The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been monitoring the harvest of migratory birds in the United States since 1955. In partnership with state wildlife agencies, the Service gets names, addresses, and previous hunting activity information for each registered migratory bird hunter via the Harvest Information Program. The Branch of Monitoring and Data Management (BMDM) within the Migratory Bird Program draws a statistical sample from the lists of hunters and sends selected hunters an invitation to participate in the migratory bird hunter/harvest survey.
Hunters are asked to record a log of 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 or species group: 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. Each survey is conducted for the specific state in which the hunter registered to hunt.
The data collected by this survey are used to estimate the harvest of each species or species group, the number of days hunted, the number of active hunters, and the number of birds bagged per hunter in each state for which there is a hunting season for that species or species group.
This 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. The results of the hunting log survey are combined with additional information from the Parts Collection Survey (another harvest survey in which hunters submit wings from the birds they shoot during the hunting season) to provide species-specific estimates and other information such as sex and age ratios. These estimates can be found in the annual Hunting Activity and Harvest Report.
The Harvest Information Program went nationwide in 1999, replacing the previous program that only surveyed hunters who bought a Federal Duck Stamp. However, many migratory bird hunters were excluded from that previous program because they didn't hunt waterfowl. HIP allows us to survey samples of all migratory bird hunters.