Little research has focused on density, distribution, and habitat use of hunters. Here, field methods and statistical techniques developed for estimating density and habitat use of wildlife species are applied to big game hunters in Pennsylvania. Using aerial surveys, a large public land area (45, 907 ha) in north-central Pennsylvania was studied to estimate hunter density and distribution during black bear (Ursus americanus) and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) rifle seasons. This area was dominated by deciduous forest, had slopes that ranged from 0 to 61 degrees, and a road network that provided access to within 2.5 km of any location in the study area. The authors found a hunter density of 4.0 hunters/1, 000 ha during the second day of bear season. During the second and third day, and first Saturday of deer season, the hunter density was 0.4–1.9 hunters/1, 000 ha. Relative deer hunter density was predicted by distance from nearest road and slope but these were not strong predictive variables for the distribution of bear hunters. Deer hunters were nearly three times less likely to hunt in an area for every increase of 500 m from a forest road, and for every 5 degree increase in slope, an area was 1.5 times less likely to be hunted. It was estimated that 87% of deer hunters hunted within 0.5 km of a road. Even if hunter densities during deer season were equal to those in bear season, hunters likely would have harvested an insignificant proportion of the deer population. Under current regulations and low hunter densities, recreational hunting may not be an effective tool for controlling deer populations on large tracts of public land in Pennsylvania with similar topography and road networks.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Nature and Landscape Conservation
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law