West Fargo

Anyone who has hunted in North Dakota for any length of time might receive a post-season survey in the mail from time to time.

And right now is one of those times to watch for a survey, as pheasant and archery deer seasons, among others, closed on Jan. 5. For most surveys, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department selects recipients at random, so the more people who fill out and return the surveys, the better the information.

In a recent edition of “Outdoors Online,” the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s weekly webcast, survey coordinator Chad Parent provided some good information on the survey process and the importance of hunter participation.

What kind of information does Game and Fish collect from hunters?

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There are a couple of key pieces of information. First and foremost is, we want to know if you hunted, and if you didn’t, we still want your survey back. If you did hunt, we primarily want to know, where do you go? How hard did you hunt in those places, and were you successful? We want to make these as easy as possible.

What does Game and Fish do with all this data?

In the short term, we're turning those survey data that comes back from hunters into a harvest estimate. We pass on the harvest results to our biologists, and they will assemble those results with all of the other information that they're collecting on the species and the resource, whatever they're hearing from biologists in the field, and whatever they're hearing from landowners and producers.

All of those biological and social factors are considered before making decisions to questions like, “Where do we spread harvest out?” and “Can we increase harvest in the upcoming year?”

Over the long term, each year of information we collect is continually going into this massive database on hunter harvest. Take our deer gun survey, for example, we've been collecting those data for almost 50 years now … We'll be able to recreate a population estimate, a measure of survival, and a measure of productivity for any hunting unit that we've ever collected information on in the last 50 years, that’s something that we would never have been able to do 10 years ago.

How long does it take to fill out these surveys?

It takes minutes. I don't think I've ever sent a survey out that's been more than a page, which runs counter to a lot of other state agencies. We don't have mandatory reporting (for deer) in our state, rather we measure harvest in our state using a probabilistic design to a random sample of hunters.

Keeping the surveys short is a good way to ensure hunters send them back. Also, they're completely voluntary. We, of course, appreciate when you fill them out.

Is it the hunter’s responsibility?

Absolutely. It's just another part of being a good sportsman and a good conservationist. I think returning your survey is an extension of that.