There are several simple truths that hunters learn either by experience or from older hunters. One of those truths is that you can overhunt a species in an area. Once this happens, there will be no more game to hunt.
Duck hunters who frequent Arkansas’ public wildlife management areas. Hunters have been harvesting literal boatloads of duck from those areas for years. As a result, duck hunting isn’t as plentiful as it once was.
Bryan Hendricks discusses this in an opinion piece for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. According to Hendricks, this overhunting is one reason why Arkansas’ strict regulation of out of state hunters on public lands is a good move. In the state, non-resident hunters are only allowed to hunt wildlife management areas for thirty days of the sixty-day season. Those days are relegated to three ten-day blocks.
Even then, they have to buy 5-day permits to hunt the wildlife management areas. If a non-resident hunter wanted to participate in all thirty days of available hunting, they would pay over $450. On top of that, they would still need to buy a non-resident hunting license and duck stamp. The cheapest route is an annual all-game hunting license which is another $350. Non-resident duck hunting in Arkansas is costly, to say the least.
The reason behind such restriction is simple. Hunters are overhunting ducks on Arkansas’ public lands. The pressure that comes from the excessive duck hunting is driving the remaining birds away from public land. The restrictions are there to limit the number of out of state hunters.
Resident Duck Hunting Is Already Excessive
Limiting out of state hunters is important for Arkansas because their resident hunters are already overhunting their public lands. This overhunting is putting pressure on ducks. They are not returning to wildlife management areas. instead, the remaining birds are more likely to be found on private lands.
In the article, Hendricks explains how all of this happens. He says that there are plenty of hunters who hunt every day of the season. When they have a good hunt, they tend to load up their duck hunting buddies and bring them along. This result in large groups of hunters killing their limit in a relatively small area. This not only cuts down the duck population but also drives the remaining ducks away.
Some resident hunters are also pushing into areas that were once sanctuaries for ducks. The ducks are taking notice and moving to safer areas.
The restrictions on nonresident hunters take a small amount of pressure off of the duck population. It is, however, only a small amount of relief.
New Rules Could Help Decrease Pressure
Nebraska and South Dakota have changed their duck hunting regulations for the 2021-2024 seasons. They have implemented an optional “three splash” rule. This means that hunters have the option of taking any three ducks of any species or sex.
They did this to bring in new hunters as well as to help limit the harvest of ducks. By harvesting fewer ducks, the pressure on the birds will be decreased. This would allow more ducks to return to public lands.
Hendricks predicts that a “three splash” option will be adopted at a federal level before the 2030 duck hunting season.