Few days left to hunt teal this season

Hunters scan the skies during the 2022 duck season. (Courtesy of the AGFC)

Arkansas duck hunters are getting a crack at some early birds now that teal season is open. The season started Sept. 15 and runs through Saturday.

Teal, especially blue-winged teal, are the first ducks to fly south each year. Their migration patterns are linked much more to the length of daylight than to weather patterns.

Arkansas isn't even halfway to the final destination for most blue-winged teal. They typically migrate as far south as South America and hold the record for the longest waterfowl migration ever recorded through duck-banding data. A blue-winged teal that was banded near Oak Lake, Manitoba, was later harvested near Lima, Peru, more than 4,000 miles away.

That means the lion's share of blue-winged teal are well on their way across the Gulf of Mexico by the time regular duck season rolls around. Green-winged teal, however, will be present throughout most of Arkansas's duck season, but a few will mix with the early blue-wings and mill about the state if they have enough flooded wetlands to feed and rest.

Whether their wings sport powder blue shoulder patches or iridescent green secondary feathers, both of Arkansas's common teal species will be on a bug hunt. Insects give the birds much of the fuel and protein they need for their long flight. No habitat type in September offers the buffet of bugs and other nutrients quite like managed moist-soil.

Hunters may bag up to six of any teal (blue-winged, green-winged or the much less common cinnamon) per day. No other ducks are allowed.

Hunting begins at sunrise instead of the typical 30-minute-before-sunrise start because hunters need a little more light to ensure they are shooting at teal and not mistaking them for wood ducks or other small ducks that may fly into the decoys.

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. Hunters need to have their hunting license as well as a federal migratory waterfowl stamp, state duck stamp and must be registered in the Harvest Information Program.