An article from WWA’s Words From The Wardens.
This article originally appeared in Wisconsin Waterfowl Association’s October 1, 2018 eNewsletter.
BY WDNR Conservation Warden Mike Disher of Calumet County and Warden Jason Higgins of Winnebago County
This month we asked two of our wardens known for their expertise in the early teal season to write a column. Warden Mike Disher serves Calumet County while Warden Jason Higgins serves Winnebago County – two counties popular for duck hunting.
What follows are the wardens’ overview of what they are seeing in each of their service areas this season.
Veteran Hunters Good with Duck ID on the Wing
Warden Mike says he saw an increase in teal hunters this year on the heels of the abundance of rain the Calumet County area – along with a lot of southern Wisconsin – saw in August.
“With water basically everywhere, most hunters this year were focusing on ducks and not doves,” he said, and that concentrations of hunters were found mostly on public lands (Brillion and Killsnake Wildlife Areas) while private lands were mostly void of teal hunters. “I am guessing due to high water, this year we actually had good numbers of teal around and several large flocks of blue-wing teal were seen repeatedly on the Brillion.”
He says he received no complaints concerning hunters shooting non-target birds, despite large numbers of mallards also flying in the area. “Most groups I contacted were veteran/die-hard waterfowl guys and it was somewhat obvious they were good with duck ID while on the wing,” Warden Mike said, adding most hunters he talked with had one to three birds and mostly blue-winged. “Weather was somewhat warm, but reasonable for this time of year.”
And, he says, “Several areas had high numbers of mosquitos and bug spray was a must.
Teals Return in Larger Numbers Than Previous Years
Warden Jason says as teal hunter numbers in Winnebago County were like previous years, and the number of teal on two popular public marshes were up from the last two years
He says the majority were hunting on the large marsh areas of Uihlein Marsh and Rush Lake in Winnebago County, and most he contacted had bagged one to three birds.
“The early teal season over the last couple of years has had very few teal, with more arriving to the area around the regular duck season,” he said. “However, this year the teal numbers were present, which may have been due to the large amount of water in the area from previous rainfalls.”
The early teal season in Wisconsin is a terrific opportunity but the teal only hunt also requires that hunters master the sport, he says. “Every duck hunter knows how difficult it can be at times to sometimes identify a duck in hand, nonetheless a duck flying in low light conditions,” he said.
For the first seven days of September in Wisconsin, teal hunters need to be cautious of what they are shooting and properly identify their legal target. It is not very often that hunters are required to be 100% accurate.
“Sure, law requires you shoot a bearded turkey in the spring, but let’s face it, turkeys look like prehistoric dinosaurs,” he said. “And, it is pretty easy to see a beard or no beard. But shooting a duck on the wing is a different talent all together, and any duck hunter will tell you it takes time in the marsh identifying birds.
“Most hardcore waterfowl hunters know the best training guide is being in the marsh watching the ducks.”