expensive blind boat or tons of equipment needed here. In fact, when it comes to teal, a pair of hip boots and bag of decoys is all anyone needs to enjoy top notch, duck hunting.

One of the first things a hunter discovers is that blue-winged teal lack the acute wariness observed in most other duck species. Their disposition ranges somewhere between very trusting and downright tame. Teal respond well to the call and are not the least bit shy about piling right into the middle of a set of well placed decoys.

But this doesn't necessarily make the duck easy pickings. The turbo charged, aerial prowess of the teal clan is legendary, and whatever the species may lack in intelligence it more than makes up for with its wings.

Upon discovering that it has been duped, a flock of blue-winged teal will typically erupt into a display of aerobatics guaranteed to challenge the most accomplished wingshot. When it comes to hunting blue-wings, more powder and shot are expended with less effect than is the case for any other waterfowl species. Plenty of Iowa hunters will be reminded of that when Saturday's opener arrives.




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