Iowa duck hunters are watching migrating blue wing teal and locally produced mallards and wood ducks crowding north Iowa marshes ahead of the Sept. 21-25 early duck season.

As the opener gets closer, major factors for hunter success will be water, or the lack there of, and whether or not the teal stick around for the weekend.

Seasonal wetlands are largely dry, said state waterfowl biologist Orrin Jones, and while semi-permanent wetlands may have water, it may not be enough to support a boat.

“Many areas have shallow water, which is favored by blue wing teal and other dabbling ducks, but not by hunters who prefer more water,” said Jones. “But blue wing teal are difficult to predict; they are here one day and gone the next.”

Jones said an online wetland habitat condition report was compiled from each of the DNR’s wildlife management districts on its website Sept. 12.

Hunters can use that information to prepare for marsh conditions or to change their hunting location.

“I highly recommend hunters visit the area they plan to hunt before the season opens in case they need to change their plans,” Jones said.

Hunters not sure where to go can start at the Iowa hunting atlas, which is an interactive map that shows all 600,000 acres of public hunting land that is owned by the state, county or federal governments, then use the wetland habitat report to narrow their focus. The atlas is available online at

A click on an area will show basic information like zone and open season, and links to maps, if available.

The atlas view from above allows hunters to zoom in on an area, see how to get there, the lay of the land and where one parcel of public hunting land is in relation to others.

Iowa’s early duck season is Sept. 21-25 in all three zones. The second duck season begins Oct. 12 in the north zone, Oct. 19 in the south zone, and Oct. 26 in the Missouri River zone.

Hunters have a few new law changes, including a new possession limit of three times the daily bag limit, which is an increase from twice the daily bag limit.  The scaup limit was increased to three per day and the canvasback limit increased to two per day.

“It looks like the weather forecast is good, and I encourage hunters to get out and enjoy the season,” Jones said.

An estimated 29,600 hunters are expected to hunt waterfowl in Iowa.

Logo courtesy Iowa Department of Natural Resources

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