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Harvest Surveys

Hunter Success Survey

The first nationwide Hunter Success Survey (HSS), occurred in the U.S. in 1952 and produced harvest estimates for each Flyway. Canada also followed suit and began its own national harvest survey in 1967.


  • People who purchased Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps (duck stamps) formed the sampling frame for all migratory bird hunters in the U.S.
  • Hunters were asked to report where they hunted, the number of days hunted, and the number of ducks and geese taken.

Harvest Information Program (HIP)

Concerns about using the duck stamp in the U.S. to provide a sound sampling frame of hunters, and the realized need to accurately estimate harvest of other migratory game birds, such as doves, led to the development of HIP beginning in the early 1990’s.


  • The requirement to register was phased in across the country beginning in 1998.
  • All migratory game bird hunters must register in the state where they intend to hunt.
  • Hunters provide their name and address and answer broad questions regarding their harvest the previous year.
  • The information that hunters initially provide while registering is not used to determine harvest, but allows the USFWS stratify the sample, so all groups of migratory birds hunters are properly sampled depending on the types of birds they hunt.
  • Currently, a sample of hunters are contacted directly by the USFWS after they register for HIP and are asked to keep track of their harvest and hunting activity during the season.

Parts Collection Survey (PCS)

Since the 1960’s in the U.S. and Canada, the composition of the harvest for individual species of waterfowl has been determined by another survey called the Parts Collection Survey (PCS).


  • A sample of hunters are asked to send one wing from each duck and the tail and primary wing feathers of each goose harvested.
  • Hunters report the location and date of harvest.
  • Biologists determine species, sex, and age of the bird.
  • Feather characteristics of geese are used to determine species and age, but cannot be used to determine sex.

Currently, results of the HIP survey are combined with that from the PCS and band recoveries to provide an overall picture of the waterfowl harvest.

A separate mail questionnaire is used to estimate sandhill crane harvest in the Central Flyway and those methods are explained in the sandhill crane survey section of this website.

Much more information about HIP is available at the harvest surveys website provided by the USFWS.

Waterfowl Wing Bee

Since 1961, a sample of hunters are asked to send parts from each duck and goose they harvest to a central location in each Flyway. A wing from each duck and the tail and primary wing feathers from each goose is collected. Currently, Flint Hills National Wildlife Refuge near Emporia, KS hosts the Central Flyway Wing Bee.

Procedures / Details

  • Takes place annually during the month of February.
  • Biologists from the USFWS and state wildlife agencies, along with other volunteers, assemble for three to five days to evaluate the waterfowl parts.
  • For ducks, the species, age, and sex of each bird harvested is determined.
  • The sex of geese cannot be determined, but feather wear and other characteristics are used to determine age.
  • The length of the central tail feather for Canada geese determines if it was part of the Central Flyway Arctic Nesting population (small races) or part of the Western Prairie or Great Plains population (large races).
  • Each table of people has a checker assigned to it, an experienced person who has received special training and proven accuracy.
  • The checkers review determinations made by workers for all duck and goose parts.

Recently, about 19,000 duck wings and 3,500 goose tails have been processed annually by workers at the Central Flyway Wing Bee.

Each bird’s data are entered together with the information provided by the hunter (i.e., date, time, state, and county of harvest). Ultimately, the data is combined with that from other Flyways and becomes part of the national USFWS Parts Collection Survey database.

The Wing Bee provides the data used to compute the species composition of the duck (e.g., the percent of the total duck harvest that was mallards) and goose harvest, and therefore information on the harvest pressure exerted on each species. The data also provides an estimate of age ratios for both ducks and geese, which is used to gauge the success of the previous year’s reproduction.