Oklahoma Teal season opens Sept. 9

Tuesday, August 29th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Waterfowl hunters itching for the cold weather of November can get a high-octane tuneup next month by participating in the fall teal season.

Due to record-high populations of blue-winged and green-winged teal, Oklahoma hunters will be able to enjoy 16 days of teal hunting for the third straight year, said Mike O'Meilia, migratory bird biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. The season runs Sept. 9-24 statewide except for the Panhandle, where it runs Sept. 9-17.

"Thanks to high breeding populations of teal, combined with excellent production conditions in the Dakotas, we're looking for an outstanding fall flight of both blue-winged and green-winged teal this fall," O'Meilia said. "Like many migratory birds, teal migration is triggered by decreasing day-length as we approach fall. Spectacular migrations can occur on the northern weather fronts that occur with increasing frequency in September. Even small fronts that cause no appreciable change in temperatures, that are no more than wind shift fronts, will carry teal southward on their journey to wintering grounds in Mexico and Central and South America.

"Like any other kinds of hunting, it's just a matter of going out and taking advantage of the opportunities," he added. "If you're out there when they come through, you'll have some great hunts. If you're sitting on the couch, you won't."

One reason the season is underutilized, O'Meilia said, is because the hot weather conditions normally prevalent in mid-September are so vastly different from the traditional image of cold-weather duck hunting. Generally, you can hunt in short sleeves, and if you don't mind wearing wet trousers, you can even hunt without waders. It's a unique experience, but those who give it a try quickly become enamored with it.

"People who don't participate in the fall teal season are missing out on a great experience," O'Meilia said. "This time of year doesn't produce what many consider classic duck hunting conditions, but it's a tremendous season. It's a great time to take a kid hunting, and it's a great time to train a young dog."

Perhaps the most important thing to remember about fall teal hunting is that you're only allowed to harvest blue-winged, green-winged and cinnamon teal. All other waterfowl species are off-limits.

"There are always variable numbers of other ducks around at this time depending on the weather," O'Meilia said. "You might see pintails, shovelers, mallards and wood ducks, so you have to be aware of waterfowl identification. Wood ducks are very common, and the first hour of shooting time is when they are most active. Shovelers have blue wing patches, too, so you can't depend on that for ID. You've got to look at their heads to pick out their much larger bills for which they are named."

To participate in the fall teal season, all you need is a resident or non-resident Oklahoma Hunting License, an Oklahoma Waterfowl Hunting Permit ($4) and a federal duck stamp ($15). Don't forget your Harvest Information Program (HIP) permit. It's free from any license vendor, but you can't hunt without it. That's how the Department determines the harvest of all migratory game birds, including waterfowl.

For more information on hunting seasons and the necessary licenses, go to the website of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.