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G.2-4: Waterfowl Hunting and Harvest: Perceptions, Reality, and Somewhere In Between

Presented by Dale Humburg - Email: dhumburg@ducks.org

Waterfowl hunting and harvest continue to change. Long-term and large-scale landscape changes affecting habitat for birds as well as hunters are confounded by year-to-year variation in bird distribution and local habitat conditions. The result is continuing debate about changes in distribution, impacts on waterfowling traditions, and managers implied responsibility for maintaining traditional distribution of harvest. Expectations for stability are not consistent with annual variation in weather and habitat, long-term trends in landscape condition, and ultimately, climate change. Additionally, changing hunter demographics and participation, in the context of the latest electronic decoys and other innovations potentially affect hunting patterns, pressure, and ultimately, duck behavior. Hunters are affected by waterfowl status, habitat conditions, and social context. Habitat and hunter management in turn potentially affect waterfowl distribution and behavior. Waterfowl managers are caught in the crossfire, responsible for conservation and public use, balancing regulations to perpetuate populations while also providing opportunity for hunting and harvest. Conserving habitat sufficient for waterfowl production and survival is balanced against demands for perpetuating waterfowl hunting traditions. Hunters perceive managers as having the ability and mandate to directly affect distribution through regulations and habitat conservation, but managers and researchers alike share uncertainty about their actual management influence on waterfowl distribution, movement, and behavior. Managers are uncertain about how changes in hunting pressure and habitat management influence bird behavior, potentially impacting hunt quality or shifting harvest distribution. Further complicating contemporary waterfowl management, todays social media environment offers opportunity for expert opinion to be shared widely before managers have an opportunity to frame issues from a scientific perspective. Within this new and rapidly changing context, waterfowl managers must take a fresh look at ecological and social trends, sources of uncertainty, and potential intended and unintended consequences that arise from the interplay of harvest and habitat management.
Session: Migration & Winter Distribution Changes (Thursday, August 29, 10:30 to 12:00)