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Game Bird Hunting

Game Bird Hunting

Harvest Information Program (HIP)

What is the purpose of those harvest questions you answer when buying your game bird hunting validations?

If you hunt migratory game birds, you have undoubtedly had to answer general questions about your past hunting activity when you purchased your license documents. For example, how many ducks, doves, and geese did you harvest last season? These questions constitute an important step as part of the Harvest Information Program, known as HIP.

HIP is a national effort between each of the states and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to monitor migratory game bird harvest and hunting effort. If you plan to hunt migratory game birds in Oregon, you must first obtain a HIP validation. The HIP validation is specific to Oregon and if you plan to hunt in a different state, you must also get HIP documents for that state.

In Oregon, migratory game birds are mourning doves, band-tailed pigeons, Wilson’s snipe, and waterfowl, including sea ducks, mergansers, brant, and American coots. Before hunting these species, all hunters must obtain the free HIP validation by completing a HIP survey through the Electronic Licensing System as part of your purchase process for other required license documents.

You may be asking yourself, “How do ODFW and the USFWS estimate harvest if they only asked if I bagged zero birds, one to ten birds or more than ten birds?” That is a common question, and in reality, the answers you supply during the HIP survey are not used to directly estimate hunter harvest. Your responses to the survey simply group you into stratification categories for subsequent harvest surveys. These categories are: occasional, moderately active, and very active hunters.

From the total number of HIP-validated migratory game bird hunters in each state, the USFWS will select a sample of hunters to participate in an in-depth harvest survey for that season. Selected hunters will receive invitations to participate in the survey and then will be asked to keep track of their hunting effort and harvest in a log. To accurately estimate harvest and the number of hunters, the USFWS surveys the different categories of hunters at various rates. Responses from the sampled hunters are then used to project the results to the entire hunter population to estimate the total harvest and number of hunters.

The in-depth harvest survey for ducks and geese asks hunters how many birds they harvested, not which species. This is where the second part of the survey, the Parts Collection Survey (PCS) comes into play. The PCS is where some hunters are asked to send in the wings from ducks, doves, pigeons, and brant or tail feathers for other types of geese. These wings and tails provide the information to estimate the proportion of each species of ducks or geese in the harvest. When analyzed together, the in-depth harvest survey and PCS provide species-specific harvest estimates each hunting season.

Nearly 30,000 duck wings and goose tails are collected in the Pacific Flyway each year through the PCS. These parts provide more than just the species breakdown for the overall harvest. Because feather patterns differ between adult and juvenile birds, biologists can determine the proportion of the harvest that was composed of adults versus juveniles. These are important metrics to understand production during the previous year. The same goes for mourning doves and band-tailed pigeons.

Now let’s look at the graph below to see how all of this information was put together for Oregon, specifically for the 2020-21 hunting season:

As you can see, the most harvested duck species is the mallard, followed by American wigeon, and green-winged teal. About half of the duck species in Oregon are so infrequently harvested by hunters that they hardly show up at the scale used for this figure and are grouped as “other ducks”. For geese, Canada (which includes cackling geese) dominate the harvest, which should come as no surprise.

For hunter numbers, these surveys estimate that 22,000 people hunted for ducks or geese in Oregon at least once in 2020-21. Hunter numbers for the other migratory game bird species are much lower, with only about 3,100 hunters pursuing mourning doves, 400 pursuing band-tailed pigeons and American coots, and 100 pursuing Wilson’s snipe.

Now you know a little bit more about why you need a HIP validation and how ODFW and the USFWS use these surveys to manage your migratory game bird resources. As we head into the upcoming seasons, remember to get your required HIP validation and please provide accurate information if selected for the in-depth surveys. Good luck hunting this year!