As a keen observer of both bird and hunter behaviour there are a few simple steps we can all take to maintain the quality of the hunt.
The first consideration should be the proximity of camps to the wetland. I know that on some reserves it is difficult to camp away from the edge of the wetland but most do have good camping opportunities farther away.
The closer hunters camp to a wetland the greater the disturbance of the birds. They can hear camp sounds and see movement which makes them uneasy and flightier. The greater the pressure the more unsettled they become. This behaviour is easy to remedy, camp a couple of hundred metres back from the water’s edge and keep the noise and movement to a minimum.
Another behavioural observation last season was the eagerness of some hunters who put the boat on the water and buzzed the swamp or lake to see what game was about. This should be done in the weeks prior to opening.
If you are going to put your decoys out, take the most direct path to your set up spot, set up quickly and head directly back to where you are going to park the boat. Incidentally the speed limit on game reserves is 5 knots. This is specified in the game reserve regulations rather than the not the wildlife regulations. Look after the birds, be considerate of other hunters and scrap the grand tinnie tour.
Another observed hunter behaviour that impacts on bird behaviour is groups of hunters making multiple trips to set up decoys on the afternoon before opening. With a little planning one team can set a few decoys in different spots for the rest of crew in the camp who can put out the rest of their decoys in the morning. This will eliminate a great deal of disturbance on the water.
As the season progressed last year I also saw hunters shining bright lights or vehicle head lights over lakes and swamps. Unfortunately birds take this as their time to leave as they associate the lights with hunters. Lower your lights to low beam or parking lights and drive slowly as this reduces bird disturbance and doesn't upset other hunters who have come in quietly and deliberately kept noise and lights to a minimum. The same applies to boats equipped with flood lights; turn them off if you are in a swamp.
Another observation was the tendency for hunters to leave their vehicles right next to the swamp which can have a detrimental impact on those who hunt near the edge. It is worth remembering that some hunters don’t have the choice of wading out further due to age, fitness or medical disability.
There’s nothing like a white Toyota dual cab parked next the edge to flair birds away from the area. Drive your vehicle to the edge without the lights on unload your gear and then drive it back a couple of hundred metres.
As the season progresses waterfowl are not only pressured by hunting behaviors such as decoys and call shyness but hunter behaviors mentioned. None of us wants to make hunting more difficult and ultimately less successful; changing a few common behaviors can make a significant difference to the quality of the hunt for everyone.
Enjoy your season