PRATT – The same strong storm systems that ruined many dove hunts came at a perfect time for this year’s teal season. Many wetlands have been filling since Sunday. The combination of improved habitat, a cool front, and hunting seasons in northern states has brought thousands of blue-winged and green-winged teal to Kansas. Some of the best hunting will be on public wildlife areas managed for waterfowl.
The Low Plains Duck Zone early teal season runs Sept. 8-23, and the High Plains Duck Zone (west of U.S. Highway 283) early teal season is Sept. 15-23. The daily limit is six teal, of any species. The possession limit is 18 on or after the third day. Hunters who are required to obtain a hunting license must have a Kansas Harvest Information Program (HIP) permit and Kansas State Waterfowl Habitat Permit. All hunters 16 and older must also have a Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp.
Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area
As of Sept. 4, Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area manager Jason Wagner said water was coming in strong. Pool 5 went from completely dry to about 18 inches of water that flooded excellent habitat. All pools should be holding enough water by opening morning for hunting, although Wagner said boat access to some areas may be limited because of water depth. That could change, though, if the forecast holds true and storms put even more water into the wetland.
Teal numbers jumped dramatically over the weekend. Wagner estimated there were as many as 25,000 ducks, mostly blue-winged teal, on the wildlife area as of Wednesday. He also reported good numbers in the surrounding area, which is pocked with ponds and pasture puddles.
Jamestown Wildlife Area
All marshes at Jamestown are full or over flowing, according to Matt Farmer, assistant manager at the wildlife area. The rising water is going into “excellent moist-soil habitat,” meaning the birds will have plenty of food. Farmer, who is also an avid hunter, rated teal numbers as “excellent” this week.
He does have concerns about current rains being too much of a good thing. Too much water can kill or wash out food sources. It also leaves plenty of full ponds and pocket water across the landscape on private lands to scatter the birds. Even so, Farmer predicted the opener would be “a good one.”
Marais des Cygnes Wildlife Area
Like most of southeast Kansas, the Marais des Cygnes Wildlife Area has missed out on summer rains. Wildlife area assistant manager Jacob Coulter said that as of Wednesday, only two units had much water, but habitat is good to excellent throughout the area. A few heavy rains could vastly improve conditions.
Coulter added that teal are beginning to arrive and a little more water is all that’s needed for a great fall at Marais des Cygnes.
McPherson Valley Wetlands
The popular hunting area an hour north of Wichita had been missing out on rains until last weekend. Jason Black, wildlife area manager, said the marshes are looking better than they have in many months, though more water is needed.
Black said the best habitat is probably at the west side of Big Basin area. As of Wednesday morning, the Chain of Lakes and Inman areas are still needing more water for good hunting this weekend. That, however, could happen easily with the current forecast.
As for teal numbers, staff describe them as “pretty good,” and food conditions as “astonishing.”
Neosho Wildlife Area
Neosho’s weekly waterfowl report said the area was holding 500 teal on Tuesday. Like other areas, habitat and teal numbers could improve by this weekend.
Extensive renovation work was recently completed on the area that will allow staff to more effectively move water. Hunters should expect excellent hunting conditions, and “fair” hunting success at this point in time.
Hunters are reminded Neosho currently holds high numbers of wood ducks, which are illegal to harvest during the teal-only season.
Quivira National Wildlife Refuge
Like most places in central Kansas, Quiviria National Wildlife Refuge experienced heavy rains over the weekend. Mike Oldham, refuge manager, described habitat conditions as “pretty good,” and improving daily. The North Lake area of the marsh system has good water, as do scattered wetlands.
Oldham said teal numbers were not high on Tuesday, but he expects numbers to build in the next few days.
For more on where to hunt in Kansas, visit ksoutdoors.com and click “Hunting,” then “Where to Hunt.”