Comparison Of Mourning Dove Harvest Data From Wing Collection And Mail Survey, Virginia, 1968-1969

Hunters responding to a standard mail questionnaire reported more doves killed and more dove hunting trips than would be judged from the wings these same individuals submitted through the mail. A bare majority of these hunters stated that their questionnaire answers better represented their experience for the season than did their wing response. Those who sent in wings reported hunting more often and killing more doves than those who failed to send in wings. For some time, wildlife biologists have examined parts of game animals to establish the age, sex or species composition in the hunter's bag. Often hunters are asked to submit wings, tails or other parts through the mail for examination. The method provides useful biological knowledge at relatively low cost. For at least some of the characteristics of some species it is doubtful that a hunter can recognize the subtle differences associated with age or sex, and therefore the bag information is probably unselected. Lately, however, there has been an increasing use of these parts for information on hunting experience (daily bag, number of trips and success). In this form the method is, in fact, an unusually complex type of mail questionnaire. The number of wings per envelope, for example, is sometimes assumed to equal the bag for one trip, and the number of envelopes sent in, to equal the number of trips. Here questions must be raised as to how well these estimates represent the average hunter experience. Do hunters follow instructions that they submit one wing for every bird in a single day's personal bag, and that an envelope be mailed for each day's hunt? What is the effect of nonresponse to the request that parts be submitted? Are the most cooperative hunters also the most active and successful? These questions are examined in the the present study. Responses of individual hunters to an appeal for submission of mourning dove wings sent before the season, have been compared with the responses of the same individuals to a postseason mail questionnaire about game kill. The primary objective is to compare the two sets of answers. A secondary aim is to seek information on reasons for the differences, and for this purpose, a third questionnaire was sent to cooperating hunters. Results are limited to Virginia, to the 1968-1969 dove hunting season and by the modest sample size of about 100 hunters studied. It is also fully recognized that neither of these survey methods may arbitrarily be assumed to correctly estimate the average experience.

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