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First printed in
The Morning News
of Northwest Arkansas
Aubrey's Notebook:
Teal Season Important

The cool weather Saturday morning found me frustrated by the lack of water in what in past years was a perfect spot for teal hunting.

Yes, I made the mistake of failing to scout ahead of time. I simply drove out to the big waterhole expecting to find a few early migrating ducks feeding along the rock, gravel, mud and clay shoreline. The ducks likely would have been there except for the fact that in order to make repairing the dam convenient, the water has been released.

September teal season is a luxury that possibly ought not to exist. The numbers of teal don't necessarily justify allowing a special season for them. But there is a tactical reason for allowing duck hunters to go out two months early and shoot a teal or two. Those who make the rules apparently feel the risk of reducing the teal population and of losing a few ducks of other species to careless or inexperienced hunters who can't tell a teal from a woodduck, pintail or shoveler is acceptable.

The special season probably helps a fair number of hunters make up their minds to buy their licenses and special duck stamps. The special season may increase participation in early fall Ducks Unlimited fund-raisers. It may even motivate many hunters to support the Wildlife Federation.

Because the weather is usually excellent during teal season, a lot of people take youngsters hunting and expose them to the thrill of seeing waterfowl in the wild.

Teal season is the perfect time to expose a young retriever to the game for which it was born. The only pressure comes when picking shots. Not shooting other species of ducks is the challenge for those who are quick on the trigger.

Professional wildlife managers and amateur conservationists agree that increasing the number of hunters is necessary to increase the chance that wildlife species will continue to exist. Certainly, there are a great many people today who value wildlife and are interested in seeing that habitat continues to be available to them. But the percentage of such people who develop a love of nature and a conservation ethic without learning to hunt is small.

Becoming focused on game species continues to be the surest method of beginning to develop a broad range of interests in nature. A person who learns to value hardwood trees because they harbor squirrels, raccoons, turkey and bear and even ducks in flooded lowlands doesn't stop caring about timber when he stops hunting.

The forest itself becomes the focus. The rich diversity of life in a natural forest takes on a value that can't be forgotten even by a citybound ex-hunter. The early teal season is a time to treasure, a time to share with a youngster or non-hunting adult. It provides a good reason to get outdoors, a good reason to buy licenses to help support wildlife management and habitat protection.


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Aubrey James Shepherd
Fayetteville, AR © 2003, 2004, 2005

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