Time constraints and the competition determine a hunter's decision to shoot

December 6, 2016, Wageningen University
Time constraints and the competition determine a hunter's decision to shoot. Credit: Wageningen University & Research

What prompts a hunter to shoot an animal after it is spotted? Wageningen and Norwegian researchers studied more than 180,000 choice situations where hunters had spotted an animal and had to decide whether or not to shoot. They found that competition among hunters and the season coming to an end led to an increased likelihood of pulling the trigger. The research team published an article this week in the scientific journal PNAS in which they recommend that future wildlife management should take into account the social conditions surrounding hunting.

Hunting is a way to control wildlife populations. A deer or boar is more likely to be killed by a hunter than by a natural predator. However, very little is known about what motivates to shoot a particular animal or not. The selection pattern does determine how a population develops, however. Previous research has shown that is the cause of adult mortality for 80-90% of wild red deer, particularly given the lack of their natural predators such as wolves. Nevertheless, the populations in Europe and North America have grown so big that there are cases of overpopulation. Part of this increase is due to hunter selectivity: examples are the reluctance to shoot female deer with offspring, or prefentially shooting deer with large antlers for trophy. But what exactly shapes shunter selectivity?

To shoot or not to shoot

Researcher Andries Richter of Wageningen University & Research and his colleagues at the University of Oslo collected data on hunting. They analysed a unique dataset of 256 hunting locations in western Norway between 1999 and 2010, which included both hunted animals and animals that were spotted but not shot. The 181,989 were matched with information about weather conditions and the moon phase.

The researchers then developed a theoretical model containing formal and informal cultural hunting standards to draw conclusions about the factors that influence whether a hunter decides to shoot a particular animal or not.

Closing season

The researchers found that a shorter remaining season and competition among hunters contribute significantly to the hunter's decision to shoot an animal. Hunters are more likely to an animal as the hunting season comes to an end and if sightings occur less frequently.

The researchers tested their model with hunting and weather data from Norway. The results confirmed their hypotheses: a shorter remaining season and larger groups of hunters increase the probability of shooting an animal. For small groups this amounts to 20% two months before the end of the season and 40% on the last day of the season. For large groups, these figures are 33% and 55% respectively.

The human factor in hunting

"The findings tell us that the human factor plays an important role in hunting," says Wageningen researcher Andries Richter. The researchers concluded that wildlife management can be improved by taking into account the behaviour of hunters. "Theoretical options for adapting wildlife management policies include carrying over the unused quota from one season into the next or introducing an individual quota per hunter," adds Richter. "Understanding the interactions between hunters, , and regulation is the key to optimise policy-making and striking the right balance between people and nature," he concludes.

Explore further: Watch for venomous snakes when afield

More information: Florian K. Diekert et al. How constraints affect the hunter's decision to shoot a deer, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2016). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1607685113

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ab3a
5 / 5 (5) Dec 06, 2016
I hunt white tail deer, wild turkey, and rabbit. Like most people who fish, I'm not looking for a trophy; I hunt for meat.

Most of what regulates my decisions come from the state Department of Natural Resources, and then organizations such as National Wild Turkey Federation, Quality Deer Management Association, and other hunter's resources. In the case of white tail deer, the overpopulation can be ridiculous. I'll head to those areas first. In one watershed where I hunt, infrared surveys have revealed more than 400 deer per square mile, whereas a sustainable, healthy population in that area would be about 15.

Above all, I want to ensure that the population of whatever I hunt remains viable and healthy. I have come home empty-handed many times because although I saw animals, I didn't have a clean shot that I thought would bring the animal down quickly. I am patient, and I don't have to bring home anything.

I am one of many ethical hunters.
gkam
1 / 5 (3) Dec 07, 2016
I cannot imagine taking the life of another living thing, unless completely necessary. I got sick of killing and the entire idea in the service.

I recommend something to all hunters: Get hunted yourself, but without the ability to fight back, like real animals do when we have guns.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (3) Dec 07, 2016
@ab3a
I hunt white tail deer, wild turkey, and rabbit. Like most people who fish, I'm not looking for a trophy; I hunt for meat
ditto... except we have lots of feral and wild pig here too (and bear)

do you stalk or have a stand?
I have come home empty-handed many times because although I saw animals, I didn't have a clean shot that I thought would bring the animal down quickly. I am patient, and I don't have to bring home anything
i am the same way - although if i don't bring home something then we likely wont have meat... but i also tend to not wait till the last minute for meat, plus we save with various methods (mostly jerking, smoking and freezing, but salting some pork is common when i take a large hog)

sounds like you are in a good area
ab3a
5 / 5 (3) Dec 07, 2016
do you stalk or have a stand?


For a variety of reasons, I use a tree stand, or where good trees aren't available I'll use a blind.

We don't have much of a problem around here with boar or feral pigs, but we do have a very significant overpopulation of deer. The carnage on the roads during the rut is not just disgusting, it is expensive and dangerous.

Another problem in our area is the Eastern Coyote. These aren't the cute little things people see in western deserts. These are bigger because they apparently bred with wolves on their way eastward. While they can prey on small deer, they often go after house pets, farm animals, and the like. Since they're not native to the region, they are treated as any other invasive species: Maryland allows hunters to shoot them year round with no limits.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (2) Dec 07, 2016
@ab3a
sounds familiar... we have a very similar problem with deer here
These aren't the cute little things people see in western deserts. These are bigger because they apparently bred with wolves on their way eastward
they also bred with feral dogs because of people who stupidly abandon them in the country/rural areas

they are a serious threat around here - they've been known to threaten pets, stock and rural children out in the more isolated areas... just had an attack not too far from here two or so weeks ago

they're really bad around these parts
Maryland allows hunters to shoot them year round with no limits
same here (no season on hogs either)
For a variety of reasons, I use a tree stand, or where good trees aren't available I'll use a blind
cool...
ab3a
5 / 5 (3) Dec 08, 2016
I have a pelt from an Eastern Coyote. It has the familiar short and long hairs that you would typically find on a wolf. Genetic analysis of these animals confirms the existence of wolf DNA in them.

The reasons I prefer to be in a tree stand are mostly that if I miss, the arrow, the bullet, or the shot goes in to the ground, not toward the horizon. It also gets me above the area where deer will tend to look and hopefully a small breeze will carry whatever scent I have somewhere else so that the deer can get close.

I haven't been rabbit hunting in a few years, but when we did, one of the guys had a pair of beagles trained to flush the rabbits to the edge of their territory where we could get to them. We'd just walk through the woods, seeking the trails and changes in grass/brush that rabbits typically use as territorial boundaries, and then let the dogs do most of the work for us.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (1) Dec 08, 2016
the shot goes in to the ground, not toward the horizon
@ab3a
Smart... it's mountainous here so there isn't so much of the same hazard...
one of the guys had a pair of beagles trained to flush the rabbits to the edge of their territory
we have them all around here. one of the more abundant animals
we trap them here - or trade for them

never used a dog to hunt, but been thinking about it, especially with our newest addition

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