When Tom Martin and Sam Nelson, Nevada, arrived at the Schell-Osage Wildlife Area to open the teal season last Saturday, they never bothered to load their shotguns upon seeing the water conditions and the lack of birds on the area.
Nelson said, "I had heard there weren't many teal on the area and not much water, but we thought it would be better than what we found.
"We talked to other hunters who looked over the area and they said it would be a waste of time to hunt, so we headed to a couple of nearby ponds where we had been dove hunting earlier in the month and saw some teal. It turned out good because we did find some teal and also a few doves."
Ken Davis, manager at the Schell-Osage area, said there were fewer than 100 teal on the area and only about a dozen hunters showed up for opening day on Sept. 12.
"We are busy repairing some of the results form the earlier flooding. We have plenty of food available and by the opening of the regular duck season we should be in great shape. The only water available now is from rains and some of the pools aren't huntable today," Davis said.
The teal season runs through Sept. 27, and hunters in several areas found plenty of water, as well as teal. Jack Rodgers and Fred Simms, Butler, hunt a spot near the Osage River where the teal had been using and had their limits early and then consentrated on dove hunting. Both hunters limited out before noon.
"It was some of the best hunting for both teal and dove that I have ever seen," Simms said.
"We had plenty of action from sunrise until noon," Dave Franklin, Oak Grove, was hunting a big farm pond on opening day and after setting out a dozen teal decoys, a flock of bluewings sailed into the spread and Franklin was able to take a pair of them to start off the season.
Later, several more birds came by and Franklin finished the hunt with his limit of four birds. "It was a great way to start the season and I still had time to travel to Columbia to see the Missouri football game," he said.
Reports from the teal nesting grounds up north were very encouraging this summer.
The population of migrating teal is high and a survey of the bluewing's breeding numbers were estimated at 7.4 million birds, which is 11 percent higher than last year and up 60 percent from the long term average.
The cooler and rainy summer has made for a good outlook for the fall waterfowl hunting season. Most areas have plenty of food to support the migrating birds for longer than usual periods this year.
Things look very promising this year for some of the best hunting in a long time.
Fred Simms said, "I am looking forward to a great duck season this fall. Not too many seasons ago, I almost gave up duck hunting because of the short season, small limits and low populations of ducks, but they have had a good recovery and things look much brighter than in years."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report estimated there were more than 42 million breeding ducks this summer, which is 13 percent higher than the average and 25 percent higher than the average since back in 1955. The mallard, which is Missouri hunters' favorite target, had a breeding popul`ation of 8.5 million, which is 10 percent higher than last season.
With everything looking up for the duck hunters this fall, it could very well be a season to remember.
Meanwhile, the archers got their season started with the opening of archery deer and turkey seasons on Sept. 15.
Among the bow hunters that opened the season was George Morris, Lamar. Morris reported seeing eight deer, but most of them were small so he passed them up. However, he saw a 12-point buck that still had velvet on its antlers.
"That big buck stayed at least 75 yards away and wouldn't get any closer to my stand. It's a long season, so maybe I'll get a shot later, at least I know he is around," he said.