Teal show with bright moon and cool front
By BINK GRIMES
Sept. 10, 2017 at 10:18 p.m.
Updated Sept. 11, 2017 at 6 a.m.
One thing... Make that two things there will not be a shortage of during teal season in Texas this September is water and mosquitoes..Oh, and bluewings, too.
Still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and the 1000-year floods it wrought, most Texas waterfowlers are looking forward to a little shotgunning and something other than storm cleanup.
The good news is: waves of teal arrived on the heels of refreshing cool front and that coupled with bright fireball of a full makes for excellent prospects for opening day Sept.9.
"Early in the week there were not many birds and we were sweating it, literally," said Andrew Armour of the Pierce-based Karankawa Plains Outfitters. "Wednesday night the cool front blew through and teal magically appeared."
Less than a week ago Armour said the Pierce Ranch had 3-4 feet of water flowing across it. The nearby Colorado River spilled over its banks and flooded most of Wharton by biblical proportion. Concerned Texans showed up with a flotilla of small boats to the town and performed rescues in to the wee hours of the night.
"I have never seen anything like that," said Armour. "By day's end, we all wanted to crawl up in a hole and hide."
Drive through Wharton or any other town along the coastal prairie now and most of the water has disappeared. Lots of sunlight has begun drying fields enough for some farmers to begin disking row crop fields.
"There were teal in every fallow field for days," said Armour. "Most of it has drained off now, which is good for hunting. Too much water is not good for teal hunting."
The marshes east of Houston in Chambers and Jefferson counties received 40-60 inches of rain from Harvey. And yes, that's not a typo. Tides are receding and water levels are returning to normal, according to guide Brian Davenport of Fin and Fowl Outfitters near Anahuac in the East Galveston Bay marsh.
"Lots of teal showed up ahead of the cold front," said Davenport. "We cleaned up, snake-raked our fields, brushed blinds and are really looking forward to the opener. We were a little worried about cancellations from people dealing with the storm, but to our surprise most people are ready to hunt."
Ponds around Garwood, Eagle Lake, El Campo and East Bernard look good. Again, there is lots of "free" water on the ground this year so scouting is important.
"There are a lot of wet ponds that are normally dry in September," said guide Harlan Boettcher of Prairie Waterfowl in Eagle Lake/East Bernard. "Teal love rice, so if you have rice you have a chance to hold good numbers of birds throughout the season."
Hunters should be aware of other ducks like pintails, shovelers, black-bellied whistling ducks and mottled ducks that may show at sunrise. All of the above species have a distinct wing-beat and generally fly at a higher altitude than blue-winged teal, so be sure before you squeeze the trigger.
Watchful waterfowlers can tract the teal migration by identifying the sex of bluewings in the bag. The first significant migration of birds will be mostly drakes, followed by hens that did not raise a broad, followed later in September and October by hens flying with their first-year young. Most bluewings' heads will still be drab in color during September. Drakes can be easily identified by a columbia blue chevron with solid white stripe on their wings. Hens will have the columbia chevron, but the white stripe below the blue will be spotted with brown.
Typically, opening weekend sees nearly 80 percent of drakes in the bag and as September progresses more hens show.
Teal season runs through Sept.24.
Bink Grimes is a freelance writer, photographer, author and licensed captain. Email Grimes at binkgrimes@ sbcglobal.net.