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Hunters wanting an early taste of waterfowl action have the early Canada goose and teal seasons to look forward to this month.

Canada goose season is open and runs through Sept. 30. This is the first year in which the statewide early Canada goose season will span the entire month of September. Teal season is also open. It ends Sept. 25.

The daily limit for Canada geese is five, with a possession limit of 15. Hunters may bag up to six of any teal (blue-winged, green-winged or cinnamon) daily, with a possession limit of 18. Hunters after teal should be very cautious to properly identify their target before shooting.

Early teal season calls for a morning start at sunrise because of the need to discern a teal from any other similar-sized waterfowl. All other federal regulations apply during the hunt, including the requirement for nontoxic shot and the restriction for shotguns to only hold three shells at a time.

"Teal are classified as an early migrant, the blue-wings specifically," said Jason Jackson, statewide wetlands program coordinator with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

"They pass through earlier than the other migrating waterfowl. I've seen several myself lately. While hunting them, hunters need to be careful because northern shovelers will start to migrate with them. We're starting to see more shovelers early, we're seeing a lot in southeast Arkansas. Hunters need to identify the bird before they pull the trigger."

The teal are quickly passing through Arkansas from Canada on the way to points as far south as South America. Their brief stop in The Natural State offers some water to rest in and insects on which to feed.

"We're on the front end or not even the midpoint of where they are going to go," Jackson said. "A chunk of them will end up in South America, so that's why they start earlier. It's been estimated they will travel as much as 4,500 miles. Hummingbirds do almost the same. They don't come as far from the north as teal do, but they travel as far."

Teal breeding population estimates are down 22 percent from last year but are 30 percent higher than the long-term average. Teal numbers during the two-week season will be determined by early fall cold fronts, Jackson said.

He recommends No. 6 steel shot for teal as they dart through more dense green vegetation than most waterfowl hunters see in the late fall seasons.

"Larger shot isn't needed and the added pellets per shot aid in recovery of the bird. Also, a dog is super important in teal hunting, in my opinion," Jackson said.

Sports on 09/13/2016

Print Headline: Hunters have early waterfowl options

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