Developing the Concept of Estimating Bobwhite Density With Pointing Dogs



Abstract: Currently available methods of estimating northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) abundance are often expensive and time-consuming; therefore, additional research is necessary to develop new tools. Using Global Positioning System (GPS) and Geographic Information System technologies and distance-sampling theory, we developed a method of estimating bobwhite density during hunts with pointing dogs. Data collection occurred during the 2005–2006 and 2006–2007 hunting seasons in western Oklahoma and northern Texas, USA. We estimated effective strip width (ESW) of a bird dog's path using distance-sampling theory and point-to-flush distances. For coveys >7 birds (n = 58), estimated ESW was 13.2 m (95% CI = 11.1–15.6 m). Area searched by one dog was its GPS path buffered by ESW. For ≥2 dogs, area searched was the union of the areas of individual dogs; taking the union eliminated between- or among-dog redundancy in searched areas. A point estimate of density was number of birds flushed on a hunt divided by searched area. During the 2005–2006 hunting season, bobwhite density averaged 1.4 birds/ha (60.28 SE; n = 33). Average density declined to 0.2 birds/ha (60.07 SE) during 2006–2007 (n = 46). Estimating bobwhite density with pointing dogs needs further testing and development, but the technique may prove useful in research and management.