Recreational hunting areas — a thorn in the Department of Conservation's side?
- Forest Research Centre, Christchurch
This paper briefly outlines the background of recreational hunting areas (RHAs): the legislation and status of RHAs, their locations, and the criteria on which RHAs are selected and managed — soil and water values, and vegetation condition. Past and present 'management' of RHAs has largely overlooked these aspects, however, and concentrated on regular attempts to survey animal numbers. To move towards a more ecologically balanced approach to RHA management, we must integrate information on the vegetation, animal numbers, and the hunter population. Systematic and regular monitoring of these three aspects is recommended as a better basis for management. Simple techniques are available to achieve these objectives, although a shift away from pellet surveys to monitoring hunter offtake would probably provide more reliable estimates of trends in deer numbers.
While acknowledging a potential conflict between hunting values and ecological values in some areas, RHAs represent an important resource for a substantial section of the population (as evidenced by the large numbers of hunting permits issued). In addition, control of deer numbers in RHAs and other areas by recreational hunters represents a significant saving in animal control costs (assuming that this money was, in fact, available). Therefore, RHAs should be seen as a valuable resource and managed accordingly.