Midwestern waterfowlers looking to scratch their early-season teal itch in Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa will be able to do so for the first time in nearly 50 years this September.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) authorized the states' implementation of an experimental blue-winged and green-winged teal-only season after an agency study revealed that teal populations would be able to tolerate the extra pressure. Minnesota chose to opt out of a trial season in 2014.
Originally annexed in the late 1960s in an effort to protect the area's role in waterfowl production, the northern block states' teal hunters are afforded the opportunity to occupy their blinds early this year with one caveat: They will be observed by the FWS.
All success of the experimental reinstallation of the season depends on hunters' ability to specifically target, and attempt to target, teal only and avoid harvesting non-target species.
Each state participating in the trial will be required to place departmental wildlife staffers in observation blinds to record the percentage of non-teal ducks taken in the field.
"There are a lot of brown ducks flying around at that time," said Barb Avers, a waterfowl program specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. "Not only teal but mallards. When they are not all colored out, they look the same. Wood ducks are also a concern."
If more than 25 percent of observed attempts targeted non-teal species, or the total recorded harvest exceeds a 10 percent threshold of non-teal kills, the season will be immediately terminated. The responsibility of ensuring future seasons lies on hunters' abilities to know their species and positively identify a teal before pulling the trigger.
Teal, especially blue-wings, are one of the earliest ducks to migrate south, and hunters will have their work cut out for them when trying to distinguish a fast-moving teal with eclipse plumage from a mallard or black duck hen, or a wood duck in low light.
According to the USFWS annual waterfowl forecast released earlier this summer, teal populations are thriving in 2014. Blue-winged teal estimated abundance is 8.5 million, surpassing the 2013 estimate of 7.7 million, 75 percent above the long-term average.
Daily bag limits are set at six across the board, but hunters will need to check the specific dates and shooting times for the state they intend to hunt in. Michigan and Wisconsin have proposed seven-day seasons that will be open September 1-7. The Iowa teal season, on the other hand, will run September 6-21.
In Wisconsin, shooting hours on opening day will begin at 9 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. to afford observers the ability to properly conduct surveillance. Shooting hours will be from sunrise to 7 p.m. for the remaining days of the season.
Teal hunters are encouraged to study up on their duck identification to secure the convenience of future seasons as well as share the new occasion with young shooters when September's mild weather is ideal for introducing new guns to the sport.
Be sure to pick up a copy of the October issue of WILDFOWL for a more in-depth look at the experimental new season.
An absolutely gorgeous gun, the ETHOS
is as reliable and functional as it is handsome. The inertia-driven auto-loader handles the light 2¾-inch loads to the heavier 3-inch shells, and the new patented easy-locking system ensures the bolt is locked every time you close it.
Benelli's Progressive Comfort recoil system takes the bite out of the heaviest loads. The replaceable carbon-fiber rib reduces overall weight and the Crio system barrel improves pattern density for better performance. The ETHOS weighs 6.4 pounds and is available in 26- or 28-inch barrels with five Crio chokes.
Beretta A400 Xtreme
Gas-Operated, the auto-loading A400 Xtreme
has a self-cleaning piston that keeps the 12-gauge in working order even if you hunt the dust bowl.
Weighing 7.6 pounds, everyday waterfowlers will appreciate the Kick-Off Recoil reduction system. The Blink system allows faster follow-up shots, cycling shells quicker than the rest. Available in 26-, 28- or 30-inch barrels and chambered for 3½-inch shells. The stellar B-Lock system allows you to take the A400 apart in seconds.
It's a good thing Browning resurrected the A-5
. The legendary humpback had a proven track record for nearly a century. The new model continues that tradition. Not only is Browning's A-5 coated in Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades, it's packed with a list of features that help you knock more birds out of the sky.
The recoil-operated Kinematic Drive system cycles a variety of loads, the Inflex II recoil pad takes the punch out of the heaviest 3½-inch shells and the Dura-Touch stock helps you get a better grip on the gun in all kinds of conditions. Comes with a five-year, 100,000-shot warranty.
CZ 612 Wildfowl Magnum
pump is aimed straight at waterfowlers. Chambered for 3 ½-inch shells, it comes with a 26-inch barrel. Even better, the 612 comes with a modified choke tube designed for steel waterfowl loads and an extra-full choke for turkeys.
There's no need to buy a separate gun for the duck marsh and the turkey woods; this gun is just as deadly on honkers as it is on spring toms. The synthetic stock and barrel are wrapped in an all-purpose camouflage, making it an ideal two-season shotgun.
Much as the name implies, the 12-gauge Intensity is designed for hardcore duck hunters who live for awful conditions. The Intensity
is a superb inertia-driven semi-auto available in Mossy Oak Bottomland, Realtree Xtra Green, Max-5 or black synthetic. It comes with stock shims, which allow you to customize the fit, and three chokes.
Additional recoil pads and extended choke tubes are optional. This slender and comfortable shotgun is chambered for shells up to 3½ inches and available with barrel lengths of 26, 28 or 30 inches.
Mossberg 930 Yeti
Leave it to Mossberg to be a trend setter. The popular firearms company created the 930 Kryptek Yeti
auto-loader just for hardcore snow goose hunters.
Complete with a 12-round extended tube (hell yes!) and Kryptek Yeti camo (also available in black), Mossberg gives snow goose hunters the opportunity to put steel in the air until the geese are on the ground or out of range. It's chambered for 3-inch shells and comes with a recoil pad, a 28-inch barrel and Mossberg's Accu-Set choke tubes.
Remington Versa Max Waterfowl Pro
Is it the most versatile shotgun available? Thanks to Remington's Versaport gas operating system, it just might be. The Versa Max
is capable of shooting light 2¾-inch loads to the heaviest goose-thumping 3½-inch shells. Even better, the gun is virtually self-cleaning, meaning you can spend more time in the field and less time at your gun bench.
The Waterfowl Pro is wrapped in Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades and the stock has over-molded black grips. It comes with a 28-inch nickel barrel, four Pro Bore extended choke tubes and the receiver is drilled and tapped for scope mounts.
Ruger Red Label
Ruger's relaunched Red Label
isn't your typical duck gun, but it's a fine addition to any waterfowler's gun safe. And it's just as effective in a layout blind as it is on the skeet range or in the pheasant fields. It combines the style and beauty you'd expect from Ruger with the function and reliability of a well-made over/under.
The Red Label includes the gun's trademark stainless steel receiver, a checkered American walnut stock and a Pachmayr recoil pad. It also comes with a single trigger, a top-tang selective safety and 26-, 28- or 30-inch barrels. Chambered for 3-inch shells and includes five Briley chokes.
Our fathers and grandfathers knew a thing or two about killing ducks and geese, like a trusty side-by-side was all a man needed to bring home a limit of birds. Stoeger's Longfowler
keeps that tradition going.
The no-frills double isn't packed with amenities, but that's exactly why it would make waterfowlers from a by-gone era proud. The Longfowler comes with two extended choke tubes, a 30-inch barrel and an A-grade satin stained walnut stock. It even comes with a price tag that takes you back to a better time. Also available in over/under.
TriStar Viper G2
Reliability at the right price, the G2
is a 3-inch gas-operated auto-loader (available in 20- or 12-gauge) that cycles light skeet loads and heavy waterfowl rounds just the same. The stock is injection-molded, so it will stand up to your abuse for seasons to come, and the forend has a Soft-Touch finish for better feel and grip. Available in Realtree Max-4, with a rubber recoil pad and five-year mechanical warranty.
Weatherby WBY-X SA-08 Compact
Weatherby's new WBY-X series includes rifles and shotguns with flashy camo patterns unlike anything on the market. The SA-08 Kryptek Compact
is built for smaller-framed shooters, for anyone who wants a semi-auto with a shorter length-of-pull, a little less weight and slightly shorter barrel.
Available in 20-gauge, the Kryptek Compact is chambered for 3-inch shells and comes with a 24-inch barrel, three choke tubes and Kryptek camo on the stock and forend. The barrel and receiver are blued and the trigger assembly drops out for easy cleaning. The gun weighs just 5¾ pounds.
Winchester SX3 Waterfowl
If the SX3
is lacking something, we can't find it. Everyone in our blinds loves Winchester's premiere auto-loader, available in 3- and 3½-inch chambers, 20- and 12-gauge models and 26- or 28-inch barrels. Loaded with features, it's offered in Mossy Oak Shadow Grass Blades and comes with the Invector-Plus choke system.
The SX3 also has a chrome-lined barrel and Winchester's patented Active Valve gas system limits recoil and cycles shells as fast as you can pull the trigger. The SX3 also includes a drop-out trigger for easy cleaning and a synthetic stock with textured grip surfaces.