Why Do Hunters Choose Not To Shoot?

AFRICAN INDABA

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Hunting animals, like deer, is often important to keeping their population at a reasonable size. In areas where natural predators are few or nonexistent, the only way to control populations of certain species is through human hunting.

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Human hunters behave differently from natural predators though. For instance, natural predators aren’t interested in trophy hunting, so they don’t target animals that would look good on their walls. Natural predators also aren’t reluctant to kill the young, whereas human hunters tend to avoid this. And human hunters may make other decisions about what to kill based on factors we don’t really understand.

To understand how these factors might influence prey populations, a group of researchers in Norway, Germany, and the Netherlands published a paper that tries to predict hunter behavior. The peculiarities of human hunting create a distinctive evolutionary pressure. Populations of animals that are hunted by humans are different from those that are hunted by natural predators. Features that are prized as trophies (like large antlers) disappear from the population quickly. And the population may continue growing, precisely because mothers with young are often left undisturbed.

So although hunting can play a role in maintaining ecosystems, we need to understand how human hunters behave. This makes it possible to predict their choices and how those choices will change the population of hunted animals. In turn, this makes it possible to direct conservation policy in a way that ensures the sustainability of the hunted population.

The researchers consider a hypothetical situation in which a hunter is confronted with a deer and has to choose whether to shoot that deer or wait for another one. Many factors are involved in that decision. Obviously, the hunter’s perception of the quality of the animal plays a role. Where deer sightings are rare and the hunter knows they might not see another one, they might be more inclined to shoot a sure thing rather than wait for a better-quality animal. Depending on the region, there might be other constraints, like quotas, the time left in the hunting season, and the competition pressure from other hunters.

The researchers treat all of these factors as an economic problem and plug them into equations that predict how a hunter will respond to different situations. The model predicts that the more competition from other hunters, the fewer days left in the season, and the lower the probability of seeing an animal all increase the likelihood that a hunter will fire rather than wait.

So far, this matches up with common sense, but it’s also entirely hypothetical. People often march cheerfully in a different direction from what models predict, so checking the predictions against real-world data is important. Luckily, hunters in Norway are required by law to report how many hunters went out in a group, how long they hunted, how many deer they saw, and how many they shot. Gathering this data from 256 locations over 10 years provided a solid data set for real-world testing.

The researchers used this data to calculate the probability of a male deer being shot by a hunter in various scenarios. As predicted by the theoretical model, the probability was higher when competition with other hunters was an issue, when days remaining in the season were few, and when there was a lower probability of seeing a deer in the first place.

This recent work doesn’t tackle all questions about individual choices. This research looks at Norway, but other locations may have widely varying pressures—for instance, a region may have no quotas (unlike Norway), or a region may be full of hunters who are pressured to bring home food from a hunt. Hunters who come from different social groups behave differently, too: this data showed a difference between weekend and weekday behavior, suggesting that local hunters who hunt during the week behave differently from non-residents who come in on weekends. Figuring out how different social groups behave would help policymakers to make more accurate predictions.

Right now, models are used to estimate how hunting will affect the size of a population. Population size is an important factor for makers of conservation policy, but “there is increasing concern that hunting, and in particular strongly selective hunting, may have unexpected ecological and evolutionary consequences,” the researchers write.

An analysis like this could help to address the problem of high selectivity among hunters. For instance, by changing the duration of the hunting season or the number of competing hunters, it might be possible to influence the selectivity of the hunters. Just looking at the number of animals shot isn’t enough to inform conservation, the researchers write: “To achieve sustainability, future wildlife management should account for the predictable manner by which social constraints and underlying intuitions shape the emerging selection pattern.”

Download the original paper: How constraints affect the hunter’s decision to shoot a deer. Diekert F K, Richter A, Rivrud I M & Mysterud A. www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1607685113

Author: Cathleen O’Grady ARS Technica
 

MS 9x56

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Just great now analytics enters hunting decisions? Hunters are all individuals who hunt for different reasons trying to predict what any individual will do is like trying to herd cats!
 

BigSteve57

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Just great now analytics enters hunting decisions? Hunters are all individuals who hunt for different reasons trying to predict what any individual will do is like trying to herd cats!
I'm surprised someone took the time to study the subject. I sat and thought about it and came up with a few reasons that calibrate whether I would shoot, or not:
  • Legality
  • Likelihood of a successful clean kill
  • Animal's size & age
  • Quantity of observed game
  • Weather
  • Injured animal
  • Time of day or season
  • Safety considerations
  • Ability to pack the animal out
  • ?
I could probably think of more if I spent more time thinking about it.
 

YancyW

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Thank you for posting, this is an interesting read.
 

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BigSteve57,
Please consider adding to your list this reason:
"Asleep in the blind"


I really am too old for such games.
 

BigSteve57

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BigSteve57,
Please consider adding to your list this reason:
"Asleep in the blind"


I really am too old for such games.
You know that one slipped my mind. I've actually done that!
 

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Treestand 20', tied off well, light southwest warm breeze. Look at my watch, it's 3:30, sundown is a little after 5. I'll just rest my eyelids for a second. SKNXX-X Open eyelids. It's 4:45. Wonder if I missed anything.
 

CoElkHunter

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I asked myself the same thing this past October, when my buddy with an either sex elk tag didn’t shoot an elk. We hadn’t seen an elk since the season started Saturday. This is public hunting in a National Forest with many other hunters in the area. Warm, dry, dusty conditions with the exception of a “mini” blizzard Sunday afternoon. Fast forward to Tuesday about 11am (the season ends Wednesday). I see movement at the other end of a meadow about 125yds into the aspens. I whisper to my buddy “elk!”. He had been looking the other way, but was now on the elk with his riflescope. We (I with binos) watch at LEAST a dozen cows WALKING in mostly single file through a “shooting lane” and he doesn’t shoot! He looks up to me from his scope and tells me he can’t tell what they are? Meaning, he couldn’t tell if any of them might be a spike bull (legal bull is 4+points). I told him they’re all cows, but he doesn’t shoot. At the end of this parade, is a five point bull. He waits until it passes THROUGH the shooting lane and THEN shoots and misses it! He’s killed elk before, but they weren’t moving like these were. Too cautious, obviously to slow this time, I don’t know? He’s also the “shoot three shots from bench” once a year at a target kind of guy, so that doesn’t help. I didn’t draw a tag this year. Frustrating hunt!
 

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I asked myself the same thing this past October, when my buddy with an either sex elk tag didn’t shoot an elk. We hadn’t seen an elk since the season started Saturday. This is public hunting in a National Forest with many other hunters in the area. Warm, dry, dusty conditions with the exception of a “mini” blizzard Sunday afternoon. Fast forward to Tuesday about 11am (the season ends Wednesday). I see movement at the other end of a meadow about 125yds into the aspens. I whisper to my buddy “elk!”. He had been looking the other way, but was now on the elk with his riflescope. We (I with binos) watch at LEAST a dozen cows WALKING in mostly single file through a “shooting lane” and he doesn’t shoot! He looks up to me from his scope and tells me he can’t tell what they are? Meaning, he couldn’t tell if any of them might be a spike bull (legal bull is 4+points). I told him they’re all cows, but he doesn’t shoot. At the end of this parade, is a five point bull. He waits until it passes THROUGH the shooting lane and THEN shoots and misses it! He’s killed elk before, but they weren’t moving like these were. Too cautious, obviously to slow this time, I don’t know? He’s also the “shoot three shots from bench” once a year at a target kind of guy, so that doesn’t help. I didn’t draw a tag this year. Frustrating hunt!

Ugh. My brother is like that. I really REALLY have to resist the urge to present him with the kind of slap to the back of the melon that lifts his feet from the ground. But alas, the gentleman hunter in me merely mumbles the obligatory “maybe next time” while not letting him notice me rolling my eyes. :)
 

CoElkHunter

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Treestand 20', tied off well, light southwest warm breeze. Look at my watch, it's 3:30, sundown is a little after 5. I'll just rest my eyelids for a second. SKNXX-X Open eyelids. It's 4:45. Wonder if I missed anything.
Taking or attempting to take a nap (or a piss) IS the most surefire way to have game appear out of nowhere! It’s happened to me while doing all of the above!
 

Randy F

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Sometimes I decide not to shoot just because right at that moment the thought of gutting, dragging, skinning, butchering, and packaging holds zero appeal to me.

Then I might take two for the freezer the next day. :)
 

CoElkHunter

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Ugh. My brother is like that. I really REALLY have to resist the urge to present him with the kind of slap to the back of the melon that lifts his feet from the ground. But alas, the gentleman hunter in me merely mumbles the obligatory “maybe next time” while not letting him notice me rolling my eyes. :)
Yep, my hunting buddy is a very good friend, so I just grin and bear it. I told him maybe he hit an aspen branch and that’s why he missed. Not! We looked for blood for over an hour, but it was a clean miss. We were going to split the meat, but oh well?
 

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Yep, my hunting buddy is a very good friend, so I just grin and bear it. I told him maybe he hit an aspen branch and that’s why he missed. Not! We looked for blood for over an hour, but it was a clean miss. We were going to split the meat, but oh well?
Exactly. I like to hunt with my brother for the same reasons.
Besides when he does things like that he makes me feel like a genius. Win win. ;)
 

CoElkHunter

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Sometimes I decide not to shoot just because right at that moment the thought of gutting, dragging, skinning, butchering, and packaging holds zero appeal to me.

Then I might take two for the freezer the next day. :)
Your absolutely right about that WORK after the kill. Now that you mention it, maybe my buddy wasn’t “enthusiastic “ about shooting one anyway, because my father in law with the pack horses left the day before and we would have had to pack it out on his game cart and/or my backpack a couple of miles? Maybe subconscious thoughts played into it? Ha! Ha!
 

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Sometimes I decide not to shoot just because right at that moment the thought of gutting, dragging, skinning, butchering, and packaging holds zero appeal to me.

Then I might take two for the freezer the next day. :)
My thoughts exactly: "Do I really feel like dragging it out to the truck, loading it, gutting it, hauling it to the butcher's, getting home for dinner at eight p.m."? To that question, I'll always say "Let thee walk".
e-big-grin.gif
 

CoElkHunter

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My thoughts exactly: "Do I really feel like dragging it out to the truck, loading it, gutting it, hauling it to the butcher's, getting home for dinner at eight p.m."? To that question, I'll always say "Let thee walk". View attachment 379776
Yep, the “fun” part stops as soon as the animal is down. The rest can be a REAL BITCH! I field dressed an elk cow by myself once, and I really don’t relish ever having to do that again! Fortunately for me, we had horses to haul it out the next day.
 

BigSteve57

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Added "Taking a bathroom break" (I'm using polite language here) in addition to to "Taking a nap".
 

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