Experimental Duck Hunting opportunity has Successful First Year

LANSING, MI – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorized the states of Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan to implement an early teal duck hunting season on a three-year experimental basis beginning in 2014. Green Winged Teal

Teal (blue-winged and green-winged) are migratory birds managed under the authority of the USFWS in cooperation with state wildlife agencies, so decisions are made at a continental or regional level.

As a result, the USFWS required the three state wildlife agencies to conduct and report the monitoring of this experimental season as a group. The first-year report is now available, and results demonstrated that hunters focused their harvest on desired teal ducks.

“We are very pleased we could provide this early teal season opportunity without significant impact on non-target species, as our Michigan waterfowl hunters demonstrated good sportsmanship and judgment in the field,” said Russ Mason, chief of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Division.

Blue-winged teal are an early-migrating duck, so many teal have left the states prior to the opening day of regular duck hunting seasons. Because of this behavior, the USFWS experimented with and approved special early teal hunting seasons for some states in the 1960s.

In the Mississippi Flyway, the four northern states (Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and Minnesota) were excluded from this opportunity out of concern that hunters would shoot too many non-teal ducks. However, recent record-high duck populations and a desire for more equitable distribution of harvest opportunity led to analyses of the potential for adding early teal seasons for northern states.

After working with state agencies to evaluate harvest potential, the USFWS authorized the northern states to implement early teal seasons on an experimental basis.

Following state-level public input processes, each state wildlife agency established an early teal season based on biological and social factors. The state wildlife agencies then followed with communication and hunter education materials for this new season. Michigan and Wisconsin held early teal seasons Sept. 1-7. while Iowa’s season ran Sept. 6-21.

Trained observers from each state observed duck flights and hunter behavior during the teal hunting seasons. Within the range of an observed hunting group, the species and number of ducks in each flock and whether the ducks were shot at or hit were recorded. A total of 88 trained observers evaluated performance of 160 hunting parties, which provided sufficient observations to generate statistically valid conclusions. A total of 699 non-teal duck flocks came within range of hunting parties, with only 44 shot at, resulting in a non-target attempt rate of 6.3 percent. This was well below the threshold deemed necessary by USFWS to protect other duck species not targeted by this early season.

“The early teal season provided Michigan hunters with a new opportunity, and our first-year results give us confidence in promoting this opportunity for hunters again next season,” said Dave Luukkonen, research biologist with Michigan DNR’s Wildlife Division.

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