Game harvest estimates are derived using a combination of information from mailed questionnaires, successful hunter report cards, pelt tagging records, a trapper report of catch, and field check reports. The technique used to estimate harvest varies depending on the species.
A mailed questionnaire is sent to a minimum of twelve percent of the people that purchase hunting licenses in order to achieve responses from ten percent of the hunters. Their answers on the questionnaire form the basis upon which harvest estimates are made for deer, elk, black bear, upland birds, waterfowl, and hunted fur-bearers. Hunters are asked if they actually hunted, how many days they spent hunting, and where it was done. They are also asked to record if they bagged anything. If they did, they are asked what it was, where it was taken, and how many they got. The deer and elk harvest tables reflect only the "General" hunting season harvest. The special deer and elk permit hunting seasons are tabulated separately and are presented before the general season harvest.
A "three wave" mailer is used to make sure that a true cross section is represented in the sample of hunters. It is fairly common for hunters not to respond if they were unsuccessful or did not get a chance to hunt during the previous season. Consequently, those who respond to the "wave one" questionnaire are proportionately the more successful hunters. Subsequent mailings to those not returning the first questionnaire encourage those hunters, who represent a more true sample, to respond.
The 1999 Hunter Questionnaire was sent to 25,600 hunters. There were 185,950 big game and 92,386 small game hunting licenses purchased in 1999. Hunters completed 15,080 questionnaires and returned them on time for the analysis. The return rate was 59%.
Harvest estimates are made at different resolutions, depending on the sample size of the species or user group. For example, modern firearm deer estimates are made at the PMU (population management unit) level, which is a group of game management units. Muzzleloader deer estimates are made only at the regional level. This is because there are significantly fewer muzzleloader hunters than there are modern firearm hunters. More of the hunters in the smaller user groups are sent questionnaires to compensate for the size of their group. For deer and elk the harvest estimate is then divided proportionately to the smaller geographic areas using returned harvest report cards. The harvest tables can be misleading if the game management units are closely compared. It is most useful to make comparisons at the level the estimate is made, particularly when looking at figures generated in previous years. The following table shows sampling rates and at what resolution the actual harvest estimate is made.
Deer, Elk, and Black Bear Final Sampling
||Percent User Group By Species
The estimates of days per kill and hunter success can be compared to previous years estimates as a relative index to population density. However, it may not be appropriate to compare among different small geographical units because of differences in access, habitat, special permit numbers, or special hunting restrictions. All affect the vulnerability of an animal to be taken during the hunting season.
Black Bear Harvest
A "mandatory" report card was introduced in the 1998 black bear and cougar season. The report card was attached to each bear or cougar transport tag and was to be completed and returned whether or not the hunter was successful in bagging his/her animal. In addition, bear hunters were given the option of reporting using a form on the WDFW internet website or using a toll-free telephone number and reporting using a telephone. The return rate, compiling all three black bear hunter reporting techniques, was 19.7%. There were 7,231 report cards returned, 1,655 telephone reports, and 1,753 reports made using the internet. There were 54,056 bear tags aquired. Because of the low response rate of the bear hunters, bear was included in the 1999 hunter questionnaire in order to sample those who did not report otherwise.
Special Permit Hunting Questionnaires
In addition to the deer and elk general hunting seasons, there are special permit hunts which make it possible to hunt antlerless deer or elk, special areas, or during special times. Mountain goat, bighorn sheep, and moose hunting are available only by special permit. All permit hunters are sent a special permit hunting activity questionnaire. All hunters, both successful and unsuccessful, are required to complete and return this report at the close of the season. The 1999 permit hunter questionnaire return rates for spring bear, deer, elk, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, and moose were 63%, 77%, 78%, 93%, 100%, and 98% respectively. Harvest for these species was tabulated and based solely upon the reports returned by the hunters. Harvest was not estimated to include hunters who did not return a completed report.
Trapper Report of Catch
All trappers of fur-bearing animals are required to complete and return a trapper report of catch. Of the 505 trappers licensed in 1999, 94% (473) returned a report. Harvest is calculated directly from the reports and not expanded to include trappers that did not return a completed report.
CITES Pelt Sealing Reports
Bobcat and river otter pelts must be sealed within ten days of the close of the trapping or hunting season. This is done to gather harvest information and to comply with the requirements of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The harvest figures are drawn directly from the pelt sealing records.
Cougar Pelt Sealing Records
Each successful cougar hunter is required to have his/her cougar inspected by an agent of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, have it's pelt sealed, submit a cougar tooth sample, and return a report card. Other cougar are taken due to livestock depredation or other dangerous situations and reported internally. All of these records are used to compile cougar harvest.