Prospects good, although flooded Cheyenne Bottoms has limited hunter access

PRATT -- Teal are the smallest ducks, but they may be the most popular among waterfowl hunters. And this year, those waterfowl hunters are smiling. Heavy spring and early summer rains combined with large numbers of breeding teal in the prairie pothole regions of the northcentral U.S. and southcentral Canada have combined to offer Kansas hunters a generous early teal season and the prospect of good early duck hunting, although access problems at the flooded Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area will limit hunting opportunites there.

In the Low Plains Zone (all of Kansas east of Highway 283), the season runs Sept. 8-23. In the High Plains Zone (west of Highway 283), the season runs Sept. 15-22. The shorter High Plains teal season is due to the federal 107-day annual limit on hunting of any one species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has allowed 97 days of hunting during the regular season regular High Plains duck season. Add two days for the youth hunting season, and that leaves only eight days to reach 107.

One of the state's premier waterfowl hunting areas -- Cheyenne Bottoms in Barton County -- is flooded, and will present substantial access problems. Most of the area’s perimeter parking lots are still underwater, and the inundated or muddy roads leading to them will be closed because they are flooded or too soft to travel.

“There definitely will be some teal here, especially on the extreme margins of the marsh but in some places the flooded areas extend onto private land on the fringe of the Bottoms,” said area manager Karl Grover. While there is plenty of water for duck boats to navigate, he said, there are very few accessible boat ramps. In addition, he said, boating hunters run the risk of colliding with underwater obstacles such as submerged hunting blinds and fences.

“We haven’t had a chance to look at most boat ramps, which are underwater, much less repair them,” Grover said. He said the best option for hunting Cheyenne Bottoms will be parking on township roads around the edge of the wildlife area, and walking in to hunt.

Good teal hunting is expected at Glen Elder, Clinton, Texas Lake, Isabel, McPherson Wetlands, Toronto, and Neosho wildlife areas. The state's reservoirs should not be overlooked, either, and standing water and ponds on private ground should be good, as well. Other areas of the state may improve as birds migrate south. Check the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks' (KDWP) waterfowl reports online at www.kdwp.state.ks.us for updated information. Just type "waterfowl reports" in the search box.

The daily bag limit is four teal with a possession limit of eight. All waterfowl hunters 16 and older must have a federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, and all hunters who are required to obtain a license must also have a Kansas State Waterfowl Habitat Stamp and a Kansas Harvest Information Program (HIP) stamp before attempting to take ducks, geese, or mergansers. (Those not required to have a Kansas hunting license include people hunting their own land, and residents 15 and younger or 65 and older.)

For more information, phone 620-672-5911 or visit the KDWP website, www.kdwp.state.ks.us.