Evaluation of a web-based tool for ungulate harvest management
Kenyon, Marc Wayne, Jr.
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Hunting the female segment of a wild ungulate population is an effective wildlife management tool to control overpopulation. Most hunters prefer to harvest males however, limiting success in controlling overpopulation. Landowners attempting to manage wild ungulate overpopulation have expressed difficulty with finding hunters who wish to harvest female ungulates. Likewise, some hunters willing to harvest female ungulates have difficulty locating private landowners seeking hunters. The Montana State University Wildlife Extension Program created the DoeCowHunt website to help remedy this situation (www.DoeCowHunt.montana.edu). This website is a tool to facilitate contact between landowners and hunters for harvesting doe deer (Odocoileus spp.), doe pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) and cow elk (Cervus elaphus). The website has been available for the Montana 2003, 2004 and 2005 big-game hunting seasons, with over 40,000 visits and 2,500 registered users.The objectives of this study were to evaluate this website's effectiveness in providing an avenue for contact between landowners and hunters and to make any necessary improvements to the website. Measures of the website's effectiveness and improvements were identified from electronic mail questionnaires sent to the registered users of the website over three years. Surveys identified problems with the search and registration processes and low landowner use. After modifying the website, no differences in hunters' reported numbers of invitations to hunt, antlerless deer, elk and pronghorn harvested or the proportion of hunters planning to use the website the following year were detected. However, reported numbers of contacts by hunters differed across years (x² = 7.578, 2 df), as well as the numbers of successful hunts (x² = 7.107, 2 df) and the numbers of antlerless ungulates harvested (x² = 14.115, 2 df). Therefore, the modifications of the search and registration processes appear to have increased the capacity of the website to achieve its objectives. Recommendations for other management agencies developing similar programs are provided.