Iowa’s 16-day teal only hunting season begins statewide Sept. 1, offering hunters an opportunity to enjoy Iowa’s wetlands and shallow lakes during the mild late summer weather.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service makes the September teal season available when the teal population is above certain levels. It offers hunters 16 bonus hunting days and does not take any days away from the regular duck hunting seasons.
“The teal season is a good opportunity to introduce young or novice hunters to duck hunting because these birds will fly all day and decoy fairly well,” said Orrin Jones, state waterfowl biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Teal will be moving in to Iowa in mid to late August and bird numbers can improve overnight with the change in weather up north.
Teal favor mudflats and shallow water so the current dry conditions across central and northern Iowa will likely be less impactful for teal and teal hunting than other species of waterfowl, which means hunters looking for ducks may want to key on the teal season.
“The drought can produce mixed effects – there are fewer places to hunt because the temporary wetlands are dry and other wetlands are drying up. Shallow lakes have exposed mudflats which teal desire. The result is ducks and hunters will be concentrated on fewer areas,” Jones said.
“Hunting success often depends on the weather,” he said. “In years when we have active weather patterns, multiple cold fronts with northwest wind, we have good teal hunting, and with as dry as it’s been, I’d be sure to scout the wetlands I’m planning to hunt to see if it has water and is holding birds.”
Since this season is only open for teal, it is important that hunters properly identify their target to avoid shooting other species. “Hunters need to take that into account when planning their hunt,” Jones said. “Keep the sun at your back – it’s much more difficult to identify ducks when looking into the sun.”
Legal shooting hours begin at sunrise, which is different from the regular duck season. Hunters are required to have the state migratory game bird fee and federal duck stamp, in addition to their hunting license and habitat fee.
DNR advising hunters to look for a change in HIP registration **Next Year**
Beginning Dec. 15, 2021, when the 2022 hunting licenses go on sale, all hunters who pursue migratory game birds will be required to register for HIP either through the Go Outdoors Iowa app on their smartphone, through a link at www.iowadnr.gov/waterfowl or at www.gooutdoorsiowa.com. Migratory game birds mean more than ducks and geese; in Iowa; it includes ducks, geese, coots, doves, woodcock, rails, and snipe.
Once registered, hunters will need to write a confirmation number on their license, print an updated copy of their license with the confirmation or take a screenshot of their confirmation on their phone to show proof of registration. Requiring a confirmation number will allow the DNR to better track migratory bird hunters – a federal requirement.
The change was necessitated because registering through license vendors at the time of purchase has been inconsistent.
Nontoxic teal loads hard to come by
While shotgun shell manufacturers are ramping up their production of nontoxic shotgun shells, supplies of #6 steel shot commonly used for teal hunting is not as conveniently available as in the past. Hunters are encouraged to not wait until the last minute if in need of this size of steel shot. This is not an Iowa or Midwest issue but is part of a national shortage.