All of Idaho Fish and Game’s wildlife harvest statistics are estimated from surveys of hunters.
We get the most questions about deer or elk. I think this is what you are asking about. For deer, elk, and pronghorn, each hunter is required to fill out a Hunter Report form, either online or by phone. Statistics are used to estimate the number of animals harvested, because not all hunters file their report. The number harvested is broken out in 1400 different ways, by zones, by units, by weapons, by controlled hunts, etc. In 2014, about 170,000 hunters bought tags to hunt these species.
From the Hunter Reports, we calculate the number who hunted in each area, the number of animals harvested, the success rate, as well as a breakdown of the harvest by sex, antler size, weapon used, deer species, number of days hunted, and harvest date.
There is a lot of high-powered computer analysis used, but we are not using computer “models” to estimate what the harvest is. The data only come from the hunters who file their reports, but we are not predicting something about those who do not file reports. The harvest estimates are then put on the web site, where both biologists and hunters can use them in planning next year’s hunting.
In contrast, for moose, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, black bears, mountain lions, and wolves, any hunter who harvests an animal is required to bring the carcass in for inspection, measurement, and tagging. For these species, the number harvested is taken directly from these carcass inspections.
For all other small game species, survey questionnaires are sent to a random sample of hunters who purchased the appropriate tags. We sell licenses to about 250,000 hunters that allow hunting for most of these small-game species. Questionnaires are sent to between 3,000 to 8,000 of these hunters for each type of hunting. Their answers about hunting and harvesting are used to extrapolate to all the hunters who purchased. These species include snow geese, turkeys, sandhill cranes, sage and sharp-tailed grouse, forest grouse, quail, chukars, huns, pheasants, cottontail rabbits, and snowshoe hares.
We also sometimes use these same hunter questionnaires to ask the hunter’s opinion on a few questions, such as about proposed rule changes or about the quality of the hunting season. Thank you for asking about our survey methods.