Teal Hunters Confront Dry Prairies, Marsh

Unprecedented Heat, Drought Increases Fire Dangers
September 12, 2023

The early teal season kicked off Saturday with little fanfare.

Although habitat conditions across much of the state are currently very poor due to record heat and a lack of precipitation, bright spots include portions of the Texas Panhandle, where some areas received record rainfall earlier this summer. Precipitation provides critical shallow freshwater habitat on the landscape for incoming birds.

Many playa basins are still holding water going into the season and birds should find these areas of the state very favorable as well. Deep south Texas and portions of the lower Gulf Coast also hold some promise thanks to much-needed rainfall from the recent tropical storm.

“Overall, this September I’m expecting a below- average teal season this September for much of the state due to dry conditions,” said Kevin Kraai, Waterfowl Program Leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). “Things can and often do change quickly, and if precipitation does finally come, migrating teal will most certainly take advantage of any new surface water that may appear. It would instantly improve prospects for hunters.”

Blue-winged teal breeding populations declined 19 percent from the previous year’s estimate, but the good news is the current estimate of 5.2 million remains above their long-term average. This current estimate is above the 4.7 million bird threshold required to have a 16-day teal season for 2023-24, resulting in no changes to the season length or bag limits for both this season and 2024.

The 16-day statewide 2023 early teal season in Texas will run Sept. 9 through 24. The daily bag limit on teal is six, with a possession limit of 18.

Blue-winged teal are the second most abundant duck in North America and by far the most prevalent duck found in Texas during the special early teal season. They primarily breed in the Prairie Pothole Regions of North Dakota, South Dakota, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

“Production in the eastern Dakotas was above average and an abundance of teal broods were observed later in the summer, thus there should be plenty of juvenile birds winging their way towards Texas this fall,” added Kraai. “Portions of eastern North and South Dakota saw significant increases in ponds on the landscape this past May.”

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