Would big game hunters enjoy their hunting trips more if they had to stick to a bag limit? That’s one of the questions a Lincoln University Environmental Management Professor is seeking to answer in a research study on hunter satisfaction.
Professor Geoff Kerr says a number of studies have been carried out in this area since the 1980s, but largely in the US.
“We’ve got a different situation in New Zealand, because we can go out whenever we like, shoot whatever we like and however many we like. One big question I’m exploring is whether hunters get vicarious satisfaction from other people’s kills, and if so, would this justify a bag limit to spread the success over a larger number of hunters?”
The study has involved tracking 900 hunters over the course of a year and measuring their specific hunt motivations, sightings, kills and perceived satisfaction.
“We chose one hunt at random each month and asked participants to rate their satisfaction on a scale of 1-5.”
Professor Kerr says the results indicated that while killing two animals was more satisfying than one, it was not twice as satisfying.
“This suggests that in some instances, a bag limit could be beneficial, because it could potentially lead to greater enjoyment for more hunters. For example, if a person who might normally manage three kills is restricted to one, a less capable hunter has more chance of achieving success.”
However, he points out that adding any form of hunt management affects the overall experience, so a bag limit may not be a good idea.
“We need to research the importance of those effects for different groups of hunters.”
Professor Kerr also says there are many other factors that can lead to an enjoyable hunting experience.
“Hunters can enjoy seeing animals and wildlife without needing to kill them,” he says. “Appreciating the scenery and experiencing the social side of a hunting trip contribute to satisfaction as well.
“We found that people who did not see any game during the hunt were the least satisfied, followed by those who saw game but didn’t manage a kill. While the hunters who achieved a kill showed the highest satisfaction level, this still suggests that simply seeing the wildlife can be enough to make a trip enjoyable.”
The broad aim of the study is to use the information to better manage people’s experiences.
“Obviously we can’t manage hunter skill, hunter motivations, the weather or social matters but we can influence game populations, site attributes, hunter behaviour and hunter expectations,” says Professor Kerr. “This study addresses two outcomes that can be controlled – game sightings and kill.”