Scientific management of quail harvest at the state level must be based on a clear understanding of the effects of hunting regulations on hunters and populations. Therefore, we assessed how reduction in bag limits would affect hunter opportunity and harvest rates of northern bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) in Oklahoma, USA, using harvest data from questionnaire surveys. Reductions in bag limits were regressive because reductions had relatively less effect on hunting opportunity and harvest rate at low populations than at high populations. Based on data primarily from Oklahoma and Missouri, we found that the negative binomial distribution described the probability of an integer bag (0, 1, 2, 3, … birds) if the mean and variance of daily bag were known. The negative binomial distribution provides a general method of assessing the effects of bag-limit reduction on hunting opportunity and harvest rates. The skill of the average hunter apparently declined as the statewide bobwhite population increased. Although hunting was self-regulatory in that the number of hunters declined as the bobwhite population declined, it was not self-regulatory when adjusted for the relative skill of hunters at low and high populations. We argue that fixed, relatively low bag limits established as a risk-aversive strategy for low populations of bobwhites may not necessarily have large impact on hunting opportunity with high populations.
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Vol. 68 • No. 4