Population ecology of the mallard: IV. A review of duck hunting regulations, activity, and success, with special reference to the mallard

Resource Publication 130




This, the fourth in a series of reports on the mallard, (Anas platyrhynchos), deals at length with the harvest of mallards by waterfowl hunters. Long-term summaries of duck hunting regulations (1948- 1974), Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp sales (1934-1974), Hunter Questionnaire (1952-1974), Duck Wing Collection (1960-1974), and Hunter Performance (1965-1972) Survey data for the United States are presented and discussed. Similar data from Canada are also summarized. Mallard harvest figures for 1961-1974 are presented by Mallard Harvest Area, of which 100 are defined for the United States and 14 for Canada, as well as by State or Province and flyway.

During the 23-year period beginning in 1952, an average of 1.6 million adult and 0.2 million junior waterfowl hunters accumulated almost 12.3 million hunter-days of recreation and a harvest of 11.2 million ducks each year. Hunter reports indicate that mallards made up about 43% (5.5 million annually) of the ducks taken before 1960, when mallard regulations were less restrictive; the Duck Wing Survey indicates that mallards have made up 33% of the harvest (3.6 million annually) since 1960. The age and sex compositions and the chronological distribution of the mallard harvest are examined in detail. Among the patterns noted are peak harvests during the first few days of the season in many States, alternately increasing and decreasing annual age ratios, and sex ratios that suggest differential migration of adult drakes and hunter selectivity for males. It is estimated that almost 19% of the ducks shot down are not retrieved.

Relationships between duck hunting regulations and hunter behavior are examined briefly. Hunter compliance with mallard bag limits, hunter selectivity of mallards by sex, and, to a lesser extent, the size of the unretrieved kill are all sensitive to the particular bag limit regulations in effect. Survey data are also examined for relationships between harvest and various hunting regulations: starting time and day of the week for opening day, opening date, season length, split seasons, daily shooting hours, and daily bag limits. Tables are presented relating changes in duck and mallard harvests to season length and bag limit, and examples of what effects changes in other regulations have on harvest are also given.

The evaluation of bag limit regulations, one of the most important tools used in managing harvest, is carried a step further with the development of a procedure for calculating expected hunter success under a wide variety of bag limit regulations. This method appears promising for evaluating point-limit as well as fixed-limit regulations. In addition, it may provide useful measurements of the degree of hunter selectivity induced by various types of bag limit regulations, an increasingly important aspect of harvest management. Finally, this study clearly demonstrates that the effects of a particular regulation can differ dramatically from area to area, so it is usually necessary to evaluate each proposal on a State-by-State basis.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
Federal Government Series
Population ecology of the mallard: IV. A review of duck hunting regulations, activity, and success, with special reference to the mallard
Series title:
Resource Publication
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Contributing office(s):
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
ix, 137 p.