Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP) External Affairs


Father and  Children Hunting Welcome to the Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program home page. If you are a media representative, go directly to the Media Kit where you will find additional resources to help you develop stories about the HIP program.

What is HIP?

The Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP) is a method by which your state wildlife agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) are developing more reliable estimates of the number of all migratory birds harvested throughout the country. These estimates give biologists the information they need to make sound decisions concerning hunting seasons, bag limits, and population management. 

If you hunt ducks, coots, geese, brant, swans, doves, woodcock, rails, snipe, sandhill cranes, band-tailed pigeons, or gallinules, you are REQUIRED to participate in the HIP Program.

How does HIP work?

HIP is based on a voluntary survey of selected migratory bird hunters in the United States. In simplest terms, the state wildlife agencies collect the name, address, and some additional information from each migratory bird hunter in their state, and send that information to the Service. The Service then randomly selects a sample of those hunters and asks them to provide information on the kind and number of migratory birds they harvest during the hunting season. Those hunters’ reports are then used to develop reliable estimates of the total harvest of all migratory birds throughout the country.

What does HIP require of hunters?

To comply with HIP, first you must identify yourself as a migratory bird hunter and provide your name, address, and date of birth at the time you purchase your license--something most hunters do already. You must do this in every state in which you hunt migratory game birds.

Second, you must have proof of your participation in HIP with you whenever you hunt migratory birds in that state. The state wildlife agency will provide you with a card, stamp, or other proof of participation when you sign up.

In addition, when you sign up for HIP, you will be asked to voluntarily answer several questions about your hunting experience during last year's season. Your answers to these questions are not used to compile harvest estimates, but are simply used to identify what types of birds you usually hunt. This allows the Service to mail its surveys to the appropriate hunters. For example, most surveys about dove harvest are sent to hunters who usually hunt doves, while most waterfowl harvest surveys are sent to hunters who usually hunt ducks and/or geese.

If your name is one of the few selected for the national harvest survey, you'll be asked to voluntarily complete a detailed survey about your harvest during this year's hunting season. You will receive a hunting record form and will be asked to keep a record of the number of migratory birds you harvest during the season. You will also be given an addressed, postage-paid envelope to return your hunting form at the end of the season. Responses from hunters who choose to participate will be kept strictly confidential and will not be used for any other purpose. As soon as the survey is completed, the Service will destroy all hunter names and address records. This survey provides the information used to develop nationwide harvest estimates. Basically, that's all that HIP requires.

How do I sign up for HIP?

HIP sign-up procedures vary from state to state. There are five basic methods for collecting the HIP information:

1. License - HIP questions are added to the existing state hunting license form. Some form of the question, “Will you hunt migratory birds this season?” and the hunter’s answer to that question must be on the copy of the license that the hunter carries in the field. A “yes” answer serves as proof of compliance with the HIP requirement.

2. Permit - The hunter completes a separate form to obtain a migratory bird hunting permit, and then receives a sticker or stamp to display on his/her license to show proof of compliance. Or, the hunter must purchase a separate migratory bird stamp.

3. Electronic license - States with electronic licensing systems add the HIP questions to the list of questions license vendors must ask each license purchaser. Hunters who answer “yes” to the question, “Will you hunt migratory birds this season?” get a line item added to the printout of their hunting license, which serves as proof of compliance.

4. Telephone - Migratory bird hunters in states using this system are required to make a toll-free telephone call to provide the HIP information, after they have obtained the state’s hunting license. After they have provided the required information, they are given a unique registration number to write on their hunting license, which is their proof of compliance.

5. Internet - Several states currently sell licenses and/or provide HIP registration on the Internet. The process is similar to the electronic license process, except that the hunter interacts with a personal computer instead of a license vendor. Not many licenses are sold by this method, but it is cost-effective and convenient for hunters, so quite a few states are interested in it and will probably get involved with Internet licensing in the next few years.

Other considerations

Most of the HIP sign-up methods rely on the state hunting license vendors to ask hunters the appropriate HIP questions. If you plan to hunt migratory game birds, please make sure that the license vendor gets you signed up for HIP when you purchase your hunting license.

Some states may charge a fee to cover their costs of administrating HIP, but the Service will not make any money from the program. HIP is strictly to gather information and is not a means of raising money for conservation programs.

Don't we already have migratory bird surveys?

Snow Geese Rising From The RoostThe Service has conducted annual waterfowl harvest surveys since 1952, and many states have long histories of conducting harvest surveys. These surveys provide some of the information currently used to set waterfowl hunting regulations. Although this information has been very useful, there are problems with the techniques which must be corrected to improve the scope and quality of the information.

Previous federal waterfowl surveys were based on a sample of hunters who bought the federal duck stamp. In addition to questions about the harvest of ducks, geese, and coots, the survey also included questions about non-waterfowl migratory birds. However, there are about two million people who hunt only non-waterfowl species such as doves and woodcock. Because they are not required to buy federal duck stamps, these hunters were never included in the federal harvest survey. Information from the waterfowl harvest survey has been useful and adequate in the past, but we need to improve on it to meet the management challenges of the next century.

What do hunters gain from HIP?

Hunters were concerned about wildlife conservation long before it was trendy to do so. They have a long history of taxing themselves, paying license fees, buying stamps--all to ensure the health and vigor of wildlife populations--hunted and non-hunted alike. HIP is just another page in that history. It is simply good conservation. Lonnie Williamson, professional conservationist and writer for Outdoor Life and American Hunter magazines has this to say about the Program: "There is no question that the new harvest survey program is absolutely essential, not only to conserve the migratory bird resource, but also to answer possible future challenges to hunting programs. It will take hunters only a few moments to give wildlife managers the information they need. Those few moments could make a world of difference for the future of migratory bird hunting."

As the threat to and concern for migratory bird populations continue to mount, it is essential to gather the best information possible about the factors affecting these populations. It is in the hunter's best interest to have wildlife management decisions based on scientific evidence, not on opinions, philosophies, or politics. The Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program, through the cooperation of hunters, will provide wildlife biologists with the facts they need to ensure that our migratory bird resources--and hunting tradition--will be around for future generations to enjoy.


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