Taking inventory of wildlife isn’t as easy as, say, tracking sales at a shoe store. “You can’t count [animals] the same way,” says Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Program Specialist Candace Hinz, who has been coordinating the state’s annual hunting and harvest survey for more than 20 years. “Deer and elk aren’t as obliging. They move around. They die on their own.”
To obtain wildlife statistics that will be used to set future hunting quotas and regulations, Hinz hires about 85 interviewers statewide each year to call a random sampling of hunters identified by license type; interviewers make local calls from home for about 16–20 hours a week and make $7.94 per hour. Calls to moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat hunters are already underway; calls to deer, elk, antelope, black bear and game bird hunters will start in January, reaching about 80,000 households by the survey’s completion in March.
The telephone surveys began in 1981 to provide “accurate, timely hunting and harvest information to help wildlife managers and biologists manage their resources effectively,” Hinz says.
Victor resident Stan Rauch is beginning his third year of interviewing. As a lifelong hunter, he says he makes the calls because he recognizes how important harvest data is to wildlife management—and he enjoys talking to fellow hunters. “The only problem, if there is any, is getting off the phone,” he says. “[People] go into great detail, talking about their adventures, especially about their youngsters getting their first deer or elk.”
Rauch’s questions include how many days a hunter hunted, in which districts he hunted, and details about whatever game was harvested. Though the list Rauch calls is generated by a computer, he has reached different family members in the same households over the years.
“They say, ‘oh, I was waiting for you to call,’” Rauch says.
Hinz says Montana hunters have remained mostly willing to complete the survey, even in the midst of so much telemarketing. While the interviews may seem redundant to that information gleaned from check stations, she adds that check stations only gather information from successful hunters, “and we need to talk to people who went out and were not successful in terms of harvesting something.”