Estimates of the number of animals taken during big game hunting seasons are derived from questionnaires sent to hunters after the close of seasons. Questionnaires are sent out in two different ways, because there are two different systems of hunting licence allocation:
1. Draw Seasons. For seasons in which the number of licences and tags is limited, hunters submit applications and a draw is conducted to determine which hunters receive licences. Questionnaires are sent to all of these hunters. The questionnaires are personalized, so that reponses can be attributed to individual hunters. This is required to ensure that correct estimates are calculated in the cases where two hunters share one tag.
2. Non-draw Seasons. Most hunting licences are available without limits on the total number of licences sold. Questionnaires for these seasons are not personalized, and the responses are therefore anonymous. If very few licences are sold for a season, such as Archery Moose or Shotgun/Muzzleloader Deer, we send questionnaires to all licence holders. For other seasons, such as General Deer or Muzzleloader Deer, we send questionnaires to only a randomly chosen sample of licence holders.
The long term level of response is approximately 50%, which is very good for a mailed questionnaire. In general, the larger the number of licences sold for a season, the larger our sample is, and the more reliable the harvest estimate is. In recent years, we have mailed approximately 29,000 questionnaires, with about 22,000 going to non-draw licence holders.
Questionnaires are mailed during the winter after we receive the names and addresses of hunters from licence vendors (late December or early January). Questionnaires are returned in late winter or early spring. Data entry occurs in spring and summer and harvest estimates are available during the summer.