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.
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 2000 permit hunter questionnaire return rates for spring bear, deer, elk, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, moose, and fall turkey were 95%, 76%, 80%, 95%, 100%, 99%, and 87% 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.
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.
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.
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.