Hunters and anglers may not realize how important they are to fisheries and wildlife management. While most of us understand the role that license fees, plus excise taxes on hunting and angling equipment, play in supporting fish and wildlife management programs, the information we provide about our time afield and on the water is also of great value to agencies like the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
And this time of year, as hunting seasons are ending, is prime time for the agency to find out what hunters experienced.
To do this, Game and Fish sends out surveys, and from those surveys agency managers can determine an estimate of harvest, which in conjunction with other information guides decisions about future license numbers, bag limits and season dates.
The Game and Fish Department sent about 75,000 surveys last year, split up between various species and seasons, and including the follow-up correspondence and reminders. The surveys are sent to randomly selected hunters, and I’ve had people wonder why they’ve never received a survey, and others who wonder why they get so many.
“We are sensitive to hunter’s time and we do not want to inundate them with questions,” Chad Parent, the Game and Fish Department’s survey coordinator, explained in the November 2017 issue of North Dakota OUTDOORS magazine. “And so, there is really a couple of key things we need to know. The first piece of information we are looking for is where did you hunt and how many days did you spend hunting there. The second piece of information that we need is, were you successful and if you were successful how many of that game species did you harvest if that is applicable. And again, if it is applicable we want to know a little bit about the animal’s biology, so its sex and its age.”
The estimates of harvest these surveys produce for Game and Fish are only as good as the responses returned by hunters. If there are errors on those responses, then there is more variability around harvest estimates, and more variability around estimates of hunting effort, and that can add to uncertainty in the process of trying to determine how many licenses to allocate in future hunting seasons.
The Game and Fish Department has a long tradition of sending out surveys and getting back good information from state hunters. For example, the deer gun survey has been ongoing since 1975, and is one of the longest running consistent surveys in the nation. Such large data sets allow Game and Fish biologists to put into perspective any short-term trends that might be noticed.
Game and Fish has already mailed the first round of deer gun season surveys, and then will send out muzzleloader surveys after that season ends, followed by small game, waterfowl, archery deer, turkey and others.
And on the fisheries side, a winter creel survey is in progress on Lake Audubon this year.
If you receive a survey in the mail, or are approached by a creel clerk on a lake, it’s simply part of our responsibility as a hunter and/or angler to participate.