We summarized hunter visits and success, and the magnitude and species composition of the duck harvest recorded on California public hunting areas (PHAs) during 1950-87. Hunter visits and harvest increased during 1950-74 as new PHAs were added, then declined concurrently with duck populations. Of six geographic regions, the Sacramento Valley, with numerous PHAs and the largest duck concentrations, accounted for the largest portion of PHA hunter visits (28%) and harvest (35%). Duck population levels, regulations, and hunter numbers affected PHA hunter success. Success was highest during 1955-59 but declined with no consistent trend after 1960. Species vulnerability, abundance, distribution, and hunter preference affected harvest composition. Northern pintails, Anas acuta, averaged 27% of the PHA harvest but declined in importance after 1974. Green-winged teal, A. crecca, the most important species in southern regions, averaged 21% of the PHA harvest. Mallards, A. platyrhynchos, averaged 16% of the PHA harvest but increased in importance after 1974 to become the most common duck bagged after 1983. PHA harvest comprised a small (4-16%) portion of the total state harvest. However, this portion increased from 1950-70 because of increased hunter visits to new PHAs and after 1970 because hunter success on PHAs did not decline as on other areas. PHA hunters tended to harvest fewer preferred species and more vulnerable species, as proportions of total bag, than did other hunters. The continued decline in numbers of waterfowl hunters presents important challenges for management of waterfowl areas in California.
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Duck harvest on public hunting areas in California