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Hunters and anglers may not realize how important they are to fisheries and wildlife management. While most of us understand the role that license fees, plus excise taxes on hunting and angling equipment, play in supporting fish and wildlife management programs, the information provided about time afield and on the water is of great value to agencies such as the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

And this time of year, as hunting seasons are ending, is prime time for the agency to find out what hunters experienced.

The Game and Fish Department issued about 75,000 surveys last year, split  between various species and seasons, and including the follow-up correspondence and reminders. The surveys are sent to randomly selected hunters, and I’ve had people wonder why they’ve never received a survey, and others who wonder why they get so many.

“We are sensitive to hunter’s time and we do not want to inundate them with questions,” Chad Parent, the Game and Fish Department’s survey coordinator, explained in the November 2017 issue of North Dakota Outdoors magazine. “And so, there is really a couple of key things we need to know. The first piece of information we are looking for is where did you hunt and how many days did you spend hunting there. The second piece of information that we need is, were you successful."

These surveys produce data for Game and Fish that are only as good as the responses returned by hunters. If there are errors, then there is more variability around future estimates, and more variability around estimates of hunting effort, and that can add to uncertainty in the process of trying to determine how many licenses to allocate in future hunting seasons.

The Game and Fish Department has a long tradition of sending surveys and getting back good information from state hunters. For example, the deer gun survey has been ongoing since 1975 and is one of the longest running consistent surveys in the nation. Such large data sets allow Game and Fish biologists to put into perspective any short-term trends.

Game and Fish has mailed the first round of deer gun season surveys, and then will come muzzleloader after that season ends, followed by small game, waterfowl, archery deer, turkey and others.

And on the fisheries side, a winter creel survey is in progress on Lake Audubon this year.

If you receive a survey in the mail or are approached by a creel clerk on a lake, it’s simply part of the responsibility as a hunter or angler to participate.

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Doug Leier is a biologist with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.