Survey Says

March 25, 2009 by  

By Doug Leier

With the final shots of North Dakota’s bird hunting seasons behind us as of the close of turkey hunting on Jan. 11, we’re actually only weeks away from the opening of the 2009 spring snow goose conservation season on Feb. 21. Beyond that, the spring turkey season is only a couple of months out and much of the Game and Fish Department’s planning process is kicking into gear right now to provide the framework for the fall seasons.

Hunters in North Dakota are an important part of that process.

Many of the numbers biologists use to shape future seasons and bag limits are generated by those who receive, fill out and return the surveys Game and Fish sends out annually after each season. The surveys go to a random pool of hunters, and if you’ve hunted any appreciable time in North Dakota, odds are you’ve received a survey or two in the mail.

If you haven’t, eventually you’ll get a chance to provide needed information that, coupled with various wildlife population surveys, helps biologists and wildlife managers make decisions.

Personally, I look forward to participating in the survey when my turn comes around. As important as the information is for the Department, it’s also a chance to look back over the past hunting seasons, as most surveys will ask the number of days you hunted, where you hunted and what you bagged, or at least tried to bag.

Even if you are a bit hesitant to fill out the survey, take it from one who’s put down more zeros than I’d prefer, all data is equally important, whether you’re an avid hunter or someone who simply enjoys a day or two out in the field.

Because of recent expanded hunting opportunities, such as spring light goose seasons and multiple deer license, hunters may receive harvest questionnaires for more than one season. “We understand that some hunters may receive several surveys in a given year,” said Mike Szymanski, Game and Fish Department migratory game bird biologist, “but we still need folks to fill out and return all questionnaires that are sent to them.”

Small game and waterfowl questionnaires are mailed to randomly selected North Dakota hunters, said Jerry Gulke, Game and Fish Department data processing coordinator. “Hunters can return the form, or fill it out online at the web address printed on the survey form,” he said. “It only takes a minute and doesn’t cost anything to be completed.”

The survey is used to estimate the number of hunters, amount of hunting activity, and the size of the harvest for a variety of small game and waterfowl species.

It is important hunters complete and promptly return the survey, Gulke said, even if they did not hunt or were unsuccessful. “The more surveys we have returned, the better our estimates become, which translates into better management,” he said.

Surveys that are mailed to hunters should not be confused with the Harvest Information Program registration that is required for migratory game bird hunters, Szymanski said. HIP registration is a federal survey and does not provide the more detailed information the Game and Fish Departments gets from its hunter survey.

Believe it or not, the process for establishing the 2009 deer season, which barring any unforseen circumstances opens Nov. 6, is already underway. Hunter questionnaire information plus winter and early spring deer population counts all need to come together by the end of April so the governor can set the season by proclamation and the Game and Fish Department can get applications out by mid-May.

Every year, it all gets done, and a big reason for that is North Dakota hunters who are more than willing to participate in the process.


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