According to studies, hunting is the most popular recreational activity in wetlands, and a desire to improve one’s own opportunities for hunting is the most important reason for establishing, restoring and managing wetlands. There is a clear connection between hunters’ nature management work and securing the continuity of hunting: by establishing habitats suitable for waterfowl and managing them actively, the local yield of water bird broods can be improved and consequently a strong basis for the ecological sustainability of hunting can be created.
Water birds, and especially their nestlings, have many enemies. The small predator species of foreign origin, the American mink and raccoon dog, may substantially weaken water birds’ success in reproducing by robbing eggs from their nests and hunting nestlings. To prevent the valuable work for the improvement of waterfowl habitats from going to waste with vanishing broods, special attention should be paid to organising hunts for small predators and creating a sufficiently great catch rate in proportion to the population of small predators. As a part of the other management work of the wetland environment, successful hunts for small predators will benefit demanding species requiring immediate protection measures, as well as game birds.
Successful breeding alone will not, however, guarantee the strengthening of waterfowl breeding populations in rural wetlands, especially if the hunting yield is not based on a sustainable model. A good rule of thumb to follow is that the annual hunting mortality should roughly correspond to the yield of nestlings in the area. The most reliable estimation of annual maximum catches can be achieved with waterfowl counts that are repeated several times over a summer. These provide a good general view of the local waterfowl population and their annual reproduction success.
In addition to yield planning based on waterfowl counts, it’s a good idea to determine common rules for hunting in wetlands. These may concern, for example, temporal restrictions for hunting or establishing separate areas that are protected from hunting. Developing our self-regulation for hunting is the best way to prevent a premature migration from beginning, which will not only lengthen the active hunting season for waterfowl in Finland but also increase our national responsibility for the management of migrating game.