Doug Leier

If you catch a conversation between hunters and hear a reference to HIP, chances are they are discussing the Harvest Information Program and not what their kids or teenage neighbors are into.

HIP is a survey method developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a means to collect more reliable estimates of migratory bird harvests throughout the country. The program provides both state and federal wildlife agencies the information necessary to manage hunting seasons.

Registering with HIP became mandatory in the United States in 1998, so for many younger hunters it's been a requirement their entire hunting life.

The FWS uses HIP registrations to randomly select a sample of hunters provide information on the kind and number of migratory birds they harvest during the hunting season. Those reports are then used to produce harvest estimates of all migratory birds throughout the country.

dove hunting

HIP provides a way to identify and survey dove hunters across the country.​

Actually, the HIP movement was a product of concern by of state biologists who felt federal harvest estimates were not providing adequate harvest information by using traditional survey methodology. At the time, there wasn't a recording of all people who bought federal duck stamps, and the stamps are not required of waterfowl hunters under age 16.

Dove hunters and harvest were also difficult to track because most states did not have a specific dove license. HIP provides a way to identify and survey those 2 million dove hunters across the country.

Back when HIP was started in North Dakota, the program initially was the subject of unsubstantiated paranoia: "They'll use it take our guns," or "the list will go to the anti-hunters," bird hunters bemoaned.

Such has not been the case. Information provided for HIP is about the same as what is required for any type of hunting license, which is already a public record. Plus, HIP information is kept confidential. Once the HIP survey is completed, the FWS destroys all names and address records.

As for this season, all hunters, regardless of age, must register with HIP before hunting ducks, geese, swans, mergansers, coots, cranes, snipe, mourning doves or woodcock. Those who purchase a license through the North Dakota Game and Fish Department website or instant licensing telephone number (800) 406-6409 - are automatically HIP certified. Otherwise, hunters must call (888) 634-4798, answer a few simple questions, and record the HIP number on their fishing, hunting and furbearer certificate.

One quick note: hunters who were HIP certified during North Dakota's spring snow goose conservation season do not have to get certified this fall, since it only has to be done once per calendar year. However, hunters need to register with HIP in each state where they are licensed to hunt migratory birds.

Department wildlife managers urge hunters to comply to HIP registration requirements.
The harvest data and participation statistics help wildlife biologists better manage migratory bird resources, and provide better opportunities for hunters.

While nobody will equate the current strong waterfowl numbers to the last 15 years of HIP - we have abundant grass and wetland habitat to thank for that - HIP is providing a clearer picture of migratory bird hunting nationwide.

Leier is a biologist for the Game and Fish Department. He can be reached by email: [email protected]