Mississippi hunters are about to be asked their opinions of the state's wildlife management laws and the overall satisfaction they have with hunting experiences in the Magnolia State.
Some 11,000 licensed hunters will be contacted by mail this week regarding their views and experiences as part of the 2002 Survey of Mississippi Resident and Non-Resident Hunters. The total includes 6,000 Mississippians and 5,000 others from sister states who sought game during the various 2001-02 seasons.
This year, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks is contracting with Mississippi State's Human Dimensions and Conservation Law Enforcement Laboratory to conduct the study. The lab is a part of the university's Forest and Wildlife Research Center.
Each year since 1974, MDWFP has used similar surveys to gather information on issues related to state wildlife management.
"This year, we'll be gathering more information on the social and economic aspects of hunting-related activity in Mississippi," said Kevin Hunt, MSU assistant professor of wildlife and fisheries. "In the past, the focus of the survey traditionally has been on the harvest aspects of hunter behavior.”
To prepare respondents for the change, personalized introductory letters were mailed earlier this month. The actual questionnaire goes out today [Oct. 15].
"Emphasis now will be given to finding effective ways of providing more satisfying hunting experiences, increased hunter participation and the promotion of wildlife enterprises in rural agricultural areas,” Hunt said.
Mississippi hunting and fishing has evolved into an almost $1 billion annual industry, he said, adding that the new survey "will provide ample and reliable data for economic impact analysis and provide a starting point for trend information.”
Associate forestry professor Steve Grado and professor of forestry Ian Munn, both forest economists, will analyze the data and produce the statewide economic impact analysis.
Hunt said the survey is the first major project for the Human Dimensions and Conservation Law Enforcement Laboratory, which was established earlier this year. The laboratory is a cooperative effort between the research center's departments of forestry and wildlife and fisheries.
Hunt said the lab's primary mission is to assist governmental agencies and non-government organizations in better understanding and integrating human dimension-based information into their decision-making processes.
"Public sentiment and the economic impacts of wildlife and fisheries-related expenditures are becoming increasingly important parts of wildlife and fisheries management” Hunt observed. "That is why we are encouraging hunters to take this opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns about wildlife management in Mississippi.”