Use and Satisfaction of Public Hunting Opportunities
The retention and recruitment of hunters is of increasing concern to wildlife management agencies nationwide. A lack of access to quality hunting opportunities is often deemed as the primary reason why people quit hunting. In an effort to provide hunting opportunities for their constituency, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) invests considerable time and resources into the development and management of public Wildlife Management Areas and private lands open to public access through the Open Fields and Waters Program. Although investment in these programs is assumed to fulfill the needs of the hunting community, evaluating the use of public or private land by hunters, and their overall satisfaction with the hunting experience is challenging. Currently, the majority of hunter participation, satisfaction, and harvest data are collected at coarse spatial and temporal scales, through post season surveys. Unfortunately, this data does not provide the preferred resolution needed to appropriately manage individual Wildlife Management Areas or Open Fields and Waters sites. Moreover, it does not allow managers to assess the value of their investment in particular lands. Given the limited resources available for wildlife management, managers need a better understanding of hunter participation at the scales for which management actions occur if they are expected to manage lands appropriately.
GoalsThe integration of research methods from fisheries and human dimensions will allow for fine–scale spatial and temporal data to be collected using proven methodology. Incorporation of fine–scale spatial and temporal patterns in hunter participation will help managers better determine appropriate site–specific management objectives given the dynamic nature of hunter participation.
Further, fine–scale spatial and temporal patterns in hunter participation can be used to develop regional management approaches that consider the dynamic nature of hunter participation. Hunters often move among multiple sites within a region. The geographic distribution of alternative hunting locations, the respective availability of game, and the overall quality of the hunting experience plays a critical role in how people perceive and participate in outdoor recreation. Thus the effect of hunting and hunter participation on wildlife populations, hunter recruitment and retention, and local economies is likely acting at multiple scales that are currently not considered when managing wildlife resources. This regional understanding of hunter participation and satisfaction could be a considerable aid in guiding NGPC investments in public land acquisition and private land initiatives such as the Open Fields and Waters Program.