Teal and late migrating waterfowl seasons remain stable

PRATT -- At the June meeting of the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commission, dates for the September teal season were tentatively set, pending frameworks on regular seasons for late-migrating waterfowl from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Those frameworks have been released, and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) has announced the early teal season dates for 2005. The season will run Sept. 17-25 in the Low Plains Duck Zone and Sept. 17-24 in the High Plains Zone. The dividing line between zones is U.S. Highway 283.

Shooting hours for the early teal season are one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. In addition to the daily bag limit of four, the early teal season possession limit is eight. All teal hunters who are required to have a hunting license need a state duck stamp and a Harvest Information Program stamp, and all hunters 16 or older also need a federal duck stamp.

Two species of teal are common in Kansas -- the greenwing and bluewing. Identification takes some practice because waterfowl have not yet developed the colorful plumage that will come later in the fall. Having just come out of summer molt, both sexes appear drab. Hunters need to study the size and flight characteristics of teal in order to positively identify them during this early season.

It makes no difference what mix of teal are taken to fill the daily bag limit of four, but hunters should be careful not to shoot the other small duck that inhabits Kansas -- the wood duck. Although observation (and the companionship of an experienced hunter) is the best teacher, a good way to distinguish a September teal from a wood duck is that the wood duck is somewhat larger, has a longer, blockier tail, and tends to fly with head up.

Blue-winged teal have a light blue patch on the shoulders of each wing. Greenwings have a brilliant green speculum, the bar of secondary wing feathers. The teal?s small size and fast, erratic flight sets them apart from larger ducks. A mature greenwing or bluewing is about one-half the size of a mallard. Teal are commonly seen in small flocks, dipping and diving low over the marsh.

Late migrant seasons will be similar to the long seasons of recent years. The season frameworks for the Central Flyway is the "liberal package." This means that Kansas will again have a 74-day season in the Low Plains and a 97-day season in the High Plains. Canvasback, pintail, and scaup will be restricted because their numbers are low. The 2005 duck season dates will be set at the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commission meeting on Aug. 25 at the Great Plains Nature Center in Wichita.

For goose seasons, the days for white-fronted goose hunting will be reduced to 72 days with a bag limit of 2. Regulations for light geese and Canada geese will be unchanged from last year. The fall flight for light geese into Kansas should be improved from last year. Biologists believe the fall flight of large Canada geese into Kansas will be slightly reduced from last year while the flight of small Tallgrass Prairie Canada geese will be about the same as last year.

A good identification book is a must for most waterfowl hunters. These can be obtained through KDWP offices, and an identification video entitled Kansas Waterfowl: The Puddle Ducks is also available. The book, Waterfowl Identification in the Central Flyway, is $1, and the video is $21.20.

To order the ID book or video, contact the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, 512 SE 25th Ave., Pratt, KS 67124, 620-672-5911 or phone a local state park office.