Natural Resources, School of


First Advisor

Christopher J. Chizinski, PhD

Date of this Version



Graham, K. A. (2019). Modeling Waterfowl Hunter and Ducks Unlimited Member Behavior Using Mark-Recapture Methods. M.S. Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska.


A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Natural Resource Sciences, Under the Supervision of Professor Christopher J. Chizinski. Lincoln, Nebraska : December 2019.

Copyright (c) 2019 Katherine A. Graham


The number of individuals actively participating in waterfowl hunting has substantially declined since the 1980s, despite relatively abundant waterfowl populations and hunting opportunities. To avoid further losses in political support for wildlife management, losses in habitat conservation revenue, and broaden the base of waterfowl and wetland conservation support, there has been an increased focus on growing the number of waterfowl hunters and waterfowl and wetland conservation supporters. The purpose of this study was to estimate resident waterfowl hunter and Ducks Unlimited (DU) member recruitment rates, retention probabilities, and license/membership purchase probabilities; provide a better understanding of the factors influencing these populations and provide a foundation for measuring the success of R3 programs aimed at these populations. To estimate both waterfowl hunter and DU member recruitment rates, retention probabilities, and license/membership purchase probabilities, we analyzed five state electronic license systems and DU membership databases (Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, South Dakota) using a Pradel model in a mark-recapture framework. We included five covariates (gender, generation, hunting opportunity, rurality, and DU membership class) to improve parameter estimates. For waterfowl hunters, the top models indicated that recruitment and retention rates decreased over time for all groups, and that while males had higher retention rates than females, females had higher recruitment rates. In addition, as DU membership class increased so did retention and license purchase probabilities. For DU members, we found similar trends with males having higher retention rates and membership purchase probabilities than females, but females having higher recruitment rates. Additionally, we found in most states, that Baby Boomers had the highest retention and membership purchase probabilities compared to other generations. These results confirmed some assumptions that we have about both waterfowl hunters and DU members. Additionally, they suggest that social habitat for hunters and developing a conservationist’s identity for DU members is important for recruitment and retention. These results can be used to both inform and evaluate future R3 programs focused on waterfowl hunters and DU members.

Advisor: Christopher J. Chizinski