Fish and Game is getting opinions from hunters about possibly changing controlled hunt drawing odds and increasing the number of big game tags offered through auction.
For many years, some hunters have expressed interest in changing Idaho’s controlled hunt drawing system to favor those who were unsuccessful in previous drawings. Others have suggested auctioning big game tags as a way to increase revenue for conservation and hunter access programs. Both issues have generated interest in the Idaho Legislature.
In early October, the department mailed 4,400 paper questionnaires to a random sample of hunters. About 1,050 have been returned, and are being entered into a database.
On Oct. 17, an email request was sent to a random sample of 27,000 hunters asking them to take the same survey online. They were selected from among hunters who had previously provided their email address to Fish and Game, and more than 3,000 responses were received in the first 48 hours.
The survey is available for anyone who wants to take it at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov.
The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will use results from the surveys to consider whether changes to controlled hunt rules are warranted and also to consider whether additional tags should be auctioned. Currently, Fish and Game commissioners allow a single bighorn sheep tag to be auctioned annually. They have not implemented the additional tags for other big game animals authorized by the Legislature in 2012.
The surveys are intended only to gauge hunters’ interest in those topics.
“I assure you that if the commissioners determine changes are warranted to the controlled hunt drawing system based on survey results, we will get input from sportsmen about any proposed changes before any final decisions are made,” said Fish and Game Commission Chairman Mark Doerr of Kimberly.
Here are some commonly asked questions about why Fish and Game is doing the surveys:
Why three surveys? It is actually the same survey, but it will be delivered three different ways to allow more hunters to participate and offer their opinions. The mail and email portions are intended to be random sample surveys. Fish and Game officials know there may be campaigning involved with the website survey because those who feel most strongly about the topics are likely to take that survey and encourage others to take it.These three methods – mail, email, and web – are being used to develop cheaper methods of surveying hunters and the public. Mail surveys are expensive, but yield the most reliable results. Email and web surveys can save money on printing, mailing, and data entry costs, but there are challenges in making sure the survey is truly representative of the group of people being surveyed. For example, less than half of hunters have provided Fish and Game with their email addresses, so the question is how do officials make sure that those results are representative of hunters regardless of an email being provided? Fish and Game researchers hope to find out with this study.
Haven’t these topics already been surveyed? Yes. The commission wants to gauge current opinions on these issues. Controlled hunt drawing odds are an ongoing discussion between Fish and Game and hunters.
On several occasions, Fish and Game commissioners have considered adding bonus/preference points for controlled hunts to improve drawing odds for some hunters, typically those who were unsuccessful in previous drawings. Other options for changing drawing odds are limiting the number of hunts a person can apply for, or extending waiting periods before successful applicants can re-enter the controlled hunt drawing.
Fish and Game surveyed hunters in both 2005 and 2010 about different options for controlled hunt drawings, but Fish and Game’s current commissioners were not on the commission and part of those discussions. These surveys will update hunters’ opinions and see if they have changed.
Do these surveys mean Fish and Game plans to change the controlled hunts, or offer big game auction tags? No. There are no proposals currently in the works. Any changes to controlled hunts would be done via rule making by the Fish and Game Commission. Any specific proposals on these topics would be put out for public comment well in advance of any commission action.
How will the department use the results of the surveys, and will the public get to see them? Fish and Game officials always take into consideration hunters’ preferences when addressing any issue. However, there are many factors that must be weighed during the commission’s decision-making process. Surveys are not a referendum where hunters vote, but they are a valuable gauge of hunter preferences, and how strongly they feel about certain topics. Results of the surveys will be available during the Fish and Game Commission’s quarterly meeting in Nov. 19 in Hailey.
Conservation Information Supervisor
Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game
600 S. Walnut Street
Boise, ID 83707
208-287-2883 – Office
208-866-2593 – Cell