Are Bird Forecasts More Bad Than Good?

June 3, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More

Ban the count?

In a recent blog post, Bob St. Pierre at Pheasants Forever asked whether the preseason pheasant forecast influences whether we all hunt. A good question, one that led to more questions, like:

> Do counts of any kind (e.g., drumming) influence whether or where you hunt?

> Should they?

> Do these forecasts do more harm than good?

To Bob’s question, the answer is no. We don’t give a rip whether a forecast or count is bad: We’re going hunting. And if a count is good, all it does is psych us up more.

That’s also our answer to the first bulleted question.

Whether or Where?

Should counts/forecasts influence whether or where we hunt? Whether, no. Where, we think not because we firmly believe the birds are there whether or not people hear ’em or see ’em.

Obviously we’re not talking about hunting in an area that’s seen a 100% decline, like a new parking lot or whatever. But even if the grouse are at a 10-year low, if we’re there, we’re hunting.

More Harm Than Good?

The last question is the most interesting to us.

Off the top of our heads, the plus sides of forecasts/counts are:

> Information – We think it’s more anecdotal than hard data, but it’s better than nothing.

> They keep upland birds in the news/conversation, and get people psyched for hunting – or maybe not, if counts are low.

> They’re used as ammo for bird habitat and management, particularly if they’re showing a decline.

On the flip side, forecasts and counts establish numerical thresholds that might result in psychological thresholds.

Example: What if you hunt in a state where counts of bird X were highest 5 years ago and have been declining, more or less, ever since? Would you be motivated to hunt?

Of course you would! Because you’re Serious.

But would other, fair-weather birders? We’re betting not, and we’re wondering if these counts – which in many cases are truly anecdotal, conducted by understaffed, overworked by Fish and Game personnel – thus do more harm than good.

In other words, there may be plenty o’ birds out there, but the unfair representation of them – meaning the unfair representation of the hunting opportunity and thus, even more importantly, the hunting experience – hurts participation.

You may be thinking: Yahoo, more birds for me!

We get it, but that’s shortsighted. We really feel that while we could all use more birds and bird-friendly habitat, the birds we do have can support many more hunters than they do. And like it or not, more hunters mean more money for bird conservation organizations and gear manufacturers, and more political clout.

So are we saying ban forecasts and counts? We don’t think so, but aren’t entirely sure. We’ll get back to you after a couple beers this weekend…. What do you think?


Category: Forecasts/counts, Rants

Comments (2)

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  1. Thanks for keeping the conversation going. Great insights. Now, about those beers?

  2. Cody Leonard says:

    I think you are right. Missouri’s bird population has been declining for years. But it hasn’t stopped me from getting out there. Because of my job I usually only get to hunt on the weekends. Even with that I rarely ever run into any other bird hunters.

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