By Doug Leier, NDG&F Dept.
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, you get a draft survey prior to the season to basically help keep a running tally of how many and what kind of ducks or upland game you bagged, so it’s right there at your fingertips when the official survey 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 it along to biologists and they use that information in conjunction with other data that they collect to make decisions about how much and where do they put harvest in future hunting seasons.
- Game and Fish sent out approximately 75,000 surveys last year between the initial surveys that go out, and then 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 you get in the mail, or online. One important piece of information is where did you hunt and how many days did you spend hunting there. Another one is, were you successful, and if you were successful how many of that game species did you harvest. Even the information that we get from unsuccessful hunters is important.
- North Dakota’s deer gun survey has been in place since 1975. What that big data set allows Game and Fish to do is to put into perspective some of the short term trends that might occur compared to 40 years worth of data.
All those harvest estimates that 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.
(Featured Photo: NDG&F survey forms help the department estimate harvests and provide better public-facing data. NDG&F Photo)