Mallard Use of a Managed Public Hunting Area in Mississippi

Managers of public lands affording waterfowl hunting strive to provide quality hunting opportunities while supporting biological needs of birds during winter. Understanding responses by mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) to diurnal hunting activities would help shape hunt regimes that satisfy management goals. We examined use of a wildlife management area (WMA) in western Mississippi by 28 radio-marked female mallards when waterfowl hunting season was closed and during the season when none, half, or all of the WMA was hunted during two winters 2010-2012. The proportion of each day that mallards occupied the WMA was best explained by date (wi = 1.0) and declined 0.5%/day (± 0.05% [SE]). Mallard presence on the WMA was best explained by date plus an interaction of hour-of-day and extent the WMA was hunted (wi = 1.0). Females used the WMA most when the waterfowl hunting season was closed (7.5%; CI 5.4%-10.0%), followed by periods when half (6.8%; CI 4.8%-9.4%), none (6.4%; CI 4.6%-8.9%), or all (5.2%; CI 3.7-7.3%) of the WMA was hunted during hunting season. Mallard presence declined more rapidly when the entire WMA was hunted than when none or half was hunted or the season was closed; however, mallard presence was similar from 2000 to 0800 hours regardless of hunt extent. Because nocturnal use was similar among hunt regimes, mallard harvest did not differ when all or half of the WMA was hunted, and hunting the entire WMA allowed 40 additional hunters/day, managers may consider hunting the entire WMA during morning and afternoon hours.

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