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Early Teal, Canada Goose Kick Off Waterfowl Seasons

August, 29, 2013

By DAVID RAINER 

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

 For those of us who love to hunt waterfowl, a prediction from the “Farmer’s Almanac” should be welcome. That publication, which touts its accuracy in predicting weather trends at 80 percent, sees a “bitter cold” winter ahead.

If that prediction is realized, Alabama’s waterfowl hunters could be treated to waterfowl migrations not seen in many years. Mild winters allow ducks and geese to find food and open water in areas to the north, which hinders the migration and leaves fewer birds in Alabama.
“For Alabama duck hunters, I hope that prediction is true,” said David Hayden, Assistant Chief in the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries’ Wildlife Section. “As I say every year, we have to have cold weather up north to move the ducks down here.”
But before we even talk about cold weather, there is an opportunity for waterfowlers on the near horizon. The early teal and early Canada goose seasons are just ahead. And the bag limit for teal has been raised from four birds per day to six birds per day. The early teal season is set Sept. 7-22.
“Teal numbers are still really good,” said Hayden, who represents Alabama on the Mississippi Flyway Council. The green-winged teal numbers are estimated at 3.1 million, which is similar to last year and 51 percent above the long-term average. Blue-winged teal are at 7.7 million, down 16 percent from last year but 60 percent above the long-term average.
“I think quite a few people are missing out on good waterfowl hunting opportunities with teal. All it takes is a little bit of water, and you can have a good shoot for a day or two. But with teal, they move in and out pretty quickly. When they’re there, you need to take advantage of the opportunity. It’s statewide. There are good opportunities in the Tennessee Valley, in west Alabama along the river systems, as well as the Mobile area. You can find teal just about anywhere when they’re moving through. But it doesn’t take much of a weather change to make them move.”
The possession limit for waterfowl has also been increased to three daily bags. But Hayden cautions, “That means you have one daily bag limit after the first day, two daily bag limits after the second day and three daily bag limits after the third day and the rest of the season. It does not change the daily harvest limit, just the possession limit.”
The early Canada goose season is scheduled for Sept. 1-15 statewide with a daily bag limit of five birds and a possession limit of 15 after the third day. Although it falls under the regular waterfowl season, another Canada goose-only season is scheduled for Sept. 21 through Oct. 8.
“These are primarily resident geese that can become nuisance animals,” Hayden said. “We want to pressure them and make them wary of people to cut down on some of the problems. The thing about Canadas is you have to hit them hard when you can, because they are smart birds and get wary very quickly.”
Hayden said most hunters have the most success when targeting feeding and roost areas.
“They’re mostly grazers, so if you can locate some, they’ll usually feed in that area until they are disturbed,” he said. “Find out where they’re feeding and roosting and plan accordingly. You get out there before they come to feed and before they head to roost. But you have to be careful about shooting hours at the roost. Shooting hours are 30 minutes before sunrise until sunset.”
There is one more special waterfowl season in Alabama. In Escambia and Monroe counties, a special blue goose and snow goose season is set for Oct. 26-Nov. 10 with a five-bird daily bag limit.
The regular waterfowl season for ducks and all geese is set for Nov. 28 through Jan. 26. The daily bag limit is the same at six birds, although there have been some changes to certain species. The six-duck bag limit can contain no more than four mallards, only two of which can be hens. Hunters can take three wood ducks, one mottled duck, one black duck, two redheads, two pintails, two canvasbacks and three scaup. That is an increase of one canvasback per day and a reduction of one scaup per day compared to last season.
For the goose season, the daily bag limit for the Sept. 21-Oct. 8 Canada goose season is three birds per day. For the remainder of the goose season, the daily bag limit is five birds with no more than three Canadas or two white-fronted geese (specklebellies).
The merganser daily limit is five with no more than two hooded mergansers. The coot daily limit is 15.
In terms of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Survey, the numbers still look promising. The mallard population, the benchmark for waterfowlers, is estimated at 10.4 million birds, which is similar to last year and 36 percent above the long-term average.
“That’s a good sign in terms of production and the condition of the habitat,” Hayden said.
Gadwall numbers are estimated at 3.3 million, similar to last year and 80 percent above the long-term average, while the American wigeon numbers are at 2.6 million, 23 percent above last year and similar to the long-term average. Pintails come in at 3.3 million, similar to last year and 17 percent below the long-term average. Northern shoveler numbers are at 4.8 million, similar to last year and 96 percent above the long-term average.
Diving duck numbers are mixed with good news on redheads and canvasbacks and disappointing news on scaup. The canvasback population is estimated at 800,000, similar to last year and 37 percent above the long-term average. Redhead numbers are 1.2 million, similar to last year and 76 percent above the long-term average. Scaup numbers, however, are 20 percent below last year at 4.2 million, 17 percent below the long-term average.
Although waterfowl managers did reduce the scaup bag limit to three this year, Hayden doesn’t think the bluebills are in trouble.
“The numbers are down, but there is a little bit of a concern whether the survey is hitting the scaup just right,” he said. “The survey may not be covering scaup very well.
“Overall, the duck numbers look great. We just need some cold weather.”
PHOTOS: (USFWS) Early teal season is only a few days away and blue-winged teal are plentiful again this year. The number of canvasbacks recorded in the annual survey showed a stable population that is well above the long-term average, allowing waterfowl managers to increase the daily bag limit to two canvasbacks.
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