1950s - Got Data?

When questionnaires are used to gather data, they are sent to a random sample of sportsmen who purchase each kind of tag or permit, both Idaho residents statewide and to non-residents. This is a more reliable procedure to get statewide estimates.

Phone surveys are labor-intensive and expensive, but they are more accurate and more effective than any other available methods. Up to 10 temporary staff are hired to call hunters and anglers to get their reports, which is like running a phone bank four nights a week.

If you get a questionnaire in the mail, or a phone call, it is very important that you tell IDFG about your hunting or fishing season.  The results will be most accurate if we hear back from everyone who is randomly selected to receive a questionnaire.

The biggest project the Wildlife Bureau does is the Mandatory Hunter Report (MHR) to estimate the harvest of deer, elk, and pronghorns. About 160,000 hunters who purchase a tag for any of these species file a report each year.  They do this online, by phone or by mail.  Since not every hunter  gets this done, reminder postcards are sent  to about 100,000 hunters to file their report.  Then in December and January, phone calls are made to 50,000 hunters to gather their information.  As soon as the harvest reports are all in, analysts calculate harvest estimates to help set seasons for the following year.

Most of the game species are monitored in the harvest estimates -  big game and small game species, upland birds and waterfowl, and salmon and steelhead. These harvest estimates are used in many ways. The harvest estimates can be found on the website after the season is over.

Hunters use harvest estimates to choose which controlled hunts to apply for in the next season, and to decide where to go hunting.  Results are put on the Fish and Game website for anyone to use.

Wildlife managers use them to monitor the health of the fish and game populations and to set the regulations for the next year’s season. The data from decades of surveys are also stored in a very large database to help managers tease out long-term trends and patterns.

Fish and Game uses statistics to provide an overall picture of hunting and fishing in Idaho.  The data collected helps estimate the number of hunters, the number of days they hunted, the number of animals they harvested, and the kinds harvested – by units and regions, by special seasons, sex, weapon type, etc. We extrapolate from the reports we receive back, to all of the hunters in Idaho.  Some estimates are calculated hundreds of different ways -- by species, by units, by weapons, by controlled hunts, by elk zones, etc…

Fish and Game also conducts surveys of hunter and angler’s opinions about Idaho’s management and regulations.

Fish and Game still uses check stations and creel surveys to examine harvested animals and fish in certain areas.  Contacting hunters and anglers in the field also allows Fish and Game staff to collect biological measurements and samples from carcasses, and to interact with sportsmen.  Some of the samples collected include:

  • Wings of game birds and waterfowl  to study the characteristics of the harvest.
  • Tissues from brain stem to check for Chronic Wasting Disease in deer and elk. (CWD)
  • Swabs from ducks to test for Avian Influenza (Duck Flu)
  • A tooth for analyzing ages of predators
  • A tiny sample of tissue for DNA identification

While field contacts provide sampling and important contact with hunters and anglers, it is not an effective method to make statewide harvest estimates.

Fish and Game appreciates the hunters and anglers who reply with their data about days participating and their harvest data. This information helps Fish and Game make the best estimates possible, which helps sportsmen and wildlife managers. We manage the species better, which benefits everyone.