The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been monitoring the harvest of migratory birds in the United States since 1955. In addition to estimating harvest, survey data are used to determine the number of days hunted, the number of active hunters and the number of birds bagged per hunter by state.
How does it work? In partnership with state wildlife agencies, the Service gets the names and previous hunting activity information for each registered migratory bird hunter via the Harvest Information Program. We draw a statistical sample from the list and send selected hunters an invitation to participate in the Migratory Bird Harvest Survey. Hunters are asked to record the date, location and number of birds taken, as well as the number of birds downed but lost.
There are 5 separate surveys based on species: 1) doves and band-tailed pigeons; 2) waterfowl (ducks, sea ducks, geese, and brant); 3) American woodcock; 4) snipe, rails, gallinules, and coots; and 5) sandhill cranes. The surveys are conducted by state, so hunters may be selected for any state in which they are registered.
Information on harvest and hunter activity is used to make decisions about hunting seasons (such as season length, begin and end dates, or bag limits) at both the state and federal levels. Results of the Harvest Survey are combined with information from the Parts Collection Survey (another harvest survey in which hunters submit wings from the birds they shoot) to provide species-specific estimates and sex and age ratios. These estimates can be found in the annual Hunting Activity and Harvest Report available on the FWS website.