Avid waterfowler Jacob Sartain of Madison was busy hauling heavy equipment to his Delta duck camp Monday (July 1) when he got the good news and pulled over to make sure he heard it correctly.
“They’re going to add two teal to the early season daily limit, are you sure?” asked Sartain. “Man, that would be a really great deal. That would make teal season more like a full day of duck hunting during the regular duck season.”
The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks on Tuesday confirmed that the increased teal limit to six is included in the federal frameworks approved June 24 by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The federal agency is also increasing the possession limit from twice the daily limit to three times the daily limit for many migratory birds.
All of that was good news for Sartain, who is already working to get his duck holes ready for teal in September and ducks later in the year.
“Both of those things make a lot of sense and are good for the hunter,” said Sartain. “As for the teal, we continue to have an abundance of blue-winged teal, way above the long-term average, and while we have them we should take advantage of the opportunity.
“As for the higher possession limit, that’s just something that has always made more sense. Right now, with the limit just twice the daily limit, if a guy or girl goes on a three-day hunt or even a week-long hunt away from home, it was only legal to bring home a two-day limit. That’s just the right thing to do.”
The MDWFP said the early migratory bird seasons will be on the agenda and the next Commission meeting July 17 at 2:30 p.m. at its Jackson office. Wildlife chief Chad Dacus said the early migratory bird seasons, including dove, teal and Canada geese, should be set at that time.
As for Sartain, who has been nominated as Delta Waterfowl’s national conservationist of the year, it’s a no-brainer.
“If a six-bird limit is offered for teal, you take it,” he said. “That’s as good a news as we’re going to get, unless they offered us more mornings. If they gave us a choice, though, of a longer season or a bigger bag, I’d still take the bigger bag because I think that is what most hunters would want.
“The thing is that if they gave us a week up front and another week on the back, it would give us a better window to make sure we capture the peak of the teal migration. Anything short of that, and it’s still a guessing game.”
Sartain used the last two September seasons as examples.
“In 2012, the migration was early and actually peaked before the season opened in mid September,” he said. “In 2011, it peaked the week after we closed, like in early October. So there is no guarantee. The 16-day, three-weekend season we get now is a pretty good window to hit it.
“But even though we missed it last year, we still had a great season and limited out on every hunt. This year, that means we will have more shooting because we’d have the opportunity to take maybe 80 to 120 more teal per season.”
Sartain said popularity in blue-winged teal hunting is growing during the early season, thanks to the high population of birds and the success rate.
“You just put out a couple of robo-dove decoys in a shallow mud hole, like a reclaimed catfish pond, and wait,” he said. “They will come. I use the robo-dove because the faster wing beat is more like a teal and the dove has a smaller body, too, like a teal.
“And to be honest, teal are not as smart nor as wary as the ducks we get in the regular season. They come in in big bunches, like groups of 50, and buzz the decoys. It’s a whole lot of fun.”