Hunter Attitudes toward Hunting Club Cooperatives and Quality Deer Management on Forest Industry Lands

Hunting leases for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) occur across the United States and provide revenue to many landowners, including private forest industry. Hunting quality and revenue could potentially be enhanced through “cooperatives” and adherence to Quality Deer Management (QDM) principles. Formation of hunting club cooperatives (HCC), where adjoining hunting clubs collectively manage the deer herd, may also increase QDM program success and increase stakeholder interaction. We surveyed Mississippi hunters who leased land from Weyerhaeuser Company in 2009 to determine their attitudes and perceptions relative to QDM and an established HCC program, perceptions toward Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP), opinions on adjusting lease fees according to habitat quality, and to examine marketability of the HCC concept. Current HCC members indicated satisfaction with the HCC, recommended participation by other clubs, and viewed MDWFP more favorably than hunters in leases not in the HCC (76.2% versus 63.8%, respectively). HCC and non-HCC hunting clubs were interested in the program and indicated their willingness-to-pay for habitat improvements totaled US $1.42 and $1.13 more per acre, respectively, over current lease rates. Given the pilot program's success, the HCC concept has potential to be successfully implemented elsewhere to foster better relationships among state wildlife agencies, the hunting public, and large, private forest landowners. By working within this cooperative framework, QDM techniques can be implemented on a larger scale and improve deer herd health and quality across larger landscapes

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