The human dimensions of waterfowl hunting
Ducks Unlimited, state and federal agencies, and the shooting sports industry all recognize the vital role hunters play in wildlife management and habitat conservation. As a result, these groups are proactively working on many fronts to foster greater hunter retention and recruitment. One of the most significant recent trends in waterfowl management involves the science of human dimensions. Hunter participation and their satisfaction with hunting opportunity, success, and quality have been studied in the past, but this research generally has not had a major influence on management decisions. Recent work by experts in the social sciences has begun to define how the attitudes and opinions of waterfowl hunters are related to waterfowl habitat conservation. Questions have emerged about the motivations and barriers to hunting participation, the nature of mentoring and recruitment, and how the shift from a rural to urban culture has changed the social landscape.
Why is this important? The most obvious answer is that waterfowl hunters are an important source of revenue for state and federal conservation programs. Financial support from duck and goose hunters has been a foundation of wetlands conservation ever since the federal duck stamp was first issued in 1934. Waterfowlers have contributed billions of dollars to wildlife management by purchasing duck stamps and hunting licenses, paying excise taxes on sporting arms and ammunition through the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (Pittman-Robertson Act), and donating to conservation organizations. Over the past 72 years, DU members and volunteers alone have raised more than $2.5 billion, which has helped conserve 12.6 million acres of waterfowl habitat across North America. In addition, DU members are a powerful constituency for wetlands and waterfowl conservation, and their continued support—especially in the public policy arena—will be essential to sustain healthy populations of ducks and geese in the future.
Hunters also contribute to wetlands conservation by managing private lands for waterfowl. In some areas of North America, private wetland owners provide the majority of the habitat available to waterfowl. Wetlands in the Central Valley of California; confluence floodplain of the Mississippi, Missouri, and Illinois rivers; Great Lakes region; Atlantic Coast; and Mississippi Alluvial Valley would long ago have been converted to other uses had waterfowling interests not conserved them. And as waterfowl management and policies are developed in the future, consideration of private waterfowl habitat owners will be essential.