By Jeff L. Makemson, Certified Wildlife Biologist, Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries

If you hunt migratory birds, you need to “get HIP.” The Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP) is utilized by state wildlife agencies and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to develop more reliable estimates of the number of migratory birds harvested throughout the country. These estimates provide biologists the necessary information to help make sound management decisions concerning hunting seasons, bag limits and population management. If you hunt doves, ducks, coots, geese, brant, swans, woodcock, rails, snipe, sandhill cranes, band-tailed pigeons or gallinules, you are REQUIRED to participate in the HIP Program.

HIP is strictly used to gather information and is a free program in Alabama. The USFWS selects a sample of hunters who have completed the HIP information and requested that they complete a mail survey. The survey provides information on the kind and number of migratory birds harvested during the hunting season. Hunters’ reports are then used to develop reliable statistical estimates of the total harvest of all migratory birds in Alabama and throughout the country.

To comply with HIP, you must identify yourself as a migratory bird hunter when you purchase a hunting license. Hunters must have proof of participation in HIP whenever they hunt migratory birds in any state. Hunting migratory birds without HIP certification is illegal and doing so could result in being ticketed or fined by state or federal conservation officers. 

License agents will provide a card, stamp, or other proof of participation when you sign up. When you sign up for HIP, you will be asked to answer several questions about your hunting experience during last year’s season. The answers to these questions are not used to compile harvest estimates, but are used to identify what types of birds you usually hunt. This allows the USFWS to target its surveys to the appropriate hunters. For example, most surveys about dove harvest are sent to hunters who usually hunt doves, while most waterfowl harvest surveys are sent to those who usually hunt ducks and/or geese.

If your name is one of the few selected for the national harvest survey, you will be asked to complete a detailed survey about your harvest during the current year’s hunting season. You will receive a hunting record form and asked to keep a record of the number of migratory birds you harvest during the season. At the end of the season, surveys are mailed to the USFWS in a postage-paid envelope. Survey forms are kept strictly confidential and are not used for any other purpose.

Hunters were concerned about wildlife conservation long before it was trendy to do so. They have a long history of taxing themselves, paying license fees, buying stamps—all to ensure the health and vigor of wildlife populations. HIP is just another page in that history.

It is essential to gather the best information possible about the factors affecting migratory bird populations. Wildlife management decisions based on scientific research and information, benefits both the wildlife resources and the hunters. The Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program, through the cooperation of hunters, will provide wildlife biologists with much of the information they need to ensure that our migratory bird resources—and hunting tradition—will be around for future generations to enjoy.