Monday, May 26, 2014

Variables at play: season length as a game bird management tool

I'm left pondering the adjustment of the game bird season length as a game bird management tool. Ultimately, management tools (and there are only 2 available to our game bird managers - daily bag limit and length of season) are used to try and manage the overall harvest of game birds, and in our region the focus is on ducks. Our party diarises (amongst "moments" - those events which are memorable, funny, tragic or plain idiotic) weather patterns, locations hunted and birds harvested on a daily basis and has done ever since I began hunting. I know of other keen guys who can grab their diary and tell you what they shot on any given day; they are the keen observers, part of the 10% who shoot 90% of the birds harvested.

One of the benefits of game diaries is that a diary can give you specific data (specific to your party/area hunted). Specific data can be used to get an idea of what's going on around the place to a greater or lesser extent.

With regard to season length, in our region over the past 5 years we've been moved from a steady 8 week 10 bird a day season to a number of adjustments such as 8 weeks and 6 birds a day limit, 5 weeks and 10 birds per day and 4 weeks with 10 birds per day. Interestingly, over that time our party's harvest results have remained pretty similar. There was one exceptional season in there under the old regs that saw perhaps an all time record harvest taken, but with that outlier recognised and taken out of the equation (not for any other reason than I choose to), the seasonal harvest results experienced are remarkably similar. For our group anyway.

This is where some considerations must be taken into account:

1. Water. Irrespective of drought, our ponds are stream fed, so we have water. This is important for us; our ponds are loafing areas so birds that have fed all night are seeking areas like ours to rest and top up with a nice drink of fresh water. We are on the end of the driest summer I've ever seen; I have never, ever, EVER seen the swamp as dry as it is now, and there's a saying about ducks taking to water... what I'm saying here is that we may have opportunities not afforded most guys.

2. Our hunting party is keen. We mostly live with a key focus on the duck season, it is the first and foremost important time of the year for us. So our hunting efforts are intense and constant as with other keen water-fowlers.

I'm not a huge fan of the season length reduction; I'd by far prefer to be able to choose weather windows over a couple of months to hunt ducks. But when discussing it with dad on the weekend, he asked if I could remember the days of the 3 week season... that certainly gave me pause for thought....

So I for one will be watching the overall harvest stats when they are published. I'm really interested in the net effect of the reduced season when read in conjunction with all of the other inputs. All I can really observe is our small part of the giant puzzle; and that is that we've harvested more birds in less time.

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