DU Podcast Transcript: Ep. 41 – Are Geese Shot Over Decoys in Poor Condition?

Host Dr. Mike Brasher talks with Dr. Drew Fowler, Wisconsin DNR, to explore the question of whether the birds we shoot over decoys have lower body condition than those in the larger population

© Michael Furtman

Clay Baird: Welcome to the Ducks Unlimited Podcast, the only podcast about all things waterfowl, from planning insights to science based discussions about ducks, geese and issues affecting waterfowl and wetlands conservation in North America. We bring the resource to you, the DU podcast with your host, Dr. Mike Brasher.

Mike Brasher: Hey folks, just a bit of extra information here for you. Before we get into today's episode. We are about 40 episodes into this new venture of ours, the DU podcast. We're constantly trying different things and wanting to make sure that we stay in touch with you the listeners, and are responsive to some of your interests and some of your comments. So I want to make you aware of some additional information that we are providing related to the podcast. First off, you can find transcripts for some of the episodes, all of the episodes that we've produced. You can find those at www.ducks.org/dupodcast. You can also email us, email the DU podcast crew. Let us know what you think about the shows.

Mike Brasher: If you have a particular suggestion for the documentary that you'd like to hear or topics you'd like to hear us discuss, you can send those suggestions and those comments to us at dupodcast@ducks.org that's D-U podcast@ducks.org. So get in touch with us, let us know what you think about the podcast, provide us with your suggestions and who knows. We might discuss one of those on a future episode. So now let's get into today's show. In this episode we're going to ask a pretty basic question on the surface and it's a question that many hunters may actually have wondered as they're out in the field. That the question there is, are the ducks and geese that we harvest over decoys any different body condition wise from the ducks and geese that make up the larger population.

Mike Brasher: To help us flesh out this question a little bit more detail and discuss some of the management implications of it. We're going to welcome into the show Dr Drew Fowler. Dr Drew Fowler is the waterfowl and migratory game bird research scientist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Drew, welcome into the show.

Drew Fowler: Hey Mike, thanks so much for having me today. I appreciate it.

Mike Brasher: Great to have you on here. One of the neat things about this podcast is that we are able to reach out to our scientists, to our science partners, conservation partners across North America and share the expertise that you guys have. You guys are the ones that you do a lot of the work in your current position. You've done a lot of the work in your graduate studies that you've done kind of leading you to your own career path. We're fortunate to be able to reach out to you and involve you in these discussions. So thanks a lot for being here. I think I want to out by giving you an opportunity to introduce yourself to our audience. Tell us a little bit about your personal and professional background.

Drew Fowler: Absolutely. Well, I'm glad to be on the show and glad to get the opportunity to talk with you and the ducks and limited community. Like you said, I'm at Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources right now. I started that position just over a year ago, November of 2018 and I moved up here after I finished my PhD work at university of Missouri with Dr Lisa Web. Missouri was not my home either, prior to that I was at the university or as at Louisiana State university with Dr Sammy King and we did some research on wetland management. I grew up in Texas, so for the last 10 years I've been bouncing further and further North. I think right now between my cold tolerance and my wife and my kids tolerances, we hope that we don't move any further North. But we've really been enjoying Wisconsin thinking about opportunities to do research across the state. So it's been a real pleasure.

Mike Brasher: Now you are the migratory game bird research scientists there. Whenever I think about the waterfowl biologists within a given state, I usually use the generic term state waterfowl biologist. Do you have a counterpart that serves that role?

Drew Fowler: Yes. The beautiful thing about Wisconsin DNR, the thing that I think that's really cool about it is that those Wisconsin DNR recognizes that there's strengths and having people make management decisions and that their strengths and having people think more exclusively about research oriented questions. But then not keeping those people separate, but combining their work together to help one inform the other, particularly that research to inform the management. We don't just have a singular waterfowl biologist position in the state of Wisconsin like some other agencies do. We actually have a state waterfowl biologist, Taylor Finger who's been in the position for a couple of years now.

Drew Fowler: Then on the waterfowl and micro game bird research scientists. So Taylor and I work really closely together on thinking about what our management objectives and goals are for the state. And then how we can prioritize research to fill in the gaps that are going to make more informed decisions for management. That comes on a slew of different priorities ranging from harvest management, harvest regulations but also to our habitat management. It's cool to have another counterpart in the state agency to work together alongside each other and make these decisions.

Mike Brasher: That is an effective framework. I personally, I didn't realize that about your state but that's a good deal. I've met Taylor on a couple of occasions in that and I was just trying to square that in my mind. What the relationship was between the two and so they had makes a lot of sense.

Drew Fowler: Taylor is a great guy. He focuses a lot on season regulations and how he can implement harvest management as well as habitat management on the ground. I get to think about this research projects that help them make smarter decisions.

Mike Brasher: It pumped up on my radar here recently it's a topic that we might want to discuss on the podcast because I saw a publication from you. It was a publication in The Journal of Wildlife Management it came out earlier this year titled Condition Bias of decoy-harvested Light Geese During the Conservation Order. We're going to get into the details of that. But this was I think you've referenced this as part of your PhD work. At the most basic level, again, we're asking the question are the birds that we harvest over decoys any different condition wise from those that make up the larger population.

Mike Brasher: What I want you to do Drew is help us understand this research question a little more. There's a gee whiz aspect to this question just from a hunter standpoint of are these birds different? Just kind of stands the reason that maybe the birds that we're harvesting might be a little more or over decoys might be a little more vulnerable in some way or another. So why might that be? You've actually, of course, through this research done a lot of thinking on this. So tell us a little bit about this research and just to help us understand it.

Drew Fowler: Sure. It might be helpful just to provide some context upfront about some of the researchers that have been thinking about this for a while. Going back to the eighties about just the general concept of a condition bias and birds.

Mike Brasher: So when we say bias, tell us what you mean when you say bias.

Drew Fowler: Bias. I mean, just a more simpler term would be, is there a difference? If you think about bird's existing on a bell curve, right? If you're familiar with this statistical bell curve, we've got the majority of individuals, the mean of the individuals in the center of that bell. A bias would be, do we see birds that exist on the fringes of that bell curve being the predominant type of bird that shows up in the bag? In thinking myself, when I started this project with my coauthors, we had to do a lot of digging into what's been done already in terms of this difference in body condition between birds that might be decoyed versus what's in that in the population. Surprisingly the researchers that started thinking about this for waterfowl actually were inspired by some earlier studies that looked at differences between small, red-winged blackbirds.

Drew Fowler: Some of the work that occurred in the late seventies, early eighties showed that if they trapped red-winged blackbirds with decoys, those birds ended up having higher body mass as opposed to if they just set up these ... they're called mist nets, which are almost invisible nets to birds that they would haphazardly fly into. So some type of more random sample if you would allow to compare the differences. They found that the birds that were trying to fly into traps that had decoys there had lower body weight than these birds that were just randomly flying into the nets. The authors started thinking about, well what, how might this transfer over to waterfowl? I mean, here we are hunting over water or on land with decoys. Do we see similar trends? There were some studies in the early eighties that looked at differences in mallards on birds that had that were caught over bait versus not over bait.

Drew Fowler: There were differences between those two types of groups. Particularly what was interesting is some scientists called last names are Weatherford and Greenford and Greenwood, I'm sorry, looked at whether or not the mallards if they were shot over decoys had lower body mass relative to birds that weren't shot over decoys if they were, say, jump-shot or past shot. What they found in those mallards is that the birds that were shot over decoys just had pure overall lower body mass. That was really interesting, and that started getting the gears turning. The question was why is this occurring? Their hypothesis was that the birds that are in poor body condition because they are energetically starved might make themselves more susceptible or vulnerable to decoys because they're more willing to take a risk to decoys because they energetically demand it. If that makes sense.

Mike Brasher: One thing that I'll clarify for some of our listeners and I think you'll get into this in more detail, but we're using kind of body condition and body mass in some way sort of synonymously. It's not exactly the way it is your body condition can be measured through a number of variables. But body mass has been found to be highly correlated with whatever metric we use for body condition. Do I have that right?

Drew Fowler: Absolutely. You got that right. That's really important because as they studies advanced, they started trying to get more specific going from just a difference in mass, like you referred to energetic levels. So say levels of lipids and levels of protein because those are the things that fueled these birds during migration. They fueled them for reproduction and so that's going to get more at the condition rather than just say the sheer mass.

Mike Brasher: Like true condition. But invariably we want as researchers ... Ideally we'd like to have an index that is highly correlated with ... an index that's easy to measure, easy to obtain and that is highly correlated with some more sophisticated, more accurate representation of the true body condition, right?

Drew Fowler: Right. Here it does a decent job of that. But like you said it, it doesn't get at the specifics. There's all kinds of ways that body mass in and of itself could be skewed or it could be non-representative of actual condition. That if you're just measuring body mass, what if the bird has a crop full of corn or an esophageal full of corn or what if it's just a larger bodied bird? The body mass is going to be inflated. So there are ways that we can account for and scale body size so that we would get a more accurate reading on these things. But we did start to throughout the eighties and the nineties transition to saying just instead of just body mass, what are there other ways if they're dead can that we can assess in terms of their energetic levels like lipids and proteins.

Drew Fowler: But for a long time we didn't have that luxury. But what was really unique is that starting in the mid eighties in the late nineties, is we realized, okay, there's probably a condition bias. Are there better ways to quantify it than just past shooting or jump shooting birds at versus the decoys, birds. We did work on scope, not me particularly, but other people have done work on scope where they would take the body mass and the body size of birds. So they'd have some type of body size adjusted mass and they would measure these birds while they cut them and banded them. Then they were able to access ... do the recovery rates of these birds vary based of the body mass. And sure enough, these birds that were in poor condition, indexed by lower body mass were recovered at higher rates than birds that had higher body masses.

Mike Brasher: Drew, do you know if in any of those studies, if they ever followed up the subsequent year, I would imagine the recovery rate that you're talking about right there is the direct recovery rate. Which is the recoveries that occur in the hunting season immediately after banding, right. Has anyone ever looked to see if those recovery rates in years in way subsequent to the banding of that kind of ... if that same turn holds.

Drew Fowler: So some of these studies, like you said, I mean they're relatively short term studies, but they're not just single year study. So I'm thinking of one that looked at scope from birds that were banded and recovered from 1983 to 1986. So we've had a couple of years there. So that's not just going to be direct recoveries, but it's going to be those indirect recoveries as well, recoveries that occur in a year past the original banding year. So we've got some metric of temporal variability there with our recovery rate, so it's not just in the given year.

Mike Brasher: Tell us a little bit about your study because you actually studied geese. Most of the other studies that you've just talked about were ducks and you studied geese. Tell us about that.

Drew Fowler: Right. So the idea behind this study was that one of the big differences between a ducks and a geese is in their life history and their length of life. Generally, ducks have much shorter lifespans than geese. Geese can have a life history that might take them upwards of 20 years. Maybe for a Snow geese the particular ones that I studied, average lifespan might be eight or nine years, but it's really common to see birds 12 to 13 years old. Whereas ducks have a much shorter life history cycle. There's usually more heterogeneity in the types of birds within a population on a short, quick life history continuum as opposed to birds that stretch out and have a much longer life history.

Mike Brasher: Heterogeneity, we're talking about differences across individuals, right?

Drew Fowler: Yeah. A fancy word just to say variability or a distribution.

Mike Brasher: Scientists like the fancy words.

Drew Fowler: Right. Sometimes you got to get called out for using fancy words when you can just say they're different.

Mike Brasher: That's right.

Drew Fowler: But so geese, they have longer life histories. This concept of condition biases has not really been thoroughly vetted on longer live species like geese. We looked at this one time in the late or really the mid nineties with geese where we tried to see if there were differences. In greater Snow gees between birds caught over bait versus not caught over bait. That occurred during the fall and the researchers there didn't see a difference between the two, is that it didn't matter if birds were on bait or not they tended to have the same body condition. The impetus for this study it was kind of unique, particularly for light geese because if your listeners are familiar with Snows and Ross's geese, those are considered light geese and fall into the light goose conservation. These two species are birds that we have since 1999 set a particular conservation order out in order to help reduce the overall population to more sustainable levels due to perceived over abundance. And we-

Mike Brasher: That's basically the spring harvest periods that we're talking about there.

Drew Fowler: That's the spring harvest. If you talk to one of my co-authors Mark Vrtisca, he'll be very emphatic that this actually isn't a hunting season. Right. He'll distinguish that between being a conservation order because their particular purpose behind why the spring harvest exists. So nonetheless, we have shot a lot of birds. We increased our birds since the initiation of the conservation order. But we haven't seen the type of response to a declining populations that we hoped. There's a lot of good reasons for that. Largely our harvest rates are so low and we haven't been able to maintain an increased harvest with the increase in population growth. So we get to a point where we just get satiated as hunters. We couldn't put more hunters on the landscape that we really needed to in order to achieve effective harvest rates.

Drew Fowler: So meanwhile though, we are still shooting more decent we ever have before and the question is, if you've ever sat out in a goose spread and you've spent two hours setting up your spread or longer and you don't get any response, you have big flocks of geese look at you and keep going off. And then all of a sudden you've got one guy dropped out of the sky and come into your spread. The question is, who is this guy who decided to come and make the decision, right? As opposed to the 500 that just completely flew past me, looked and said, no thanks and left. What we tried to do in this research is evaluate differences in body condition between the birds that hunters are primarily shooting, there decoy harvest, and birds that exist at the same time in the same landscapes but aren't responding to hunters.

Drew Fowler: What we tried to do is we had two field seasons in 2015 and 2016. We paired sampling events in Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota between decoys shot birds by hunters, and then simultaneously on the same days within the same proximity of location, we would find loafing or roosting groups of Snow geese either on land or over-water sneak up to them, stand up to flush the birds up into the air, and then indiscriminately shoot into the flock to as best as possible, serve as a representative sample of that population at that given time. We had birds from these two groups and we were able to then after the field season come back to the lab and then we could analyze these birds for not just the body mass but also the particulars of their actual proximate body condition. What I mean by approximate bike in addition, I mean their total body lipids and they're total body proteins. Those are the two energetics that really drive these birds during spring migration. We were able to quantify those data and then make some comparisons between these two groups.

Mike Brasher: Just to clarify, we have the decoys shot birds that sort of represents the normal harvest and then we have the birds that you guys crept up on and then you shot as they flushed. The idea of being at those that you're jump shooting, they're going to be random collections of individuals from that larger population. Then you're going to compare those two. The proximate analysis work that you guys do, we probably don't have time to go into all the details of this, but it actually is it will be surprising to a lot of folks to learn how you do that. To process those birds, there's some details here, but basically it amounts to freezing those birds, I think. Then you grind them up and that, and so you are analyzing the entire composition of the bird, less the feathers. I think you take the feathers off and take out the-

Drew Fowler: Less the feathers. Exactly. We shaved the feathers off the birds so that our protein estimates are indicative of the muscular and cardiac or cardiac protein of the bird. But feathers are made out of protein too. We wanted to think about, but they're lay by aisle. I'm sorry. They're stationary, they can't change. They can't be reabsorbed by the bird for other purposes.

Mike Brasher: Unlike muscle, which can be muscles can be catabolize.

Drew Fowler: Exactly. So there was a process there. For every bird that you shoot, it's a reminder in the back of your head that you're going to later have to process that bird in the lab and so-

Mike Brasher: That's right.

Drew Fowler: I collected a thousand birds cumulatively for this study. So we spent a lot of time dissecting birds. So you have a good respect for birds at the end of that study.

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Mike Brasher: So we have the study sort of laid out and we probably don't need to go into any additional details. So Drew, what did we learn?

Drew Fowler: So on the whole, what we found is that birds that were shot over decoys in all four states had higher ... I'm sorry, had lower lipid levels relative to the birds that we shot via jump shooting.

Mike Brasher: So less fat, when we're talking about lipids, we're talking about fats.

Drew Fowler: We looked at differences between protein which is in the muscle, and lipids which is the fat. If you ever cleaned a bird, it's that yellow adipose tissue that's in between the skin and the breast muscle. Decoys shot birds on the whole had lower lipid reserves than our decoys or our jump-shot counterparts. This was really interesting because it was also... we saw the same trends across age. Both adults and juveniles had differences in the same direction, right? Between decoys and jump-shot birds.

Mike Brasher: It's important to clarify between those two groups because you would naturally expect the juvenile birds to have less fat reserves than would say adults. So you have to parse out those two groups because they would naturally be some sort of difference there.

Drew Fowler: It's important to separate those out between adults and juveniles because their body sizes are different. But what's really interesting is that you ... If you're hunters you're familiar and would totally expect that juvenile birds will decoy more readily than adults. That's maybe not necessarily because of a condition bias, but because of a naivety bias. So they don't have that experience to know and pick out a spread and say, ah, let's not go there. What was unique is that we saw differences in the extent of body condition biases and juveniles relative to adults. So put it another way is that there was greater separation in the lipid levels between decoys and jump-shot adults than there were equally in jump-shot juveniles.

Drew Fowler: That's interesting to me because from a conservation standpoint, we know that our target is adult females. That if we want to reduce the population, we need to be targeting adult females. Not only does other research point to us saying that, we shoot more juveniles than adults and so that impedes our ability to be effective. But what we're seeing here in our research is that the adults that are coming into decoys are substantially lower body condition then say counterparts shot by jumpsuit shooting. That to me is really interest.

Mike Brasher: We'll touch on why that's interesting in a bit more detail here in detail in a second, but I can imagine some listeners saying, wait a minute, I've shot lots of Snow goose over decoys and I can show you hundreds of geese that are just loaded with fat. I think the important thing is we're not saying, or your research isn't saying that every bird shot over a decoy spread is in poor condition. There definitely are going to be some birds shout over decoys that are in fantastic condition and there's going to be some birds shot that you jumped shoot that are probably going to be in very poor condition. But when you take the average across those two groups, what your results are showing is that on average the body condition of those that were shot over decoys was lower than the ones that you jump-shot.

Drew Fowler: That's exactly right. I mean, it goes back to our fancy word, heterogeneity, right? It's the variability across the population. But there's two important components that to point out here. One is, you're exactly right. You can shoot fat ducks. There's a famous researcher named Dave Ankney and he wrote in a paper back in the 80s, he said, look, if decoy hunting resulted in only shooting skinny ducks, I would quit hunting. I think that's a very common sentiment is that what we're not saying is that there's no fat ducks that come into decoys. Importantly, we're not even saying that ducks or geese, in my case, that responded decoys don't have fat. They absolutely do. You could shoot a goose, it would come into your spread, shoot it, dissect it and be like, man, this got a lot of fat on it.

Drew Fowler: But the question is, do you know how much fat that has relative to the bird you didn't shoot? Right? What we're saying, what our research is pointing to is that birds that aren't responding to decoys have even more fat than the birds coming into decoys. But of course, there's that variability, and of course, there's a lot of dynamics into what shows up in your back. Are you shooting singles all day long or have you invested at the time and to find the right location and invested in the spread to deceive a really large group of birds and you're waiting to pull the shot until birds are on the ground and you still got birds coming in the air, right? Then you've got a little bit more of a dynamic there where you have to see of a large group of birds and you might expect an even greater amount of variability in the condition from the birds at first landed to later in the flock.

Mike Brasher: You collected both Lesser snow geese and Ross's geese. You found this same trend for both of those species. Right?

Drew Fowler: Absolutely. Yup.

Mike Brasher: Then there are a couple of other quite a few other things that are of interest in your results. We're not going to be able to get into all of those. One of the things that I did want to mention here was the fat content after adjusted for body size and all that, it show it increased with latitude. Talk about that a little bit.

Drew Fowler: So keep in mind, we started at Arkansas, the furthest South state in our study and we moved with the birds as they were moving North in migration. So we sequentially then moved to Missouri, then Nebraska and then South Dakota. We expect that ducks and geese during this time of the year are spinning an enormous amount of energy migrating. They're thinking about a lot of things. They're thinking about the energy that they need to make these big physical movements, but then they're also beginning to think preemptively about what's it going to take to pull off a successful clutch in the upcoming summer. It is expected that these birds are piling on more fat reserves as they can in order to utilize those stores later on in migration. We saw this trend in our data is that the further North we went, the larger these geese got because they were storing more and more lipid reserves.

Drew Fowler: But what was unique in our study is that as we were, again, looking at the differences in fat levels between decoy and jump-shot birds is that the difference between those decoy and jump-shot birds began to get larger and larger as we moved further North. What we're seeing there is that decoyed birds staying in South Dakota that are showing up to spreads they're still gaining weight from Arkansas to South Dakota. They're still gaining weight, but not the key is not at nearly the pace as these other birds that we sampled from jump shooting. So just some ballpark numbers the difference in lipid levels between decoy and jump-shot up birds in Arkansas was around 30 grams. Whereas by the time we got to South Dakota, the difference between the two was 65 grams. When we were looking cumulatively at the total amount of body lipids on a bird might be somewhere around 200 and 220 in our study. 65 grams is a pretty significant difference in terms of what you might be able to carry with you or not.

Mike Brasher: Tell us why this matters from a conservation management perspective.

Drew Fowler: Well, I think biases and body condition are differences in body condition among the population is important for us to consider as managers kind of on a couple of different folds. The first question we have to think about is, we're seeing differences in body condition, but what does that mean? Does that mean anything physiologically or biologically? In the question, I think we first have to ask is, is there a link between body condition and say survival? Or is there a link between body condition and reproduction? The results of those questions are an emphatic yes. We've not just in my study, because my study didn't look at particularly can we quantify differences in survival in this study? We're going to do that, but a lot of other studies have shown these relationships between a poor body condition and say lower survival rates.

Drew Fowler: We know that that link exists. We've also seen linkages where birds that start off in low body conditions say in spring or have high hunting pressure put on them during the spring conservation order and the greater snow birds population and the Atlantic flyway. There is research that showed that as they increase in ramped up the pressure of the greater snow birds population, reproduction began to wane. There are this life cycle relationships that are linked between body condition and reproduction.

Mike Brasher: Let me ask you about the survival element there. This study was conducted during the conservation order in the spring. The idea that you're laying out here is that these birds that are in lower body condition are the ones that we're more likely to harvest over decoys. Those are the ones because of this relationship between body condition and survival. These are the ones that are more likely. It doesn't mean they're going to, but they're more likely to die than would be the ones in good condition. I'm familiar with a lot of those studies, how many of those studies, however, or were conducted during the spring because we're talking about body condition in the spring. What do we know about that differences in survival from spring through the breeding season as a result of differences in body condition?

Drew Fowler: Well, we know that spring is a really important time for all waterfowl as they're getting ready for like we said, making these big movements and then also getting ready for breeding. Now, what we've known for more recently from some research done by some really good researchers up North and Canada on Snow geese is that they're able to look at band recoveries of snow geese. They can compartmentalize mortality via hunter harvest versus natural mortality. They were able to segregate survival by seasons. What was really interesting and what is I think important for us to know is that more Snow geese are dying of natural mortality than they are of harvest mortality right now. That should just speak to the impact of body condition on mortality. So not necess- or survival, right? Survival would just be the opposite of the probability of dying. We know that there's a high pressure on these birds particularly during spring and it's very likely that high mortality exists during spring, national mortality on its own outside of hunter harvest.

Mike Brasher: Well, Drew, this has been one of the media conversations that we've had. We've discussed some of the details probably at greater length than we have on some of our other podcasts. So we want to try to recap for our listeners here with respect to this group of hunter shot birds. So tell us again, what is it about them whenever we're harvesting them and the implications for that from a conservation perspective, what are we seeing with that?

Drew Fowler: Maybe some of the big takeaways from this study are that because the Light Geese Conservation Order shoots are predominantly a group of birds that are in lower body condition. Because we have good reason to suspect that lower body condition translates into lower survival, it means that the predominant group of birds that are removed during the conservation order are birds that have likely a much lower probability of surviving through the spring migration anyways. Because natural mortality is high, a lot of these birds that are being removed have higher probabilities to had they not been shot, they would have died likely anyways. Secondly, if they didn't die then it's much more likely that their lipids and protein reserves would be much lower, that they wouldn't be able to either one successfully breed or even make the decision to breed.

Drew Fowler: They would just decide to take a gap year and take a break because they wouldn't have reserves ready to breed. From a conservation perspective, if our goal is to sustainably reduce the population then our harvest is focused on the wrong subset of birds. We know that adult breeding females are the important bird to sustainably remove out of the population. What our data is showing is that not only are our harvest rates are really low, is it the birds that we're focusing in on via removal through decoys, are birds that are probably in really really poor shape. That either won't live or probably won't breed if they do live.

Mike Brasher: This is a really interesting topic and I'm finding myself as a hunter asking the question, is there something that I can do if the group of birds that has a natural tendency to come into our decoys and then hence that's the group that we harvest isn't the ones that the group that we really need to be harvesting in order to reduce population growth. Is there something else that I can be doing to help in that regard?

Drew Fowler: Well, I think there's maybe two things. One is that, I mean, our research shows that the birds that are shot via jump shooting are in higher body condition than decoys shooting. Of course, people are going to go back and forth and have their internal debates as to what's a more fun decoy hunting or jump shooting. But at least our data points to a stronger condition birds out of a jump shooting. But at the same time decoy hunting, if you're going to do it, could focus on picking out adults as opposed to juveniles or waiting to call the shot until birds are further ... You have more birds moving into your spread. But I think more tangibly recruit a friend get somebody out who's never liked goose hunted before, whether that'd be in the fall or the spring, introduce them to the concept and how much fun it can be.

Drew Fowler: It's just as a hunting particularly in the fall. Because the reality is that we need much higher harvest rates in order to effectively reduce the population via harvest. I think the other thing that I might add is that there's some other good research out here too that you might be able to explore in the listeners themselves with some of the work that's coming out of Canada. But we're seeing that the population of Snow geese are responding to pressures that are outside of hunting and they're beginning to decline because of changes on the breeding population over the breeding habitat conditions up further North.

Drew Fowler: We've seen the population grow for a long time, but in the last five years we've met starting to see a decline and that might be related more to some density dependent pressures that occur up on their breeding grounds. It's going to be really interesting to see how effective the conservation order could be as the populations if they continue to decline or if they stabilize again. But we know right now our harvest rates need to be substantially increased to be effective for harvest to have a role in that population decline.

Mike Brasher: It's interesting that you kind of landed where you did there. We're sort of on a good run here with podcast related to a light geese, Snow geese and Ross's geese. We've already had Dr. Ray Alisauskas on a couple of episodes and we're going to have Dr. Vanessa Harriman on as well. We can have a series of these episodes all speaking to the situation around light geese. This is a just sort of a pretty cool synergy of conversations. We've learned a lot about this group of birds that we still have a lot to learn, but it's become one of the most heavily studied groups of birds, groups of waterfowl in North America. What you've presented and what you've learned is another piece of information that's really valuable in helping us understand what's going on with this population. So, Drew, we thank you for coming on and sharing your time with us. We thank you for helping us to understand your research and what you discovered.

Drew Fowler: Absolutely. Thanks so much for taking the time to ask me about the research and I'd love to be on another time.

Mike Brasher: Absolutely. We will try to find a way to get you on. Thanks for being a part of the show.

Drew Fowler: Have a great day.

Mike Brasher: We extend special thanks to our guests today, Dr. Drew Fowler with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. As always, we thank our producer Clay Baird, the man behind the machine who does a great job getting these podcasts together, edited and then out to you listeners. And to you the listeners, the most important part of this venture. We thank you for your time and spending that time with us on this podcast. Most importantly, we thank you for your support of wetlands and waterfowl conservation.

Drew Fowler: Thank you for listening to this episode of the Du podcast. Be sure to rate, review and subscribe to the show and visit www.ducks.org/dupodcast for resources based on today's topics, as well as access to more episodes. Opinions expressed by guests do not necessarily reflect those of Ducks Unlimited. Until next time, stay tuned to the ducks.