After a couple of cups of coffee and the usual bantering about weather at my favorite corner convenience store, a recent discussion turned to Game and Fish Department surveys.
Not the kind for which biologists annually count deer or ducks, but the kind that just about every hunter or angler receives from time to time, asking questions about harvests and days afield.
Surveys are not a hot topic compared to discussion on deer numbers or other wide ranging subjects such as the potential for the Twins or how to fix the Vikings. But in my mind, it's a topic that worth a little more pondering. I wonder if hunters and anglers truly understand the importance of these post-season surveys?
Here in the Midwest, we have a tendency to under-estimate the influence of our own participation in everything from ushering at church to attending any public meeting. I'll loosely compare it to poaching or hunting violations. If it bothers you, then do more than kick the ground and mutter your frustrations. Engage and pick up the phone and call the Report-All-Poachers hotline (800) 472-2121.
The same goes for surveys. When they arrive in the mail, take the time to quickly, factually and accurately complete them.
Jerry Gulke, the Game and Fish Department's data processing coordinator, says that deer bow, small game, waterfowl and fall turkey hunting questionnaires were recently mailed to randomly selected hunters. "The number of surveys returned to us has been declining in recent years to where it is becoming a problem," Gulke said on "Outdoors Online," the Game and Fish Department's weekly webcast news program. "We really need the data."
Over the years I've had several people question whether they need to return a survey even if they didn't harvest anything. Whether you hunted dozens of days, one day or not at all, the statistical information is all needed, even if you didn't hunt at all.
"The harvest survey is very important because it allows us to evaluate the hunting season," Gulke said. "What we are able to determine includes the number of hunters, amount of hunting activity and size of the harvest."
I can personally attest that the volume of physical mail in my mailbox has shrunk in recent years. For the most part, my bills and much correspondence arrives via electronic or paperless communication. So the excuse of the survey being lost in the mail might not fly, and if you do accidentally toss it out, a follow-up survey will be mailed to those not responding to the first survey, with the idea that a second notification will convince the recipient that he or she is not just a victim of a mass mailing.
I've also been asked why Game and Fish doesn't conduct the surveys all electronically. While respondents can go online and fill out surveys instead of mailing in the paper version, ask yourself how many other surveys you get at checkouts, on receipts or via email?
I'd suggest that human nature might give more merit to a Game and Fish Department survey when it's found in the mailbox and not the email inbox.
Before you advise me to "get with the times," trust me. I am with the times, and it's much easier to click delete than to move an envelope into a stack of action lists on the desk.
In fact I'd rather fill out a postage-paid paper survey than pay a bill. I can't be the only one who finds it more pleasant recalling past hunts than paying current bills.
Leier is a biologist with the Game and Fish Department. He can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org