Chances are, just about anyone who has hunted in North Dakota for more than a year or two has received a post-season survey from the state Game and Fish Department.
It doesn’t happen every year, but perhaps every handful of years or so, your name will come up in the random selection process that determines who gets a survey to provide information on how many birds or what deer they got, how many days they hunted and where, among other things.
Most surveys go out right after a season closes so details are still fresh in a hunter’s mind. With the state’s small game and waterfowl hunting surveys, participants get a draft survey before the season to basically help keep a running tally of how many and what kind of ducks or upland game were bagged, so the numbers are at their fingertips when the official survey arrives after the season.
Chad Parent, the Game and Fish Department’s survey coordinator, was a recent guest on the agency’s weekly webcast, “OUTDOORS Online,” and provided some insight and background into the survey process.
• Each hunting unit in the state has some biologically sustainable amount of harvest that a wildlife population can support. Knowing what is “sustainable” requires information on a couple of things, but importantly, the number of game animals removed from the population by harvest. We obtain this information by sending out surveys, and from those surveys we can get an estimate of harvest we pass along to biologists. They use that information in conjunction with other data they collect to make decisions about harvest in future hunting seasons.
• Game and Fish sent out approximately 75,000 surveys last year between the initial surveys that go out and the follow-up reminders to hunters who have not returned a survey. For the fall, that includes surveys for youth pheasant, waterfowl and deer, early Canada goose, all of the deer, pronghorn, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, fall turkey, upland game and waterfowl seasons. In the spring, there are surveys for furbearer and spring turkey.
• Game and Fish tries to make the surveys simple and easy to fill out, either on the paper form hunters receive in the mail or online. One important piece of information is where they hunted and how many days spent hunting there. Another one is whether hunters were successful and, if so, how many of that game species were harvested. Even the information unsuccessful hunters provide is important.
• North Dakota’s deer gun survey has been in place since 1975. That big data set allows Game and Fish to put into perspective some of the short-term trends that might occur compared with 40 years worth of data.
All of the harvest estimates Game and Fish produces throughout the year are based on these surveys, so we urge all hunters who are selected to send in their information. The more surveys that come in, the better the data for all of us.