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A randomly selected group of about 5,500 licensed South Carolina hunters will be surveyed by phone beginning in the next few weeks, and S.C. Department of Natural Resources officials encourage hunters selected to cooperate with the survey.

"This survey is for the benefit of hunters," said Derrell Shipes, chief of Statewide Projects, Research and Surveys for the Wildlife Section of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR), "so it is in their best interest to cooperate and answer the questions in a straightforward manner. This survey will give us accurate harvest information for many species of game animals, giving guidance to biologists so they can better manage these species. This kind of information will also help in the defense of hunting as an important tool in modern wildlife management."

Responsive Management Inc. of Harrisonburg, Va., a company that specializes in conducting natural resources surveys, will conduct the survey. Dr. Mark Duda, who has conducted numerous natural resource surveys for many states and is the author of "Wildlife and the American Mind," is executive director of Responsive Management Inc.

Phone interviews will only last a few minutes. In these computer-assisted telephone interviews, respondents will only be asked questions pertinent to their particular experience. For example, if someone only hunts ducks, that person won't be asked repetitive questions about species such as turkey, deer and doves. Some interviews, then, may be very short.

"The beauty of this process is that when the phone call is completed, the information has been entered into a database," Shipes said. "So there is no data entry after the fact, and the analysis of data is easier. When Responsive Management provides us with a report, everything will be right there in black and white."

The computer-assisted telephone survey replaces cumbersome surveys conducted by mail. Previously, this type survey had to be mailed out up to three times before respondents answered, and when all the paper surveys were returned to the DNR, the information had to be entered into the computer and then analyzed.

The immediacy of the computer-assisted telephone survey will also allow the DNR to poll hunters on "hot-button" issues that require quick action, according to Shipes. The last survey was conducted following the 2002-03 hunting season and hopefully will now be conducted every two years.

For more information on the hunter survey, call the Columbia DNR office at (803) 734-3886.
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