Early waterfowl hunting season
July 21st, 2015 by Red Hills
published in Tallahassee Democrat 9/18/14
There are hints of autumn and a promise of cooler days ahead when September finally comes around. September also marks the beginning of hunting and it starts off with one of my favorites, the early waterfowl hunting season.
The early waterfowl season provides opportunities to hunt resident wood ducks, raised here on our local wetlands, and migratory blue-winged teal that are stopping over briefly in our region on their way to wintering grounds in Mexico and Central America. The blue-winged teal is one of the first waterfowl species to begin the fall migration and the early waterfowl season in Florida provides a great chance to harvest some of these amazing birds as they travel through Florida.
All migrating waterfowl are protected by federal and state hunting laws and it is always important to review the hunting regulations before starting your hunt. Check them out at myfwc.com.
Before the hunt, make sure you have a valid Florida hunting license, a free migratory bird permit (HIP), a Florida waterfowl permit and the current Federal duck stamp. By purchasing these permits, you are investing in the agencies that manage our wildlife resources, which is a great return on your investment.
This year is especially exciting, since the early waterfowl season has expanded from five to nine days which allows for two weekends of hunting. Also, the longer season increases the chances that the arrival of migrating blue-winged teal and the hunting season will match up, since the migration timing can vary somewhat each year.
Another change for this year is that the daily possession (harvest) limit has increased to six ducks. During the first five days, up to two wood ducks can be included in the possession limit, but only teal harvest is allowed in the last four days.
The Red Hills lakes, including Iamonia, Jackson, Miccosukee and Carr, provide outstanding public hunting opportunities for the early duck season. The only challenge is there can be many hunters on these lakes, especially during the opening weekend. It is important to get to get out early and be mindful of the increased activity on the water.
As you move from the launch to your hunting site, be on the lookout for other hunters setting up their decoy spread and try to provide plenty of space between you and your neighboring hunters. When hunting parties are too close, the quality of the experience is degraded for everyone.
For many, including my family, teal are considered excellent table fare. Our favorite is grilled teal breasts wrapped in a little bacon, which helps to keep the meat moist and tender. The key to great duck is to not overcook the meat. If you like a little zip, try sandwiching a slice of jalapeno and some Monterey jack cheese between the breast meat. After a good meal of teal, my family often asks when I will be hunting again. Now that is a win-win!
I hope you have a great early duck season. Remember to be safe, respect your neighbors and have fun.
Shane Wellendorf is the conservation coordinator for Tall Timbers Research Station and Land Conservancy.