BISMARCK, N.D. (G&F) – Even though North Dakota’s 2021 hunting seasons have been put to bed, hunter success, or lack thereof, still matters.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department has conducted hunter harvest surveys for more than a half-century, using the findings to help manage the state’s wildlife populations. Thousands of surveys are sent annually, and participation is strongly urged because hunter harvest plays a noted role, for example, in setting hunting license numbers for the upcoming season.

“We survey hunters about their hunting activity because understanding how many animals were removed from the population is a really important ecological piece of information,” said Chad Parent, department survey coordinator. “We use that information that we get back from the hunter harvest surveys to compare against where we’re at with our harvest objectives at any point in a given year. And that can mean, in some cases, license increases. It can sometimes mean that we decrease the number of licenses, potentially in the case of a site that was hit hard by EHD, for example. But ultimately these surveys are important because they inform the recommendations that we pass along to the governor during the proclamation setting process.”

Thousands of big game, small game, waterfowl, swan, turkey and furbearer questionnaires will be emailed to randomly selected hunters. A follow-up survey will be mailed to those who did not respond to the first survey.

Not everyone who, say, receives a hunter harvest survey for the 2021 deer gun season will have harvested a deer, but Parent stressed that those hunters still need to fill out and return their surveys.

“We design our surveys so that a random sample of hunters get those surveys, and we understand that some hunters weren’t successful, which in a lot of ways is just as important as knowing who did harvest a deer,” he said.

Parent said the hunter harvest surveys are short and take very little time to complete. He added that a follow-up survey will be mailed to those who did not respond to the emailed survey.

“The more surveys we get back from hunters, the more robust the statistical information is to help us produce better harvest estimates,” Parent said. “I equate the hunter harvest surveys to the work we do at Game and Fish. We fly aerial surveys to count deer and we drive roadside surveys to count upland game birds. The more time biologists spend in airplanes or driving North Dakota backroads, the better the estimates we get back. And it’s the exact same concept for hunter harvest surveys.”