Survey: Midwest duck hunters aren’t satisfied

By Tim
Spielman

Associate Editor

Las Vegas – Midwest duck hunters are those most prone to decry a
decline in the quality of their hunt, according to the results of a
comprehensive survey unveiled last week at the Shooting, Hunting,
and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas.

The survey, which included about 10,000 respondents from the
four flyways in the United States (the Atlantic, Mississippi,
Central, and Pacific) was conducted by the the National Flyway
Council and the Wildlife Management Institute during the fall of
2005. About 29,000 hunters were contacted using names drawn from
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Harvest Information Program
database.

‘It wasn’t a poll or about public opinion, but it includes
important information that will help guide decisions,’ said Steve
Williams, former USFWS director and current president of WMI,
during a press conference. ‘It provides clues about hunter
perception and attitudes.’

Tom Hauge, director of the Bureau of Wildlife Management for the
Wisconsin DNR, and the Mississippi Flyway Council’s representative
to the National Flyway Council, said the information will provide
limited guidance as flyway officials embark on season-setting in
the near future. He said flyway reps likely will ‘study, digest,
and debate’ the survey information before putting it to action.

‘The data collected will help guide us,’ he said.

While it’s important to consider hunter opinion, ultimately
federal biologists are responsible for developing duck-hunting
frameworks, based on breeding and nesting surveys and harvest
information.

‘The reality is, this month and next, waterfowl biologists will
be in the same boat as hunters, with the data just being made
available,’ Hauge said. ‘If something jumps out, or if it’s a
no-brainer, we’ll look at that.

‘My observation, when working with the flyway council, is we’re
a cautious lot Š’

Considering the many different types of duck hunting in the
nation, specific to area and hunting season, Hauge said he was
surprised to see that many waterfowling attitudes were similar.

‘There was regional variety, but on the whole Š there were
pretty consistent views,’ he said.

Nationally, nearly three-fourths of the respondents said duck
hunting was one of their most important, or most important,
recreational activities.

However, most hunters agree that duck hunting has proved less
satisfying the past few years. Overall, when asked to rate the
changes in overall duck hunting satisfaction during the past five
years, 57 percent said duck hunting had gotten a little worse, or
had gotten much worse.

The questions were broken down by ‘sub-flyway’ (for example, the
Mississippi Flyway was divided in to upper, lower, and middle). In
the Upper Mississippi Flyway, 66 percent supported the assertion
that duck hunting had gotten worse – to some degree – the past five
years. In stark contrast, of those who said they hunted the upper
Central Flyway (the Dakotas included), 29 percent believed hunting
had gotten worse; 30 percent believed it had improved. And 40
percent in that area said their duck-hunting satisfaction was
largely unchanged during the past five years.

Respondents in the lower Mississippi Flyway (Louisiana,
Arkansas, for example) appeared the most disgruntled during the
past five years; over 82 percent said the quality of duck hunting
had gotten worse.

Other findings included:

Nationwide, about 57 percent of respondents said overall duck
numbers had become worse in the past five years; 17 percent said
they thought numbers had improved.

About half also saw a decrease in satisfaction when it came to
places to hunt, the past five years.

Nationwide, only 8 percent said they’d consider it a
satisfying harvest even if they took no birds; 18 percent
considered three birds and four birds both satisfactory daily
harvests.

Forty-three percent of duck hunters spent 10 days or less
hunting ducks each year during the past five years; 30 percent
spent 11 to 20 days; 17 percent spent 21 to 30 days; and 10 percent
spent more than 30 days.

Nationwide, 59 percent of the respondents said the duck season
length in the state they hunted most during the past five years was
‘about right,’ although another 35 percent said the season was ‘too
short.’

Nationwide, 36 percent of the respondents said they’d hunt
ducks no matter the daily limit; nearly half, however, said they’d
give up hunting ducks if the limit was reduced to three or
less.

In the Mississippi Flyway, more than half of the respondents
said the daily bag for hen mallards should be one bird; nationwide,
about 45 percent supported one hen mallard per day, 35 percent
supported the harvest of two.

Nationwide, 53 percent of those who responded said they
believed motorized spinning-wing decoys should be allowed, 23
percent said they shouldn’t be allowed, and 24 percent had no
opinion; the numbers were similar for the upper Mississippi
Flyway.

This past season, 13 percent of the respondents said they
‘always’ used motorized spinning-wing decoys; 40 percent said they
used them sometimes, while 47 percent said they never used the
decoy.

Question 28 of the 32-question survey asked those surveyed who
they trusted to represent the interests of duck hunters.

Better than 80 percent of the respondents placed waterfowl
biologists in the ‘high’ and ‘medium’ ranges. Meanwhile, 84 percent
placed legislators in the ‘low’ and ‘none’ categories. Just the
general public ranked lower, with 87 percent in the two low-trust
categories.

Conservation clubs scored 51 percent ‘high,’ and 32 percent
‘medium.’ Outdoors writers ranked medium (33 percent) and low (38
percent).

Spending attitudes also were surveyed. According to the survey,
almost two-thirds of the respondents spent more than $250 each year
on duck hunting, and one-fifth spent over $1,000.

According to a press release from the NFC and WMI, ‘The next
step is for duck hunters, flyway councils, state fish and wildlife
agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, conservation
organizations, duck clubs, and the outdoors media to begin
reviewing and discussing what the results mean and how the results
might be used to inform future decisions regarding waterfowl
hunting and management.’

Additional information on the National Duck Hunter Survey 2005
is available at www.ducksurvey.com.

Categories: Hunting News

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