Whether you hunt for pleasure or the pot you are using a resource. If wisely managed, the resource is renewable and game populations should replenish themselves and continue to benefit future generations. While antelope populations can be fenced-in and managed by individual landowners, birds are not limited by farm or political boundaries and as such they need to be treated as a shared resource; the property of no-one, but the responsibility of everyone.
While those who manage the land need to ensure that there is adequate habitat to maintain healthy gamebird populations, those who hunt need to ensure that they don’t remove more than what can be replaced. Ethical hunters may claim that they never take more than they need and this sound approach was probably an adequate level of control when hunters were few and widely spaced. Unfortunately as the demand for resources grows and the rural landscapes that provide them become smaller and increasingly fragmented, improved management is required. The Gauteng Provincial Government through the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is mandated to regulate use of indigenous biodiversity and must ensure that hunting remains within sustainable limits.
The distribution, density and productivity of gamebird species varies across South Africa. Each province therefore has the responsibility to determine which species may be hunted (ordinary game), the period when they may be hunted (open season), the maximum number of birds that may be hunted per person (daily bag limit) and the area where they may be hunted (magisterial district).
Gamebirds which are considered able to sustain managed harvesting in Gauteng are grouped as waterfowl (Egyptian Goose, Red-billed Teal, Yellow-billed Duck and Spur-winged Goose), landfowl (Helmeted Guineafowl and Swainson’s Spurfowl) and doves/pigeons (Speckled Pigeon). Species within a group have the same open season which is timed, as far as possible and practical, to avoid the main breeding period of each member.
Bag limits are set per species and are revised annually on the basis of available population data. Province-wide trends for landfowl and waterfowl are derived largely from two citizen science-based monitoring projects, the Coordinated Waterbird Count project (CWAC) and the Coordinated Avifaunal Roadcount (CAR). Counts are conducted during summer and winter and cover thousands of hectares of waterfowl habitat and over 1300km of farm roads.
While it is acknowledged that licensed hunting is only one of several variables that are likely to affect gamebird populations (others include climate and habitat change, poisoning and illegal harvest), with the support of hunters such offtake is easily and accurately measured. Hunting returns are not a bureaucratic exercise to be ignored or fudged over a beer late one night. The data generated allows resource managers to assess patterns of use and make better informed decisions that ultimately stand to benefit hunters. Record what you hunt (as well as where and when) while you hunt it and help to ensure that gamebird populations in the province persist at levels that can sustain hunting.
Directorate of Nature Conservation
Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD)